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We are THEY and why YOU should care

October 19, 2009 2 comments

cleanroom1There is a disconnect between the scientific community and the rest of the world

Need proof?  Look at this picture and tell me what you see.  If you are involved in research a common answer could be graduate students running an assay or working on silicon chip production…nothing too exciting.  However;  if you have never worked in a clean room, or any research lab setting for that matter, this photo can evoke a different reaction.  These figures represent faceless, genderless scientists working in a building with no windows that is possibly underground.  What are they working on?  Zombies most likely.  The general rule is blue gloves for zombies, purple for nuclear bombs if I remember correctly.

While this example is exaggerated, it is more slight than you might think.  Think back to when you first told your friends and family that you wanted to pursue a career is science, and NOT be a doctor (M.D.).  Hard memories to relive I know, but if you’re experience was anything like mine you probably got two specific reactions on more than one occasion.

“So what are you gonna do?  Make bombs?”

or

“Wow, let me know when you cure cancer!”

Besides showing that most people think that the only things being researched are cancer and bombs, these two reactions show two very different but commonly held views on the scientific community.  The bomb question underlies the feeling that some people have that researchers are simply trying to push the forefront of progress without any thought to the consequences.  This attitude is prevalent since the advent of the atomic bomb, but can be seen in regards to many current projects like  stem cell research and the LHC “black hole dilemma”.

The “scientists are people who cure cancer” view is opposite in the love/hate spectrum, but equally as dangerous to the community, if not more so.  This implies the view that researchers are these benevolent entities that sit above the masses like guardians just waiting for a problem to arise so they can save them from it.  There are several major scientific problems in the world today:  New energy sources, providing food and water for an ever expanding population, curing an endless list of diseases, the list goes on and on.  If every person in the world were working to solve these problems we still couldn’t be certain that we would solve them, but the reality is that more than 99% of people are just waiting for the answers to come down from above.

Why WE (Read: the scientific community) should care

1. THIS IS OUR FAULT.  I cannot stress enough the fact that ignorance/malice of scientific research cannot be blamed on anyone but the people who have the knowledge but do not disseminate it.  The underlying problem, as I see it, is the difficulty in finding first-hand reports of research for the average person.  Research articles are spread throughout a plethora of journals, each of which charges handsomely to read its articles and most do not make it very easy to find studies which are reputable and applicable.  The problem is then furthered by the fact that once you DO find a research paper, it is impossible to follow without years of experience reading, and often writing, articles on a similar subject.  Google scholar – great for writing bibliographies, terrible for obtaining knowledge.

2. WE NEED THEIR HELP.  I would never downplay the importance of education, experience, and subject-focused genius in scientific discovery, however it is certainly not all that there is.  Anybody who has ever set out to do research with a specific goal in mind has to admit one thing:  We use a largely luck based, hypothesis driven, guess-and-check methedology.  Given that, we can follow an obvious line of logic to the fact that the more people we have working on any given problem, the more likely we are to find the answers in a shorter period of time.  There are now almost 7 billion people on this earth, with maybe 10 million involved in any kind research.  Talk about only using 10% of your brain.

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First Blog Post, How Exciting…

October 16, 2009 Leave a comment

Welcome to my blog! I should probably be nervous about my first blog post but since no one is exactly reading it i suppose it’ll be ok.  My goal is to emphasize the disparity between the scientific community and the rest of the poll going, decision making people of the world.  The goal is to bridge the gap between the ivory tower and the factory floor.  Actually thats pretty good, I think I’ll make that my tag line.   Before I get into any of that I would like to take this opportunity to tell you  a little bit about myself.

Jon Klar: Origins

That's me!

That's me!

Born in Manhattan, my family moved to Long Beach, New York when I was 2.  I discovered my love of science at an early age, probably when I made my first volcano eruption, and I never looked back.  At 14 I began my career at Long Beach High School (Billy Crystal went there fyi) where I realized I wasn’t really interested in anything except science.

In 2005 I enrolled at SUNY Binghamton where I took my first steps to joining the scientific community.  I began as a research assistant for professor C. J. Zhong in his analytical nanochem lab.  I was cleaning test tubes and counting particles and I loved it.  Professor Zhong deemed me worthy of a summer job  doing research in his lab and I began working on synthesizing platinum nanoalloys for use as a catalyst for hydrogen fuel cells.  I continued this project for 2 years until I graduated in May 2009 with a BA in Chemistry and Biology.

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Really, I graduated

Life After College

After graduating I decided to take some time off before going to try and earn my PhD so I started looking for a job.  After months of nobody returning my calls, I was finally hired by a young nutraceutical company in Farmingdale called Venus Pharmaceuticals as a research and development chemist.  Two months later and here I sit behind my desk at Venus writing this blog post.  I like my job, but I do miss doing research.

Hopes and Dreams
I would like to go back to school and get back into research and hopefully do my part to advance mankinds knowledge of its surroundings.  Nothing is more exciting to me than learning something that no one ever knew before.  I plan on dedicating a portion of my life to attempting to fix the disconnect between the scientific community and every one else.  I believe a large part of the problem lies with people getting their scientific information from fox news and CNN, but thats another post.

Thanks for reading, I hope I’ve peeked your interest!  If not, let me know and I’ll use more exclaimation points next time.