What scientists should be thankful for …

Well, it is Thanksgiving. I am up late as usual catching up on email. On this day, there is something I have been meaning to post for a few years. I think scientists should take a breath today and give thanks to those who have helped them along the way. I have some specific postings about this in terms of who I want to thanks, but I wanted to make a list here of the types of things scientists should be thankful for. So here goes.

10 things scientists should be thankful for

  1. Teachers. Scientists had to learn science at some point. And most of us have had some stellar science teachers, or teachers of science-related things like math, along the way. We should give thanks to these people.
  2. Inspirers. Similar to #1 except in many cases we have been inspired to become scientists by someone who may not have been a teacher of ours. Perhaps it was a famous scientist, or even a fictional one. Or even someone we knew. It is that inspiration that frequently gets one through the tough times.
  3. Benefactors In general, scientists have a pretty nice life. We get paid (sometimes well, sometimes poorly) and are given research funds, to unlock the secrets of the universe. How cool is that? We should therefore be very thankful for the immediate source of our funds – such as the institutes where we work and the agencies that provide us funds.
  4. Taxpayers. Unless one is funded by private foundations, taxpayers are the ultimate source of those funds mentioned in #3. This source of funds is frequently overlooked but should never be forgotten. Don’t forget – we take money people from people that in theory they could have gotten to keep if their taxes were lower. We should thank these taxpayers..
  5. Research personnel (including student researchers, post docs, technicians, etc). Most of the time, scientists get credit for some work that was in a large part actually done by people in our labs. They deserve our eternal gratitude.
  6. Students we teach. Overall, for those scientists who teach, though it may be a required part of our jobs, it is also a great way to learn and to become a better scientist.
  7. Staff at publishers. An important part of communicating science is of course publishing. And though I am a big fan of new ways to disseminate information, let us not forget that there are many many people who aid and abet this dissemination by working for publishers. These folks deserve our thanks.
  8. Study subjects or objects. Whether one studies organisms, rocks, molecules, planets, forces, or whatever, we should all be thankful that there is interesting stuff out there to study. And for those who study living things, if one disturbs them along the way, we should
  9. Librarians and library staff. Access to information is critical for both learning to become a scientist and being a scientist. And libraries play a key role in providing this access.
  10. Family and friends. Late nights at the lab? Working on a grant over the weekend? Writing papers all the time? In school for years and years? All of this takes a toll on friends and family. And we owe them some props.

I am sure there are more categories. But these are some that came to me on this Thanksgiving. Any categories I missed?

A really good day at work

Overall, I like being a scientist. But some of the days can be quite dreary. As a grad. student you slog through days that resemble the reliving of events in Groundhog Day. Except that they are actually different days – they just seem the same. As a post doc you struggle to get work done to then get a job (OK, I skipped a post doc, but I heard about what it is like from others). And as a faculty member you spend an absurd amount of time wasted on useless administrative activities. And I sometimes seem to be stuck in these days a lot.

But today was a really good day. It was my first day after it was announced that I was the new Academic Editor in Chief of PLoS Biology. And I got lots of positive feedback from friends, colleagues and even strangers. And then we had “lab meeting” which I decided to turn into a picnic/hike. We went to a little spot only 2 miles from the UC Davis Genome Center, that was as close to wilderness as you can find in Davis. And I think everyone had fun, getting away from the grind AND I brought my 3 year old daughter too.

And this reminds me to say – in the past I have avoided talking about people in my lab in my blog because it seemed like it would be nice to give them some space from my blabbing. But today I was reminded of just how much I owe them. They of course do all the work that I end up getting credit for. So today I thank the current lab members specifically (Jenna Morgan, Amber Hartman, Marcel Huntemann, Dongying Wu, Martin Wu, and Sourav Chatterji) and with their permission you will probably be hearing more about them later.