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Marcia McNutt, Director of the U.S. Geological Survey

I just returned from the 2010 AAAS meeting in San Diego.  Since I am really interested in science writing and communication, I attended most of the sessions along those lines.  While I took away many awesome tips and saw many fantastic presentations, I was still shocked at how bad some people were at communicating.  At a conference where communication and engaging the public was a key topic, it was a shame. Read the rest of this entry »


Eric Lander Addressing AAAS Attendees

I was excited to see Eric Lander, a co-chair of the the President’s Council of Advisors on Science and Technology (PCAST) and Director of the Broad Institute of MIT and Harvard, address the attendees at AAAS 2010 tonight.  As a TA I’ve watched Lander deliver numerous intro biology lectures to bored, young MIT undergrads (mostly engineers who couldn’t pass out of the Biology requirement), but I’ve never seen him give a public talk.  I was particularly thrilled when, while giving his speech on Science and Technology in the First Year of the New Administration, he went off on a bit of a strange tangent to talk about (what else?) the movie 2012! (I mean, seriously, who will survive 2012?) Read the rest of this entry »

Slide of "Defendant's" Damaged Frontal Lobe (Top: Normal, Bottom: Damaged)

The judge sits at the front of the room.  He has a distinguished look, graying at the temples, and a commanding air.  Glasses perched on the tip of his nose, he addresses the room, “The Bailiff will excuse the jury at this time.”  And as he waves his hand dismissively at the jury, the audience breaks out in titters of laughter.

This is not actually a courtroom, and the judge isn’t wearing robes.  Instead, this is room 2 in the San Diego Convention Center and it is this morning’s session, The Brain on Trial: Neuroscience Evidence in the Courtroom, at the AAAS 2010 meeting.  The judge is a real judge, the Honorable Luis A. Rodriguez, from the Superior Court of California in Orange County.  The session however, is not your normal scientific meeting, and boy is it refreshing and eye-opening. Read the rest of this entry »

Peter Agre's Presidential Address at AAAS

Peter Agre, the President of the American Association for the Advancement of Science, opened the 2010 annual AAAS meeting with a poignant, memorable speech.  Standing at the podium in front of a screen displaying this year’s theme, “Bridging Science and Society”, Agre took the audience through a personal narrative of his life as a scientist, beginning with his early inspiration from his father, a chemist, through his discovery of aquaporins which won him a Nobel Prize for Chemistry in 2003.   Relating a story about drawing a picture of what he wanted to be when he grew up during a class exercise (a chemist of course), he recalls looking over to his neighbor drawing a picture of himself as a burglar.  Wryly Agre quipped, “I always wondered whether he grew up to be a lobbyist.”

He also encouraged the undergraduate and high school students in the audience to get involved in research opportunities.  This, as well as some of his slides, seemed vaguely familiar as I flashed back to the other time I’ve heard Agre speak, my senior year of college at the American Society for Cell Biology meeting a year after he’d won his Nobel Prize.  When he later showed a picture of his lab on the day that he got that once-in-a-lifetime phone call from Oslo (unless you’re John Bardeen, Linus Pauling, Marie Curie, or Fred Sanger), I realized that he didn’t look the same as that day six years ago when I sat in the audience, he’d had a quite impressive gray mustache that’s now been replaced by a slick, clean-shaven look, perhaps in keeping with his ever-growing international reputation. Read the rest of this entry »

Tomorrow morning I make the trip from frigid Boston to sunny, warm San Diego for AAAS 2010!  The theme for this year’s American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS) annual meeting is Bridging Science and Society!  Could there me a more perfect meeting for me to blog about?  I am looking forward to the President of AAAS, Peter Agre’s opening night talk.  Agre shared the 2003 Nobel Prize in Chemistry with Rod McKinnon for their discovery of aquaporins – proteins that stick into a cell’s membrane and transport, but-of-course,  water in and out of the cell.  I’ve had the privilege of hearing him speak once before at an American Society for Cell Biology meeting when I was an undergrad, pretty inspirational stuff let me tell you.

Even more exciting is Friday’s live broadcast of NPR’s Science Friday.  I get to actually sit in the audience during the show!  Focusing on breaking science new, this program is probably the best (only?) live science show out there (check out my previous podcast on another awesome science radio program, Radiolab).  Host Ira Flatow bravely interviews scientists who don’t always prove to be the best at explaining their oftentimes esoteric research to the public.

Other fun events I’m looking forward to include a session enticingly entitled, Watching the Watchmen and Cheering the Heroes: The Science of Superheroes on Friday morning, a Social Media Soiree on Friday night where I suppose I have to put myself out there and meet new people (*eep*), and a Saturday morning session, The Brain on Trial: Neuroscience Evidence in the Courtroom. I actually have this fantasy of one day writing a dramatic novel involving manipulating memory and a courtcase… Read the rest of this entry »

Looking for a source of quality science information?  Look no further than this fantastic radio program! Radiolab! While it might not report breaking science news, it will definitely entertain and educate.

Each hour-long broadcast of this program, produced by public New York radio station, WNYC, explores a different topic concerning the human condition and life in general.  Generally they’re complicated, even abstract themes like “Stochasticity” and “Deception”.  Jon Abumrad and Robert Krulwich, the shows hosts, have a fantastic dynamic, making jokes and playing off each other while getting their points across.  During one show, “Numbers”, one host proposed that he could live just fine without numbers, saying to his co-host, “I have two words for you.”  To which the other responded, “How many words?” Read the rest of this entry »

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jen.h.leslie at

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