On Disrespecting Dr. Biden

February 2, 2009

Oh, you have GOT to be kidding! The LA Times has published a piece on Jill Tracy Jacobs Biden, adjunct professor of English at Northern Virginia Community College. After serving as an instructor of English comp and remedial writing at Delaware Technical & Community College for fifteen years on the strength of a Master’s degree, she returned to school to obtain her PhD in Education (according to HuffPo). I cite this because she is commonly described as having a ‘doctorate in Education’ which is not infrequently cover for the Ed.D as opposed to the Ph.D. Admittedly there are those with Ph.D. degrees who consider an Ed.D. degree to be inferior but I think we academic doctors can stick together on this one.

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DNLee of Urban Science Adventures! blog is launching a new blog carnival:

All year is great time to learn more about science and the people who make the discoveries. But February offers a great opportunity to learn about the achievements of African-Americans (and others from the African Diaspora) in the sciences. So I’m introducing a new Blog Carnival – Diversity in Science. Blogs of every genre is invited to write a special feature post about a person who is a pioneer and/or innovator in any of the amazing fields of Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics (STEM).
Tell us all about him/her?
How has this person impacted field of STEM and/or inspired you?
Or why is his/her story interesting?

If you have something relevant, submit it through the Blog Carnival link by February 20th.

It is a great idea. When pressed, pretty much anyone in the US (right? tell me I’m right…) can point to botanist and inventor George Washington Carver as a great African-American scientist…although sadly the record for what he did and did not accomplish may be a bit muddled in most people’s minds. Still, point being, that he is probably one of the best and most generally known African-American scientists….by some considerable margin.
The first part is great but the part about the public perception margin for other scientists is not so good. I’ve been on before about overt and obvious perceptions of participation and diversity in the scientific workforce. Dr. Isis had a post which pointed out a fascinating little bit of Google-fu. Search for “Professor” on Google Images and see what you get…[spoiler: OldWhiteGuys].
So while it may be neato to think back into the archives of scientific history for the few African-Americans who stand out in the popular (or not so popular) mind as having had stellar careers, I would like to see this go in a slightly different direction as well. It is my thought that sometimes the accessible persona, connected to much that is familiar to us right now can be much more inspiring than a remote genius who is in many senses an outlier or oddity.
So my post earlier today is an example of a modern day scientist, much like the rest of us (except, you know, better) who is doing his bit in the trenches of the NIH-funded biomedical research gig.
I very much hope to bring you a few more of these this month.

CarlHart.jpgAssociate Professor Carl L. Hart, Ph.D. (PubMed; Department Website; ResearchCrossroads Profile) of the Psychology and Psychiatry Departments of Columbia University conducts research on several drugs of abuse with concentrations on cannabis and methamphetamine. In his studies he uses human subjects to determine many critical aspects of the effects of recreational and abused drugs including acute and lasting toxicities as well as dependence. Dr. Hart is also a contributing member of the New York State Psychiatric Institute Division on Substance Abuse.
In his academic research role, Professor Hart works within the highly respected and very well known Substance Use Research Center of Columbia University where he directs both the Methamphetamine Research Laboratory (Meth R01 Abstract) and the Residential Laboratory. The blurb for this latter will give you a good flavor for the workaday of Dr. Hart’s work:

The residential laboratory, designed for continuous observation of human behavior over extended periods of time, provides a controlled environment with the flexibility to establish a range of behaviors, and the ability to monitor simultaneously many individual and social behavior patterns. This laboratory is equipped with a closed circuit television and audio system encompassing each individual chamber for surveillance and measurement purposes, and to provide continuous monitoring for the participant’s protection. We believe that this relatively naturalistic environment can best meet the challenge of modeling the workplace to predict the interaction between drug use and workplace variables. Because our participants live in our laboratory with minimal outside contact, we are able to evaluate multiple aspects of the effects of drugs on workplace productivity in the same individuals.

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