April 28, 2015

A few weeks ago, the Baltimore police severed the spine of a citizen who had apparently committed the crime of running away from a police officer. Mr. Gray died.

In the past few days, Baltimore has experienced a lot of protest and unrest.

I am saddened and I am frustrated. As small a thing as it is, I feel better when I go over to DonorsChoose, select a few science-related project in Baltimore schools and donate some money. I invite you to join me. Perhaps projects such as the following might catch your eye.

Ms. Robinson’s Books project at Yorkwood Elementary School:

As I continue building a safe learning environment now I’ve learned that emotions play a HUGE part in a students’ ability to learn. I want to help students express themselves emotionally by identifying how they feel, the cause that feeling and teaching them strategies to manage and regulate them.

Two resource books – Zones of Regulation and Social Thinking for Tweens and Teens. Zones of Regulation will provide the research behind it and teach me how to implement this strategy and share with our parent community and fellow colleagues. Social Thinking for Tween and Teens will help our mentors connect with our students participating in our Girls Social Group.

Finally, one yellow hokki stool and one red bean bag is needed to identify the color-coded zones. (I already have the other colors). These two additional seating choices will allow me to create two Zones of Regulation.

As we interact with the world and others, we respond emotionally leaving us with a good or bad experiences. Those experiences shape how we view ourselves, others and our place in the world. In this day and age, we live in a volatile world in which our students are apart, so it’s imperative that I help them to deal with their emotions and discover ways to cope or manage it for optimal learning and a lifelong skill.

Mrs. Edmonds’s Supplies project at Gardenville Elementary School addresses all six grade levels:

The materials in this project will be used throughout the 6 grade levels. Kindergarten and first grade focuses on plants and animals and living things, in which the different insects and plants will be used. First grade also learns about life cycles and the frog life cycle will be amazing for them to actually see these stages. The third grade life science focus is on insects and they will also be using the live insects. The fifth graders will learn about food chains and webs and will participate in dissecting the owl pellets.

I don’t usually gravitate toward the high school projects but Mrs. Reigel’s Books project at Carver Vocational Tech Senior High School seeks to use The Hot Zone to educate on biology.

My students love to read interesting things and have discussions. It is my goal to challenge them with reading materials, and engage them in discussions that relate to their everyday lives and the world at large. Reading “The Hot Zone” will cover many Biology topics as well as current events. Students will read, analyze, connect, discuss and debate the books this year.

Science Careers has returned to the Perlstein situation in a recent bit by Rachel Bernstein titled “Into the wild“. They lead with “indie science” which as it turns out is a bit misleading.

The bit has nothing to do with indie science save as a sort of testimonial that indie science is a bankrupt, unworkable idea, just as I have always suggested.

Today, Perlstein is the CEO of Perlstein Lab—PLab for short—a for-profit, pubic (sic) benefit corporation he founded in 2014 that is housed in a biotech incubator in San Francisco, California.

All his research and discussions led him to decide that he should take on the more traditional role of biotech startup founder, but he hasn’t given up on “indie” science.

He brainstormed with his brother, a legal entrepreneur who became a PLab cofounder. He supported himself by consulting for a startup developing a science-crowdfunding platform, and he lived off savings he had been able to put aside during his postdoc.

As he was working to identify a profitable research direction, his thoughts “all crystallized around rare diseases.” This research area seemed to be a sweet spot where he could do intellectually exciting science that would appeal to investors as well.

Investors seem to agree that it’s a worthwhile approach: In 2014, he raised $2.2 million.

GREAT! So happy a scientist is able to pursue an entrepreneurial direction and can get investors to fund him to do it. Very happy for Ethan on this front.

Also happy to see the Science Careers update us on their previous love fest for the idea of crowd-funded indie science, although they could have pointed out more explicitly how wrong they were about this being remotely viable.

UPDATE: HAHHAHAHAHAHA, Perlstein misses the point. Per usual.

I love startups. Said so at the end of this very post that I hope he succeeds, as it happens. What I “ridicule” is the notion that crowd funded or “indie” science can work or be any sort of replacement for major public investment.

I had a revelation that clarified some of my points of poor understanding of the science crowdfunding enthusiast position.

In skirmishing on Twitter with some guy associated with “” I ran across a project on brain inflammatory responses in a fetal alcohol model from the Lindquist lab. Something I can readily assess, being that it is a substance abuse, drug-toxicity investigation in rats.
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Three Donors Choose projects I posted yesterday were completely funded in less than 15 hours. I am delighted so many of you found this opportunity to help the communities around Ferguson Missouri attractive. If you missed out on contributing, never fear, there are new opportunities to help. Please also pass this suggestion along to your friends, family and social media contacts.

At least three school districts appear to have been greatly affected by the unrest in Ferguson, Missouri.

The Jennings, Ferguson-Florissant and Riverview Gardens districts canceled classes Monday following another night of unrest in which at least three people were shot and more businesses were vandalized.
“Those districts in particular have very limited funds,” Osborn said, adding that Reinvest North County’s priority is to get kids into class.

That page lists several funds that are open to public donation, if that strikes your fancy.

I like the ability to fund small scale projects requested directly by teachers, made possible by DonorsChoose. I find that other people seem to like the immediacy of this support as well. So I have a few more projects for your consideration.

Ms. Catalino is requesting support for language and mathematics education in Kindergarten at Fairview Primary School in Jennings. The Children Are Our Future project indicates:

My students come from low income families and are very needy. They want to learn and enjoy learning when given the opportunity. A lot of the children become easily angered and can be hard to handle. I keep my children in my classroom actively engaged in learning, so I do not have many anger outbursts. I provide a safe, warm, and exciting environment in my classroom. They love to come into my classroom and are eager to learn. My children develop high self esteem due to the success they have in my classroom.

The project seeks funds for language and math teaching materials for Common Core as well as a classroom magazine.

The Math Common Core item I put in my project will enrich all the students by building a foundation for Math. It will provide centers and hands-on activities for each child. The activities will keep their interest and the children will want to do the activities over and over.

The Phonological Common Core item will prepare the children with a solid foundation for reading. The children will enjoy all the activities in the kit. The activities will be used in centers to provide enrichment and remedial help in a fun way for the students. The activities will keep the children engaged throughout our center time.

Would you care to help some kindergartners?

Next I see Mrs. Belger, also at Fairview Primary in Jennings, needs presentation equipment for teaching her first graders. In 1,2,3 Eyes on Me! she indicates:

We need a multi-purpose and portable teaching easel to use for general instruction. Picture if you will, 26 little eager eyes looking up at you, waiting to be engaged and learn something new. Whole group instruction takes place often during our school day. Students are gathered together in the meeting area, learning together. The teacher and her/his easel are the focus point of the lesson. There I can model how to write letters of the alphabet, show a big book, teach math strategies, how to write a sentence, and so much more.

Mrs. Belger has a second request, Making Leaps and Bounds Toward Success! as well.

Would you care to make Mrs. Belger’s classroom a little more effective this year?

Finally, for today, I draw your attention to Mrs. Schumer’s first graders at Halls Ferry Elementary School in Florissant, MO. In Rain and Cold Won’t Ruin Our Day! she notes:

The school I teach at serves families with very low incomes. Many of my families are living with extended family and are struggling to provide for their child’s basic needs. As a result, the children in my class do not have a lot of opportunity to use learning toys like those I am requesting. These “toys” would be an educational way for my students to spend indoor recess time this winter.

While my students are excited to come to school to learn each day, they also have a lot of fun getting exercise and playing with friends during recess. When winter rolls around (or rain falls) and they are unable to go out for recess, we have very few activities in our room for the children to use. I would love to have something fun for them to do that helps them gain valuable social skills, fine motor skills, and critical thinking skills. The building sets and doll play sets would make my children love indoor recess just as much as outdoor recess!

Would you like to make the rain days just a little bit more fun for the children?

I realize there are many demands on your donation dollars these days, folks. So if you are tapped, no biggie. Just consider passing the idea of helping the children affected by the Ferguson unrest along to your friends and families. I know many of them will be happy to know of the opportunity.

Many hands makes light work!

The scientist known as @parklifensci (Parklife blog) on the Internet will be walking in the Parkinson’s Unity Walk. The donation page says:

Why I’m walking:
Every walker and donor makes a difference by taking the Walk one step closer to finding the cause and cure for Parkinson’s. By joining together with thousands of others, we’ll be empowering those who are living with the disease, and honoring those who lived with Parkinson’s.

Who I’m walking for:
Over 1 million people in the United States have Parkinson’s. 60,000 people are newly diagnosed every year – one person, every nine minutes. Walking and raising funds and awareness for research is my chance to help.

Why I’m supporting the Parkinson’s Unity Walk:
100% of donations go to research. The Parkinson’s Unity Walk is the largest grassroots event in the U.S., raising funds and awareness for research.

Ways to support my fundraising efforts:
There’s strength in numbers so please join me. Donate, register to walk, and fundraise.

I encourage you to donate if you can or join the walk if you are nearby.

23andme and the Cold Case

August 15, 2013

By way of brief introduction, I last discussed the 23andme genetic screening service in the context of their belated adoption of IRB oversight and interloper paternity rates. You may also be interested in Ed Yong’s (or his euro-caucasoid doppelganger’s) results.

Today’s topic is brought to you by a comment from my closest collaborator on a fascinating low-N developmental biology project.

This collaborator raised a point that extends from my prior comment on the paternity post.

But, and here’s the rub, the information propagates. Let’s assume there is a mother who knows she had an affair that produced the kid or a father who impregnated someone unknown to his current family. Along comes the 23 and me contact to their child? Grandchild? Niece or nephew? Brother or sister? And some stranger asks them, gee, do you have a relative with these approximate racial characteristics, of approximately such and such age, who was in City or State circa 19blahdeblah? And then this person blast emails their family about it? or posts it on Facebook?

It also connects with a number of issues raised by the fact that 23andme markets to adoptees in search of their genetic relatives. This service is being used by genealogy buffs of all stripes and one can not help but observe that one of the more ethically complicated results will be the identification of unknown genetic relationships. As I alluded to above, interloper paternity may be identified. Also, one may find out that a relative gave a child up for adoption…or that one fathered a child in the past and was never informed.

That’s all very interesting but today’s topic relates to crimes in which DNA evidence has been left behind. At present, so far as I understand, the DNA matching is to people who have already crossed the law enforcement threshold. In fact there was a recent broughha over just what sort of “crossing” of the law enforcement threshold should permit the cops to take your DNA if I am not mistaken. This does not good, however, if the criminal has never come to the attention of law enforcement.

Ahhhh, but what if the cops could match the DNA sample left behind by the perpetrator to a much larger database. And find a first or second cousin or something? This would tremendously narrow the investigation, wouldn’t it?

It looks like 23andme is all set to roll over for whichever enterprising police department decides to try.

From the Terms of Service.

Further, you acknowledge and agree that 23andMe is free to preserve and disclose any and all Personal Information to law enforcement agencies or others if required to do so by law or in the good faith belief that such preservation or disclosure is reasonably necessary to: (a) comply with legal process (such as a judicial proceeding, court order, or government inquiry) or obligations that 23andMe may owe pursuant to ethical and other professional rules, laws, and regulations; (b) enforce the 23andMe TOS; (c) respond to claims that any content violates the rights of third parties; or (d) protect the rights, property, or personal safety of 23andMe, its employees, its users, its clients, and the public.

Looks to me that all the cops would need is a warrant. Easy peasy.

h/t to Ginny Hughes [Only Human blog] for cuing me to look over the 23andme ToS recently.

intrepid reporter @eperlste filed a dispatch from the front lines of the OpenScience, CrowdFund War.

I’ve reached out to several @qb3 incubator biotech startups to learn more about leasing lab space. $900/bench/month is a pretty penny!

$10,800 per year just for the bench space alone. One bench. He didn’t elaborate so it is hard to know what is included, but I think we can safely assume that normal costs go up from there. Freezer space, hourly use of shared big-ticket equipment, etc. Vivarium fees to maintain mouse lines won’t come cheaply. Waste disposal.

Just another data point for you in your efforts to assess what can reasonably be accomplished for a given threshold of crowd-fund science support money and in determining where your Indirect Cost dollars for a traditional grant go.