Archive for: December, 2012

Some choonz to see you through the end of the world.

Dec 20 2012 Published by under Uncategorized

Happy Holidays, everyone! I hope you're all getting to take at least a little time off in the coming days, and that you're able to spend that time enjoyably with people you love. For the third year in a row, I'm off to an undisclosed location with J and a few of our good friends/siblings/siblings-in-law where we will do little else besides eat, drink, eat, and re-visit the site where J proposed 1 year ago. I can't wait.

This is all, of course, provided the world does not explode in a fiery mess once the clock strikes midnight in Middle America. So just in case, I'm giving you my favorite music from 2012, with Spotify links to my favorite song from each album. If you're not on Spotify, why aren't you? It is pretty much the best, especially if, like me, you're so over owning things.

1. Obvious, perhaps, but Mumford & Sons' new album Babel is really good, and "I Will Wait" epitomizes everything everyone loves about M&S.
2. Beach House has been around for a while, but Bloom is by far their best album, and "Myth" is such a gorgeous, driving, interesting song--one of my absolute favorites of the year.
3. Tanlines' Mixed Emotions is feel-good electro-pop at its best. Dare you to listen to "All of Me" without bopping along.
4. I join the rest of the world in declaring Cat Power's latest, Sun, a truly excellent album. Listen to the whole thing, but here's the title track.
5. One of my favorite new discoveries this year has been Chairlift. Something is filled with unabashedly 80s synth pop, with smooth vocals and catchy melodies, exemplified in "Take it Out on Me."
6. More moody, female-fronted goodness can be found in the Chromatics' Kill for Love. The title track sounds straight out of a David Lynch movie, and somehow manages to sound both low-fi and polished at the same time.
7. Technically, the tracks on Donnie & Joe Emerson's Dreamin' Wild were recorded in 1979, when the brothers were just 17 and 19, playing around in their home studio. But their album didn't get formally released until this year, and the world has been pooping itself over it.  "Baby" is total backseat make-out music.
8. I would never say that I'm a country fan, but I guess that's what First Aid Kit is (sort of?), and I am head over heels for the haunting harmonies on The Lion's Roar--especially the title track.
9. After ghostwriting for some of R&B's biggest names, Frank Ocean's first solo album, channel ORANGE , is pretty much objectively superb. I love the peppy "Lost."
10. I have no idea what Grimes is saying in most of the quirky, synthy, super catchy tracks on Vision, but I know I like it. "Genesis"  is a perfect example.
11. With Yet Again, Grizzly Bear yet again puts out a great album of smart rock music. "Shields" is one of my favorites.
12. If you ever wished that Portishead and Air could combine into one beautiful, haunting, low-fi/electro hybrid, I encourage you to check out Iamamiwhoami's first album Kin, particularly the first track, Sever.
13. Yeah, it's the HBOGo ad song, but I'll be damned if Electric Guest's "The Head I Hold" isn't one of the most danceable things I've heard this year. The rest of Mondo doesn't sound much like it, but is worth a listen anyway.
14. Like her big sister Béyonce, Solange has dropped the "Knowles" from her stage name, and she's also dropped some damn fine pop music on her EP True. The whole thing (all precious 28 minutes of it) is amazing, but I especially love "Losing You."
15. Shintaro Sakamoto's How to Live With a Phantom is, I don't know--Japanese Yacht Rock? It's totally groovy, and I don't mean that ironically. Just listen to "You Just Decided" and you'll see what I mean.
16. Sleigh Bells have always been so impressive to me because they manage to be the kind of music that you play really loud, but are at the same time so melodic and controlled. No idea how they do it, but their new album Reign of Terror is exquisite, and "Comeback Kid" illustrates perfectly what I'm talking about.

I think I'll stop there, although it's worth noting that Twin Shadow, Wild Nothing, and Yeasayer also all had new albums out this year that are seriously great.

8 responses so far

What's the deal with preliminary data?

Dec 19 2012 Published by under Uncategorized

A few weeks ago, I attended a fancy pants conference for the first time. I was very nervous about going--worried that I would only know two or three people, feel impossibly out of my league, and retreat into a corner and cry for the extent of the meeting. As it turned out, I knew something closer to 20 or 30 people there, and it was one of the most fun, stimulating, and rewarding meetings I've ever been to. One of the people I reconnected with was someone my grad program had tried to recruit, but who'd ultimately decided on somewhere warmer. He's now an assistant professor like me, and so we bonded/commiserated on numerous assistant professor talking points, which naturally included the NIH grants system.

What struck me in this conversation was something he said when the topic of R21s came up. "The problem with R21s," he bemoaned, "is that you need preliminary data." Now, I found this to be a surprising thing to say, since my R21 was funded without any preliminary data--for that particular project. I did include a few figures to show that my post-doctoral work had taught me the techniques I proposed to use in that project. But it made me wonder whether different people have different ideas about what "preliminary data" actually means, and how necessary they think it is when evaluating grant proposals.

It's been said that when you submit an application, you basically need to have half the thing done already. Do you think this is true? If so, why? Where did this attitude come from? Do you think about R21s vs R01s differently?

Please take my handy poll! And please expand on your answers in the comments. I love comments!

15 responses so far

The Mad Professor

Dec 14 2012 Published by under Uncategorized

When you're a grad student or a post-doc, you might be working on your main project and get a little idea about something. A connection between your work and a talk you just heard, something sticking out in your data that you didn't expect to, so you decide to explore it a little further--an extra western blot, a different angle of analysis. You would probably do this on your own, maybe not even mentioning it to your PI unless something interesting came out of it.

I am now fifteen months into PI-hood and overseeing a cadre of exceptionally adept people who largely don't need me around anymore. Moreover, I am burdened with tasks that mostly tether me to my desk. So when these little ideas occur to me, instead of quietly testing my theories on my own, I have no choice but to burst into the lab, Kramer-style, declaring "I JUST HAD AN IDEA!!!" I then explain my thoughts briefly, give them but the vaguest of information on what they should do to incorporate my brilliant plan into their projects, then retreat back into my office.

I'm pretty sure my grad students and tech think I'm totally bonkers, but I hope that they chalk it up to being a socially inept genius as opposed to, say, someone who simply hasn't the wherewithal to write things down and bring them up at a more appropriate time.


10 responses so far


Dec 11 2012 Published by under Uncategorized

Neuro-friends, have I got a grant for you! If you thought the BRAINS RFA demonstrated the epitome of acronymical dexterity, I invite you to feast your eyes on EUREKA. This FOA--for Exceptional Unconventional Research Enabling Knowledge Acceleration (for Neuroscience and Disorders of the Nervous System)--is basically the Cadillac of award notices. No longer is it enough to be significant, innovative, or even transformative! You must be exceptionally unconventional, and you must change the velocity of knowledge itself!

There's lots of juicy goodness in the description, too. A few highlights:

"Reviewers...will be reminded that risk is a hallmark of exceptionally innovative research and, in most cases, should not detract from the merit of an application."

"A PD/PI’s record of overcoming difficult scientific hurdles, appropriate to his/her career stage, may also be useful in assessing the likelihood of success."

Also of note--Research Strategy is limited to 6 pages, with a mere 3 dedicated to Approach. Moreover, you must include a statement within those 6 pages on "Likelihood of Success," in which you must address the following: "If have not yet made a paradigm-shifting discovery or solved a very difficult problem, which aspect of the logic of the experimental approach suggests that there is some probability that the proposed research will be successful."

It's also worth noting that there's a discrepancy amongst ICs in terms of how many awards, as well of the size of each, are available:
-NINDS, $1,500,000, 4-6 awards
-NIMH, $1,500,000, 4-6 awards
-NIDA, $1,000,000, 2-4 awards
-NIA, $500,000, 1-2 awards

There's a bunch of other stuff that's different about the period of funding, renewability (non) and whatnot, so much so that it almost doesn't even sound like an R01 anymore! I encourage you to go read the whole FOA, it's pretty fascinating.

So, are we all going to apply? I'm not sure--I feel like this may not be the kind of thing that a new investigator would do well on, despite the lip service to "appropriate to his/her career stage." How do we prove that we've overcome difficult hurdles? Do I talk about the time that my PI handed me a box of 30 year-old Stoelting parts and I jerry-rigged a stereotax?

Very curious what your initial thoughts are on this, folks. I'm just waiting for NIH to just come out and name the next FOA "PARADIGM SHIFT," and come up with some amazing acronym for that. Feel free to have a go in the comments!

10 responses so far