Thursday, December 4, 2014

A History of War

After reading a book written on the US activity in southeast Asia during the 50s and 60s, I was struck by the parallels between the current situation in the middle east. 

According to Tillman Durdin, news correspondent for southeast Asia during the late 50s and 60s, the countries of that region were strongly nationalistic and therefore incapable of coming together in confederation.  In additional they held a strong anti-US sentiment and desire for independence, but being weak they relied heavily on outside aid, including from Europe, the US, the Soviet Union, and China.  The pull between western democracy and eastern communist interests made southeast Asia an ideal place to wage an ideological war; capitalism versus communism.  Of course, the US entered into the now infamous war in Vietnam, which was predated by several other skirmishes in the region and this is where the parallels come in.

Thursday, August 28, 2014

The Anthropocentric Greek Ideal versus Biology

It has been said that the Greek Ideal of Humanism is rooted almost entirely in the Homeric Epic and the Greek hero.  Indeed, everywhere the Greek people went before and during the classical age they brought with them Homer and set up schools to teach his epic of Odysseus.  The Greek hero, first accounted for by Homer, and exemplified by characters such as Achilles, were not the heroes we speak of today, they were strong minded obstinately self-centered, or so the work of Moses Hadas, in "Humanism; the Greek ideal and its survival," suggests.  Hadas, whose book was published in 1960, cleanly defines the Greek ideal of Humanism with a quote from Homer, "To strive always for excellence and to surpass all others."  It is man, and his accomplishments, who is the center of all things within this philosophy. How then does Greek Humanism stand up to current trends in society and with our broader understanding of the world brought about by our scientific understanding of biology? 

Wednesday, June 11, 2014

Control and Freedom

Philosophers suggest that freedom is the underpinning of all philosophical thought.  Indeed, the desire for freedom is written into the constitution of American society and many others.  But what is the biological mediator of freedom, what is its inverse, are we truly free, and can we use this understanding to predict the outcomes of social situations?

Wednesday, May 28, 2014

Diagnostic Flow Cytometry and the AIDS Pandemic

This article was a finalist in the 2014 Mayo Clinic Boerhaave History of Medicine Essay Contest.

         In the late 1960’s a convergence of fluid dynamics, laser detecting photodiodes, and high-speed computers with fluorescent antibody detection allowed for the characterization and quantification of individual cells in low volumes at a high rate of speed [1, 2].  Prior to flow cytometry (FCM), most clinical immunology labs and immunophenotyping facilities used fluorescent microscopy to examine cells.  The transition to clinical cytometry would have remained an uneventfully slow progression if it weren’t for the advent of acquired immunodeficiency syndrome (AIDS) [3].  This review will discuss the history of flow cytometry, its role in HIV diagnosis, and conclude with where flow cytometry is going.     

Thursday, February 20, 2014

Productivity Tools For the Nascent Scientists

 This post previously appeared in the Mayo Clinic Diversity in Education Blog on Feb. 13th, 2014.

75% of graduate students in a recent survey have reported dealing with stress in the past year. The main source of stress is the pressure to produce. And why not? With deadlines, classes, experiments, and presentations, graduate students are under a lot of pressure to produce. There are three ideas for increasing productivity that I use regularly and maybe they can help you as well. I didn't come up with these ideas, I learned them (see the embedded links in the text), and below I will provide an example of their utility in a scientific research environment. But before I do, there are two things you should already have:

1. FOCUS (a goal, a thesis, a dream)
2. A documentation system (i.e. a pencil, a laptop, a smart phone, or a stone tablet).
You can't produce anything without a focus and you can't achieve results without a system to measure progress. Now that you have a thesis and a pencil, let’s get going.

Sunday, February 9, 2014

Laboratory problems- a look at a book from 1924

1924 edition
I picked up this book, Elements of General Science Laboratory Problems by Cadwell, Eikenberry, and Glenn, at an estate sale.  It looks like it was meant for high school students to learn basic science.  But its copyright date of 1924; 'new edition,' may suggest that this was as good as science got for most people, at least those not going into science.  My favorite lessons were called, "How does the telephone operate?," "How do yeast plants live and grow?," and "How do molds live and grow?"