How Aquaponics is Changing Agricultural Practices

A key focus of my blog is Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics. All industries evolve and Agriculture is no different. “Aquaponics” is becoming a viable alternative to traditional terrestrial Agriculture. The following contributed post is thus entitled, How Aquaponics is Changing Agricultural Practices.

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Image Credit: Unsplash

Agriculture is an industry under a lot of pressure. As the world population increases and the climate changes, there are more and more issues when it comes to producing enough food for everyone. Indeed, when you consider the number of people starving in some countries and the number of people dying due to conditions caused by overeating in others, there’s clearly a problem.

Luckily, there are plenty of scientists looking into new ways to improve everything from crop yield to energy and water consumption. One way that scientists and farmers are experimenting is through the use of aquaponics. This is the combination of fish farming and crop farming and though it sounds weird, there are plenty of advantages to consider.

Crops Meet Fish

When large farmers choose their crops, they tend to go for miles and miles of the same thing. This is fine in theory but it isn’t as good for crop yield as polyculture. If you want the best results from nature, you should look at what nature does well. There’s a reason that plants are literally growing on top of each other in the rainforest – the plants are helping each other flourish.

One of the main reasons that aquaponics and crops go so well together is that fish create a lot of waste that plants really enjoy. Plants need a lot of water to grow and, surprise surprise, fish are pretty hot on water too. When you look at the very basic needs of each, there is a remarkable amount of crossover – even where waste products are concerned.

Though fish obviously need a lot of water to survive, the water they use can be used over and again. Rather than using large hose pipes to push water out into the atmosphere where most of it will evaporate, this water is circled again and again between the fish and the plants. This idea is so simple that just a Shinmaywa 50cr2.75s pump would do the trick.

A Circular System

In order to survive, fish require plenty of fresh water. Unfortunately, fish excrete waste including ammonia which can have a devastating effect on the water they live in if it is not removed.

In order to survive, plants require plenty of water and nutrients. Luckily, one of the nutrients tomato plants particularly love is ammonia. In fact, for the tomato plants to thrive, they actually need the waste water the fish need to be rid of.

By combining the two problems, a circular system is formed. The plants filter the excess nitrates out of the water and ‘exhale’ clean water through their leaves which is collected on the ceiling of the greenhouse.

As our needs increase the pressure on our planet grows exponentially as a result of our activities, it is important that we can find better ways to produce food without having to damage the environment to get the results we want. There is always a solution in nature if we look carefully enough and, strange as it sounds, aquaponics could be just that.

How To Make Your Business More Eco-Friendly

Three of the focuses of my blog are Financial Literacy/Money, Business/Entrepreneurship and STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics. Whatever your business is, its important to think about how you can make your operations eco-friendly. The following contributed post is thus entitled, How To Make Your Business More Eco-Friendly.

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With global warming becoming an increasing concern, it’s more apparent now than ever that more businesses need to do more to help the environment and be more eco-friendly. So here are a few ways you can make your business a little greener!

Image Source

Go Digital

A lot of businesses can end up using monumental amounts of paper and other stationery every year. Not to mention the cost of it can really impact the profits made on a business. Therefore, it’s beneficial to go digital with as much of the organization as possible. If documents can avoid going to print then save them on your computers. A lot of businesses are going digital because there’s plenty of positives to it. It’s greener, and it’s much more cost effective.

Recycle

It’s no surprise that a lot of businesses, particularly those within cities, may not be so hot on recycling. If your business is unable to print less, then at least you can make an impact by recycling it. The paper and waste you do recycle can go back into making recycled products and materials that are biodegradable. Encourage this practice around the workplace, having clear bins for general waste and recycling. Put up signage and tell heads of departments to take charge of their own area’s waste.

Energy Efficient Equipment

Nowadays, there’s a lot more choice in equipment for the workplace whether that’s a certain type of printer used in the workspace or a kettle for the kitchen. If you have the budget, try buying new appliances for the office that are energy efficient. Yes, it might be an expense, to begin with but over time it could end up saving you a lot of money on utility bills and overall running costs within the company. It’ll also cut down those scope 1 emissions if you’re currently using a lot of fossil fuels in your business.

Introduce Flexible Working Hours

Fewer people in the building means less energy used in the workplace on a daily basis. Introducing flexible working hours has plenty of benefits if it’s something you are able to do within the organization. A lot of employees are after the right balance of work and life, and with flexible working, this gives them the freedom to work smarter and enjoy life more. The business will earn more loyalty and respect, but it’ll also mean the cost of running the office will be noticeably less.

Encourage Staff To Go Green

As a business, you have a certain influence over your employees, and if you promote a greener environment in the office, you could also make a change to your staff’s own lifestyle at home. Do your best to encourage a greener living environment from giving incentives like cycling to work schemes or gift cards for promoting greener living.

Being more eco-friendly is going to save money for business, helps with the health of your staff and benefits your local community. So what are you waiting for? Go green today and contribute towards a better earth.

Dr. Quinn Capers IV discusses Implicit Bias and the #DropAndGiveMe20 campaign

One of the focuses of my blog is STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics), and my most central principle is “Creating Ecosystems of Success”. While we tend to think of clinical medicine as strictly a ‘healthcare’ profession, its foundations are actually rooted in the ‘Basic Sciences’. In late 2017, I discovered Dr. Quinn Capers IV on Twitter one day by chance and started following him when he was tweeting about medical education at the Ohio State University. The hashtag he used in most of his tweets, #BlackMenInMedicine, further piqued my curiosity.

Last year I had the honor of interviewing Dr. Capers about his path and #BlackMenInMedicine. To see our 2018 interview go to Dr. Quinn Capers, IV discusses his path, #BlackMenInMedicine, and the present landscape of medical education. Dr. Capers recently granted me the opportunity to interview him a second time. In this follow up interview we discuss the concept of ‘Implicit Bias’, why it’s important, and the hashtag, ‘#DropAndGiveMe20’. The images in this interview were graciously shared by Dr. Capers himself. Click on any of the images to enlarge them.

Anwar Dunbar: Hello, Dr. Capers and happy New Year. I want to thank you for the opportunity to interview you again. As the Dean of Admissions at the Ohio State University’s Medical School, your words are very, very valuable, especially for students aspiring to attend medical school. Before we get into ‘Implicit Bias’, the last time we spoke we spent quite a bit of time on the hashtag #BlackMenInMedicine. I now see you using a second hastag, #DropAndGiveMe20. Where did this hashtag and the whole push-ups piece come from? Did you start that?

Quinn Capers: The #DropAndGiveMe20 campaign is a great story. I’m a big fan of Ohio State University (OSU) Football. For years, while watching the games on television, I’ve had a fun routine of doing 10 push-ups every time they score a touchdown. I picked push-ups because they don’t require equipment or much physical space. They’re a good measure of overall upper body strength and they get your heart rate up. Mostly, I wanted to feel like I was exerting myself while the players were on the field exerting themselves. It’s just fun.

I’ve done it at sports bars and experienced both strange looks and strangers joining in! In November 2017, my wife recorded me doing this after an OSU touchdown and I thought it’d be cool to put it on Twitter to spark excitement among OSU football fans. I got a few responses, but the best one was from an interventional cardiologist at UCLA, Dr. William Suh (he is now a great Twitter friend or a “Tweep”), who said he could top that; and would do 20 for every UCLA Bruin touchdown. So he did 20, then when OSU scored another touchdown, I did 20.

AD: Ohio State Football. Yes, you all beat my Michigan Wolverines yet again (laughing).

QC: Well, we both had Twitter followers who are cardiologists and since heart doctors love promoting exercise, they joined the fun and challenged other cardiologists. I guess you could say that Dr. Suh and I are the “co-founders” if you must, but it has grown so fast and so many are responsible for spreading it that it really is a group effort now. It grew quickly to include other specialties, non-physicians, and even patients. In fact some of the most regular and awesome participants are patients; one a heart transplant survivor. They’re simply incredible.

It grew fast under the hashtag “#DropAndGiveMe20” and it’s now international with participants all over the world posting clips from places like the following: Sydney (Australia), London, and Lagos, Nigeria. We post daily and give each other positive feedback, hold each other accountable, and promote wellness and exercise. One of my main goals is to promote exercise as a way to improve heart health and to show that you don’t have to wait to go to a gym, since it can be hard to work a full day and plan to go to a gym afterwards. I’ll usually post clips of myself doing push-ups during my work day in the cardiac cath lab, in my office between meetings, or even in an auditorium after giving a lecture. Others have posted clips in unusual settings, like at dinner parties.

AD: Nice.

QC: I’ll tell you about two of my favorite clips. There’s a very famous female cardiologist who posted clips of herself doing push-ups at the airport terminal awaiting her flight. A prominent British cardiologist topped that by doing his on a moving walkway at London’s Heathrow Airport (not recommended, by the way)! We have great fun adding humorous wrinkles to it, like adding more and more people in a clip. I suppose I took it to new heights recently when I concluded a live simulcast lecture to a group of medical residents in Cameroon by asking them to do push-ups with me! They complied and we completed what might be the first, simultaneous, international push-up session!

I also take the opportunity to share my love and knowledge of jazz, hip-hop, and R & B/Funk music. My clips are always accompanied by a musical selection from my collection. I always credit and tag the musicians (if they have a Twitter handle), hoping to spark curiosity about certain hidden gems and send my Twitter followers “digging in the crates” to support the music. I was beyond thrilled when two different artists supplying the soundtrack to my push-ups responded to my tweet, the hip hop group “Digable Planets” and saxophone legend Branford Marsalis!

It’s great fun, and a very friendly Twitter community has grown around it. We now arrange to meet up at conventions (cardiology or otherwise) and do a “#DropAndGiveMe20!” Regarding the health benefits, doing push-ups can provide positive reinforcement in a relatively short period of time. Last November I could barely do 25 at one time, now I can max out at 43. Anyone is welcome to join the fun. If you can’t do 20, start with 1 or 2 push-ups! By the way, Dr. Dunbar, you and your readers are welcome to join anytime. Just record yourself, post it on Twitter with the hashtag “#DropAndGiveMe20” and tag your colleagues to get them involved.

AD: Okay, Dr. Capers. I haven’t done push-ups in a while, but now I may have to see if I can crank out 20 (laughing).

I noticed that after starting to follow you, ‘Implicit Bias’ became something you started addressing. How did this come about? What should the general public, and particularly those looking to get into medical school, understand about it?

QC: Implicit bias is a negative or positive attitude towards a person or group that occurs outside of our awareness, intention, or control. Although these biases occur outside of our awareness, they can influence behavior, possibly resulting in well-meaning people treating others differently based on race, gender, age, etc. I came across the concept as a cardiologist interested in racial healthcare disparities. Disparities have many causes, like social determinants of health, housing discrimination, unequal access to the best care, outright racism (explicit bias) of practitioners, structural bias in the healthcare system, etc.

I became intrigued with the notion of implicit or unconscious bias and its potential role in unequal treatment. Several studies have shown that a physician’s unconscious association of negative thoughts or words with a particular race or gender can be associated with therapeutic decisions that are harmful to persons in that group. For instance, one widely quoted paper had physicians take the computer-based implicit association test (IAT) that’s designed to uncover implicit associations or biases (free, available at implicit.harvard.edu) and then review case vignettes of a black or white male suffering from a heart attack.

Doctors were asked if they thought the symptoms of chest discomfort were indicative of a heart problem and if they’d treat the patient with a life-saving drug to terminate the heart attack. Physicians whose IAT showed “implicit white race preference” or an unconscious association of a white person’s face with good words (love, joy, warmth) and a black person’s face with bad words (danger, misery, trouble) were less likely to treat the black patient with the drug despite the black and white patients having identical presentations (1). It is important to note that this is not racism, which is a conscious, explicit bias. But implicit bias can potentially have life-and-death consequences in healthcare. While not all studies of implicit bias show an association with a doctor’s decision-making, enough do to cause alarm.

AD: That’s interesting.

QC: In addition to being a cardiologist I have the great privilege of serving as the Associate Dean for Admissions at the Ohio State University (OSU) College of Medicine, and I’m responsible for overseeing the recruitment, interview, and selection processes for our incoming medical students. When I reviewed a paper that showed that approximately 70% of a large group of physicians taking the IAT have implicit white race preference (2), I immediately pictured our medical school admissions committee and the fact that it is composed largely of physicians, and I had several questions: Do the physicians charged with the awesome responsibility of deciding who will become a doctor have implicit racial biases? If so, to what extent? If so, might it influence their decision-making and put black and Hispanic applicants at a disadvantage?

We set out to answer these questions and had our entire committee take the race IAT in 2012. Aggregate results revealed that a significant portion of the committee (between 50 and 70%) had an implicit white race preference. Next, Dr. Anthony Greenwald, implicit bias expert and one of the inventors of the IAT, led the committee in a discussion of implicit bias and how to reduce it. In the very next cycle we matriculated the most racially diverse class in the history of the college, suggesting that we are able to overcome implicit biases. This was the first paper to document the presence and extent of implicit racial bias in the medical school admissions process (3).

Our results indicated to us that we could have what we thought was a fair, objective process, on the surface, but that unconscious biases could put certain groups of candidates at a disadvantage. Since then we’ve had robust discussions about implicit bias and annual workshops on bias mitigation. I recently completed a training program leading to certification to moderate implicit bias workshops, and I do so twice a month. This goes beyond admissions and is open to the entire medical center. So far we have trained over 1,000 physicians, nurses, staff and students in bias mitigation strategies. It is a real passion and we are trying to make a difference.

AD: Thank you for that in depth explanation. Is there anything new at the Ohio State Medical School?

QC: We’re always tweaking the curriculum to help produce physicians who are ready to advance healthcare. We’re on the cusp of a new expansion with blueprints for a new hospital building and a health professions education building. And finally, we are continuing to leverage the fact that we have one of the most diverse medical student bodies in the country to enhance medical education and community outreach. In other words, we are continuing our forward progress.

Thank you for the opportunity to share some thoughts with you and your readers. Best wishes for a happy, healthy new year!

AD: Thank you, Dr. Capers. I look forward to talking again and trying the push-up challenge.

Thank you for taking the time to read this interview. If you’ve enjoyed this, you might also enjoy:

Dr. Quinn Capers, IV discusses his path, #BlackMenInMedicine, and the present landscape of medical education
The story of how I earned my STEM degree as a minority
How my HBCU led me to my STEM career
Researching your career revisited: Wisdom from a STEM professor at my HBCU
A look at STEM: What is Pharmacology?
A look at STEM: What is Toxicology?

If you’ve found value here and think it would benefit others, please share it and/or leave a comment. I’ve recently started a YouTube channel, so please visit me at Big Discussions76. To receive all the most up to date content from the Big Words Blog Site, subscribe using the subscription box in the right-hand column in this post and throughout the site, or add my RSS feed to your feedreader. You can follow me on the Big Words Blog Site Facebook page, and Twitter at @BWArePowerful. Lastly, you can follow me on Instagram at @anwaryusef76. While my main areas of focus are Education, STEM and Financial Literacy, there are other blogs/sites I endorse which can be found on that particular page of my site.

7 Words You Need To Understand Before Starting Up In Agriculture

Three of the focuses of my blog are Financial Literacy/Money, Business/Entrepreneurship, and STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics). Agriculture is a fascinating sector in that it merges business with the plant sciences, Botany and Ecology. In order do business in Agriculture, there are key terms that you need to understand. The following contributed post is thus entitled, 7 Words You Need To Understand Before Starting Up In Agriculture.

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Agriculture is a thriving sector of the economy and currently going through enormous change. That means that there are big opportunities available to people who can see them.

But part of understanding any industry is knowing some of the jargon that people in that industry use to communicate with each other. Jargon isn’t pointless, as many people contend: it’s just a way of expressing shorthand with other people with a high level of knowledge of a particular subject. So what words should you know if you’re planning on setting up in the ag business? Let’s take a look.

Yield

If you grow your own crops, you need to understand the concept of yield. Yield, put simply, is the weight of crop produced, divided by the area required to produce it. Modern farmers will usually speak of “tons per hectare”, but old-fashioned metrics might include “bushels per acre” where a bushel is an imperial measure for a quantity of a crop. Visit this website to find out more.

Bushel

Pixabay

Speaking of bushels, what exactly are they? Bushels are just a unit of measurement for a crop, Traditionally, a bushel was 8 gallons of grain, but the weight of a bushel varies with the type of plant. Eight gallons of oats, for instance, weighs about half as much as the same volume of wheat.

Polyculture

Wikimedia Commons

Take a look at most modern farms, and what do you notice? The same crop is grown in all directions, mile after mile. But is this the best way to grow? Polyculture refers to the process of growing complementary crops next to each other, boosting the yield of both.

Seed Drill

Seed drills are pretty self-explanatory. Before mechanisation, farmers used to drill seeds into the ground mechanically using horse or cattle-driven ploughs. Today tractors pull seed drills along fields, allowing farmers to plant seeds at set depths and intervals.

Permaculture

Wikimedia Commons

Permaculture refers to a process of designing human communities so that food production and waste are closely linked. The idea is to recycle all of the raw ingredients of farming to create something sustainable.

Dry Farming

With freshwater supplies under threat worldwide, there’s a growing need for dry farming: or the practice of relying on rainfall and soil moisture alone, rather than irrigation. Traditionally, farmers relied on building channels that would transport water to their crops to keep soil moisture levels high. But dry farming is a far riskier process because farmers essentially don’t have any control over when it rains. Dry farmers tend to rely on hardy crops that can withstand water and nutrient depletion.

Herbicide-Tolerant

Weeds can reduce yields by outcompeting crops for resources: soil nutrients, water and sunlight. Farmers need to get rid of weeds, but that can be difficult. Killing weeds with herbicide is all well and good, so long as the herbicide doesn’t kill the crops at the same time.

Herbicide-tolerant crops are those which can survive treatment with herbicide. The weeds die, but the crops don’t – exactly what you want as a farmer.

So, are you ready to start up in agriculture?

Liquid Technology Which You Use Every Day

A key focus of my blog is Technology. Liquid technology is around us and something we use daily. Few people know about liquid technology and what its applications are. The following contributed post is entitled, Liquid Technology Which You Use Every Day.

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(Image Source)

When most people think about technology, liquids aren’t often the first thing on their minds. Being notorious for killing the devices which people love the most, it’s natural to want to keep them away from the stuff, but this isn’t always possible. To give you an idea of where liquid technology is found in the modern world, this post will be exploring three different options, giving you a clear picture of what you have available in this area. There are few areas more interesting than gadgets which have the power to fry themselves.

Smart Water

Crime is always something which people are working to tackle. Regardless of how much time and resources are put into an area like this, though, you will always find people who are able to break into things. Smart water promises to help with this, but not in the way which most people imagine. By using a special chemical compound which can be altered very slightly for each bottle, companies making this material can leave a criminal’s skin stained with a liquid which is completely unique. This is the modern equivalent of being caught red handed, as you simply won’t have a way to argue with a court if you’ve been found with loads of this material on your body.

Lubricants

Modern cars move faster than ever before, and often have to rely on manufacturing methods which don’t make room for much error. To make sure than engines are able to cope, lubricants are used, usually coming in the form of oil. Companies like Peakhd have been working for decades to create products in this field which are able to outperform their more traditional alternatives. Creating a liquid which doesn’t change its state as temperatures and pressures around it vary is no mean feat, though this is exactly what you need in your vehicle, making it hard for companies to hit the sweet spot.

Phase Changes

Not a lot of people know how their refrigerator works. Much like the radiator in your car, these large appliances use an array of fins to cool down a fluid on the inside. As the fluid changes temperature, it also changes state, becoming a gas as it heats up, and a liquid when it cools down again. This sort of system is found in loads of different types of machine, not just fridges. Of course, though, it also isn’t the only way to cool something down, and there are modern methods which don’t require any harmful chemicals to get started.

With all of this on your mind, it should be a lot easier to see the power which liquids have to support society. A lot of people struggle to see where these tools can fit into the world, even though they are already commonplace, and this keeps the wider population oblivious to the liquids they are using on a daily basis. It’s always worth working hard to build a good understanding of the technology and tools you use on a regular basis, especially when they are so strange.

How my HBCU led me to my STEM career

The first principle of my blog is Creating Ecosystems of Success, and a major focus is awareness of the STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics) fields. In my post entitled, Who will benefit from Apple’s $350 billion investment?, I cited data stating that less than 10% of STEM degree holders are African American – a staggering number as these are some of the highest paying careers today. That same data was cited in an article by PBS entitled; African-Americans over-represented among low-paying college majors.

In my post entitled, The story of how I earned my STEM degree as a minority, I discussed the major learning points during my doctoral studies within the University of Michigan Department of Pharmacology. After completing that post, I realized that I also needed to discuss the role Johnson C. Smith University (JCSU) played in my journey. Despite debates over their continued relevance in modern times, many black STEM professionals received their initial training at their Historically Black Colleges/Universities (HBCU). Thus, in this post, I’m going to discuss how JCSU contributed to my journey towards my STEM career.

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When I arrived at JCSU in the fall of 1995, I really wasn’t sure what I wanted to do career-wise. I knew that I was inclined towards the biological sciences, but what career would I land in? Would I go to medical school? Would I end up teaching? Would it be something else? When I started my higher education at a Predominantly White Institution (PWI), the SUNY College at Brockport, a year earlier, I thought I wanted to be an athletic trainer; but I still wasn’t sure.

During my year at the SUNY Brockport before transferring to JCSU, I figured out how to be a student and earned an ‘A’ grade in my Survey of Anatomy and Physiology class – a very intensive pre-medical course. After earning that A, I knew that I could excel in most other undergraduate Biology courses and that’s the mindset I took with me down to Charlotte. Being 12 hours away from home also gave me a strong sense of focus and urgency.

The professors in the Department of Natural Sciences at JCSU were a dedicated and hardworking group. They were all very accomplished as most of them had a Ph.D. As described in my post entitled, Researching your career revisited: Wisdom from a STEM professor at my HBCU, some of them used a ‘tough love’ approach with us, letting us know that doing mediocre and low quality work would all but shut us out of careers like medicine, to which many of us, at least verbally aspired. Some of us rose to the challenge while others rejected their coaching.

Early on I churned out multiple A’s in my core courses which made me stand out because there were few males there at the time who were doing that. There was a select group of females who were doing it and were on track to get into medical school; as described in my piece about researching your career goals. I was also very malleable and teachable, so I started spending time with the professors in their offices outside of classes to get advice and feedback on material covered in class and potential careers. One professor did something that changed the course of my life.

“What are you doing this summer?” I was in the office of the professor I discussed in the piece about the importance of researching your career of interest. She wanted to know how I was going to spend my summer months. We were midway through the spring 1997 semester.

“I think I’m just going to go back to Buffalo to work security and wait tables at the bar I worked at last year,” I said to her shrugging my shoulders.

“No! You need to do something scientific,” she forcefully replied. “Take this, fill it out and bring it back to me!”

She handed me an application for the Ronald E. McNair Program at UNC-Charlotte. I quickly filled it out just as she mandated. It was a pivotal moment. I was going to go back home to Buffalo that summer because it was comfortable. However, more importantly, I didn’t know what I could do scientifically over the summer. This professor had seen my potential, and then stepped in to help me realize it. I participated in the McNair program over the summers of 1997 and 1999 – something I’ll write about that later. My professor’s actions opened a whole new world for me and led me to my graduate studies at the University of Michigan.

Another professor also impacted my future. He passed away several years ago, so I’ll mention his name. It was Dr. Joseph Fail, Jr., whom I became close to when I was a student. I stayed friends with him after graduating. Like everyone else who met him initially, Dr. Fail came off as a bit eccentric to me. He had a ‘hippie-like’ appearance in terms of how he dressed, and he had a long graying beard. He was the one professor out of the group who had background in the plant sciences; Botany and Ecology for which he was very, very passionate. He was also passionate about the students, and always encouraged our learning how to write and think coherently. He was alarmed by how some students wrote – something he repeatedly shared that with me in my numerous visits in his office.

Dr. Fail helped me secure a two-year fellowship through the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) where we proposed to teach Ecology to kids at a local Charlotte school in grades 4-6. I didn’t understand the significance of teaching Ecology to these age groups, but I did understand that my tuition would be completely paid for my final two years, and that I’d receive a stipend. Which meant that I’d no longer have to work an off-campus job. During my first two years at JCSU, I worked at the McDonalds at the downtown Overstreet Mall for spending money.

We submitted the grant the night it was due and stayed at Biddle Hall with members of the administration until 7 or 8 pm that night. The officials at Biddle Hall insisted on a certain level of quality, which caused a big ‘dust up’ as Dr. Fail just wanted to get the proposal submitted. It was my first experience applying for scientific grant funding. In getting those last two years of tuition paid, he impacted me and my family’s future for years to come by significantly decreasing my debt burden. The project was the basis for my senior thesis paper. Whenever Dr. Fail didn’t think that I was working hard enough on it, he was quick to remind me, “You’re getting paid for this Anwar!”

Two other professors in the department both had the last name ‘Thomas’, but they weren’t related. Those who were there knew that their last names actually weren’t ‘Thomas’. It was something close, and I’m just trying to protect their identities. One of them taught our Zoology class – a ‘gatekeeper’ course. He gave us multiple choice questions and frequently tricked the students who’d gotten the previous year’s exams from classmates. These students answered many of the questions wrong because they didn’t understand the principles of what was being asked, though the answers sounded the same. He stayed on us about class participation and continuously prodded the students to participate in discussions.

In my last year, Dr. Thomas encouraged us to revive the Science Club and for me to become the President. Though I had no idea how to be one, nor did I have the desire. I’d gotten used to working on my own and didn’t know how to be the head of any group. I begrudgingly accepted the position, and it was a good experience. I recall having my mentor from the McNair program come over from UNC-Charlotte to talk to us about his research in Hepatic Physiology. We also went to the Asheboro Zoo one day, I believe.

I became close with the other Dr. Thomas toward the end of my time at JCSU. I only scored a ‘B’ in his Biochemistry class, but I was juggling a lot at that time. I asked him to write a letter of recommendation for me for graduate school. He told me many stories about his graduate school days at the University of Cincinnati when things were much, much harder for black people. He encountered a lot of racism as he worked on his Ph.D. in Physiology. He came across as a little eccentric at times, as well, but he cared about the students and in some ways was very misunderstood. He always encouraged me saying, “Anwar, if you don’t get into graduate school, I don’t know what to say because you’re one of the best that we have!”

The Chemistry, Math and Physics professors cared a lot about the students also. In my post entitled, The keys to learning college level general chemistry, I discussed how I ‘turned the corner’ in terms of understanding General Chemistry under the professor who taught it to me at JCSU. The chemistry courses were also gatekeeper courses which derailed many students’ dreams of going to medical school.

As I described in my blog post regarding my experience during graduate school, I didn’t learn the importance of asking questions and scientific curiosity until after I left JCSU. It wasn’t because the professors didn’t encourage it though. Instead, it was because some of my classmates fought it. Unfortunately, in some instances, if the majority of a group isn’t committed to advancing, they can hold back those that are. It turns out that curiosity and asking questions is the lifeblood of any science – medicine included. Likewise if you don’t ask questions, you won’t go very far in any STEM.

“You’re the only one from our group who went into science,” a former classmate told me recently at homecoming weekend – something that both surprised me and was very telling. I think everyone in my cohort had the ability to go on to do something scientific, but we all arrived at JCSU with different tools and mindsets. Some also ran into some of life’s other unforeseen difficulties.

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I’m going to close by going back to the science club and the importance of mentoring. At the time I wasn’t sure how to be the President of the Science Club. In hindsight, it was just setting and creating environments/spaces where we could all grow, ask questions, talk science and exchange ideas – things they were doing at Howard and Morehouse.

To help our alma mater, I’m seeking to do that now for the current students, alumni and the university. I’ve started a Facebook page and group both entitled, “JCSU STEM Alumni”. I’ve also started an Instagram account with the same name. Please follow, join and contribute. That goes for Ph.Ds like myself, medical doctors, IT specialists or mathematicians. In terms of the logo, the elements used in the JCSU STEM Alumni logo; Neon, Lithium, Potassium and Scandium are elements 10, 3, 19 and 21 on the Periodic Table. In our alphabet, the numbers 10, 3, 19 and 21 correspond to the letters J-C-S-U.

If you’re a student and have questions about a course or your career, please reach out via a public post or a direct message. If you’re not a Smithite, but have a STEM background and want to participate, please join as well. Also, please help spread the word.

Thank you for taking the time to read this blog post. If you enjoyed this post you may also enjoy:

The story of how I earned my STEM degree as a minority
A look at STEM: What are the Basic Sciences and Basic Research?
A look at STEM: What is Regulatory Science?
The transferrable skills from a doctoral degree in the basic sciences
A look at STEM: What is Inhalation Toxicology?
A look at STEM: What is Pharmacology?

If you’ve found value here and think it would benefit others, please share it and/or leave a comment. Please visit my YouTube channel entitled, Big Discussions76. To receive all of the most up to date content from the Big Words Blog Site, subscribe using the subscription box in the right-hand column in this post and throughout the site, or add my RSS feed to your feedreader. You can follow me on the Big Words Blog Site Facebook page, and Twitter at @BWArePowerful. Lastly, you can follow me on Instagram at @anwaryusef76. While my main areas of focus are Education, STEM and Financial Literacy, there are other blogs/sites I endorse which can be found on that particular page of my site.

Professionally Providing Products to the Medical Field

Three of the focuses of my blog are Financial Literacy/Money, Business/Entrepreneurship and STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics). The healthcare industry will always be around as people will always need care of some sort. A lucrative business may therefore be supplying products for use in the field. The following contributed post is therefore entitled, Professionally Providing Products to the Medical Field.

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Photo Source

When we think of setting up a business of our own, the majority of us tend to consider providing general consumer products to the general consumer market. This makes sense. After all, the majority of us are consumers ourselves, so we are better able to identify gaps in the market. If there’s something that we want and can’t access, we may start up a business that creates these products and make them accessible for others. It is also generally easier to set up a company that provides products to a majority – the more people your product appeals to, the more people who are likely to make purchases and generate profit for you. However, the market is becoming increasingly saturated, due to the simplicity of setting up an Ecommerce store online and certain products are now offered by so many suppliers that profit margins are minimal, as companies have to undercut each other constantly for profit. Instead, why not consider a completely different field of commerce and cater to a more specialist market? There’s a whole lot of money to be made in the medical field!

Do Your Research

Before you get started, make sure to do your research. Know the field that you are dealing with and understanding their standards. Know what the equipment needs to be able to do and figure out a way to offer it at a lower price point than current providers are selling it for. Alternatively, alter the equipment in order to improve it or make it more functional somehow.

Specialise in One Product

When offering a product to the medical field, it is generally best to specialise on one specific product. You don’t have to worry about medics buying your product once and then having to reach out to a new market – medical equipment gets worn out, so customers are likely to return to you time and time again. Medical equipment also tends to be very specific, so it’s best to make sure you are providing one perfect product than offering various moderate products – medical institutions will only purchase the best.

Outsource Your Manufacturing

As we have now established, your products need to be perfect. So, generally speaking, it is best to outsource your manufacturing to companies with price equipment like cutting services and laser cleaning services. You can then create a test batch to try selling. If things take off, you could then invest in the necessary machinery and equipment in order to be able to manufacture in-house yourself.

Be Ready to Pitch

You’re going to have to really sell your product here. The type of sales you’re going to make aren’t really going to be one-off impulse buys. Institutions are going to make bulk purchases. So, make sure that you can pitch your products. This could make our break a huge deal and determine whether you succeed or not!

Sure, specialising in producing medical equipment is relatively complex and isn’t the easiest path to take. But if you get things right, you could make a fortune by selling just one line of products!

What Advantages Do Plastic Pipes Have Over Metal For Your Business?

Three of the focuses of my blog are Financial Literacy/Money, Business/Entrepreneurship and STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics). In many instances, business and science intersect – particularly those businesses where some knowledge of Chemistry and Materials Science is critical for planning projects, and budgeting for costs and savings. The following contributed post is entitled, What Advantages Do Plastic Pipes Have Over Metal For Your Business?

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Regardless of what pipe system you are looking to install one important decision you need to think about is the material of the pipes. This is imperative because it directly impacts the level of quality of your system, how long it will last you for and ultimately whether it will be cost effective or not. The two main materials you have at your disposal are plastic and metal. This article will reveal why the former option wins this battle each and every time. Why should you choose plastic pipework systems over metal?

https://pixaby.com/en/green-plastic-pipes-culvert-water-72772/

Durability
First and foremost, one of the main advantages associated with plastic is the fact that it is much more durable than metal is. This is because it is not susceptible to the impact of corrosion, rust and other types of degradation. However, metal is, and because of this, you can end up with extremely costly repairs on your hands as leaks are assured to arise after a certain period of time. Furthermore, if you select plastic pipework systems you don’t have to worry about experiencing that horrible metallic taste in your drinking water which frequently occurs with metal pipes.

Environmental Benefits
There is undoubtedly increased attention placed on looking after the planet in the current day and age. By using plastic pipes instead of metal you will be playing your role. This is because plastic has walls that are a lot thicker than metal and as a consequence, you will benefit from a better insulator against heat loss. Moreover, in relation to metal, it does not conduct heat anywhere as easily because it has low thermal conductivity. When you take all of this into account it means that hot water is going to stay hot longer and therefore the need for energy diminishes. This ensures that you are operating a lot more environmentally friendly than you would be if you went for metal.

Long Life Span
As mentioned earlier; conductive plastic is not susceptible to damage anywhere near as much as metal is. This is because it is immune to the effects of pitting, rust, corrosion and any other types of degradation. In essence, this means that you can expect your plastic pipework system to be like new for a minimum of 25 years.

Cheaper
Plastic pipes are undoubtedly a lot cheaper than metal pipes are, and price savings are welcomed by all businesses. There are several different reasons why this is the case. First and foremost, plastic is a lot cheaper to produce. Nevertheless, there are other cost savings that people do not initially recognise. For example, you will also save money when it comes to transportation as plastic is a lot lighter. In addition to this, because plastic tends to have a longer lifespan you will also reap cost efficiency because you will not need to spend as much on repairs and replacements. You will also reduce your energy expenses.

When you take these four key benefits into account it is really not hard to see why plastic pipes prove to be the clear winner when compared with metal systems.

The Future of Fuel

One of the major focuses of my blog is Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics (STEM). An area that has long been of great interest globally is energy. Fossil Fuels have been the chief energy source for our planet’s ‘First World’ countries, but with increasing world populations there is concern that we will exhaust our natural global supplies. What are our options going forward? The following contributed post is entitled; The Future of Fuel.

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Image Credit: Unsplash

Whether you believe in climate change or you are one of the <1% of people who remains unconvinced, what is clear is that our fossils are running out. With the USA now considering expanding the search for oil to the Arctic, it is obvious that at some point we are going to stop finding reserves that have taken millions of years to appear.

If science fiction is to be trusted, we need to find alternative energy solutions if we want to continue to develop incredible technologies.

Clean energy sources such as wind turbines, solar panels and other methods are all idea for producing electricity. The downside of this is that for technologies not connected to the grid, large batteries will be required to store the energy while disconnected. This means that all types of transport will have to balance being weighed down with the distance they are able to cover.

Why is Clean Energy for Travel So Important?

At the moment, the aviation industry contributes around 2.5% of carbon emissions each year and this is set to rise to around 22% by 2050. This is an enormous problem because while global demands for fast air travel increase, the threat to the environment is significantly raised.

A similar problem is presented in ocean travel. Ships crossing the seas take passengers and goods around the world but every trip introduces pollutants to the water. While you might be able to use oil water separators to limit pollution the amount of oil that escapes, the fact is that the risk of any oil spillage is still very much present.

Even short car journeys are ever more problematic as the air quality of large cities deteriorates as more and more people choose to drive themselves rather than take a bus or train. There have already been rapid advances in electric car technology but much more research is required if we are to achieve the infrastructure necessary for a full transition.

What Are Our Options?

More investment into methods to create clean electricity is already underway, especially in China where a capacity of around 130 GW has already been installed, knocking their already ambitious targets out of the water. This is great news as it means that greener technologies such as electric cars, buses and trains are much more likely to succeed.

But what about air travel?

Well, the research may be in its infancy but there are some promising results coming from experiments into what is being termed ‘ionic wind technology’. With this theory, it could be possible to launch and fly planes long distances in a carbon neutral way and, crucially, with no moving parts. Rather than a combustion engine, the plane uses long thin stems of wire to pass an electric current. This current ionizes atmospheric nitrogen which, when it collides with “normal” neutral air generates thrust.

We may be not be looking at warp drives or ion drives just yet but with the ideas that are floating around at the moment, Science Fiction may not be so unbelievable after all.

Johnson C. Smith University opens its new center for multidisciplinary STEM education and research revisited

I originally published this piece on October 23, 2015 – a shorter version on the Examiner and then this extended version on Dr. Matthew Lynch’s Edvocate. My alma mater Johnson C. Smith University had recently opened its new Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics (STEM) center at Homecoming 2015. It was a very impressive facility compared to those that were available to me and my classmates when I was a student there from 1995-99.

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“The collaboration was strong between the administration, the faculty, and the students to make sure that we had a building that not just reflected the heritage and history of the past, but also what the future would be for this great University,” said Harvey Gantt, one of many speakers on hand for the opening of Johnson C. Smith University’s (JCSU) new Science Center. “Dr. Carter actually had a lot to do with choosing the design approach,” Mr. Gantt continued. “We gave him several alternatives, and when we showed him a rendering of this elevation of the building, in less than 10 seconds, he said, ‘That’s what I want on this campus!’”

On Friday, Oct. 23, JCSU opened its new Science Center with a Grand Opening and Ribbon Cutting ceremony as a part of its 2015 Homecoming festivities. The ceremony took place on the walkways between the University’s new structure and its older Rufus Perry Science Hall. The ceremony consisted of:

• A welcome by Monroe Miller (Chairman of the JCSU Board of Trustees);
• An invocation by current student Sydney Henry (Class of 2017, Biology and Chemistry);
• Remarks by: Steve Keckeis (Vice President of Messer Construction), Malcolm Davis and Harvey Gantt (Principal and Principal Emeritus of Bergman Associates), student Jennifer-Lynn Phipps (Class of 2016, Computer Science Information Systems), and Charlie Lucas (Board Member of The Duke Endowment) and finally;
• Closing Remarks by Dr. Ronald L. Carter (President of JCSU).

“The time has now come to cut the ribbon to a new world experience. I can just hear the voices of the freedman who put the bricks in place by night over at Biddle Hall. As they look over here, I can hear them saying this day, ‘Well done! Well done! Well done! Our future holds high,” said Dr. Carter during his closing remarks prior to chanting three times, “J-C!,” to which the audience replied, “S-U!,” the signature call and response of the University’s students and alumni.

While the new Science Center will now be the hub on campus for all scientific coursework and research, the older Perry Science Hall will now be the home for the new Metropolitan College, JCSU’s new department for educating non-traditional students. Some features of the new Science Center include:

• 10 fully equipped labs for Biology, Chemistry and Physics courses and research;
• Four Centers for new science and technology curricula including: the Center for Renewable Energy and Sustainability, the Center for Bioinformatics/Biotechnology, the Center for Medical Informatics, and the Center for Analytical Research and;
• Seven classrooms of various sizes and setups which stay true to JCSU’s commitment to small class sizes and individualized faculty attention.

“This building has been a vision for almost five years. Magdy Attia, Perrin Foster, Monroe Miller, Tom Baldwin and I would sit and dream about it. We knew that it had to be somewhere here on this part of the campus. That vision just had a momentum and Magdy would sentence it in very eloquent ways such that donors started paying attention and saying, ‘This can be done,’” Dr. Carter said afterwards during the open house. Throughout the ceremony, he and the other speakers emotionally paid homage to Dr. Magdy Attia who recently passed away. Dr. Attia, once a Computer Science faculty member and then an Administrator, was a key figure in the conception of the new Science Center.

“Opportunity awaits those who want to work,” said Jennifer-Lynn Phipps in closing to the audience at the ceremony. Ms. Phipps will graduate in 2016, and then work for John-Deere as an Information Technology Integrator. “Remember Smithites we are not only here to smash the mold, but we’re also here to develop ourselves and change the world!”

One of the more intriguing aspects of the new Science Center is the Center for Renewable Energy and Sustainability. The Center is focusing its work on: Wind, Solar and Bio-fuels, and Food Security, specifically helping lower income communities have better access to quality food. Dr. Philip Otienoburu is in large part the University’s expert in Environmental Science issues, a distinction once held by the late Dr. Joseph Fail, Jr.

“It’s all about energy sustainability. We’re looking at future generations and how the environment is going to be protected from the different things that we do to it,” said Dr. Philip Otienoburu. “Long-term sustainability involves not only environmental issues but also social and economic issues as well. How are people going to build resilient communities as the climate changes for instance? How are people going to feed themselves? As you will see a lot of our programs here involve, ‘Food Security.’ This is why we have the Aquaponics and Community garden which is a partnership between JCSU and the surrounding neighborhoods.”

Aquaponics is a polyculture system of agriculture where you grow crops and cultivate fish in one closed loop. The waste produced by the fish, which is for the most part Ammonia, is used to fertilize the crops,” said Dr. Phillip Otienoburu discussing a component of the University’s Energy

Sustainability research work. “In Aquaponics, you use bacteria to make the biological conversions to convert Ammonia into Nitrites, and then the Nitrites into Nitrates which the plants need to grow. We’ve been doing this for about three years now during which we have expanded into Haiti, where we were looking to help communities that were devastated by the earthquake in 2010.”

“The science education here at JCSU has become much more technologically advanced since the late 1990s. As you can see in this building the instruments have become much smaller and in some ways more affordable and we’re able to generate more data. That said, it still involves engaging nature, collecting data and constructing good experiments,” said veteran Chemistry Professor, Dr. Timothy Champion.

“While we still have quite a few students coming in wanting to do Pre-Med, some do change their minds and think about getting Ph.D.s once they have a chance engage the science and do some research,” Dr. Champion continued. “At least in the Biology and Chemistry side though, we also need to prepare some of them for the job market. We can’t fall into the trap of trying to produce copies of ourselves – that is more Ph.D.s. If a student doesn’t go to a Graduate or Professional school there are still jobs out there, so a lot of what you’re here seeing is our wanting to build more sellable skills for the students that they can immediately apply to the job market.”

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As you can see below, I wrote a story about how I earned my STEM degree which focused on my graduate studies at the University of Michigan, post JCSU. I’m currently working on a piece revisiting what I learned at JCSU as it was a also a valuable part of my journey. There were numerous learning points there scientifically.

If you’re a JCSU alumnus and have a background in one of the STEMs, I’m starting a Facebook group called “JCSU Alumni STEM”. I envision it as an ecosystem where we as alumni can give back to JCSU’s current students through: answering any questions, helping them find jobs, and also simply serving as a science forum for the Golden Bull community. If you have something to offer, please join when the group opens up.

Thank you for taking the time to read this blog post. If you enjoyed this one, you might also enjoy:

The story of how I earned my STEM degree as a minority
A look at STEM: What are the Basic Sciences and Basic Research?
The transferrable skills from a doctoral degree in the basic sciences
• A look at STEM: What is Regulatory Science?
• A look at STEM: What is Inhalation Toxicology?
• A look at STEM: What is Toxicology?
• A look at STEM: What is Pharmacology?

If you’ve found value here and think it will benefit others, please share it and/or leave a comment. To receive all of the most up to date content from the Big Words Blog Site, subscribe using the subscription box in the right-hand column in this post and throughout the site, or add the link to my RSS feed to your feedreader. Lastly, follow me on the Big Words Blog Site Facebook page, on Twitter at @BWArePowerful, and on Instagram at @anwaryusef76. While my main areas of focus are Education, STEM and Financial Literacy, there are other blogs/sites I endorse which can be found on that particular page of my site.