Understanding The Man-Machine-Theory Of Mind Explained

The first principal of my blog is Creating Ecosystems of Success, and two of my key focuses are Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics (STEM), and Health and Wellness. The brain and or the mind is arguably the most critical organ in our bodies. Mastery of the mind is key in the maintenance of proper mental health, and excelling at any task whether it’s in the realm of: academics, athletics, or business. The following guest post discusses this and is entitled; Understanding The Man-Machine-Theory Of Mind Explained.

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What is the mind?

As most of your 100 billion neurons flash intermittently in search of an answer, you realize that in the very process of thinking you are turning to your mind for the solution. While the fact that we are blessed with the incredible ability to think and reason is incredulous enough, what is even more startling is that the mind is capable of much more than simple retrieval of information. Wealth Creation Mastermind’s guide to the kybalion explains a few interesting theories about how the mind works.
A lot of people associate the mind to be a singular and simple concept. When you don’t know something, you turn your mind “on” and the answer “appears.” Because of our conditioning, a lot of us are stuck in this vicious cycle of assigning simple tasks to our mind and not leveraging its true power.

The Mind Explained

The mind is known as the seat of human consciousness. However, the true answer of what the mind is eludes us as we are discovering profound things about it every day. The mind is the most powerful multi-tool you will ever own. It is like a cosmic Swiss knife which has several tools, some of which can even transform your reality and reshape your life.

Most of us have been conditioned from a very young age to be “realistic” about goals – a strongly inculcated belief system of what we can and cannot do. This leads individuals down the path of inaccurate conclusions of who they are and what they are actually capable of in real life. This path typically leads you to wasted potential and regret.

The most successful people you see around you are those of them who took the first critical step towards their journey – they started to believe that they could. This process of mental transmutation, materializing your own reality, is a very real phenomenon and you can use it to make it work for you as well.

Balancing The Mental Ecosystem

The mind is a complex ecosystem that is powerful and resilient, but with a catch – you are the fulcrum that it rests on. What you think and feel about yourself has an impact on what you become. This is because thoughts are self-perpetuating cycles and they manifest itself in ways that are hard to imagine. If you think that you’re failing your way through life, then that is what you’ll end up becoming.

One way out of this is to make a list of all the things that you feel are positive achievements that you’ve been able to garner. Read this list out to yourself (aloud if you’re alone) when you’re feeling down. Something as simple as this can build confidence and redirect your mental thought flow to a more positive place.

Rework Your Self-Belief System

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Self-belief is a powerful tool that you can use to tide you over the worst of times. When this falters, you will find that you are left listless and floundering even when it comes to day to day activities. A lot of us are more talented than we can imagine but if this talent needs to surface, you need a healthy self-belief system.

Search for things that reinforce your self-belief. Don’t hang around with people who mock you for your goals. All that doubts and sarcastic company do are hold you back from your true potential. Don’t be the person who calls it luck when things go your way – believe that you deserve it and work towards getting more opportunities.

Draw Positive Conclusions

People tend to give themselves a hard time – they come to negative conclusions when things don’t go their way. When people are too critical of themselves, they tend toward negative labeling which is again a self-fulfilling condition. You’re setting yourself up for the very goal that your label indicates. Thankfully, you can unlearn all these negative habits and change your perception for the better.

Know that sometimes you are more wrong about you than a lot of other people. It helps to talk to people to understand what they feel about you. Challenge negative views of yourself by stepping out of your comfort zone and meeting challenges head-on. The most important thing you can do is try, the results will eventually work themselves out.

Summing it up

These are just a few things that you can try to unlearn the mental hurdles that have been preventing you from achieving the success you deserve. Hone your mind to accept failures as lessons and keep striving to better yourself.

Having a positive outlook does not magically transform everything around you in a flash. What it does is to encourage you towards optimistic thoughts which can lead to productive behavior. Given time, you will notice that a lot of things about you have changed… and for the better!

Don’t Be A Mad Scientist: Avoid These Stupid Lab Mistakes

One of the focuses of my blog is awareness of the Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics fields. If you’re in a STEM and are working in a laboratory setting, it’s particularly important for novices to understand how to properly conduct one’s self. The following contributed post is thus entitled; Don’t Be A Mad Scientist: Avoid These Stupid Lab Mistakes.

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It doesn’t matter which of the basic sciences you are working in; common sense needs to be your number one priority. Science is about creating answers, not mistakes, but if in your folly you make any of those stupid lab blunders, then you are going to create both chaos to your experiments and put yourself at risk of accident and injury. Yikes!

Mistake #1: Mislabelling something

You’re not an idiot; you have trained in your field, so you will know what most things are. But then again, you may have lacked concentration and mislabelled a test tube, or you may not quite know the difference from a certain chemical from another, especially if they look the same. The wrong combination could result in something calamitous, be that a failed experiment, or something far more explosive. Therefore, don’t assume you know what something is without doing some research first, and for goodness sake, concentrate when you’re labelling, for the sake of everybody working with you.

Mistake #2: Using faulty equipment

You aren’t going to get the desired results if your equipment isn’t up to scratch. Not only can you create a chemical disaster if something is leaking where it shouldn’t be, but you will be forced to start your experiment again if you have used something as simple as an uncalibrated pipette. Always check your equipment beforehand, and if you need to buy something new, or if you need to call on the expertise of someone like this pipette repair service, then do so.

Mistake #3: Wearing your lab coat out of the lab

Who knows what nasty stuff has gathered on your lab coat during your experiments! The last thing you want to do is take that troublesome gook out of the lab and into the cafeteria or the outside world, as you may cause significant harm to another. Remember to wash your coat too, no matter how much you like the pretty colours that have accumulated!

Mistake #4: Not wearing your protective gear

You are dealing with acids, chemicals, and other toxic substances. You are touching them, surrounding yourself with them, and bearing your beady eyes down upon them. We know we shouldn’t have to say this, but we will anyway. Always wear your safety gear! Letting any kind of toxic formula get into your eyes, onto your skin, or into your nasal passageway, could be tantamount to personal disaster. Make it a rule to have what you need to hand as you enter the lab, so you don’t forget to put on what you need to be wearing.

Mistake #5: Having your lunch in the science lab

You may as well be swigging from a test tube! There is a place to eat your lunch, and that’s nowhere near your workbench. In fact, you should be out of the lab and at your designated eating area. You don’t want to poison yourself by letting even the smallest amount of a chemical touch your food, even if you have washed your hands like a good boy after taking off your gloves. And who knows what might happen if you let any of your cheese sandwich fall into your experiment. You could destroy the world! Or, at the very least, your experiment!!

In all things, practice common sense. You might look like a mad scientist, but that doesn’t mean you have to behave like one! Take care if you are in the lab today, and thanks for reading.

The story of how I earned my STEM degree as a minority

“It’s my job to prepare you for wherever you go after you leave my lab. When you go into a company, no one is going to tell you if your presentations and writings are sloppy. You won’t get promoted and you’ll never know why!”

In my post entitled, Who will benefit from Apple’s $350 billion investment?, I cited data stating that less than 10% of Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics (STEM) degree holders are African American – a staggering number as these are some of the highest paying careers today. With the first principle of my blog being “Creating Ecosystems of Success”, and one of my focuses being awareness of the STEM careers, I wanted to tell my story.

Thus far I’ve published posts discussing the ‘Biomedical’ sciences I’ve been trained in, ‘Regulatory’ science, the ‘Applied’ sciences, and the ‘Transferrable’ skills learned when earning STEM degrees. In these posts I’ve attempted to make these sciences easily understandable for students and families with backgrounds like my own (see the story of my blog). Potentially the most important story of all though is how one becomes a STEM professional.

I’m a firm believer in teaching the ‘how’. It’s important to encourage participation in the STEMs, but as a student who walked into my training not fully  understanding the opportunity in front of me, I think it’s also important to share what went into earning my STEM degree in a very open and honest way – the good, the bad and the ugly – no fairy tales and no magic. In this post, I’m thus revisiting both my learning points science-wise, and some personal challenges during the process as an African American male coming from Buffalo’s east side. The latter challenges may surprise you.

The majority of the visuals used in this piece are materials from my thesis. Click on any of them to enlarge them. Lastly in this piece I refer to my thesis project without getting into its specifics. I describe it in greater detail in my Basic Sciences and Basic Research post.

Learning how to do science

I fell in love with “Life Science” in the seventh grade at Campus West in Buffalo, NY. I followed that love into Hutch-Tech High School where I majored in ‘Biotechnology’ (AP Biology). At Johnson C. Smith University (JCSU), I distinguished myself as a ‘A’ student in my core courses as a Biology major which led to my participation in the Ronald E. McNair Program, where I worked two summers in a Hepatic (Liver) Physiology lab.

It was my first time performing ‘Basic’ scientific research (see my Basic Sciences and Research post). I earned an undergraduate fellowship from the Environmental Protection Agency my last two years at JCSU. This precluded my participation in the ‘Minority Access to Research Careers’ (MARC) Program where I would’ve worked on a research project year-round, and would’ve gained more valuable experience.

Having participated in the McNair Program, I decided to pursue a Ph.D. in Pharmacology, thinking that working in a Pharmaceutical company like Pfizer or Merck would provide stable employment. Thus, the sole focus for my science training was finding a job. While a Ph.D. in Pharmacology would help me get there, I didn’t completely understand what the road to a Ph.D. in this particular STEM field entailed, as I didn’t yet know how to do science fulltime.

“Anwar has never done rigorous scientific research before,” my Graduate Advisor, a fellow Western New Yorker, wrote in my evaluation for my second lab rotation within the Department of Pharmacology of the University of Michigan. He gave me an ‘A’ which I was happy about, though based upon his statement, I wasn’t sure how I’d done in the lab. Did I perform adequately over those four months? Did I underperform, but still received an ‘A’ just because? Either way, he allowed me work under him for my thesis project – perhaps seeing some potential in me.

What made me want to stay in his lab? After my summers in the McNair Program, I knew something about the enzyme my Graduate Advisor’s lab worked on; “Neuronal Nitric Oxide Synthase” (see my Basic Sciences and Research post). I was also encouraged by two more senior students in another lab to stay based upon my advisor’s: talent, his productive track record and the productivity of his students.

By the way, in the coming years when prospective students would visit our department, my Graduate Advisor was always very adamant about the prospects getting the current students’ perspectives on the department. I think his reasons were that doctoral research is a significant life and time commitment as you’ll see later, and it’s in a student’s best interest not to walk into a department ‘blind’. Ideally, they should have a feel for the overall climate of their prospective department; its culture, its faculty and whether its students go on to establish their own careers.

The Basic Sciences and Basic Research are worlds all in themselves, worlds I initially didn’t know how to succeed in. Aside from some of my teachers in high school, there were no STEM professionals in my ecosystem in Buffalo. Also, once again, while my summers in the McNair Program gave me a taste of this new adventure I was embarking upon, they didn’t show what the experience would be like fulltime.

What qualities and attributes were needed to earn my Ph.D. in the STEM field I had chosen? One very important quality/value I received from my home ecosystem was that of hard work and the importance of doing quality work. I’ll credit my mother for this and her many years of making us do chores at home, which instilled a sense of personal responsibility and pride in my work. Also, the adversity-filled experience on my high school basketball team taught me how not to quit on things when they got hard – another valuable tool. Lastly, I was always naturally very malleable personality-wise, and open to being taught.

My Dad’s words about excelling in my coursework helped me to get into Graduate School and were useful until the end of my coursework. Once the fulltime research phase began however, it was a whole different ballgame, as working for my Graduate Advisor required a host of other ‘tools’.

I myself was a ‘project’ going into my Graduate Advisor’s lab – one which needed to be built from the ground up. There were plenty of challenging times for both of us as my first two to three years were spent literally just figuring things out. Fortunately, he was willing to teach me as long as I was willing to do the work and be taught. What do I mean by figuring things out? The following is a summary of what I learned as I worked on my thesis project:

• Learning to ask questions, to be inquisitive, and to talk about science

I added this learning point in last, but it may be the most important of all. I’ll credit the whole department for teaching me this lesson. One classmate and one professor stand out here. Verbally asking questions is essential to doing science. In my Basic Sciences and Basic Research post, I described how our experiments were questions themselves, but it’s also very important to be able to verbally ask questions of peers about their science both one on one, and in group settings in a respectful way.

During graduate school, I sat in on numerous seminars, and I was initially afraid to ask questions in front of everyone else. Part of it was a fear of sounding foolish. The other part of it was that while I’d excelled in my coursework as an undergraduate, I didn’t regularly talk about science with my classmates at my undergraduate institution. Over time I overcame my fears and got to the point where getting my questions answered superseded everything else.

• Seeing and understanding the science through my Advisor’s eyes

“You’re going to have to drive the project!” My biggest learning point was learning to see the science through my Graduate Advisor’s eyes, and not just in terms of obtaining my Ph.D. and finding a job. There was an ‘art’ to science, a thought process, a methodology, a culture and a lifestyle. It took about five years of training to get to the point where I could start see the science the way he saw it, and even talk about my project the way he talked about it.

I needed to understand the science in its entirety and appreciate the process, and all the challenges involved. I needed to approach my research like a professional; to design my experiments systematically and proactively – to think about the limitations of our experiments and the data we generated, to think of the next steps, and to always think about the final published paper.

• Doing science in the lab everyday vs. learning about it in a classroom

There’s a major difference between learning about science in a classroom setting, and actually doing quality science fulltime. For me that involved being proactive about my work, and being consistent in everything I did experimentally, in my writings and my presentations. Our experiments were questions, the results were the answers, and we needed the answers in a timely fashion. Everything needed to be approached with a sense of urgency, and in a way, time was our enemy. It also involved thinking about the project when outside of the lab – something my Advisor and his peers and competitors did – sometimes at the expense of other things.

I was now out on the edges of science in the ‘trenches’, trying to discover new knowledge. A major part of this involved approaching my thesis project like a job. And in many ways it was, as my peers and I received stipends. It wasn’t a high-paying job in terms of salary, but instead the payment was knowledge and wisdom which would equate to greater financial compensation later.

• Graduate Research is in part a job or an apprenticeship like one of the skill trades

“This is your job now!” My Graduate Advisor and I had this conversation after my completing two years of coursework and starting my thesis project fulltime. I hadn’t made the connection yet that my research involved being in the lab 100% of the time. It required being on time in a job-like setting where I’d work on my project daily at a work bench – sometimes at night and on weekends. The data generated from my project would be published in scientific journals, as well as when my Graduate Advisor sought to renew his own research grants. Finally, it would be the basis for my completed dissertation, in addition to a record of my productivity after eventually leaving his lab.

• Learning to Multitask

I had to learn to work smart, and not just hard. My Graduate Advisor instilled in me the ability to multitask and to, “have multiple things going at once,” as he always emphasized. In addition to working on my own project, I was also responsible for growing the stocks of proteins that the entire lab used, which was a huge responsibility. I was also the lab’s “Chemical Safety” officer who was responsible for all the lab’s waste disposal – chemical and radioactive. Multitasking was what he did on a grander scale all year. As a student, it seemed unfair at the time, but it’s a skill that has transcended our lab into other arenas, as with everything he taught us.

• Learning to Compete

“You have to know where the line is, and then do your best to stay above it,” my Graduate Advisor told me years later after I graduated. Though I didn’t understand it at the time, he was teaching his students how to compete and survive. It’s not widely discussed, but science is about competition, especially in academia where at any given time, multiple labs around the country, and even around the world, are working to make the same scientific breakthrough. It’s an arena where ultimately, the group who makes the finding first gets the fame and notoriety, and future grant funding.

There was such a thing as being ‘scooped’. This is when another lab made the finding first, leaving its competitors to either disprove it, to add something to it, or to work on something else altogether. Because my Advisor was so talented and hungry, it never happened to us, but I saw it happen to some of my peers and their labs. Nothing was guaranteed. Just like he had to fight and claw to keep his lab running, I also had to fight and claw to push my project through to completion. I further had to fight and claw to stay in the department and finish my degree. Science and life are about competition.

“I know that I drove you guys pretty hard,” my Advisor shared with me years after I graduated, which we both smiled about. At times he was very abrasive, aggressive and very demanding of us. It was for a reason though and I realized during my training that working for brilliant and driven people is hard, but if you can stay in the process and take their coaching, you’ll be better off for it later.

My Graduate Advisor attended the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) as an undergraduate, the University of Michigan for graduate school, and then the National Institutes of Health (NIH) for his own postdoctoral training before becoming a professor at the University of Michigan. We never talked about MIT in my ecosystem in Buffalo, and I just started understanding my Advisor’s pedigree towards the end of my training. His father was a scientist as well, and he thus had exposure to science at an early age, and even earned a couple of patents before starting college. Don’t get me wrong, having parents in the STEMs isn’t a necessity to getting into one of the fields yourself, but the early exposure can pay huge dividends later.

This is a good place to state that my Graduate Advisor, his peers, and scientists at most research universities are driven by their scientific research, and they’re always thinking about it; late at night, and even on family vacations. The argument can be made that their research is their purpose for living. The truly talented ones are further tough enough to withstand any environmental changes such as when the second Bush Administration cut the NIH’s budget, causing many labs around the country to downsize or perish altogether, while others figured out how to survive.

“You all are very different than we were! When I was a graduate student, we fought over the latest issues of the Journal of Pharmacology and Experimental Therapeutics (JPET),” said one of the more senior and celebrated faculty in our department who was jokingly said to have invented the Heart. He felt that we weren’t studying up on our field enough in our spare time beyond our core curricula. Most of us were only doing the minimum reading and studying, something my Graduate Advisor also stayed on me about during my training.

Learning to manage my life outside of the lab so I could do science

The accompanying newspaper clipping is from one of Buffalo’s local weekly black publications, The Challenger. My mother proudly submitted the story and that’s her handwriting on the top of the clipping. It was a big deal back home and she even shared with me that I’d exceeded her expectations which was very gratifying. When looking at the clipping, it’s something to proud of, but what you don’t see there is that there were a host of personal learning points outside of the lab as well – experiences which could’ve derailed the whole thing.

Being African American and ascending in education and a career often leads to discussions of “forgetting where you came from”. So, I want to close with what I learned about how life outside of the lab can affect one’s ability to do science and be a professional. Sometimes it’s actually necessary to leave certain parts of your old life behind. I learned on numerous occasions during my STEM training that I had to protect both my project and my life. That is, I had to make strategic decisions in my personal life that would increase my chances of finishing my degree and surviving to talk about it.

While working on my thesis I got involved in a very chaotic romantic relationship which compromised my mind, spirit and overall well-being at times; nearly derailing my project and potentially adversely affecting my Graduate Advisor’s entire lab all at the same time. There was one day I consider a near death experience – something I’ve discussed with friends and relatives only in bits and pieces. Fortunately, I survived, but this type of thing wasn’t restricted to my significant other.

There were two instances involving two close friends whom I consider my second and third brothers. One incident transpired over a Thanksgiving holiday and the other a Christmas holiday – both of which involved nearly getting pulled into violent confrontations late at night at nightclubs and parties in my hometown of Buffalo, NY. One friend had too much to drink and in the process of having his own fun, inadvertently splashed another guy with his beer. The guy who got splashed was unhappy about it and started following us around the venue. While I thought bullets might fly, my friend got away with just getting punched and knocked out temporarily. Fortunately, we both made it home safely.

In the second incident, another buddy wanted to stay and confront some guys over a female outside of a nightclub. Apparently, he was looking at the guy’s lady and there was an initial confrontation I didn’t see inside the venue. My friend didn’t want to appear afraid and wanted us to take our time leaving. When I realized what was going on, I wanted to leave immediately – something he and I clashed over afterwards. Fortunately again, nothing happened, and we got out of there safely.

Neither of these incidents were worth the potential price to be paid. Neither my significant other, or either of my friends considered the possibility of my showing up to the lab in a cast, with a black eye, or with teeth missing, or maybe being laid up in a hospital, unable to continue my research. The take home message from all of this is that you must be your own best advocate in life. None of us can avoid tragedies, but there are some things we can avoid.

You must protect what you’re doing, sometimes from people around you in your family circle, friends or significant others, because someone else’s selfishness and bad decisions can hinder your life and professional aspirations. In my case it was earning my STEM degree and starting my career.

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“Give a man fish and you’ll feed him for a day. Teach a man to fish and you feed him for a lifetime.”

I included this famous quote from the Chinese Philosopher Lao Tzu because the road to my STEM degree was literally like learning how to fish. The opening quote from this piece is from one of my many talks with my Graduate Advisor. In some ways our relationship evolved into that of a father and a son which I’m very, very grateful for as not every student had this. I saw several peers leave partway through their graduate training without their doctorates either due to a loss of hope, or irreconcilable differences with their advisors. Some were African American, but not all were.

This is my STEM story and there are many others out there. I want to point out that the point of telling this story was not for my glorification. As I said in the opening, I think it’s critical to explain all sides of the process in addition to simply encouraging students to get involved in the STEMs solely because of our under-representation as African Americans, and because of the monetary benefit. The how is very, very important. If you’re a STEM professional, I encourage you to also tell your story to STEM-hopefuls in an age-appropriate way.

I’d like to end this story by acknowledging the late Dr. Minor J. Coon.  Dr. Coon was not only a member of my Thesis Committee (on the program above), but he was also a legend and a pioneer the in the study of Phase I Drug Metabolizing Enzymes – Cytochrome P450s particularly.  Dr. Coon actually trained my Graduate Advisor who subsequently suggested asking Dr. Coon to be on my committee – something that surprised me as we all looked upon him with great reverence.  Growing up on Buffalo’s east side, I never dreamt of being a part of such a well accomplished tree of scientists.

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

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?
A look at STEM: What is Toxicology?
A look at STEM: What is ADME/Drug Metabolism?

If you’ve found value here and think it would 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 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.

Exploring The Key Issues With “The Cloud”

Two key focuses of my blog is Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics (STEM), and Business and Entrepreneurship. Many businesses and organizations are moving towards cloud-based storage systems for increased efficiency of operations, but what are the issues with this new technology? The following contributed post is thus entitled; Exploring The Key Issues With “The Cloud”.

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Over the last few years, a lot of companies have been touting their cloud data services. Offering the chance to have all of your work, emails, and other important information stored on servers across the world, these businesses promise to be able to make it much easier to access and use these important parts of your work. Of course, though, like any new technology, the cloud isn’t all fun and games, and there are some serious issues with some of the services which can be found out there. To help you to see these problems, this post will be exploring some of the most prominent.

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Getting There: Data migrations are a notoriously challenging part of enterprise computing. Moving all of your on-premises information to servers isn’t an easy process, and most people will need the help of a cloud migration solutions company to help them. While this makes it much easier to get information where it needs to go, it will also cost some money, and this is rarely factored into the quotes which will be given out when you are approached by a cloud service.

Downtime: While a lot of work has been done to make sure that the servers hosting your data are able to run all the time, with plenty of redundant power and storage space, along with multiple networks in case one fails, a cloud company can’t control your internet connection. If you find yourself without this for a day or two, you could be left completely unable to do your work. These issues often come by surprise, making it impossible to save the data you’ll need as a precaution.

Security: Along with keeping servers running all the time, most cloud companies invest a small fortune into their cyber security. You will probably be accessing your data wirelessly at some stage, though, and this puts everything at risk. Of course, data breaches have become commonplace in the modern world, too. If this were your business’s information, you could be left to deal with some very unhappy clients or customers as a result.

Training: Finally, as the last area to consider, not a lot of people feel confident to use systems like this. When you have everything online, the process of accessing data can be a lot more complicated than what users are experienced with. This means having to train any employees you have to make sure that they can use the cloud securely and without wasting any time. There are loads of companies out there which can provide this to you, but it is something a lot of businesses would rather not have to pay for.

With all of this in mind, you should have the chance to think a little more deeply about the choice you have to make when it comes from moving from your own servers to the cloud. Of course, it isn’t all bad, the benefits it can provide can be huge, but it might not quite be the right time to make the switch if you’re worried about it.

Invest In Crypto The Right Way

Two of the key areas of my blog are Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics (STEM), and Financial Literacy and Money. Cryptocurrencies are a new technology that are impacting global markets in terms of conducting business transactions and serving as investments themselves. The following contributed post is thus entitled; Invest In Crypto The Right Way.

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If you are keen to make whatever money you can in whatever way you can, you’re probably thinking about cryptocurrency at least some of the time. This relatively new kind of currency is all the rage at the moment, and as such it has been developing something of a spike in many of its markets as well. The truth is that if you want to get in crypto trading, now is a good time to start – or at least a better time than next week or next year. But you need to know what you are doing first to make sure that you are actually going to get it right, and that is what we are going to look at today. Here are some of the things you should consider if you are to invest in cryptos in the right way.

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Choose Your Wallet

First of all, you will want to think about getting hold of a wallet which you can store your crypto coin in. a lot of newcomers find this part of the process particularly bewildering, but the truth is that it is not that hard to wrap your head around once you get going with it. There are a few different kinds of wallets, but the most secure ones are those which allow you to use two-factor authentication to gain access to them. By utilising and making the most of this kind of security, you can be sure that your wallet is going to be perfectly safe, which will help if you have any anxiety about getting started with the crypto world. Then it’s just a matter of choosing a wallet that seems good for you personally. It’s a good idea to go for one that gains you interest for BTC, so that you can make even more of your coin.

Buy Your Coin

Then you will need to go out and buy the coin that you want to buy. There are now several ways to do this. The best and safest is to go and find a crypto ATM, which are now cropping up in many major cities around the globe. With these machines, you merely purchase crypto with cash or card as you would anything else, and have the coin deposited into your wallet straight away – owing to the usual checks. Or you can consider using an online exchange which set you up with someone who you buy from via bank transfer. In either case, you can be sure that these are two of the safest ways to get hold of your crypto coin.

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Get Trading

In order to really make the most of your crypto, you need to make sure that you are trading it in the right way. The easiest way to do this is to use an approved app which does the actual trading for you, as this way you can be sure that you are going to be able to get it right. Or you can do the research, and make those decisions yourself – which can be less safe, but is much more satisfying when you get it right.

A look at STEM: What are the Basic Sciences and Basic Research?

One of the focuses of my blog is awareness of the Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics (STEM) fields. Thus far, I’ve written posts covering the “Biomedical Sciences” I’ve been trained in including: Pharmacology, Toxicology, ADME/Drug Metabolism, and Inhalation Toxicology. I’ve also written a post discussing “Regulatory Science” in the Public and Private sectors, in which I discussed the “Applied Sciences” and “Research and Development”. In this post I want to discuss the “Basic Sciences” and “Basic Research”, the foundations from which we receive all our new scientific knowledge.

The foundations of any of our commercial scientific and technological innovations are the Basic Sciences and Basic Research. A simple Google search led me to a site which stated that the four major Basic Sciences are: Biology, Chemistry, Mathematics and Physics. Many people consider Physics to be the ‘Grandfather’ of all the sciences because each of the others rest upon its shoulders in some way. Any of the other Basic Sciences fall under one of these four branches.

For Biology for example, many of the sciences underneath its vast umbrella include: Biomedical Sciences, Agricultural Sciences, Environmental Sciences, etc. Within the Biomedical Sciences there are the sciences I’ve written about, as well as: Cellular and Molecular Biology, Genetics, Microbiology, Virology, etc. The same is true for Chemistry under which there are: Analytical Chemistry, Organic Chemistry, Physical Chemistry, etc. While Physics is its own discipline with its own subdisciplines, as you’ll see later, its principles permeate throughout the other major sciences, especially when you’re carrying out ‘Basic’ scientific research.

Basic Research is simply the pursuit of new knowledge and the understanding of a specific area of focus. As described throughout my blog, my Ph.D. is in Pharmacology, with two and a half years of training in its sister science, Toxicology. In the Basic Research world scientists known as ‘Principal Investigators’ run labs at major research institutions, like the University of Michigan, where they have specific research areas of interest.

Principal Investigators ask specific research questions in their areas of focus through their research projects. They arrive at their answers for these questions through experiments and report their results in papers published in scientific journals. To carry out their research, which I’ll describe later, Investigators usually receive grant funding from federal sources such as the National Institutes of Health (NIH), or from the Private Sector. As you’ll see there is a business side to research, both in academia and in the private sector.

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As described in my Pharmacology post, there are numerous sub-disciplines within Pharmacology. My Graduate Advisor’s area of focus was ADME/Drug Metabolism which involved some aspects of Biochemistry and Cell Biology based upon the questions he was asking. For the remainder of this post I am going to discuss my thesis project in his lab to give readers a feel for what Basic Research is and why it’s important. Some of the terms I’m going to use will be on the esoteric side, but I’m going to do my best to keep the discussion as simple as possible.

The title of my thesis project was the “Labilization and Proteasomal Degradation of Neuronal Nitric Oxide Synthase” – a mouthful for anyone unfamiliar with the field. If you google me, you’ll find two ‘first author’ publications that I published in my Graduate Advisor’s lab with the assistance of my lab mates; fellow students, postdoctoral scientists, senior scientists, and technicians. I’m crediting the entire lab because, while I was the first author on these papers and it was my thesis project, my colleagues also contributed their expertise and man-hours. Everything in our lab was done as a team. I also contributed to my lab mates’ work. My two first author publications are:

Ubiquitination and degradation of neuronal NO-synthase in Vitro: Dimer stabilization protects the enzyme from proteolysis published in Molecular Pharmacology and;
Tetrahydrobiopterin protects against Guanabenz-mediated inactivation of neuronal nitric oxide synthase in Vivo and in Vitro published in Drug Metabolism and Disposition.

What does all this mean? In simple terms, our bodies are made up of numerous organs, systems and tissues. These are, in turn, made up of cells, nucleic acids and proteins which do the work on the ground level in our bodies. When we become ill, infected with a bacterium or a virus, poisoned by a toxicant, or develop cancer, there’s an underlying biochemical change that has occurred on the cellular level. It could be the enhanced production of viral particles, DNA damage leading to tumor formation, inhibition of an enzyme’s function, or the breakdown of key cell signaling pathways.

In Type II Diabetes, for example, the cells of our bodies become nonresponsive to endogenous ‘Insulin’, which naturally allows them to take up glucose from our bloodstreams. The breakdown of this intracellular signaling pathway leads to the hallmark maladies associated with Type II Diabetes. Pharmaceuticals likewise exert their therapeutic effect by modulating these same cellular processes. But how do these processes occur? And how do pharmaceutical companies design drugs we use to treat diseases? The answer is Basic Research.

My Graduate Advisor, a Pharmacologist and a Biochemist in training, was very interested in how exogenous chemicals could selectively control the fates of proteins within cells. Prior to my entering in his lab, he discovered that an anti-hypertensive drug called ‘Guanabenz’ could inhibit the metabolic activity of the protein “Neuronal Nitric Oxide Synthase” (nNOS), and then cause the loss of the protein itself in rat penile tissue. Other chemicals also inhibited the protein’s activity but didn’t cause a loss of the protein. So again, there was something unique to each chemical and their effect on the protein in the cell. There was a trigger that made the protein go away in certain instances. But how was this all happening?

In my earlier posts, I discussed how animals are used as models for studying human health based upon shared organ systems and metabolic pathways. My thesis project investigated this phenomenon in rat penile tissue using an in vitro system, meaning that it all took place in test tubes in a ‘cell-free’ system where we could mimic the cellular environment and control the conditions of our reactions. This allowed us to ask questions we couldn’t ask in cell or animal models.

My first finding was that our protein of interest had to undergo a major structural change for it to degrade. Chemicals like Guanabenz triggered this structural change by causing the breakdown of the homo-dimeric active protein form to its inactive monomeric form. Other chemicals prevented this structural change and protected the protein from degradation. What was even more fascinating was my second finding. This structural change was triggered by loss of a specific intracellular Cofactor which was important for maintaining the homo-dimeric form of the protein. It was the loss of this cofactor that triggered the subsequent toxicity in the rat penile tissue.

My project was a very ‘mechanistic’ project in that we were going down into the ‘weeds’ to figure out how the effect in the whole animal occurred. Why was this important and what could be done with this information? Several things. It could be used to create new drug targets, and it could also be used to predict and understand similar toxicities by chemicals with similar structures. These are all things Chemical and Pharmaceutical companies, and Regulatory Agencies consider when bringing new products to the market and when protecting human health.

During my thesis I performed ‘Bench Science’. I literally had a work bench and performed experiments every day, working to generate quality data I could publish. As I worked to answer my research questions, I also learned a wealth of research techniques and technologies, in addition to learning how to perform scientific research (discussed in the next post). While it was a biological project in nature, my thesis project involved the use of numerous analytical chemical tools and technologies, many of which involved some understanding of Chemistry and Physics.

In this section I’m going to introduce a few terms commonly used in the research world which were foreign to me when I started. ‘Assay’ for example, is just a fancy term for an established and widely used experimental method. The others will be explained throughout and should be easy to follow. The devices and technologies described are hyperlinked.  The methods, tools and processes I utilized during my research included the following:

Cellular and Molecular Biology techniques: We used numerous cell models to: generate large quantities of our protein of interest for our in vitro experiments, and we had other cell lines to ask questions about the fate of the protein within cells. The latter involved inserting (transfecting) the DNA of the protein of interest into cells. This involved the use of Cellular and Molecular Biological techniques, and the use of Cell Incubators and, in some instances, Orbital Shakers to culture (grow) the cells, depending on the cell line.
Stoichiometry: This key aspect of General Chemistry was a critical part of all our experiments. Specifically, it was central in the calculation of ‘Molar’ concentrations when preparing the numerous ‘Chemical Reagents’ that were used including: buffers, cellular media, solvents, matrices, resins and so on.
Column Chromatography and Protein Purification Methods: We used numerous protein purification methods, particularly Affinity and Size Exclusion chromatographic methods to create clean preparations of our proteins of interest and other preparations. This allowed us to study its activity in isolation, its protein levels and ask questions about any structural changes.
Gel Electrophoresis and Protein Detection Methods: We used electrophoretic and antibody-based detection methods for measuring actual protein levels for visual analysis and quantification. The bread and butter technique of my experiments was called the ‘Western Blot’ analysis, whereby the proteins in my in vitro assay were separated by size, then detected, and finally, quantified using a radio-labeled antibody. One of techniques used in the lab was the Protein Assay, which allowed us to quantify the amount of protein in various preparations using a 96-Well Microtiter Plate Reader; arguably the workhorse for not just our lab, but also for neighboring labs. The Microtiter Plate Reader contained a Diode Array that measured changes in absorbance which helped inform us of the concentrations of the protein preparations (Beer’s Law). One of the 96-Well plates used in the Microtiter Plate Reader is picture below without any dyes or solutions.
Enzymatic Activity Assays: We used numerous assays to measure the activity of our protein. The primary assay used for measuring the activity of the protein was the “Oxy-Hemoglobin Assay” where we measured the conversion of Oxy-Hemoglobin to Met-Hemoglobin. We used this conversion to quantify the amount of Nitric Oxide produced by our protein with and without inhibitors/inactivators. This assay relied u9pon measuring changes in absorbance and thus, once again, the Microtiter Plate Reader was the primary tool for asking questions about the activity of our protein of interest. In some instances, other methods were used to measure activity as described next.
Physical and Analytical Chemical and Detective Methods: Consistent with most ADME/Drug Metabolism labs, a tool we heavily relied upon was High Performance Liquid Chromatography (HPLC) – a classic detection tool used for measuring the following: cofactors, molecules, metabolites, and proteins; based on their chemical properties and how they behaved in specific organic and non-organic solvents. Later in my thesis project, our lab purchased several Mass Spectrometers, which is the most sensitive chemical detection tool. However, my projects didn’t require me using them.

In addition to understanding the fundamental principles of one’s field, a major part of understanding Basic Research and Science is understanding the instruments and technologies used. As the researcher, understanding these technologies is critical to understanding what your data are and are not telling you. If you’re listening to a peer’s seminar, or reviewing their publication, understanding the technologies also helps you understand their work. In some instances, a researcher’s understanding of the technologies gives them ideas about combining them to ask unique questions.

What’s the measure of how good a scientist is? It’s their publication and funding records. The top scientists and their labs continuously come up with good ideas, then publish their work in competitive scientific journals. When scientists continually come up with good ideas and continue to publish quality work, they’re more likely to continue to secure funding and ascend in their field. The reciprocal is true for scientists who don’t come up with good ideas and don’t publish.

It’s worth noting here that the rules for publishing are different in the Private Sector vs. Academia. Research projects in the Private Sector are usually geared towards innovation and selling a product. As a result, research findings are considered ‘Intellectual Property’ which companies own and may not want to disclose out of fear of losing a competitive advantage to other companies in their sector. The research projects are also very focused, and the scientists have less freedom in terms of what they can work on. Employment is also heavily dictated by that particular company’s economic health and overall direction.

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A byproduct of training in the Basic Sciences and performing Basic Research is acquiring the knowledge and expertise which the Applied Sciences and the Private Sector use to bring new products to the market. The training can also be used to form Consulting groups (see my Regulatory Science post). If a scientist is thoroughly trained, he or she will also acquire a separate set of skills described in my blog post entitled; The transferrable skills from a doctoral degree in the basic sciences. In my case, the discipline was Pharmacology, but this applies to pretty much any of the other Basic Science and Basic Research disciplines.

How long can it take to earn a degree in a STEM? It depends on the STEM. The path I chose took roughly 5-6 years. That length of time was impacted by my first learning how to do research (discussed in my next post), and then working through the complexities of my project. If the systems and tools for asking your scientific questions are already established, then it’s a clearer path. If you’re establishing your methods for the very first time though, it could take a little longer.

If you’re building upon someone else’s work, you must also hope that they’ve reported their methods and results honestly and accurately. If so, their work will be easier to reproduce. The hard part when doing Bench Science is that many experiments don’t work initially, and it can take time to get your systems to the point where you can start generating quality, publishable data. During my thesis, I easily performed hundreds to thousands of experiments. It took time to establish my systems and their conditions, and then it took more time to generate quality, publishable data to answer my scientific questions.

The Basic Sciences and Basic Research are vast. This post just focused on one aspect of Pharmacology – a Biomedical Science. Whether it’s a: pharmaceutical, an industrial chemical, a medical device, a GMO crop, a Blockchain Technology application, or one of Elon Musk’s new SpaceX rockets, someone had to do the underlying research which gave rise to the innovation. I’m going to close by reiterating something from my Pharmacology and Toxicology posts, which is that each Basic Science has its own professional society and annual meeting. Thank you for taking the time out to read this blog post. I hope I was able to give you an understanding of Basic Sciences and Basic Research.

The next posts in this series will talk about my personal journey towards becoming a Scientist and earning my STEM degree. If you enjoyed this post you may also enjoy:

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?
A look at STEM: What is Toxicology?
A look at STEM: What is ADME/Drug Metabolism?

If you’ve found value here and think it would 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 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.

We Need To Be More Productive At Producing Food

A major focus of my blog is Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics (STEM), and Agro-Sciences falls within this category. The following contributed post was written by Abbie Proud. It’s entitled; How We Need To Be More Productive At Producing Food.

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Image source

In a world of big topics – from Climate Change to Plastic Pollution to the #MeToo – it can be easy for some impossibly important conversations to get lost in the white noise, as imperative as it may be to our survival. But none is more important than food because, right now, today, there are 795 million hungry people; a number that’s going to grow by another 2 billion before 2050. And if we’re going to make that possible, then it’s a question we need to talk about a whole lot more than we are right now.

It’s a problem we shouldn’t have, yet here we are, unable to improve the global food security as much as we need to. That’s why it’s so important we all help tighten up on this area and do all we can to make sure there are enough calories to properly nourish everyone on the planet, but without making the agricultural footprint any bigger.

So, without further ado, here’s what we need to focus on:

1. Close The Food Gap
One of the biggest issues we have isn’t a lack of agricultural land, it’s the fact this land isn’t reaching its full potential. In fact, some places are yielding 50% less than their capabilities. Closing this gap is so important. Not only would it reduce the need to clear land for agriculture, it would help us feed those hungry people using the land we have.

2. Produce More With Less
It doesn’t matter whether you’re talking about the use of fertilisers or nutritional supplements, we need to be more efficient – and effective – when it comes to the production of food. But let’s start with nutritional supplements. A quick visit here and you’ll quickly learn that naturally-raised weanling pigs and livestock whose diets contained Pro+ ate more feed and gained more weight, which makes them more efficient. That’s what we need. The same principle applies to fertiliser, where it’s estimated that the use of nitrogen and phosphorus-based fertilisers, which are used on wheat, rice and maize crops, could be slashed by 15-30% and still produce the same yields. And that’s without factoring any adjustments in the timing, placement and type of fertilizer used.

3. Water Is A Worry
Water is possibly the biggest issue right now, and Improving irrigation systems and planting crops that use less water needs to become the focus moving forward. Take rice and sugarcane as a prime example of crops that need the most water. The problem is, you can’t simply swap crop you grow as all farmers base their decisions on current market values. As such, the only way to tackle this issue effectively and efficiently would be to encourage farmers through economic incentives, ones that can be tweaked and tailored to regional differences and cultural tastes.

4. Food Waste Needs Addressing
Across the globe, between 30-50% of all food produced goes to waste, whether that be thrown, due to the inefficient preparation or just inadequate storage facilities. Address this and we have addressed a huge issue moving forward.

A discussion on the dangers of cell phones, social media, and technology with Dr. Ralph G. Perrino

Two of the focuses of my blog are Science and Technology. Up to this point I’ve discussed technology from the aspects of careers and investing. In this post I’m taking a different approach and will discuss its potential dangers in our world which is becoming steadily more digital and technology dependent – a topic I’ve heard periodically discussed in numerous circles over the years.

Joining me in this discussion is mentor, veteran educator and fellow writer, Dr. Ralph G. Perrino. Dr. Perrino has his own blog, “Dr. Perrino’s Blog”. He has authored numerous articles, essays and books and both founded and directed the Northern Virginia Tutoring Service, which is how we first met. He was further responsible for my becoming a member of the board of directors for the Friends of the David M. Brown Arlington Planetarium.

Here on my blog I crafted a post titled Are we losing our Soft Skills due to Technology? On his blog, Dr. Perrino recently crafted two posts titled, I thought I had seen it all…until today, and Are we creating a digital dust bowl?, among other blog posts. The following is our recent discussion regarding the dangers facing our steadily increasing technology-dependent society and world.

Anwar Dunbar: Hello, Ralph. You’re one of my mentors and I of course know a lot about you, but can you give the readers a few facts about yourself for context? For example, what is your background? Also, how did you become involved with education?

Ralph Perrino: Sure, Anwar. I studied Sociology at Catawba College in North Carolina. I then did extensive graduate study in Sociology at the University of North Carolina, where my areas of concentration were in collective behavior and social movements, and social change. I also hold a Master’s Degree in Public Administration and a Doctorate in Education from George Mason University. I have taught full-time and part-time at Northern Virginia Community College as an associate professor of sociology and political science since 1984. I also founded and served as director/owner of Northern Virginia Tutoring Service, LLC, from 1994 until 2018. The reason I became involved in education is that I have always had a passion for teaching. I find that I often teach the content area while at the same time, I offer life lessons to students who are seeking direction in their lives.

AD: One of the focuses of my blog is Technology from the perspective of encouraging awareness of STEM – for careers and for investment purposes. While we celebrate our emerging technologies, there is a downside to them as well, which we’ve both written about from different angles. What initially raised your eyebrow regarding our society-wide ‘addiction’ to our new digital toys and devices and the plethora of applications that we use on them?

RP: While I do absolutely agree that there is a use and a place for technology in today’s world – education and research, investment and banking, professional connectedness and networking are just a few examples – I also believe that society has rushed to embrace the next bright, shiny object with little thought or concern about issues such as: personal privacy, family stability, interpersonal communication, civility in public, and empathy, compassion and concern for others. That said, I do see the potential benefits associated with the use of social media in the areas of collective behavior, social movements, and social change. However, sole reliance on digital means of communication to achieve social change is ill-advised, in my view.

AD: From our mentoring talks I know that you think cell phones particularly are a problem. I’m guilty of some of the things you discussed in your essay about the ‘Digital Dustbowl’, and I do enjoy quick access to information, and quickly connecting with other people which can cause unintended consequences. Can you talk a little bit about what you see happening around you every day?

RP: I have become increasingly alarmed by excessive dependence (some would say addiction) to technology in general, but cell phones in particular. Teens have been known to refer to their iPhone as, “My Tiny God.” There is something wrong with a society that values a material, digital possession to that extent. I tell my students at the college that if their biggest concern when they wake up in the morning is whether their cell phone is charged, they have a serious problem. I ask them, have we reached the point where owning a smartphone is a requirement for acceptance into the public (and private) discourse?

I also tell them that they should not leave college without some level of commitment to help others. Much, if not all, of that caring and compassion for others is not going to take place through social media. I remind them that nearly a billion people on earth each day do not have access to clean drinking water and that nearly 30% of the American population does not have regular access to the Internet. Virtually none of my students understand the “Digital Divide” between rich and poor in America. They take this privilege for granted. I point out to them that they are living in a bubble here in the Washington, D.C. area, and that their awareness of issues and challenges others face has been minimized as a result of their addiction to social media and their smartphone.

AD: Have you found any data looking at our dependence on digital devices like our cell phones?

RP: A recent Bank of America study, “Trends in Consumer Mobility”, reported that 71% of all Americans (adults and teens) say they sleep with or next to their mobile phone; 3% of those people said they sleep with their device in their hand; 13% said they keep it on the bed, and 55% leave it on the nightstand. Incredibly, the survey revealed that Americans consider their smartphone more important than sex, and 20% of those 18-34 years of age admit to checking their phones DURING sex. The list goes on.

Suffice it to say that we have a problem with over-use and abuse of smart phones. We see it every day in restaurants, supermarkets, shopping malls, sporting events, and a myriad of other places. On the one hand, smart phones and, to some extent, social media, have connected us digitally, yet they have separated us emotionally. They have: strained our relationships with others, significantly reduced levels of empathy towards others, caused us to avoid face-to-face interpersonal contact, and damaged the ability of children and others to read facial gestures, body language, and subtle signs of human emotion. They further have the potential to alienate children from society, placing them in an unrealistic virtual world where problem solving can be accomplished with the press of a button.

Some questions I find myself pondering are:

• Is there a correlation between cell phone usage and the rise in rates of Autism and Asperger’s Syndrome?
• Is there a correlation between cell phone usage and the dramatic rise in school violence, digital alienation, mental health issues, teen suicide rates, and other social maladies?
• Is it affecting the stability of families?
• Is it resulting in miscommunication in the workplace?
• Is it affecting other institutions critical to societal stability?

Again, has it connected us digitally, but separated us emotionally? Much has been said here and elsewhere regarding the problem. The question in my mind is, what are the solutions? We might start with stronger parenting, and adults who model appropriate human interaction as their children are maturing and watching how their parents conduct their own lives. Children learn by modeling adult behavior. Their behavior is a reflection of our behavior.

AD: As an educator yourself, have you had to establish rules for your students in class?

RP: It has reached the point in my classes at the college where I teach that I have to ask my students to place their cell phones on a table at the front of the room at the beginning of the class. If I don’t do this, students simply cannot and will not stop using their phones. Their attention is distracted, and it is nearly impossible to generate a meaningful class discussion. I have had students as recently as last semester note in their course evaluations that, ‘Professor Perrino should continue to require no cell phone use during his class. It helped me to engage in class discussions more effectively.’

AD: Okay Ralph, you’ve given us quite a bit to think about and consider. Do you have any final comments, thoughts or stories on this topic?

RP: Each semester, I have guest speakers come to my class to speak to my students. These speakers include staff from a local homeless and substance abuse shelter; a speaker who works in the area of student nutrition in low-income, urban school districts, and other speakers who focus on sociological issues outside the parameters of a textbook.

The one speaker who rivets my students to their chairs is a 77 year-old woman who was a Freedom Rider in 1961 at the age of nineteen. Her story is compelling. She tells of being jailed in a Mississippi prison for three months with other Freedom Riders, as well as other injustices perpetrated on her and others during that time. When she completes her presentation, I always ask the questions: “Would you be brave enough at nineteen years of age to do what this person did? What story will you have to tell when you are 77 years of age?” The responses I get tell me much about how unengaged my students are from reality, even though they believe they are all connected and engaged through social media outlets.

AD: Okay, thank you, Ralph, for collaborating on this important discussion and sharing your thoughts. So many of us are walking around unaware of the larger implications of these technologies as our societal norms evolve with them. At the very least, hopefully we’ve gotten some of the readers to think and start discussions of their own, and you and I have to have similar discussions in the future.

Thank you for taking the time out to read this interview. Once again, please visit Dr. Perrino’s Blog for other insightful discussions like this. If you enjoyed this interview, you might also enjoy:

A look at STEM: Blockchain Technology, a new way of conducting business and record keeping
Who will have the skills to benefit from Apple’s $350 billion investment?
We should’ve bought Facebook and Bitcoin stock: An investing and technology story
A Cryptocurrency App Case Study
Why SEO really is the key to successful online business SEO
The best Apps for Crypto Investment
Tableau discusses educating in a data driven world revisited

If you’ve found value here and think it would 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. 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.

A look at STEM: What is Regulatory Science?

The first principle of my blog is “Creating Ecosystems of Success”, and one of the main focuses of my blog is awareness of the Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics (STEM) careers and fields. Up to this point I’ve written several posts discussing the ‘Biomedical Sciences’ which I’ve been trained in: Pharmacology, Toxicology, ADME/Drug Metabolism, and Inhalation Toxicology. In this post I want to discuss what “Regulatory Science” and “Regulatory Affairs” are – the scientific interface between the ‘Public’ and ‘Private’ sectors where the safety of commercial products sold to the general public are determined – a science not well understood by the general public despite its importance to our everyday lives – myself included initially.

“You can always go into ‘Regulatory’,” a classmate who I’ll refer to as Greg said, during graduate school at the University of Michigan. I was feeling the stress of working on my thesis project which consisted entirely of ‘Bench’ or ‘Basic’ scientific research, and lamenting that I wasn’t sure if I wanted to stay in academia once I finished my dissertation. Greg had worked in one of the bigger Pharmaceutical companies, and understood everything that comprised them. At the time I wanted a career with a ‘regular’ schedule which is something I’ll describe more in depth in my next blog post which will discuss the ‘Basic Sciences’. I, coincidentally, did start a career as a Regulatory Scientist by accident, depending on your belief system.

When giving my annual Toxicology lecture at SUNY Albany, I always tell the class that Regulatory Scientists are ‘Watch Dogs’ or ‘Gate Keepers’ who evaluate new products generated by the ‘Private Sector’ to make sure they are safe for the public. What types of products am I talking about? You can start with anything in and around your home, whether it be food products, pharmaceuticals, or industrial chemicals, air fresheners, household cleaners, paints, or cosmetics. These are just the chemicals which we consume, or are exposed to on a personal level. Another context is the environment. For every product generated, questions must be asked about what that product will do to wildlife, their unique ecosystems, lakes, oceans, the air, etc. Here think about coal and petroleum products as good examples.

The term ‘Regulatory’ is rooted in the ‘Regulations’ put in place by Federal and State governments – laws and statutes which dictate how and when the government should act in the general public’s best interests to ensure that the products they are being sold are safe. Going back to the previous paragraph, there are regulations for example for registering the following: crops and commodities, livestock and poultry, pharmaceuticals, medical devices, industrial chemicals, industrial materials and textiles, and energy products such as petroleum and coal. We’re very close to the use of ‘Nanomaterials’, so products that contain them are of particular interest now.

Here is a good place to think back to the 2016 Presidential election where the then candidate, Donald J. Trump, discussed the need to rollback excessive, costly and burdensome regulations put in place by the Obama administration to allow private businesses to grow and thrive. Having an understanding of Regulatory Science and Regulatory Affairs is the essence of that discussion because it takes resources to demonstrate the safety of products; otherwise it can cut into profits if their uses are restricted. Important questions to thus consider are: 1) is there such a thing as over-regulation; and 2) is there a happy balance between business and keeping the public and environment safe? Some food for thought.

Regulatory Scientists work in both Public and Private sectors. On both sides each must understand the Federal and State government laws and regulations. Scientists in the Private sector must understand the regulations and provide the government with the data it needs so that their companies can efficiently register their products. Scientists in the Public sector must understand the regulations to ensure that the companies trying to register their products are in compliance, so as to not cause injury to individuals in the general public and create subsequent litigation. While this post is about Regulatory Science, it’s also worth noting here that most of the private companies also have scientists working in the ‘Applied Sciences’ and ‘Research and Development’, which is where their new products come from – examples are the Food, Pharmaceutical, Biotech, and Crop-Science companies.

Where do Regulatory Scientists receive their training and what types of skills do they need? Most Regulatory Scientists receive their training in the ‘Basic Sciences’ at major research universities, such as the University of Michigan, where I received my training. This means that they first become trained in specific scientific areas of expertise – Pharmacology and Inhalation Toxicology in my case – and they then use those knowledge sets in the Regulatory world to make safety decisions. The same is true for the Applied Sciences where that expertise is used to create new products. As you can see these worlds are closely interrelated.

The four Biomedical Sciences I’ve discussed in detail – Pharmacology, Toxicology, ADME/Drug Metabolism and Inhalation Toxicology – are all basic sciences which translate to the Applied Science and Regulatory sciences. Scientists trained in these fields and others can either remain in academia, or take their skill sets into the Public or Private sectors. See my post entitled, “The transferrable skills from a doctoral degree in the basic sciences” to get a feel for what skills are necessary to work in the Regulatory Sector or Regulatory Affairs. Just briefly, a couple are of the skills are the ability to: 1) work on teams; 2) write; 3) plan; and 4) speak orally, as there are lots and lots of meetings.

There are typically two contexts for Regulatory Science – one which takes place in a classic laboratory setting, and the other which takes place in an office setting. In the lab setting, experiments are carried out to test products safety. In the government office setting, scientists interpret the results generated on specific products using the above-mentioned regulations and policies which each scientist has to learn when starting in the field. It’s worth noting here that science is constantly changing and evolving, and thus a challenge to working in the Regulatory sector in government settings is staying current on new and relevant scientific breakthroughs and methods. This can be done in any number of ways including attending national meetings, and participating in special ‘work groups’, for example.

A third context for Regulatory Science is consulting. Many scientists, after working in the Public or Private sectors, eventually opt to the start their own consulting companies. These consulting groups typically work with Private sector companies to get their products registered swiftly and efficiently, with the goal of keeping their costs as low as possible.

What do Regulatory Scientists make in terms of salary? That is in part dictated by one’s degree level, and whether the scientist works in the Public or Private sectors. Scientists in both sectors can start out making $70,000. Federal and State Regulatory Scientists are typically paid according to the ‘General Schedule’. While Regulatory Scientists in Private Industry are paid according to what that company determines the individual is worth, and the mutually agreed upon salary.

In closing, when you think about Regulatory Science, think globally. While the United States Government has numerous agencies to protect the general public – the EPA, FDA, USDA and the NRC to name a few – other countries around the world have them as well. And there are actually global partnerships and cooperatives amongst nations which are important when it comes to international trade and commerce, in addition to environmental protection. A career in Regulatory Science thus has the potential to touch not only the lives of those in your immediate circle, but also those in faraway places.

The next posts in this series will talk about what Basic Research and Science are, and then my personal journey towards becoming a Scientist. If you enjoyed this post you may also enjoy:

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?
A look at STEM: What is Toxicology?
A look at STEM: What is ADME/Drug Metabolism?
A look at STEM: Blockchain technology, a new way of conducting business and record keeping

If you’ve found value here and think it would 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. 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.

Tableau hosts discussion on educating in a data driven world revisited

Shortly before the Examiner closed its operations in 2016, I was invited to write a story on a symposium hosted by the company Tableau regarding the increasing role of data and analytics in education. During my doctoral and postdoctoral research in Pharmacology and Toxicology, I experienced firsthand the importance generating quality data and statistical analyses, though I didn’t realize that data and analytics was literally its own field. It turned out that there was a whole data and analytics community/world, with companies like Tableau creating software for quality data analyses and interpretation. Likewise there are whole careers in data and analytics, and these professionals are critical components of Academia, and the Public and Private Sectors.

* * *

On June 9, 2016 Tableau hosted a symposium in Washington DC titled; “Educating in a Data Driven World”. The symposium took place at Washington DC’s St. Regis Hotel and featured a panel of experts from the United States’ leading institutions of higher education. Among them were:

• Mike Galbreth, Associate Professor of Management Science, University of South Carolina
• Danial Lopresti, Professor and Chair of Departmen3t of Computer Science and Engineering, Director of Data X Initiative, Lehigh University
• Cheryl Phillips, Hearst Professional in Residence, Stanford University
• Vijay Khatri, Associate Professor of Information systems, Arthur M. Weimer Faculty Fellow, Co-Director, Kelley Institute for Business Analytics, Indiana University
• Jana Schaich Borg, Postdoctoral Associate, Duke University
• Jon Schwabish, Adjunct Professor in the McCourt School of Public Policy and the McDonough School of Business at Georgetown University, Lecturer at the Maryland Institute of College of Art

The Moderator of the panel discussion was Ben Jones, Director of Tableau Public. The panel discussion revolved around the state of analytics education and how higher education is responding to the increased demand for analytics skills in the workplace; a topic all in itself which impacts pretty much every sector and discipline; Politics, Humanities, Business and lastly Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics (STEM) fields. Specific topics discussed were: Issues pertaining to data literacy, how students can be better educated to increase their data literacy, the importance of communication and soft skills for data professionals, and the common traits of individuals interested in analytics.

“Just like there are a lot of programs to help young girls get into STEM fields, we think that it’s important that we help educate our students to be successful in an increasingly data driven world. We have academic curricula for teachers to help them get started with Tableau in the classroom. We do whatever we can to help close the skills gap,” said Tableau for Teaching Manager Emma Trifari. Tableau’s motivation for hosting the panel was the understanding that there is a huge skills gap in the data world, and in order to fill that gap, data literacy needs to start from the beginning.

Tableau’s software is used to simplify data analysis. Currently enrolled students around the world are eligible to receive free one-year licenses of Tableau Desktop through Tableau for Students. Instructors and their students are also eligible to receive free licenses of Tableau Desktop through the Tableau for Teaching program.

For more information on Tableau’s Academic programs, go to: tableau.com/academic.

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

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If you’ve found value here and think it would 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. 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.