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.

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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:

We should’ve bough Facebook and Bitcoin Stock: An investing and technology story
A look at STEM: Blockchain technology, a new way of conducting business and record keeping
A Cryptocurrency App Case Study
Why SEO really is the key to a successful online business
The Best Apps for Crypto Investment
Who will have the skills to benefit from Apple’s $350 billion investment?

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.

The transferrable skills from a doctoral degree in the basic sciences

I originally published this piece in The Edvocate in the summer of 2015 under a slightly different title. When I set out to earn my Ph.D. in Pharmacology, I wasn’t clear on what I was supposed to be getting from my doctoral research besides the degree itself, and hopefully a job at the end of it all. It turned out that in addition to the expertise gained in my thesis project, there were several other important skills that the University of Michigan’s Department of Pharmacology sought to instill in me and my classmates.

These skills – some of which took time and effort to learn are actually very critical in any of the “Biomedical” sciences that I’ve recently written about: Pharmacology, Toxicology, ADME/Drug Metabolism and Inhalation Toxicology, and others. They’re further critical in any of the ‘Basic’ research sciences.  All Ph.D.s are not the same, nor are all Ph.D. programs the same and you may have learned some or all of these skills in yours. The following piece discusses the transferrable skills scientists in the Basic research sciences receive during their training which are very valuable in: Academia, and both the Public and Private sectors.

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July 8, 2015 marked the ten year anniversary of the earning of my Ph.D. (doctor of philosophy degree) in Pharmacology from the University of Michigan. It was a tremendous accomplishment educationally and scientifically for a kid from Buffalo’s eastside. Coming from my community, it had far reaching effects and implications socially that I didn’t understand at the time.

On June 2, 2015, the University of Michigan’s Department of Pharmacology hosted its annual Pharmacology and Experimental Therapeutics Career Day. The event was designed to expose the department’s current students, to the multiple career options available to them following their doctoral and masters level trainings. As a key component of the day, select alumni (myself included) were invited back and asked to discuss their careers and share their experiences.

Going back to Ann Arbor is always like going home. Six of my most of the most meaningful years were spent there learning about science and life. My graduate advisor for example taught me lasting lessons not only about pharmacological research, but also how to be a professional and how to survive in this world. In a lot of ways, he was like a second father.

While I experienced tremendous growth during graduate school earning my degree, some of the most meaningful lessons about my doctoral degree itself took place after leaving Ann Arbor. College towns like Ann Arbor are unique in that the University is a major part of the town’s culture, and as such there is an unusually high concentration of highly educated individuals there. Needless to say every place isn’t like that, and you don’t realize it until you leave.

Once I left, I discovered that my degree touched people in many different ways. I actually wrote a ten part series for the Examiner titled “Pursing a Ph.D”. One part of the series was dedicated to the social implications of the degree, specifically some of my biological father’s words of wisdom.

“I wouldn’t tell people that you’re a doctor when you first meet them. They’re going to expect you to have certain things and look a certain way.” Upon moving to Albany, NY for my Postdoctoral fellowship, my father gave me this stern recommendation. I didn’t understand why he was encouraging me to keep my great accomplishment a secret, but to make a long story short, he was afraid of other people’s expectations, and there was some validity to his fears.

Our society associates the title of doctor with wealth, no matter what kind of doctor the person is. The late Dr. Thomas Stanley, author of the Millionaire Next Door series discussed in his books that being a high-income professional, and the accumulation of wealth don’t directly correlate. Wealth building involves: sound money management skills, financial literacy, and in some cases delayed gratification – components that not all doctors have.

“I wasn’t aware of Dr. Dunbar’s level of education when I met him so I was unable to address him by his proper title,” said a teacher at a Career Day at a local elementary school in late May. I casually revealed to the class that I earned a Ph.D. but didn’t introduce myself as “Dr. Dunbar”. As best I could, I tried to humbly explain to her class of sixth graders that success, in this case earning a doctorate, is a door that swings both ways.

That is, some people will instinctually be happy for you, celebrate your success and look at you with reverence, while others will unfortunately feel threatened and insecure about it and behave as such. This can be relatives, friends, significant others, coworkers, etc. There are numerous stories I could tell about this both good and bad, but there isn’t enough room in this piece.

In any case let’s circle back to the University of Michigan’s Pharmacology and Experimental Therapeutics Career Day. What does having a doctorate in the basic sciences actually mean, and what does it actually empower one to do particularly in the sciences? As the lone government Regulatory Scientist at the Career Day, I interestingly drew the first time slot for the morning speakers.

I had no idea what my peers were going to talk about, but surprisingly most of our talks shared similar core themes. Each of us in our own way, communicated that in addition to becoming experts of our thesis projects, in my case the “Ubiquitination and Proteasomal Degradation of Neuronal Nitric Oxide Synthase”, there were a host of other skills that we had all learned that were applicable to our current careers and other areas, particularly the Public and Private sectors. Among them were:

• Critical thinking/Problem solving skills
• The ability to multi-task, organize and coordinate multiple projects at one time
• The ability to write clearly
• The ability to speak and present clearly
• The ability to work on teams
• The ability to adapt and understand new systems

My classmates had all gone on to do some very impressive things. Each of us worked on research projects in the areas of: Cardiovascular Pharmacology, Receptor Pharmacology, and Drug Metabolism, just to name a few. However after graduation, not everyone had taken the traditional path of becoming tenure-track academic researchers.

Some had gone on to: work in the pharmaceutical industry, start their own companies, become consultants, become academic professors or administrators (at small teaching colleges), or science advocates. Our varying careers spoke in part to our department’s openness to prepare its students for the potential for other careers, in addition to the versatility of the skills that we had acquired. See my Pharmacology blog post to get a feel for just how vast the field is.

In summary, earning any doctorate whether it be in the sciences or the humanities is a tremendous accomplishment. That being said, it’s what one does with the skills they’ve acquired during their thesis research that makes them great, not the degree itself. In the sciences, in addition to mastery of one’s area of expertise there a core set of skills learned. And it is these skills that make that person exceptional no matter which field they go into.

I’m going to end this differently than the original piece by saying that with a simple Google search, the publications I proudly generated during my research days I believe are all still available online for those curious individuals. 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 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.

Why SEO really is the key to a successful online business

Regardless of what your business is, or what your content is as a writer, it’s critical make your presence known and easy to find. The following guest post comes courtesy of Michael Kordvani. It discusses importance of Search Engine Optimization (SEO) for the success of online businesses. Michael Kordvani can be contacted at michaelkordvani@gmail.com.

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When it comes to search engine optimization (SEO), many are aware it’s something that’s supposed to help their online business but very few make time to learn anything about it or to even try. Many tell you they rely on word of mouth marketing or paid advertising that can take a chunk out of your business budget.

It’s a shame that SEO marketing is misunderstood and underused. SEO is a series of techniques designed to make your website easier for both search engines and your visitors to understand. Since search engines don’t see and understand your web pages the way a human can, SEO helps them ascertain what each page is about and why it’s useful to its users. Then it helps the search engines bring their users to you.

5 Ways SEO Helps Your Online Business Succeed

While there are many ways SEO can benefit your online business, here are five of the top ones.

More Clients: With so many websites available for any given product, service, or niche, getting clients can be a challenge. Using solid SEO techniques will improve your ranking in the search engines and make it easier to find. The easier your site is to find, the more potential customers you will receive. With the increased traffic, you will see more conversions.

Mobile Friendly: According to Hitwise, as much as 58% of all search engine queries are conducted on mobile devices and that number will continue to grow. How does SEO factor into that? An entirely new set of SEO techniques, like local search optimization, have been developed to help businesses get their products and services in front of the mobile audience. Choosing to ignore this particular trend is allowing your business to fall behind and out of the minds of today’s consumers.

Reputation Building: Reaching the first page of a search engine is quite an accomplishment and much more than something to brag about. Greater consumer trust is given to pages that are highly ranked. For many customers, if they can’t find a business on the first page of their Google search results, it’s not good enough. SEO boosts your website’s ranking in the search engines, gradually helping you move towards the top of users’ search results.

Brand Awareness: Another great benefit of SEO is that it lets your site appear on relevant pages of the search engines. As your ranking goes up, your site will appear more often at the top of user searches. That increases awareness among potential customers, more of them being aware of you means a higher conversion rate. Getting your SEO optimized content on social media channels too will also help increase your brand’s awareness and inspire consumer trust and loyalty.

Cost Effective: People are often afraid of investing in SEO because they don’t understand it. In educating yourself about the true power potential of SEO, you’ll see that such investment is much like investing in real estate. If you invest wisely in SEO, you get more from it. The remarkable thing is that a huge investment isn’t necessary and it’s very cost effective when compared to what you’d pay for PPC and social media marketing.

A Cryptocurrency App Case Study

The following guest post comes courtesy of Al Hill, Co-Founder of www.Tradingsim.com. It focuses on a case study for Cryptocurrency Apps – a topic related to my posts which discussed both Bitcoin and Blockchain Technology. While this post discusses Apps for financial transactions using Cryptocurrencies, it worth noting that the Big Words Blog Site is not involved in giving personal financial advice to readers and is not liable for any financial decisions made by readers. This post contains several infographics. Click on the images to enlarge them.

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Why do a case study on cryptocurrency apps? Well, it wasn’t up to me. There is just too much demand according to the number of searches from Google.

There are a lot of case studies on the web related to bitcoin and cryptocurrencies apps, so we wanted to do things slightly differently by defining a methodology to remove any inherit bias from the equation.

The study focused on 4 main factors on a normalized exponential scale of 1 to 100.

• Social Power
o Social power is a custom ranking metric we created by weighting the            numbers of followers across social networks: Facebook (45%), Twitter            (35%), and LinkedIn (20%)

• Total Number of Installs (provided only by the Google Play App Store)
• Total Number of Reviews
• Rating on the Google Play App Store (the IOS App Store only provides “4+”)

So, after inputting these data points into our algorithm, what did we come up with? An awesome top 10 list for you to explore!

The top graph depicts the overall rating based on our methodology. Now, if you are a true data geek like me, please have a look at the supporting numbers in the table below.

As you can see, the methodology did create some separation between the best in breed.

Blockchain is the clear technology leader providing a framework solving many business challenges, one of which is the cryptocurrency market, so the 100 rating was not a shocker.

Some of the other apps are news outlets or provide the ability to track the value of currencies, which won’t measure up in terms of value add against apps that allow you to buy cryptos or use them as a form of payment.

But what makes Coinbase so popular?

The real story with Coinbase is the large number of reviews for their app.

With the largest count of over 600k reviews, this was not by chance. Coinbase has a clear growth strategy focused on 4 pillars:

1. Create a simple retail exchange that allow consumers to invest in digital currency
2. Enable professional traders and institutions to trade digital currencies
3. Create an interface for people to make payments with digital currencies and developers to build applications that utilize this payment network
4. Simplify the development process and even invest in some partners that have awesome ideas

This approach creates evangelists that not only use Coinbase’s products, but also scream about them from the rooftops.

You of course will need to determine which app works best for your needs, but how people are sharing and using the application is likely a great measure.

To access the full case study, please visit: https://tradingsim.com/blog/crypto-apps-study/

Al Hill
Co-Founder, Tradingsim.com

A look at STEM: What is Inhalation Toxicology?

“While other bodily tissues can tolerate varying degrees of O2 deprivation, it is well understood that even short periods of deprivation of the brain can cause irreversible damage, unlike with long periods of food and water deprivation.”

With the exception of my Blockchain Technology post, my previous Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics (STEM) posts have covered the fields of: Pharmacology, Toxicology, and ADME/Drug Metabolism – all of which are considered ‘Biomedical’ sciences. Similar to those fields, Inhalation Toxicology as a discipline dates back to over a century ago, and is very complex regarding the wealth and depth of information available. It’s also still evolving today.

The goal of this post is not to address every detail and nuance of the field, but instead to give readers unfamiliar with it a basic introductory understanding of the discipline. This post was prepared for a general audience and thus any fellow Inhalation Toxicologists who may read this, may find it a little too simplistic. That’s okay though, as the goal is to educate others on our field and what we do. Further details about the many aspects of Inhalation Toxicology can be accessed online, or in scientific journals.

This overview of Inhalation Toxicology definitely falls under my principle of “Creating Ecosystems of Success” as it is a very unique knowledge and skill set possessed by only a select few – one of which I acquired accidentally when seeking training in ADME/Drug Metabolism as a ‘Postdoctoral’ scientist. Why is Inhalation Toxicology a unique skill set? I’ll start with a holistic discussion about the three routes of human exposure which will take us briefly into another biomedical discipline; ‘Anatomy and Physiology’, which deals exclusively with the organ systems within the human body, and how they collectively work together at the tissue and cellular levels.

My posts regarding Pharmacology, Toxicology, and ADME/Drug Metabolism focused on exposure to chemicals primarily through the oral route – ingestion through the mouth and then absorption into the ‘Gastrointestinal Tract’ (GI-Tract). While we typically think about the ingestion of chemicals through the oral route, the reality is that humans can be exposed to drugs and toxicants through two other routes; the dermal route by way of our skin, and the inhalation route by way of our ‘Respiratory Tracts’ – the region spanning from our nasal passage down into our lungs where gas exchange with the atmosphere occurs. Each route has its own unique properties anatomically which impact the potential absorption of chemicals into the body where they can exert their therapeutic or toxic effects at specific tissues.

Each route receives differing amounts of what’s called the ‘Cardiac Output’ or the blood delivered from the heart. On average, the GI-Tract receives 21%, the skin receives 9%, and the lungs receive 100% of the heart’s Cardiac Output. This makes sense as the function of the lungs is to facilitate gas exchange between our bodies and the Earth’s atmosphere.

The lung’s ‘Alveoli’ are critical for the body’s absorption of ‘Molecular Oxygen’ (O2) into the bloodstream. Once inhaled, the O2 in the air is very rapidly absorbed into the pulmonary capillaries from the alveolar spaces where it binds to the ‘Hemoglobin’ in our blood while the ‘Carbon Dioxide’ (CO2) releases into the alveolar spaces to be exhaled. This exchange of O2 and CO2 are both very rapid and efficient in healthy lungs – something our bodies do without us even thinking about it. What allows for this very efficient exchange of gases with the environment is a very, very thin 0.5 micron three-cell layer separating the alveolar spaces from our pulmonary capillaries.  These capillaries immediately receive and return blood to the heart for distribution to the body.

Without the continuous exchange of O2 and CO2 through our lung’s alveoli, our bodies could not function as O2 is a necessary substrate for our body’s many tissues at the cellular and molecular levels. This is important because while other bodily tissues can tolerate varying degrees of O2 deprivation, it is well understood that even short periods of deprivation of the brain can cause irreversible damage, unlike with long periods of food and water deprivation. For this reason alone, maintenance of proper respiratory function is critical. With that, I’ll transition into what Inhalation Toxicology is and why it’s important.

Inhalation Toxicology is the study of the harmful effects of chemicals on living systems through the inhalation route of exposure via breathing – typically as it applies to mammalian species. It’s a very important field as respiration is a critical biological process for mammals as described above, and thus any toxicant that compromises the body’s capacity to exchange O2 and CO2 with the environment is very dangerous.

Before I discuss the types of chemical agents that can cause injury through inhalation exposure, I’ll first describe the two types of effects that can result from exposure to inhalation toxicants; ‘Portal of Entry’ effects and ‘Systemic’ effects. A Portal of Entry (POE) effect is an effect produced in the tissue or organ of first contact with a chemical or toxicant. In this case it’s an effect where a toxicant causes damage starting from the nasal passage down into the multiple regions of the lung. There are multiple regions and cell-types along the respiratory tract – each with specific functions – all of which can be uniquely injured.

In laboratory settings described later, some POEs are instant when observing lab animals and manifest as ‘Clinical Signs’ which are visible. Irritation in the respiratory tract can trigger the ‘Paintal’ reflexes and ‘Bradypnea’ in rodents which are immediate changes in the breathing patterns of the animals through very sensitive nerve processes and receptors in respiratory tissues. Anyone who has worked in a research lab and has opened a bottle of concentrated Hydrochloric Acid outside of a fume hood appreciates how quickly irritation can occur, as it only takes seconds to feel the burning sensation in the nose followed by: coughing, watering eyes, shortness of breath, etc.

Other POE Effects are more time dependent and can take hours, days, or weeks to fully set in. Some are some are reversible, while others are irreversible. Prolonged exposure to some toxicants can cause ‘Inflammation’ in the lungs leading to ‘Pulmonary Fibrosis’ (formation of scar tissue) or the formation of ‘Pulmonary Edema’ – both of which compromise lung function and can eventually be fatal. ‘Asbestos’ poisoning causes injury through prolonged activation of the ‘Immune’ system in the lungs, damaging them over time as the Asbestos particles cannot be removed once inhaled.

Smoking cigarettes is a good example of people willingly injuring their lungs. The paper used to roll cigarettes and the ‘Tobacco’ inside them contain thousands upon thousands of compounds before the cigarette is even ignited. Once lit and those chemicals are ‘combusted’, they transform into numerous other chemicals – some of which are referred to as ‘Reactive Intermediates’ which themselves come into contact with the cells of the Respiratory Tract. Years and years of direct cigarette smoke inhalation can cause irreversible damage leading to diseases like Lung Cancer. There is also risk of lung injury from living in industrial areas where there is the potential to inhale combusted compounds and particulates from factory emissions.

Before moving on, I’ll add here that while many Inhalation Toxicologists consider the lung itself to be the most important part of the Respiratory Tract, recent science has shown that the Nasal Passage is also a toxicologically revelation tissue as it relates to inhalation exposure. It contains drug metabolizing enzymes similar to those described in my ADME/Drug Metabolism post.  The lungs do as well.  Some chemicals can thus damage these regions if inhaled for prolonged periods of time.

Systemic effects refer to injury/toxicity in other parts of the body beyond the Respiratory Tract. If a chemical/toxicant can efficiently pass through the lung’s alveoli as described earlier, it can enter the blood stream and into the body’s general circulation.  From there it can damage other organs as discussed in my Toxicology post. Medicinally, some therapeutics such as “Anesthetics” for surgeries are actually administered this way – Halothane is an example.

Two classic systemic inhalation toxicants are ‘Carbon Monoxide’ (CO) and ‘Hydrogen Cyanide’ (HCN) which I’ve hyperlinked in case you’re curious to learn more about how they work.  While CO poisoning has been associated with accidental deaths from tailpipe emissions in garages, HCN is a known potential chemical weapon which is particularly dangerous in enclosed spaces such as subway stations – something our intelligence agencies are very aware of.

These are just a few examples of toxicity through the inhalation route of exposure. There are many other chemicals and substances that can cause injury and in some cases therapeutic benefit through the inhalation route of exposure. Many industries and groups highly consider Inhalation Toxicology. They include:

The Chemical Industry: Pretty much any industrial chemical that’s generated has the potential for inhalation exposure depending on its ‘Physical-Chemical’ properties, and how it’s used. These include paints, pesticides, and disinfectants – any product that companies are looking to sell to the general public.
The Tobacco Industry: The Tobacco Industry has to have a firm understanding of what cigarette smoke does to its customers and bystanders inhaling ‘second hand’ smoke. They are thus very interested in the long-term effects of cigarette smoke inhalation.
Nanoparticles and Nanomaterials: We’re very early in the use of ‘Nanomaterials’, and there is a lot that is unknown regarding the toxicity of these particles – in this instance, when they’re inhaled.
National Defense: Our military and the ‘Defense’ sector very much care about Inhalation Toxicology as soldiers are sometimes sent into theaters of war where enemies use biological and/or chemical weapons. There are also unfortunate incidences where chemical weapons are unleashed on civilians such as the recent chemical attack in Syria where rescue officials believe the agent used was Chlorine gas.
The Pharmaceutical Industry and Medical Devices: Some medicines can and must be delivered through the inhalation route. A classic example is the use of ‘Albuterol’ for patients with Asthma, but there are numerous other examples such as when anesthetics and other treatments are given through inhalation exposure.
Public Health: Federal and State governments, academic researchers and private sector companies are always cognizant of how the general public is exposed and affected by any of the chemicals described above which invariably end up in the air, and can cause any number of disease states including Asthma, and in some cases Lung Cancer.

Having introduced the field in terms of background and context, I’ll now discuss some of its experimental and technical aspects using visuals provided by CH Technologies – a leading company in the manufacture of Inhalation Toxicology exposure systems. Inhalation Toxicologists and Scientists not only need an understanding of the biology of injury to the Respiratory Tract via inhalation exposure (examples described above), but they also need an understanding of how to properly create the experimental conditions to test for inhalation toxicity. It’s relatively straight forward to feed a test specimen the chemical of interest in food or water, or to apply it via the skin, but how do you administer it for inhalation exposure?

The answer is that the chemical must be administered as a ‘Gas’, an ‘Aerosol’, a ‘Dust’, or even a ‘Cigarette  Smoke‘ suspension in some instances. This involves some knowledge of Chemistry and Physics, as well as Mathematics and Statistics. A key aspect of any toxicological field is proving the concentration/dose tested and properly correlating it with the effects observed. Scientists must thus be able to verify their test atmospheres, and there are numerous ‘Analytical’ chemical methods for doing so.

Some chemicals readily exist in the ‘Gas Phase’ – that is they have what is referred to as a high ‘Vapor Pressure’ and are very ‘Volatile’. Some are liquids while others are solids. Mothballs are an example of a volatile substance – a solid which ‘Sublimes’ and converts directly into a vapor. They give off the unique odor most of us know from our grandparents’ closets, and are comprised of the chemical ‘Naphthalene’ which itself has a high vapor pressure. Other chemicals have low vapor pressures and are considered ‘Non-Volatile’ and must form aerosols to be inhaled – think of a mist from a spray bottle. ‘Dust’ suspensions can be generated as well for experiments. In some instances, generating inhalable suspensions are not feasible depending on the properties of the test material of interest.

While the test species for Inhalation Toxicology studies vary, the species of choice is typically rodents – rats and mice. In some instances guinea pigs and primates are used. Each of these species possess the same organs that humans possess for the most part, and are thus useful models for human exposure.  Scientists must be well trained in both caring for the test animals and also operating the highly specialized equipment used in these studies which I’ll cover next.

Testing a drug’s/chemical’s efficacy/toxicity through inhalation exposure requires the use of an ‘Exposure Chamber’ where an inhalable atmosphere of the test article is generated for inhalation exposure by the test subjects.  The accompanying picture shows a single level chamber with the accessory equipment used for measuring the chamber’s inner atmosphere using some of its ‘exposure ports’. Click on the image to enlarge it. Using the accessory equipment, the concentration of the test material in the chamber can be monitored by the scientists running the experiment, in addition to other important measurements including: O2, CO2, temperature and humidity to name a few.

To generate the chamber’s test atmosphere, most modern systems utilize an ‘Air-Pressure’ pump to create an in “inflow” into the exposure chamber, and a ‘Vacuum’ pump to create an “outflow” from the chamber – together creating a consistent supply of O2, and removal of CO2 for the test subjects. The accompanying diagram shows a complete inhalation exposure system designed to expose the test subjects to aerosols. Click the image to enlarge it. Whether gases, aerosols or dusts are generated, a supply-line for the test article is ligated into the air supply line feeding the exposure chamber, allowing for the control of the concentration within the chamber by the scientist – something that must be actively monitored throughout experiments.

Inhalation studies can use ‘Whole-Body’ chambers where the animal’s whole body is exposed, or ‘Nose- or Head-Only’ chambers which in some instances have become the preferred method due to their increased specificity to the respiratory tract. A potential drawback of using Whole-Body chambers is that test subjects – usually rodents in the process of grooming themselves can orally ingest the test material by licking their fur coats.  ‘Dead space’ within whole body chambers is also a drawback.  The accompanying picture shows how a rodent sits in a ‘Restraint‘ tube during exposure.  An important key to properly running inhalation exposure experiments, is making sure that animals are adequately acclimated to the tubes and are comfortable in them for extended periods of time.

The accompanying photograph shows a Nose-Only inhalation exposure chamber with all of its exposure ports occupied by the restraint tubes for rodent species. Click on the image to enlarge it.  The picture further shows how the number of animals exposed can be increased by stacking multiple chamber levels and increasing the total number of exposure ports.

Depending on the questions being asked in that particular experiment, exposures can range from: hours, to days, to weeks, to months and years. During and afterwards, any number of toxic or therapeutic biological responses can be measured including changes in: clinical signs, body weights, blood chemistry, clinical chemical parameters, and changes in organ weights and tissue microstructure (histopathology). Again, collectively these are a very technical set of experiments to run, and which require a very specific and unique skill set.

How can students get trained in Inhalation Toxicology? Beyond high school, students can major in Biology, Chemistry, or any of the Biomedical sciences as undergraduates where they can start receiving lab training if there are researchers at that particular university, or one close by. Further training can be obtained at the Masters or Ph.D. levels. Similar to Pharmacologists, Toxicologists and Drug Metabolism Scientists, Inhalation Toxicologists generally receive their training at major research universities.

As a sub-discipline of Toxicology, scientists looking to receive training in Inhalation Toxicology can have varying backgrounds in terms of degrees conferred. If an individual doesn’t initially train in an Inhalation Toxicology lab, they can work in these labs as Postdoctoral scientists or ‘Fellows’ with any of the Biomedical degrees, and even with ‘Medical’ and ‘Veterinary’ degrees. When I gained my training in Inhalation Toxicology, my Ph.D. was actually in Pharmacology.

Depending on the degree level earned and where the scientist is employed, Inhalation Toxicologists can earn starting salaries of $60,000-$70,000 and above. One of the themes of my posts in this series is there is a tremendous amount of flexibility and overlap in the Biomedical sciences. Upon receiving training in Inhalation Toxicology, scientists must then determine which sector they want to pursue – academia, the private or public sectors, or nontraditional careers. Scientists with this background also have the flexibility to combine their knowledge sets with other disciplines to go into a wide variety of areas in: pharmaceutical companies and biotechs, chemical companies, consulting, patent law and even starting their own companies and ‘Contract’ labs.

It’s worth reiterating something from my Toxicology blog post and that is there’s an effort currently underway called ‘Tox-21’ or ‘Toxicology for the 21st Century’. One of the goals for Tox-21 is to minimize animal usage. Currently, there are efforts to develop methods to test for inhalation toxicity using in vitro models and cell culture preparations simulating animal tissues. Students interested in this field will position themselves well by learning about some of these advances that are on the horizon.

Thank you for taking the time to read this post, and I hope I was able to shed some light onto what Inhalation Toxicology is as a field. Similar to the other disciplines I’ve discussed, Inhalation Toxicologists have their own professional societies and meetings. While the Society of Toxicology has subsections on Inhalation Toxicology, the field has two of its own professional societies and meetings; the American Thoracic Society, and the American Heart Association as the Heart is a major organ affected by the inhalation of toxins.

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

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

A special thank you is extended to my Postdoctoral Advisor and his lab for allowing me to learn and train in this exciting field. I also want to thank two other colleagues who will remain anonymous – very brilliant veteran Inhalation Toxicologists with vast experiences, who have continued to teach me about the field. Finally, I want to thank and acknowledge CH Technologies for graciously answering my many phone calls as a Postdoctoral Scientist when I was first learning how to use their inhalation systems; and also for graciously providing the diagrams and pictures of the inhalation exposure chambers, and systems used in this post.

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 Black History Month look at West Indian Archie

I originally published this piece on the Examiner in February of 2016.  It’s not about a Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics (STEM) practitioner or inventor per se, but instead it’s a look at an individual who had the potential to practice science.  Because of life choices and circumstances however, he used his intellectual gifts for criminal activities.  This person is an example of the wasted intellectual ability in the United States’ inner cities and also something my father talk about which was that, “people in the inner cities are naturally creative and inventive often times out of necessity.”

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West Indian Archie was portrayed by Delroy Lindo, in Spike Lee’s Malcolm X starring Denzel Washington.  Though he was a minor character in the movie and in Alex Haley’s The Autobiography of Malcolm X, West Indian Archie holds several significances, particularly in the realm of science.  Many of these significances are extremely relevant today in an era where there is a great push to get underrepresented minorities involved in STEM.

Malcolm X (then Malcolm Little) first met West Indian Archie in New York city prior to converting to Islam and dedicating his life to Civil Rights.  West Indian Archie was one of the bigger players in the ‘Numbers’ game in Harlem who had done time up the Hudson River at Ossining State Prison best known as “Sing Sing”.  He eventually took Malcolm under his wing and taught him the Numbers game, and used the novice in his illegal activities.  West Indian Archie had the amazing ability memorize long sequences of numbers such that he never had to write them down.  He in fact warned Malcolm never to write his customer’s numbers down to minimize the potential for incriminating evidence should he get apprehended by the police.  As with most street partnerships, theirs eventually crumbled due to greed and ego, and Malcolm X eventually fled Harlem to save his own life.

After Malcolm X converted to Islam, he later found West Indian Archie close to death and the two reconciled their differences.  After educating himself in jail and gaining a new perspective on the world, Malcolm X came to the realization that someone like West Indian Archie with his ability to memorize numbers, could have used his talent to become any number things particular in the sciences; a physicist, an astronaut, a mathematician, etc.  He realized that in blighted urban areas all over the United States there were similar minds with the abilities to practice science that were wasted and used in things like criminal activity by default – a challenge we still face today.

Thank you for taking the time out to read this blog post.  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.  Lastly follow me at 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.

A Black History Month look at NASA’s Lieutenant Colonel Michael P. Anderson

While there are actually quite a few Black astronauts, two names that immediately come to my mind are Mae Jemison and Ronald E. McNair. The TRIO program which led me to my graduate research was actually named after Ronald E. McNair who died during the tragic launch of the Space Shuttle Challenger STS-51-L. Since volunteering at the David M. Brown Arlington Planetarium, I’ve become aware another Black astronaut; Colonel Michael P. Anderson. Michael P. Anderson was a member of the crew of the Space Shuttle Columbia STS-107 which disintegrated upon re-entry into the earth’s atmosphere on February 1, 2003. Anderson served as the ‘Payload Commander’ and the ‘Lieutenant Colonel’ in charge of science experiments on the Columbia.

A biography of astronaut Michael P. Anderson is readily available on line, but just briefly, he was born into a military family in Plattsburgh, NY but grew up in Spokane, Washington. He earned his Bachelor of science degree in physics and astronomy from the University of Washington in Seattle in 1981, and in 1990 he was awarded his Master of science degree in physics from Creighton University. Colonel Anderson entered NASA by way of the United States Airforce where he was selected for astronaut training being one of the 19 candidates selected from 2,962 total applicants. Prior to the STS-107 mission, Anderson participated in the STS-89 Endeavour mission.

The Space Shuttle Columbia STS-107 disaster occurred due to critical damage to the shuttle’s ‘orbiter’ when foam from the fuel tank’s insulation fell off and tore a hole in Columbia’s left wing. During re-entry, the hole allowed super-hot atmospheric gases to penetrate the orbiter’s wing, leading to its destruction. The other astronauts in the crew included:

• Rick D. Husband
• William C. McCool
• Kalpana Chawla
• David M. Brown
• Laurel Clark
• Ilan Ramon

The picture of the Space Shuttle Columbia STS-107 and its crew used in this post was provided by David M. Brown Arlington Planetarium.

Thank you for taking the time out to read this blog post. 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. Lastly follow me at 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.