Archive for the ‘fun’ Category

At Purdue, five zebrafish laboratories (Qing Deng, Daniel Suter, Yuk Fai Leung, David Umulis, Guangjun Zhang) have a joint lab meeting called FLAME (zebraFish LAb MEeting). We not only meet regularly to discuss science, but we also have fun together. On 5/13/2019, we concluded another productive year by hiking together at the Turkey Run State Park.

The FLAME group

The Flame Group

Fai leading the younger generation.


Logan climbing up the (academic) ladder.

Fai and Isaac!


The thing that ties each of the following links together is a discussion of the need to incorporate equity, affirmation, and continued learning into social, scientific, and political spheres.  And to recognize that the lines between these spaces is a social construct.

This article offers an explanation of how sexism affects both the oppressed and the oppressor.  While they use a binary gender system in their drawings (male vs. female), it  is easy to understand how this could be applied to people in any gender system:

This article describes the work of Malala Yousafzai and Kailash Satyarthi who were recently awarded the Nobel Peace Prize for their work on expanding women’s and children’s rights in Pakistan and India, respectively.  Their stories highlight how personal identities are political and politics is personal:

This article goes in depth about African American and AfroCarribean identities in the U.S. as part of a larger history of colonization and slavery – how has this history impacted black Americans now and how is this oppression and the struggle for mutual humanization ongoing:

This article highlights some of the queer and trans* people of color working on gender, race, and sexuality equity in the U.S.  This is especially important given that the U.S. media (news, movies, t.v., radio, etc) predominately rewards and publicizes white, domestic, heterosexual, and cisgender people:

Lastly, this article shows some really interesting research being done about children’s responsiveness and understanding of human emotions and interactions.  It has incredible implications for understanding the impacts of trauma, domestic violence, and healthy or unhealthy relationships on children as young as 15 months old!





Wonderful studies as usual!

The 2014 Ig Nobel Winners: Banana Peels to Nasal Pork

In the last decade or so, autism spectrum disorders (ASDs) have been in the forefront of the news and research.  Originally, the people thought autism was a psychological disorder and that it was similar to schitzophrenia.  There was a complete lack of understanding about what autism was, how it affected those with it, and how people who were not autistic could relate to people with autism.  People assumed the behaviors of autistic children or adults were just “bad behaviors” that needed to be corrected, often through electroshock therapies, LSD, and other harmful (pain-based) “treatments”.  All of this was administered under the philosphy that “normal” = healthy.

In the 80′s, the genetic and biological basis of behavior started to become a focus in research and health practitioner skills, propelled in part by discoveries about the genetic basis of circadian rhythms.  Behavioral therapy began and the new focus for autistic children was to help the mask the biological basis of their behaviors and confirm to “normal” social behavior so that they could have “normal” lives.  At some point, researchers and parents began to realize that a lot of autistic behaviors were a response to stimulation – over and under stimulation – and research began focusing on the neurobiology and neurogenetics of autism.

The idea that difference is “abnormal” and that “abnormal” = unhealthy is the basis of a LOT of oppression, violence, and harm caused and maintained in communities and cultures across the world at every time in history.  White colonists believed black, brown, yellow, and red people were lesser than and qualified this with “science”, suggesting that white was normal and non-white was abnormal (and of course this thinking continues to dictate structures and communities in colonized spaces today).  This raises larger questions: Who gets to determine what is normal or healthy?  When does normal = healthy?  How does society use standards of “normal” to force marginalized communities out of power?

In 2005 an organization named Autism Speaks was formed (but non-autistic people) to support research that would find a “cure” for autism spectrum disorders.  The organizations viewpoint then and now is that autism is a devastating health crisis that causes children to be lesser than and results in a poor quality of life.  As an autistic person, I find this not only offensive, but hugely damaging (in too many ways to describe here) to parents with autistic children, to autistic children and adults, and to prospective support systems that could be formed for autistic people.  ”Curing” autism is similar to the argument about “curing” queerness.  Should we “fix” queer people so that they are all straight and cisgender, or should we support and embrace diverse experiences and lives for what they bring to the table?

As the recognition of autism and the number of autistic children has grown and continues to grow drastically, it is very important to address these questions.  One of the more visible effects of most autism spectrum disabilities is stimming, a word that is short for “self stimulation”.  Researchers now understand the the neurological systems of autistic people are different than those of most “neurotypical” people, making autistic individuals extra sensitive to some sensation and under-sensitive to others (as defined by neurotypical standards).  For example, many autistic people find that repetitive movements are calming (perhaps movement sensory input channels are chronically under-stimulated), so they may stim by tapping fingers or feet, flapping their hands, rocking, or doing something similar.  There is a big divide currently in the world of working with autistic children – should adults teach children to repress their stims or should they be accepted as supportive of childhood development?

I recently found a wonderfully written article on this topic and it refers to Thinking Fast and Slow.  I need to read this book soon (and maybe post on it later), but in the mean time, enjoy this article!  What are your thoughts on this or the other articles at the end of this one?


Since we all need to laugh more than we do:


Skye  :)

Here is a random/interesting article about a sensory phenomenon that occurs across the world.

Saturday, June 14th marked the end of my first week at Woods Hole (I apologize for the late post). It was certainly a genomics bootcamp! In just one week, we learnt to dissect the ventral nerve chords from 3rd instar Drosophila larvae, extracted RNA, did microarrays, analyzed data and came up with hypotheses of what could be happening in our samples. We interacted and worked closely with wonderful TAs and faculty from different universities. This exercise certainly made me appreciate the hard work put in to genomic techniques (especially microarrays, RNAseq) and the enormity of the data obtained.

To celebrate the end of first week, some of us took a ferry to Martha’s Vineyard before charging up for the next section.

On the Ferry to Martha's Vineyard

We rented bikes and explored the beautiful island a little bit before settling for a nice picnic on the beach!

America's oldest platform carousel at Martha's Vineyard

Exploring Martha's Vineyard

Thus ended a great first week.
Next post: EPhys !

Lipid synthesis, stem cells, CRISPR, cell differentiation, coffee, faculty life in Puerto Rico, softball, ion channels, PhD in Europe, ball room dancing, buying a house in seattle, Epilepsy, larval Drosophila brain dissection – that’s an eclectic mix of topics to talk about for one day and this is not even an exhaustive list! These topics pretty much sum up my first day here at Woods Hole, where I am a part of the Neurobiology summer course at MBL with 13 other students from different parts of the US and Europe. I am housed at the Ebert hall with another student from the same course. The view from our room is gorgeous!

View from my room overlooking the Eel Pond

We started the day with an orientation/welcome brunch at the swope center. I was pleasantly surprised with the variety of food and taste. For cafeteria food, it was really good. There was everything from cereal, to yogurt parfait, to your-style-eggs and toast, waffles, fruits and vegetables, juice and coffee. There was even ice cream at 9 am! Despite the scorching heat, after the orientation my roommate and I went exploring this quaint nautical town with several beautiful small beaches.


I also just had to try the coffee at the local cafe.

Ok, not an image of coffee. But this was an unusual yet appropriate sign at the cafe

We had to get back to our ‘base’ because of the heat but we got some rest before the course’s first meeting in the afternoon. This session was interesting and we jumped right into a lecture about ion channels and Graeme Davis, one of the directors of the course, outlined some of the questions we are going to work on in the following week. After the lecture, we headed to the lab where I met the larval drosophila for the first time. I have dissected testes from adult flies before, but today we learnt to dissect brain from 3rd instar larvae. The larvae were expressing GFP in their motorneurons which let us take a quick look under fluorescence to see if we destroyed the brain completely or managed to successfully practice isolating the tissue for FACS sorting tomorrow.

GFP expressing motor neurons in Drosophila larvae. I did not do this btw.

The day ended with passionate discussions about science interspersed with pizza and beer!

Here is a brief history of the LGBTQ+ pride flag.

For more information about Harvey Milk, watch the movie “Milk” released in 2008 staring Sean Penn.  Many people do not know that during WWII the Nazi’s labeled concentration camp prisoners with a variety of labels (You can see the “code” here:  Gay men were assigned an upside down pink triangle for being “homosexuals”.  Gay women were assigned a black upside triangle for being “antisocial” (or basically deviating from social norms).  For many years – including now – many people have reclaimed the upside down pink triangle as a symbol for LGBTQ+ populations.  However, since it does have a violent history, Harvey Milk asked his friend Gilbert Baker to make a symbol that was more inclusive of the community and without this history.  He created a rainbow flag that originally had 8 colours on it.  The colors that have been removed are pink (which stood for sexuality) and indigo (which stood for harmony) for reasons explained in the article.  The current LGBTQ+ pride flag has 6 colours.

The colours stand for:

Red – life
Orange – healing
Yellow – sun
Green – nature
Blue – art
Purple – spirit

A fun comic about everyday happenings in the Leung lab.