Dance your PhD

Heard a story about the Dance your PhD competition on NPR’s Only A Game this morning. Basically, you compose and execute a dance based on the topic of your PhD research. It’s very funny and even vaguely informative. At least one recent seminar speaker was represented.

I may need a large crowd to help me realize my vision for a dance to represent my PhD thesis…

Annual Radiation Safety Talk on Dec 19

Robin Bell will do the annual radiation safety talk on Dec 19th at 2:00 pm in Gerstenzang 121.

Attendance is generally required if you work in a lab that uses radioactive materials. Check with your PI.

NIH grants — review criteria change

The NIH recently posted several notices outlining changes to grant proposal review criteria and the timeline for their implementation. These are probably worth checking out if you are in the business of writing and/or reviewing NIH grants.

  • “After careful deliberation and consideration of the recommendations resulting from this year-long effort, a number of key actions will be implemented in the NIH peer review system.  These actions include the implementation of enhanced review criteria for evaluating the scientific and technical merit of applications […]
  • Side-by-side comparison of the enhanced review criteria
  • The new scoring system will utilize a 9-point rating scale (1 = exceptional; 9 = poor).  Although a 7-point scale was planned initially, a 9-point scale was selected based on the desire for a scale with sufficient range.

There is concern […] that applications from New Investigators frequently do not fare as well in peer review as those from established investigators […]  Accordingly, the NIH will, wherever possible, cluster applications from New Investigators for discussion during initial peer review with the expectation that those applications will be more effectively evaluated when judged against other applications from individuals at the same career stage.

The NIH has found that the use of Small Grants (R03) and the NIH Exploratory/Developmental Research Grants (R21) has increased over the last few years.  However, recent analyses indicate that a smaller proportion of individuals with initial R21 or R03 grant support subsequently apply for and obtain R01-equivalent funding.  In addition, the initial success rate for R21 applications often is lower than for R01 applications.  Since R03 and R21 grants are limited in scope and period of support, they may not be the most effective way to launch an independent research career.  Accordingly, the NIH encourages New Investigators, particularly ESIs, to apply for R01 grants when seeking first-time funding from the NIH.

Rise and shine, little fly

Most animals sleep, but why they sleep and how the brain generates sleep is mysterious. In a recent study published in Neuron, postdoc Katherine Parisky and colleagues use genetic tools to manipulate the activity of neurons that control sleep in flies. Their results demonstrate that in the fly sleep is generated by GABAergic inhibition of a small cluster of peptidergic neurons within the circadian clock. Flies carrying mutations in this peptide, PDF, or its receptor, are hypersomnolent, similar to human narcoleptics who have defective signaling by the peptide hypocretin/orexin. These results suggest that the circuit architecture used to control arousal is ancient.

See also:

Bouncy, sticky, slimy chemistry

Susannah Gordon-Messer, a graduate student in the Biophysics and Structural Biology Ph. D. program, talks about her experiences with science outreach in an article in NSF Discoveries. Her work with the Discovery Museums in Acton was supported as part of a training grant awarded to Brandeis by NSF’s IGERT program.

How to set your vacation message in bmail

It’s getting to the time of year when lots of you will go off for one or more holidays, and might want to leave a note to that effect on the e-mail system. The instructions for setting a vacation message in bmail are a bit obscure and slightly hard-to-find. You’ll find them here on the LTS website. Basically they are:

  • go to Preferences > Mail > Receiving Messages > When a message arrives:
  • check the box for Send auto-reply message:
  • fill out the message, the start date, and the end date.
  • remember to click Save

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