What did you do last week?

In my case, there was a the usual – I ordered DNA primers, sequenced some DNA, went through that sequence and assembled it into my model… I cooked some dinner, slept some. But last week was punctuated with something a little different.

Monday morning, the first new episode of my old radio show The Inoculated Mind Radio and Mindcast, aired on the local Madison student station, WSUM.  The show was pre-recorded the week before, because I was not going to be in Madison to do it live.

The same day, I was visiting the San Francisco Bay Area with Anastasia, zooming around the City, meeting up with PZ Myers, and oh yeah – having dinner with Michael Pollan at Chez Panisse! My review is up, as well as Anastasia’s.

As for the show, I used to host the Mindcast here on this blog, however, I have built a completely new site called Inoculated Media dedicated to hosting the show. Continue reading What did you do last week?


And the winner is…

Previously, I asked my readers to come on over to Biofortified, my new home for all things transgenic, and vote for it in the Ashoka Changemakers GMO Risk or Rescue contest. Due to a large amount of support from the science blogging community, we gathered over 800 votes, winning the contest by more than a 2 to 1 margin! Read more about it here. Now I’m enjoying a nice reward of oatmeal cookies with chocolate chips, early-season candy canes, and writing a paper due tomorrow. No rest for the weary!

Finito! Sort of…

Right now, the moment this post has become available on the blog, I will be sound asleep. After 26 straight days of getting up early to make controlled pollinations with corn plants, I, along with a dozen and a half of my fellow field crewmates, are enjoying our first weekend day off. This field season has not been too bad, though, perhaps the most enjoyable of the three that I have experienced.

Could I be getting used to this whole plant breeder thing? Am I finally able to get to sleep at a reasonable time with regularity so that I’m not tired and groggy all day? Or am I instead sticking to a rigorous schedule of washing my long-legged and sleeved field clothes and applying sunscreen religiously every day while also wearing a wide-brimmed hat to keep from toasting my outer layer of cells with UV radiation? The answer to all these questions is Continue reading Finito! Sort of…

The Way I see it

A few days ago, field pollination season started for the field corn labs at UW-Madison. At first, it’s out in the field every day at 8 am, next week it will be 7 am, and no one goes home until everything is done. For new grad students, the first summer pollination season can be quite the shock. Last year, in addition to our own nurseries, we had a huge field known as the NAMs (Nested Association Mapping) that made field season seem interminable.

This year I have about 560 rows of plants to manage, which isn’t a lot when you get down to it.

Anyway, this morning, however, I’m up at the crack of dawn to dilute something in the lab before heading out to the field. It has to mix in a shaker for a good two hours before I get out there at the regular time. Many people would be annoyed at leaving the lab at 6 pm only to be back in less than 12 hours later. But this is the way I see it:

It’s not every day that a guy gets to make mutants!

(Muh huh hah ha ha haaa!)

Congratulations Dr. McGill!

This morning I attended my lab-mate’s Ph.D Exit Seminar, where she discussed her research for the last five to seven years on Chromatin in maize as well as Transformation Efficiency. Now I am pleased to announce that she has now attained (besides a few formalities) the distinction of henceforth being known as M. Annie McGill, Ph.D.


In a reference to Top Gun, Annie is known in the lab as “Maverick,” which her mad Biolistic Transformation (“Gene Gun”) skills have earned her. Her office for years has been in the so-called “Danger Zone,” which has also been my office for the last two years. Along with another grad student in our lab who may be finishing his degree in a couple months, I also have a similarly-themed nickname. Can you guess which one is mine?

Dr. Annie, seen here removing her name placard, will be leaving in a month to go work for Monsanto in Connecticut, and she will be missed! The time that we spend together as grad students in the same program and lab, may sometimes seem long, and at other times too short. Congratulations again, Annie, today you’re Top Gun!

Final: Check

I just took my Botany final this afternoon, and my hands are about ready to abscise. Luckily there wasn’t any Ethylene in the air to make that happen, and ironically enough there’s no need to worry about Abscisic Acid – it does not cause Abscision! An irony of the plant sciences – there’s now a compound named after something it doesn’t even do. We should probably change its name eventually. Seriously, we should. It would be one way to one-up the zoologists who still refer to tissues in Barnacles as if they were tissues in a mollusc, when they’re actually arthropods. I’m all-into newer and better nomenclature.

Now to finish up a relaxing evening filled with homemade chicken soup (four carcasses I carved up previously), and a little blogging. I’ve got a lot of stuff coming down the pipeline with my research, and several blog posts that I have to write (mostly my own imposition), and I’ll be doing some more filming tomorrow for my videos. It’s a busy life I got myself into! Still feels like a weekend today.

Stay tuned here and at Biofortified for some goodies this week.

Off to Maize Genetics!

Today, I’m driving (or riding in) a van full of fellow graduate students to St. Charles, Illinois, an easy 2.25 hour drive from Madison. Contrast that with the flight to Washington D.C. last year. That’s right, I’m going to the 51st Maize Genetics conference! I’ve got some recording equipment with me and a good digital camera, but I have no plans to do a podcast of the conference like I did last year. I have a couple ideas up my sleeve to be revealed at a later date. I’m looking forward to finally meeting Anastasia at the meeting, too. Check Biofortified for updates.

The Haro von Mogel Maneuver

In Star Trek, Jean Luc Picard made a risky maneuver in battle. Rather than relying on sub-light-speed impulse engines and thrusters in a hopeless battle on board a ship known as the Stargazer, he decided to use the ship’s warp engines to move faster than light to strike. The idea, which would be very interesting if possible, is that your ship is now right in front of your enemy, opening fire, while they still think that you are a distance away. While the light from the ship’s original position is still arriving at the observer, they will see two ships. Who are you shooting at? I’m over here!

In the Star Trek realm, advanced ships also had faster-than-light sensors, which would foil anyone attempting to repeat it. Nevertheless, it was a successful strategy for the young Picard, catapulting him to Captain-hood.

Circumstances have dictated that I, too , must execute my own warp speed maneuver. I can’t give any details as of yet, but suffice to say I’m going to be in the lab late tonight and very very early tomorrow, attempting the fastest turnaround for a particular procedure than I have ever attempted. It may become a frequent feature of my life for the next two weeks, but if I can achieve faster-than-daylight pipetting, it will be worth it.

And if successful, I’ll have to call it the Haro von Mogel Maneuver. What are you amplifying over there? I’m right here!