Monthly Archives: April 2008

Live Blogging update… no internet!!

Well I’m at the conference and was gonna live-blog it, but, I’m having a heck of time getting wireless so this isn’t gonna work out as expected.  Turns out that everything costs a fortune in Cayman and as much as I’d like to blog from here, I’m not spending the cash they want to get wireless at the conference hotel.  I’ll try to put together a summary mid-conference and another at the end.  Until then, its an interesting conference so far with lots of new stuff being presented.  The major theme has been the role of microglia in neuropathic pain.  Several aspects of the pathway are becoming more clear including initiation and maintenance.  There have also been some good presentations on clinical candidates that are getting close to making it into humans.  More on all of this later…

Cult Fiction Book Meme

Bike Monkey tagged me for the cult book theme and (sing it with me now) I always do as I’m told.  This is a bit scary because I’m afraid I may have read a good number of these books.  Then again, maybe their list isn’t hardcore enough for my tastes…

Continue reading

Juniorprof is going to Cayman…

Every two years my little subfield, the pain world, gets together on Grand Cayman island for the Spring Pain Research Conference. As you might imagine, this is just about my favorite conference (and it takes the cake for Mrs Juniorprof). Not only is the conference held in paradise, but the format of the conference is just about perfect for networking and jump-starting collaborations. The meeting itself is in the morning, 8-1, and the rest of the day is free for hanging at the beach, having some rum-based drinks and talking about cutting edge science with most of the leaders in the field.

This will be my 3rd time to go to this conference. The previous times I was either a grad student or a postdoc. This time I’m the junior PI on the scene and I’ll be presenting some work from my postdoc with a bit of data from the new lab sprinkled in here and there. Since this will be the first opportunity to talk about work that is ongoing in “my lab” I am very excited to get there and start waving the flag for the juniorprof lab. This is also a great networking opportunity. At previous meetings I frequently had the opportunity to talk about possible collaborations with other researchers but I was never in the position to be able to pull the trigger on doing such work. Its all different now and I am excited to create some opportunities for the lab through my networking activities at the conference.

Finally, I’m considering “live-blogging” the conference. The question is, dear readers, do you have any interest in reading about what’s new and exciting in the pain research field on this here blog? If so, I’ll see what I can do… if not, I’ll just tell you how nice the sand feels between my toes and post some pics of little fishies.

The Expelled! Kerfuffle

I have been more than a little surprised (not sure why) over the flame war at SB over the Expelled! wide release. It seems that everyone has a different view of success and/or failure for the film. In terms of Box Office, I suppose the only measure will be, did it make more money than they spent on it? We have no idea, at this point, how much was spent on promoting and producing this trash so that particular question is not answerable. On the other hand, the very fact that the film is out there is a success to some degree and in the end we all know that one thing will be true: fundamentalists throughout the country will promote the DVD in their communities and churches and this will spread the propaganda.

Finally, someone seems to have recognized this over at SB and has proposed a plan to combat the lies in the film. PZ has a post up on the “appropriate responses to Expelled!“. In the post he links to some attempts to dispell some of the more pernicious lies in the propaganda piece. Moreover, he has recognized that his site is getting a large number of hits from new places, likely because of his appearance in the film. I don’t always agree with PZ but I do not deny that he is one of the best communicators around on the relevance of evolution for the “average Joe”. I hope that he takes advantage of the opportunity and lets his talents shine for the next couple of days. PZ, show the impressionable young minds that are going to come to your site why they should learn about evolution and tell them why the film is nothing more than a propaganda piece. You, PZ, carry a big stick on this issue and now your chance to make a bigger impact than ever before has arrived. Show them why evolution is important for their daily lives (everyone who cares about their health should know this) and why evolution is the only theory that makes sense of the seeming mess that is biology.

But hey, I can do my part too. If any Expelled! viewers stumble across this here blog, I’ve got something to tell you. I’m a pharmacologist and I’m involved in the business of drug discovery and development (in an academic setting). Everything I do is based on evolution. Without it, there is no logic to my field. You see, when it boils down to it I am particularly concerned with how drugs interact with receptors and how this interaction leads to cellular actions. We use model systems to make discoveries about these systems and then use human DNA/RNA and/or protein sequence data to make predictions about whether our approaches will be effective for medical use in humans. There are then considerable obstacles in avoiding side-effects in humans but these are largely due to limitations of our models for predicting side-effects. On the other hand, predicting receptor-based pharmacology and cellular actions based on evolutionary principles is very accurate and widely practiced. Moreover, evolutionarily conserved pathways are a particularly important tool for making discoveries relevant to human health. This fact is being employed for the advancement of human health in thousands of research laboratories around the world. Simply put, there is no logic to pharmacology without the powerful predictive properties (how’s that for alliteration) of the theory of evolution. Every drug you have ever, or will ever, put in your mouth relies on this fact.

Postdoc to PI transition: time allocation (in the lab / out of the lab)

Dr. Jekyll and Mrs Hyde has a post up about PI time in the lab. Physioprof has weighed in with his experience and Orac shares his experience in the comments over there. Since I’m new to PIdom, I thought I’d share a bit on my experience with this issue thus far.

I’m a pharmacologist first and foremost. In on way or another all us pharmacologists are influenced by the tradition of Julius “Julie” Axelrod. When I was a PhD student my mentor gave me the excellent book on the life and research of Julie Axelrod (and his progeny) called “Apprentice to Genius” by Robert Kanigel. I remember being struck by the fact that Axelrod had his office inside the lab and continued to do bench work throughout his career. Granted, times were different then, but I have to say that I was, and continue to be, struck by this ideal. If Axelrod did it, maybe I should too?

Well, facts of life get in the way here but, if I had my choice, I would like to continue to spend time at the bench throughout my career. I enjoy bench work, always have. As a junior PI I need to be in the lab too because I need to teach people to do things. On the other hand, looking over shoulders while people do things does no good at all. Moreover, spending all my time in the lab and neglecting grant writing is perhaps the most damaging thing I can do for myself and the people that have decided to join my lab. If I don’t get grants none of us will have jobs in short order and who wants that (certainly not Mrs Juniorprof). So what has Juniorprof decided to do? Continue reading

Holy Crap, Portishead is back

Back in the day I worked my way through college as a DJ. Not some radio dude but an actual DJ on the wheels of steel. I spun some hip-hop and some house/trance music. I had a gig in a club for awhile and then started doing mobile, mostly at a variety of parties, some legit, some not (guess which ones I preferred). All of it was fun, but the best part was spinning the music and morphing my own sound while watching the crowd have a good time. One thing I really got into was the downtempo or trip-hop scene that came out of Bristol, UK. I used to love mixing up some Tribe called Quest (what ever happened to Phife?) or De la Soul with some Massive Attack or Tricky but my all time fav was Portishead.

Well, in a fit of procrastination, I was surfing the interwebs and discovered that Portishead will be releasing their next studio set, called Third, on April 28, 2008. Not quite as exciting as a new Radiohead album, but its close (and its been 10 years!!). Can’t wait, I’m gettin my preorder on now at iTunes.

Get the Real Stuff (another fashion post)

The other night Mrs Juniorprof and I watched Illicit: the Dark Trade on our favorite channel, PBS. One of the major themes of the show was how fake handbags are tied into the organized crime business in ways that many of us could never imagine. Ever been to China Town in NYC to get a cheap LV pursue. Don’t do it, your money is going to support all kinds of terrible things, but you probably figured that would be the case. Either way, no one around here would dream of doing such a thing!

So, aside from the dark side of this business, it got me thinking… what is the major difference between rip-offs and the real thing. Well, this is obvious, quality. Are they worth the money? Maybe yes, maybe no, depends on what you expect by buying some pieces from a top designer. An Armani or Canali suit, for instance, can feel so good on that you want to wear it all the time. Then again, one a thousand bucks cheaper can look and feel just as nice. A good deal of the business that the big houses get is from the fashion victim. I know, I’m a recovering fashionista. In this case, that D&G outfit sure might look fab but its not any better quality than what you’d find anywhere else, its just the design and the name. But heck, buy if you like, I sure as shit did!

So what’s the point? One thing I have consistently noticed is that some designers make shoes that put all the rest to shame. Case in point, Prada. I’ve got a couple pair of Prada shoes that I paid way too much for. But you know what, I’ve had them for years (one for almost ten), they still look two days old and when I wear ’em I’m sure there are little elves in there massaging my feet. So, yes, I’m a recovering fashion victim and I still fall prey to my old addiction from time to time but one thing I’ll never get over is a real pair of Prada shoes. Worth the money everytime!

Yes, PP, I know I’m ruining my blog.


I grew up watching a variety of ABC News programs. Peter Jennings was my main man (great Canadian, BTW) and some of my fondest memories of childhood were watching Nightline with Ted Koppel and Dave Marash reporting with my Pops and talking afterwards about the world and politics.

Well ABCNEWS, ya’ll have been stinking it up of late and the “debate” the other night didn’t help the situation. The flagpin crap was especially irritating (but not as bad as who loves America more), but, wait, what do you mean, the whole flagpin thing wasn’t some randomly chosen voter from PA. Seriously, Peter Jennings must be rolling over in his grave. No more ABC in my house!

HT to PZ and Field Negro.

1 for 1

I’ve sent in a grant a month since I arrived at the new place. We got the first grant review back yesterday and low-and-behold it got funded! Now, its nothing to get all excited about because its just a small foundation-type grant but its a start. This particular project is a new one for me and its the first time that I have submitted a grant on the topic. It is very satisfying to know that a few people outside the lab thought that it was a worthwhile project. Can’t wait to get started. That’s all for now, back to the R01!

A Little Help Please

Dear Readers… I suspect that some of you may be electrophysiologists and that you may be able to help us out.  We dabble in whole cell patch clamp and are transitioning to doing gramicidin perforated patch for a project.  We’re having a very hard time getting it to work (whole cell is no problem for us).  We suspect that our gramicidin is the problem (we got it from Sigma G5002).  Does anyone know a quality source of gramicidin for perforated patch.  Company and part number would be helpful.  Also, if you have a detailed protocol we’d appreciate getting it by email (see the about page for my email).  Thanks in advance to anyone that can offer some advice.