For two reasons, I believe we should be heavily investing in basic science research, the science research without the explicit purpose of creating direct applications. First, I subscribe to the idea that there is inherent value in understanding the way the world works, and as an extension because of my passion for psychology and neuroscience, the way the brain and mind work. Humanity has a powerful curiosity for knowledge and science is a method for rigorously exploring that curiosity in a productive and societally benefical manner. If that reason is not enough to convince citizens and policymakers, then all we need to do is realize how a better understanding of the biological, physical and technical worlds build bridges to later, more applied innovation. Diseases cannot be cured without some working model of the mechanisms at play, mechanisms which are not independent of other medical phenomena. Basic science research is the scaffolding on which applications can be developed.
I've taken multiple approaches to promoting science. I volunteer for neuroscience outreach events around New York, including Brain Awareness Week, the World Science Festival, and less regular events. These engage the public and get them excited about neuroscience and science in general. I have also been active in an NYU-based organization that takes our skills as scientists and applies them to social good and political advocacy. I have also participated in the Society for Neuroscience's Hill Day, where we meet with legislators and staffers to promote increasing the national budget for basic science research. I have met with legislators and their staff from districts in New York (including my own), New Jersey, Maine, and even Texas. To drive our points home, our mix of science veterans and young graduate students laid out some data on the current budget climate as it relates to basic science funding, as well as anecdotes to illustrate how that climate directly affects labs and their microeconomies. The people we met with were well-informed on the issues, very open to our thoughts, and generally highly supportive of our cause.
I've been working with a pysch and neuroscience group at NYU to figure out appropriate responses and actions to the new presidential administration. There is a great deal of uncertainty around how new policy will shape the scientific landscape, so we have begun to take concrete steps to ensure science's place in our country's future. Check it out. With this group, I have been learning about and disseminating the scientific benefits of laws that impose a fee on disposable plastic bags. We presented a poster on this work at the Science Policy Symposium.
I've been incredibly fortunate to have had quite a few opportunities to travel. I do find that it would be almost hostile to list any favorites, because while inevitably some trips are more fun than others, I always find counterexamples and reasons why each one should be at the top. At the end of the day, I'm drawn to new places for the mysticism that comes with hearing a language unintelligible and the utterly raw realization that life goes on in other places without pause irrespective of the tardiness of your train. Here are some fun facts about my travels:
Made with mapchart.net.
I've also been logging all of the New York City subway stations that I've entered or exited. These aren't ones that I've traveled through, only where I actually went in or out of the station. I never go out of my way to log a new stop. I trust Google, or I let someone I'm with direct. I recently logged my 150th stop, as indicated by the yellow circles. The little plus marks are different stations that are connected underground. Some things to notice: There is an inconsistency that the data alone do not show. At some places I go often, I typically only visit a single stop, like the 86th St 4/5/6. Some places I visit only occasionally, I happen to have used several different stops, like in Astoria, Queens.
Over my two years in Rochester, biking became a hobby of mine, and traveling the Erie Canal was my favorite route. In my final summer, I completed a 100 mile day trip out to Middleport, NY on a fairly old, heavy, hybrid bicycle. I completed it in about 10 hours and collected some stats on my progress using the Tasker app. One fun thing I was able to do was mount my phone on the handlebars and discreetly take pictures of myself every 15 minutes. The thing that stands out most to me from these pictures is the deterioration of my mood as the time drudges on. I brought my bike to NYC, and sometimes ride around the city. I once completed a loop around the Manhattan island, which was more unpleasant than planned because of the constant stop-go. I also took my first real spill - a pothole on Flatbush Ave sent my flying over my handlebars, but I was lucky enough to walk away with just a shoulder sprain. I also really enjoy intramural sports. I've played on various softball, volleyball, and kickball teams. As far as spectator sports go, my favorites are football and college hockey. Seeing Union College win the NCAA Divison I Men's Hockey Championship in April 2014 was an incredible experience and was such a proud moment for the student body and alumni base.
Thoughts: Ideas about our culture and discussions relevant to our daily lives.
The Blogarita: Follow me as I explore the world of the margarita with short posts of witticism, reference, and colorful drink.
Code: Scripts and toolboxes I've written for a variety of purposes for my work in several labs.