Wednesday, 26 March 2014 12:55

The Good Words—Bench Bloggers

Written by  ASCB Post Staff
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Cell Blogger 2Illustration by Johnny Chang (ASCB)Supposedly, 200 million people are out there blogging. Unsurprisingly, many of them are working scientists, some are even cell biologists. It's one of the encouraging features of the evolving science writing ecosystem that scientists can write directly about their lives and their work. Some scientists use their blogs as podiums, some as pulpits, and some as stand-up mikes for riffs on the day-to-day research world of dirty glassware, shaky funding, and bad behavior.

Finding the interesting scientist-bloggers is matter of personal taste and disposable Internet time. The following are not offered as a representative sample of the blogging bench so much as current favorites. We're always looking for new voices from the blogging bench. This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

Why, yes, she can. Hope Jahren is a tenured geobiologist at the University of Hawaii and has the career scars to prove it. Jahren is one of the breeziest and funniest voices in the science blogosphere, offering hard-won advice about "men and women and academia." She covers such topics as why Marie Curie was a great "difficult woman," the so-called "best" time for career women to have a baby (when they're ready), and how to overcome the Imposter Syndrome. She also suggests that faculty colleagues stop grumbling about Twitter and tweeting. But she warns, "If Twitter is like a river, it's also like graduate school in that you shouldn't just get in and float around aimlessly for a few years."

Mind the Gap
Jenny Rohn is one of those multi-talented, hyper-energetic people you meet in science who can make you feel tired. Rohn runs a cell biology lab at University College London but is also a published novelist, the founder and editor of, a site devoted to the startling notion that literature is something that can happen in a lab, and a "political" scientist who helped organize a highly successful pressure campaign called "Science is Vital" in the UK to shelter research from national budget cuts. In her blog, "Mind the Gap," Rohn unwinds. Here she is a wry observer of life in and around the bench including the nursery where she is the new mom of a baby whom she calls "F1." That alone should make you laugh and make you feel tired.

Baby Attach Mode
An international postdoc writes this pseudonymous blog named for her babywearing activities. She writes about being a parent in science, giving useful advice such as how to get work done during baby's naptime or how to wear your baby plus all things related to academia—finding mentors, publishing, and staying funded. The only secrets she doesn't reveal are her name and how she finds time to blog while being a postdoc and a mother of two.

Snarky Scientist 
Brian Abraham, a postdoc in computational biology at MIT's Whitehead Institute, is the "Snarky Scientist." Though his blog is written for "grown-ups who had their last science class years ago," those of us who spend their days immersed in science would be enlightened here as well. The Snarky Scientist is scathing about misused and badly designed biology terms such as "gene" and "enhancer," points out science flaws in the media (E. coli don't "poop"), and evaluates the plausibility of sci-fi inventions like the "pills of science" in The Bourne Legacy. In short, he doesn't swallow science whole.

The Bio Blog
We are indebted to Jordan Yaron, who claims to be a graduate student at the Arizona State University's Center for Biosignatures Discovery, for setting us straight on the pronunciation of "apoptosis." The second "p" is silent as in "ptosis." So much for the "pop." How grad student Yaron finds time to write his erudite blog, which pays special attention to molecular mechanisms, bioinformatics tools, and cool apps, would be the subject of an interesting paper. Failing that read Don't miss his annual downloadable calendar wallpaper in which he spells out the New Year with chromosomes. It looks better than it sounds.