We Humans Know Nothing About Sharks

Next week is Shark Week, which means that we at the Last Word will be spending the week specifically not talking about sharks. Instead, we will scour the globe for far more dangerous and adorable critters in a yearly tradition called Snark Week. And while I might argue that Snark Week is a far bigger […]

Where should research chimps grow old?

In 2015, the National Institutes of Health announced the end of invasive chimpanzee research in the US. The agency had dramatically scaled back the program in 2013, and NIH director Francis Collins reported that due to lack of demand, he had decided to allow the remaining animals to retire as well. “It is clear that we’ve reached a tipping […]

Uninformed consent, revisited

Early in my pregnancy, a research assistant sat down next to me in the waiting room of my doctor’s office, where I was scheduled to undergo a routine checkup. She asked me if I wanted to take part in a research study and described the study’s goals, risks and benefits. After I agreed to join […]

Guest Post: Data Mining and Visualization: Bed Bug Edition

Data mining. Maybe the term makes you think of tapping out facts out with a pickax, or of scary algorithms and programming. But it doesn’t have to be that way. With this handy guide, I’ll show you how to do (rudimentary) data mining from the comfort of your desk, no computer science degree necessary. All […]

Uninformed consent

Last year, after years of writing about research studies, I agreed to become a research subject myself. I agreed to allow a local medical center to use my tissue, health records, fluids, cells, and other “specimens” for research. Not only that – I also allowed the researchers to use the same types of information and […]

The mundaneness of science

When I was a biology researcher, the strangers I met at parties and on airplanes were always impressed when I told them how I made my living. Evidently, they envisioned my work as something out of Jurassic Park—a thrilling journey packed with breakthroughs and adventures. Few suspected the truth: doing science is mostly about performing […]

Mr. Sandman’s Diet Plan

I love sleep, but I’ve been getting far too little of it. My harried days have been stretching into late nights spent staring at the computer. And I’m not alone. The National Sleep Foundation estimates that the average American gets just 6.7 hours of sleep a night on weekdays. We’re all familiar with the side […]