Monthly Archives: January 2012

Night Lab: The Science of Love and Attraction

Night Lab, part of Science is Sexy’s Chicago’s science series for adults, returns to Schubas just in time for Valentine’s Day, where we’ll attempt to unravel the scientific mysteries behind love and attraction.

When it comes to the science behind love and attraction, Northwestern University’s Eli Finkel, Ph.D., is on the case.  An Associate Professor of Psychology and the head scientist of Northwestern’s Self-Control and Relationship Lab, Eli has studied everything from the science behind initial romantic attraction, to human dynamics in romantic relationships, to why couples fight, and how they make up.  At tonight’s event, Eli will deliver the scientific report card on the online dating industry – and they won’t be putting this one on the fridge. Unheard of  just twenty years ago, online dating is now a billion dollar industry and one of the most common ways for singles to meet potential partners. Dating sites make bold claims about their ability to introduce singles to compatible relationship partners, frequently promising to deliver a “soulmate.” But do these dating sites live up to the hype?  Eli will be showing us the science behind the online dating world to answer this question. He gives credit where it is due, but he also dresses down the online dating industry when it behaves in ways that undermine romantic attraction or that mislead singles.  You’ll leave armed with the scientific know-how you need to really make online dating sites work for you, and have a better love life, whether you’re single or partnered.

We’ll then switch gears to learn about the art and science of sex and film ratings with Rebecca Fons, who is the Education Program Manager at the Chicago International Film Festival, as well as a producer of numerous short films and the popular web series Quilty.  Rebecca will discuss how sex intersects the Motion Picture Association of America’s film rating policy, talk about the amazing dynamics of how actors “do it” without actually “doing it,” enlighten us to how sex scenes are filmed, and more!

Come ready to add your favorite songs to Night Lab’s make-out playlist and play scientist by trying your hand at figuring out which phase of a relationship subjects were in by looking at their brain activity in a brain scan!  Two lucky trivia winners will receive a copy of The Science of Kissing by Sheril Kirshenbaum gifts from Early to Bed.   Scientific valentines will be on hand to exchange as we unravel the molecular mysteries behind love and lust.   Night Lab is where science meets sexy.

When: February 12, 2012, 6:30 PM-8:30 PM

Where: Schubas (3159 North Southport Avenue)

Details:  FREE

Brown or Red Line to Belmont


No Pre-Registration Required

The Chicago Council on Science and Technology is a proud marketing partner for this program.


Created by a scientist with a Ph.D. in Molecular Genetics and Cell Biology (who wasn’t always so hot at math herself) Science is Sexy gives non-scientists and scientists alike a short and sweet taste of science in their everyday lives, highlighting the people and organizations that make Chicago a rockstar city for science.  While offering adults in the city innovative opportunities to engage in the excitement, beauty, and ubiquity of science, our programs give scientists and members of Chicago’s science community a fabulous way to connect to the rest of the city outside of the lab.  Our programs are perfect for people who flunked chemistry, think genes come from The Gap, or think “that’s hard!” when they hear the word molecular. Whether you are just curious about science or a professional scientist, Night Lab is for you.

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This Sunday: We’re Hosting Chicago’s First Science Tweetup!

If you’re into science, social media, education, outreach, fun, or any of the above, have we got something for you.

Join science friends new and old from all over the region to meet, mingle, and Tweet the evening away at Chicago’s first bi-monthly Science Tweetup! The Chicago Science Tweetup (Volume 1) will bring together science communicators, promoters and enthusiasts to meet up, catch up, and collaborate.  The conversation will be free-form, and to kickstart it, the topic of this tweetup will be “Using Social Media to make connections in Science.”  For our first mixer, we’ll have a science book swap, so please bring a science book you’ve enjoyed to trade with another guest.  Thanks to Tom Ruginis for the idea for our first mixer!  Come with more ideas for mixers so that we can all try something new at each event!

Check out our super-cute logo…we MAY have a treat for all of our guests!

We’ll be in the upstairs space at Schubas, which features a great menu at the Harmony Grill, and an extensive beer list. Bonus: You can catch the 8:00 PM show if you dig the band!

The hashtag for this event is #ChiSciTweet1 See you there!

This Sunday!
January 15, 2012
Schubas, Upstairs Space
5:00 PM-8:00 PM

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Off the Bench: Skills that Pay the Bills

I am so happy to share the latest installment of my column for scientists who are noodling the idea of working in a field off the bench.  It’s been about two and a half years since I started my current job, which does not have me doing research full-time, but has me running an initiative at the Midwest’s only four year Hispanic Serving Institution aimed at helping students, particularly underrepresented and low-income students, get the support and resources they need to succeed in STEM fields and move into lifetime careers in math and science (and those are broad careers!).  If you are considering leaving the bench, it is a rewarding path, but I’m here to tell you, you’re going to have a major learning curve to climb when you transition from bench research to an administrative position. Allow me to illustrate:

The following is a short selection of my skills as a bench scientist:

Fluorescence microscopy
Molecular cloning
Chemical Precipitation transformation
Cell Culture
Thin-section transmission electron microscopy
Electron Tomography
High-pressure freeze substitution of cells
Immunoelectron microscopy
Western/southern blotting
Running gels like my life depended on it
Live cell imaging
Analysis of literature
Crazy-good notetaking/record keeping/Data maintenance
Grant writing/proposal composition

Now, here’s what I need in my current position:

Budget maintenance
Managerial Skills
Event planning
Massive networking skills
Advising/counseling students
Grant writing/proposal composition
Reporting of activities/priorities to governing board

Seemingly, only one skill translates-the grant writing.  Bummer.

Well, I sort of predicted this.  I wanted to make sure I wasn’t about to hit the end of my graduate program short on the tools I would need to go outside of a research career.  So, here is a short selection of what I did:

Mentored students of various ages-high school, undergraduate, returning, non-traditional students.  Invested in them in the same way I would have invested in myself.  They all have multiple first author publications now.

Wrote.  A lot.  About things other than science.  And sometimes about science.  Built a portfolio of writing material.  I’m not claiming to be Steinbeck here, but I got a few articles under my belt, did a little editing, edited people’s papers in the lab, did some for a publishing company in Asia, you know got some experience.

Did A LOT of outreach.  Volunteered for various programs to bring science to kids, science weeks, science years, got involved through professional societies, this is going to have to be another article.

I also discussed science with my fabulous grandmother.  Every time she told me she didn’t care about what I was saying, I retooled my message.  This was helpful.

Served on the young professionals’ board for Human Rights Watch in Chicago.  Took me away from the bench a couple of Thursday evenings a month, but you know what I have to do in my job?  Work with a board.  You know what I don’t do?  Work in a lab.  Do you think this may have been a good investment of my time, even though it may not have seemed to get me to the end of my thesis right away?  I do.

By the end of all this, in addition to the short list of previously mentioned science skills, I could:

Manage a budget (you think my outreach efforts were free?)

Network like crazy (Seriously.)

Mentor students to the Ph.D., or the direction of their choice.  (Ahem.  Click this and search for Levi.)

Create programs for students that would actually make a difference in their ability to pursue their dreams.

Better understand how a board works.

Wrote fabulous press pieces for events and their outcomes.

Knew how to conduct program assessment.

Learned how to translate my bench experience into something that would actually help others, whether in science or the public.

My hope is that you will reach for experiences and tools that will enable you to generate a portfolio of skills that will enable you to be really ready for the job you want after this.  If you want a post-doc and to become a faculty member, the skills you gain on a traditional academic path are primarily the ones you need, although the exercises of getting experience beyond the bench will be a useful one for your own career, and will hopefully help you better understand students you are mentoring who may want to take a non-traditional path.  If you’re thinking of a job away from the bench, my suggestion is to find out what that is, what the day to day will be like, and then make sure you’re getting the experiences you need in order to be able to cover the bases of the job.  The degree is your ticket in, but these experiences distinguish you from every other Ph.D. out there, giving you a wide array of tools to work with and make you the candidate for your dream job.

The cool part is that these skills are so transferable, you can’t lose.  You can do such a wide array of things with your degree and background, and it’s just a matter of strengthening different professional muscle groups depending on your goals, and how they change.

So do some exploring, find some role models or carve your own path out, and make it happen.  You’re a science rockstar.

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