Archive for: August, 2015

How many of your co-authors have you never met?

Looking at a large list of co-authors on a paper I came across, I wondered what it would look like if all of those people were ever in a room together discussing who would be first author and why. Would every author have met the others? Then I realized that I have published with a couple of people that I have never met in person for a variety of reasons. In fact, of the 12 papers I published, I counted 11 names of people that I have never met in person. I may have corresponded with them via email but I've never actually met them. That may be because I was only briefly involved to do one experiment for somebody else's paper, because there was a collaborator on my paper who figured that their department head also needed to be a co-author or because collaborators were on the other side of the world and my role in the project was never big enough to warrant going there.

What about you? How many of you co-authors have you never met in person and why?

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#Quitlit link love

Coincidentally I came across two posts from people I follow who recently transitioned outside academia. I first read Zinemin's post who writes about working at a large financial corporation for the past 6 months:

I am not used to working in such an orderly and reasonable way. I feel like working like crazy on some days and not doing anything on others, like I am used to, but there is no reason to, I only rarely have deadlines and work is never exciting, there are no real breakthroughs, but also no disappointments, no rejected grant applications.

And then I read Doctor PMS' post about her transition from academia to a sales position:

I love to talk about science and now I spend most of my time in the phone with researchers, trying to understand their work and helping them to find the right equipment for them.

And Biochembelle has a whole series of posts describing how she decided to leave academia and what it took to find the job she has now.


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Buying a house: a complex delay discounting task

Aug 19 2015 Published by under Decisions, moving, science

Delay discounting for rodents: do you want 1 sucrose pellet now, or 4 sucrose pellets in 40s?

Delay discounting for toddlers: do you want 1 marshmallow now, or 2 marshmallows in 15 min?

Delay discounting for adults: do you want $100 now, or $1000 at the end of the month?

Delay discounting for prospective first-time home buyers: do you want to buy this kind of nice house now (provided nobody else has bought it before you decided to make an appointment to go see it) or wait whether a nicer house comes by - with more space, in a nicer location, etc etc-, not knowing whether the nicer house will actually show up, or whether the interest rate on mortgages, which is really low now, will still be low then. Or wait five more years in the very comfortable rental place that you are in now so that you will have more spendable income (provided you both will keep your jobs) and buy an even more expensive and nicer house then (but what will happen to the interest rates in 5 years?!).

How on earth do people make decisions about buying a house? But then again, how do rats decide between rewards... can someone measure my dopamine?

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A melancholious post

Aug 08 2015 Published by under ideas

Earlier this evening I was driving home. BlueEyes, Little Brother and my husband had fallen asleep in the car and I was listening to the Mars CD from the Red Hot Chili Peppers' Stadium Arcadium album. I realized that the first time I listened to this album was when it had just come out in 2006 and I was cutting a zillion brains on the cryostat. I remembered that this was just around the time that I started realizing that perhaps the grad student in the lab that I liked having coffee with might be a better match for me than the person I was living with at that time.

I also listened to this album a lot driving through California before going to the first ever SfN meeting I would attend in San Diego in 2007. The grad student I like hanging out with had now become my boyfriend.

I also listened to this album after the next SfN in San Diego when we drove to San Francisco. The grad student that had become my boyfriend was now the father-to-be of the baby I just found out I was pregnant with.

I looked around in the car at the grad student that had become my husband, that unborn baby that was now a 4-year-old and the sun that was setting outside.

I had just read in the paper about how a nursing home had people with dementia listening to songs from when they were young and how that comforted them. And I pictured myself there in the future, listening to the Red Hot Chili Peppers once more and I realized all the more how ridiculously fleeting and fragile everything is. And as The Red Hot Chili Peppers sang that "the thing we need is never all that hard to find" I realized that all of that was in that moment right there sleeping in the car with me.

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Repost: pumping milk at work - a technical report

This week is World Breastfeeding week and this year's theme is combining breastfeeding and work, so I decided to repost this post from May 2012. But before I do that, I want to draw your attention to this Kickstarter that has only 7 days left to raise money for a new type of breast pump that uses compression instead of suction, and can be used very discreetly, which might be nice if you're traveling or have no access to a proper lactation room.

Disclaimer: I have no ties to Kohana, Inc and have never tried their breast pump, but I think this innovation is really cool and I hope they raise enough money to continue the development.



Recently, there were a couple of articles in the news talking about how breast feeding is not free at all, because women who breastfeed longer than 6 months earn significantly less, even five years after their baby was born, compared to women who breastfeed shorter than 6 months or women who formula feed their infants. It turns out that this difference in earnings is mostly because women who breastfeed longer than 6 months work a lot less than the other groups. In other words, women who (have to) go back to work sooner apparently have a hard time breastfeeding past 6 months.

To me breastfeeding is like walking; you do it because you can. And if you can’t, there are alternatives like using a wheelchair. However, very few people use a wheelchair if they are able to walk just because it is more convenient. That’s not to say that breastfeeding is easy: it’s a learned skill and the fact that we rarely ever see people nurse their babies makes it harder to learn. The same holds true for pumping milk; even though there are some great resources online, when you have to do it yourself you’ve probably never seen someone else pump milk, and perhaps you don’t even have women nearby to ask questions. That’s why I decided to write up what has worked for me over the past months.

Materials and methods

It’s very important to have a good double sided electric breast pump. I have the Medela pump in style , but if I’d have to choose again I would probably go for the Medela Freestyle, since it’s weighs a lot less, which is nice if you go to a conference. Save your receipt, because breast pumps can be tax deductible. The advantage of the black signature Medela bags is that it’s also an easy way to come into contact with other pumping moms who recognize your bag (yes, this happened to me multiple times). It is important that your breast shields fit well; you can ask a lactation consultant for advice. I also have one of these, so that I can pump hands free.

Before going back to work it is important that 1) your baby can drink from a bottle and 2) you have familiarized yourself with your breast pump. To do this, I started pumping one feed in the evening when BlueEyes was 6 weeks old (apparently there’s a window between 4-8 weeks when it’s best to teach babies to drink from a bottle. I have no idea whether that is true but it worked for us.) and Dr. BrownEyes would give him the bottle. I noticed that it takes some practice to pump a decent amount of milk, so don’t worry if you don’t pump a lot the first time. It is also nice to have about a week’s supply of milk in the fridge before you go back to work, so that if pumping doesn’t go well because you’re too stressed in that first week, at least you don’t have to worry about having too little milk to feed your baby. I built a supply in the freezer by giving BlueEyes a little bit less milk in the evening than the amount I pumped (don’t worry about the baby, he will drink whatever he needs during the night). If that doesn’t work: your supply is highest in the morning, so alternatively you can nurse your baby on one breast and then pump the other to build up your freezer stash. Also, make sure to figure out ahead of time where you can pump. I realize that having a clean room and a fridge available is a luxury, and that that’s probably why more higher educated women continue to breast feed, but no one should be afraid to ask for this. In some countries it is a right for women to pump milk for their baby during work hours.


So for the past 6 months I have been pumping milk at work for BlueEyes. Until a couple weeks ago I religiously pumped for about 15 minutes at 10AM and 1PM every day. This fit very well with my experiments, which I think is part of why it worked so well for me. I would cut brain slices, and while those were incubating I would pump the first time, and when I was done with my recording experiment I would pump the second time. I have two sets of breast shields, so I don’t have to bother about washing them in between. I pumped about 200-250 ml (6-9 oz) in total, and because BlueEyes drinks a bit more, I would also pump in the morning after I nursed him. In total I pumped about 300 ml (10 oz) and that’s exactly what he drank in daycare. Being a post-doc, I obviously don’t have my own office, but our department has an empty office that the pumping women can use to pump milk. Now that BlueEyes is eating solids and I have the feeling that my supply is pretty stable, I usually pump once or sometimes twice at work (my total yield is still about 250-300 ml per day).


What can you do when you are not pumping enough milk for your baby?

Your milk supply is a matter of supply (duh) and demand, so the first thing to do is pump more often or try to get multiple letdown reflexes during one pumping session. Also, make sure you empty your breasts well, because that will let your body know that more milk is needed. What I would sometimes do if my supply was getting low, was to ‘cluster pump’ at night. After BlueEyes had gone to bed I would pump according to the following schedule (pump 7 min – rest 7 min – pump 5 min – rest 5 min – pump 3 min – rest 3 min – pump 1 min). This did not yield a lot of milk at the time of pumping, because I had just nursed BlueEyes to sleep, but it does give a pretty good boost for your milk supply.

If this doesn’t work sufficiently, you can take various herbs, teas or foods to increase your supply . I’ve personally never tried that, but I've heard it works.

What can you do when it takes you very long to pump?

To me, the time it takes to pump depends for the most part on how long it takes me to get a letdown reflex. Some people like to look at pictures or movies of their baby to speed this up, but I usually just take a couple deep breaths (at home it even helps me to picture the empty office I usually pump in). However, if you still have problems getting a letdown reflex, and therefore need a long time to empty your breasts, you can consider using an oxytocin nasal spray.


I wrote this post to share my experience and to show that it is very possible to breastfeed for at least 6 months and work. Even though I couldn’t believe it at first, breastfeeding does get better and more fun and much less painful (even not painful at all) after 6 months.

Another disclaimer: I’m not a lactation consultant or any other type of medical professional. However, feel free to comment or email me if you have any questions.

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