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CharonY last won the day on January 29

CharonY had the most liked content!

About CharonY

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  • Location
    somewhere in the Americas.
  • Interests
    Breathing. I enjoy it a lot, when I can.
  • College Major/Degree
  • Favorite Area of Science
    Biology/ (post-)genome research
  • Biography
    Labrat turned grantrat.


  • Biology Expert

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SuperNerd (12/13)



  1. Great, except folks won't get tenure if they do that. See the economic aspect in OP.
  2. A degree is a low bar. Do you think folks who are unable to pass it should go into these positions? Do you really think that a job interview will screen out inadequate performance better than a few years of training and supervision?
  3. Sounds good, if you are able to ignore about 80% of any given class. That is true, and in many disciplines writing is a big part of it. One way you seem to suggest to do writing in class only? Because that is where we are headed for the moment. I used to run a lab where the objectives where research-driven. I.e. teaching methods and then present them with small questions that they had to figure out using the methods they were taught. The idea was to get away from rote memorisation to application of knowledge. I co-ran a version as postdoc a long time ago with quite some success. A little while ago I tried it again, and basically one one student liked it (who is now a postdoc) whereas the rest specifically complained about the amount of work and the lack of simple and direct answers. In many countries the university system has slowly changed from a somewhat elitist to a much broader system. Unfortunately that has also changed attitudes of the student body. While in the past it was mostly pre-meds, now quite a few other students are also getting anxious when they do not have clear question-answer sheets that they can use to guide their learning. Whereas lectures were used in the past to augment reading, folks do not read anymore and you get massive complaints if the answer to a question is not prominently featured in one of the lectures. Mind you, my experience is not at an elite school, but some of my colleagues who teach in ivy league school see a more muted version of what we experience in lower tier schools. But so far the solution seems to be focus on in-class performance, which is basically what we are doing right now. Though assignments and homework are a bit more questionable. I am not a fan of those in the first place, but then folks complain about not having extra credits if you do not give them the opportunity to turn those in. That all being said, I think there is some worth to have nurses and physicians who are able to read and comprehend texts without assistance, I think.
  4. Then perhaps tell me, how do you think education should work. Should we just provide content and let the students sort it out? Or hand out degrees for enrolling. I.e. are there perhaps any thoughts on the system?
  5. So how do you educate folks who are mostly in for a degree?
  6. Here is also a short article on the WHO comments on that matter: https://arstechnica.com/science/2023/01/covid-is-still-a-global-health-emergency-but-end-may-be-near-who-says/
  7. Inspired by another thread, I wanted to see opinions on the rise of language AI for science teaching. I would actually like to go back a bit to the rise of the internet. Before that time, literature search was an often slow process involving going into the library and copying articles manually. With the rise of online databases and encyclopedias, access to information became a breeze. The in hindsight optimistic assumption of that time is that folks would need to spend less time searching for info, and therefore spend more time synthesizing. Thus, the logic went the quality of student work (but also research) should improve, as folks would use more time on thinking and less on rote memorization. I think most educators at this point will realize that this is not what happened. While folks memorize less, they also seem to read (and by extension) think less than they used to, paradoxically perhaps because they have access to a vast array of literature. The lack of reading is nowhere as obvious when students are writing essays. However now AI systems are making the rounds which is able to generate well-written (if frequently inaccurate) essays, articles or whatever you want. As the massive cheating during the pandemic has shown us, many, if not most students will use any means to improve their scores with as little effort as possible. Here again essays were seen as a way out as it requires more than a quick google search, compared to exam questions. But obviously ChatGPT is going to make it more difficult for the educator. So in the light of these modern developments, how should modern teaching look like? What should educators do in order to assess academic abilities? I also want to add that in many countries college-level education has strong economic incentives, where university administrations tries to get as many satisfied customers as possible, whereas increasingly students tend to focus on grades rather than improvement in their understanding (not least due the high cost). So we have an unfavorable situation of economic incentives and technological developments that, in my opinion, are negatively impacting learning and at this point I do feel that is a bit more than just a generational complaining issue. So I would like to have an open discussion on the (hopefully) various perspectives on this issue.
  8. To add to that, the Journal in question also publishes experiences and method used in courses, and often looks at things like how to conduct a course (especially experimental courses), how it is received by students and so on. Taking a look at the paper proper, the intro has a lot of fluff which is unusual for STEM papers, but not uncommon for sociological articles. But the core of the course really appears to be more about historical issues in science and how they might translate into modern sciences. I.e. it seems to be a course for STEM students rather than a creating a new framework of teaching chemistry to students (I do find the paper, as a whole, to be poorly written). Topics being covered are background in feminism (take it or leave it, I guess) but more interestingly, how politics and history motivated certain types of research and conclusions. These includes many of the typical cases folks learn in bioethics, such as non-consensual experiments on minorities (whose consent matters?), social Darwinism (extrapolation of scientific concepts to benefit certain power structures), the imbalance and lack of research in women's health and the undervaluing of female researchers. I am with Arete that the framing of the course is not ideal, but the material itself seems pretty inoffensive to me and is actually critical to improve sciences, probably with some more relevance to biomedical sciences than chemistry, but there is some overlap there, too. I think the point that the authors try to make is that the frameworks develops in sociological sciences can be helpful to contextualize the information we create in sciences and to at least acknowledge that these are not pure intellectual pursuits free from our current political and cultural situation (folks working on climate change might have a word or two in that regard. Or evolution. Or vaccines.)
  9. Maybe that needs a closer discussion, I am not a fan of how the curriculum is framed, but I think it is fair to say that knowledge is never created in a vacuum. The way we learn and think about science is dependent on how knowledge is created, evaluated, transmitted and preserved. A purely oral tradition would have a vastly different, likely less quantitative system, for example. Yet it still would transmit knowledge (and in conversation sciences, indigenous knowledge is getting a bit of a revival, right now). Indubitably, Science in its current format, rose from European traditions and has, as I mentioned earlier, historic issues. There also have been demographic issues in disciplines, including chemistry, and I could imagine an argument being made that this has influenced the discipline. In my mind, more in terms of what is being researched and how. But what topic the course ultimately entertains, I don't know and it does seem to be a bit sensationalist about it. It is easy to see the spectrum of PC over it, but I think there is always some calue to at least trying to rethink the properties of the system we operate in. I don't see at as a bias thing as such, but rather a meta-view on a given system. I.e. ultimately it is a more philosophical approach. Rather looking at the natural world, we now look at how we look at the natural world. Social sciences like to jump the shark a bit with their concepts, which are typically far less quantitative, but at the same time, I am curious enough to try to look at things from a different perspective, as long as some sort of data is presented (which might not be the case for this topic). To me, it seems more like a conceptual thing, but the only hard data I can think of at the top of my head are underrepresentation and underfunding of non-white academics, which is being discussed by the various chemical societies, as far as I know. But here, the issue of bias among senior academics is somewhat harder dispute and as OP also mentioned, probably not really what the course is about.
  10. It won't be a magic bullet. Phages have their place, but they are not ax universal as antibiotics used to be and have range of other limitations. While we need more options in the future, so far no solution presented itself. So far mitigating antibiotics use might be more important. It is bit like climate change. There are clear mid-term strategies, but we won't commit to them, so we keep hoping that somehow new technologies will save us.
  11. I think we are still talking past each other. You refer to the assertion by OP, whereas I am referring to the article linked in the OP. My point is that you and OP assume that the article refers to science in terms of natural processes (e.g. the chemical reactions themselves) whereas the article refers to the knowledge building, which requires a scientific system. The latter is built by folks using language, specific notations and theoretical frameworks that are based on nature, but are not natural and hence objective themselves. Any science ultimately makes models that approximate and describe the natural world. And inherently, we accept that these models are artificial and often flawed to a certain extent. The important point, however, is that these models are useful in specific circumstances, despite the flaws. What the article tries to do is a more philosophical treatment of the scientific system, i.e. the elements that surround the model building.
  12. My point is that actually that your comment misses the thrust of the issue. I think Arete gave a good example of context. I agree that the abstract in OP is poorly written and reeks of expertise overreach, but the idea behind is all about the scientific system not science or even nature in itself. Let's say you let a person conduct the experiment you mentioned, but is unable to write or speak English. They also do not know the Latin names of the chemicals. Will they pass the exam?
  13. It is partially true, but perhaps not universally so. A few key points, the dying from and with COVID-19 can bit a bit muddled, depending on whether a give jurisdiction separates that data. Looking back at 2022, the omicron waves have hit countries quite differently and I think what we start to see is a change in the immunity status of the population. For example, for Canada 2022 was the deadliest year yet, as Omicron has swept the country and reached vulnerable populations that were not exposed during the less contagious waves (in conjunction with public health measures). Now that Omicron has infected the majority of the population basically everywhere, the hope was/is that they may be more resilient when it comes to severe disease. Some data seems to show that with some areas having relative constant, COVID-19 specific hospitalizations, despite having increasing infections when new variants arrived at some of the areas I have looked at. In However, there are several issues with that. The biggest in my mind is that national data is at this point not terribly useful if you want to understand public health impact. In my mind, at the latest since Omicron the risk has shifted from individual risk, to population risk. Due to the massive and still not abating spread of Omicron lineages, our health care system is now systemically impacted. This includes obvious parameters such as hospitalization and death, but also increased risk of infection in vulnerable folks (e.g. cancer patients, immunosuppressed individuals, diabetic folks or otherwise vulnerable to inflammation). Whether you are hospitalized with or because of COVID-19, SARS-CoV-2 can cause complications. On top, we have lingering effects of sever inflammation and other issues, which ultimately put an almost constant pressure on virtually every health care system in the world. This has a ripple effect, resulting in excess health burden that simply would not exist without COVID-19. Especially in low population density countries, outbreaks have vastly different impact on the health care system, too. I.e. if the next hospitals is hours (or days!) away a few missing beds due to COVID-19 hospitalizations can have vastly more impact than in area where folks can be shuffled between hospitals, for example. So in aggregate I would agree that the COVID-19 situations is, as a whole, in a different situation than at the beginning of the pandemic, with rapid mass deaths being less likely (at least so far). On the other hand it is still a bit of a semantic trick. Even if we do not think of it as an emergency, folks will die on a daily basis, we will have continued pressure on our health care system and our overall health is still going to be impacted. Perhaps one can think of it as the aftermath of a Tsunami, folks are less likely to be swept into the ocean now, but if thinks are not fixed, risk of cholera and other issues will increase. There are also a couple of rather bad takes from the author of the article that I do not agree with. For example the assertion that the daily deaths in the US are comparable to a bad flu season does not take into account that those numbers would represent about 3-4 months of flu. In contrast in the post-emergency situation of COVID-19 that is rate that is mostly non-seasonal (i.e. continues throughout the year). I am also slightly perplexed why he picks out Denmark, when I believe the UK actually has actually segregated data. A quick check shows me that pre-COVID-19 England had somewhere between 1-2k deaths per year. In 2022 about 18k cases had COVID-19 as cause. Even if that was not stringent enough, and we cut it by half, at least for the whole year the situation does not seem that great. And I would also add that flu is not harmless. There is a reason why health authorities beg us to get vaccinated every year. And having two serious diseases circulating is going to put further strain on our health care systems. The tragedy is that once we move off the ledge, many think that the thing is over and it is time to have a picnic. In truth, the cliff is crumbling, and has for a long time, regardless whether we call it an emergency or not. Edit: I clicked through some of the links in the article and my assessment on the article is not improving. Some might be just mislinked, as they do not seem to show the data the author was citing. But perhaps worse, he is citing an author who publicly made false statements on COVID-19 and vaccines. I am not saying that the overall thrust of the article is inherently wrong, but the way it is built looks too much like cherry-picking to me. And if I were to write an opinion piece, I would stay the heck away from folks who have promoted falsehoods. Edit 2: One of the things I feel that is missing is an honest discussion of what kind of disease burden we, as a community, feel acceptable. This includes direct damages due to the disease, but also disruptions in our health care and related factors. Howe much are we willing to spend vs what kind of damages (including deaths) do we feel is justifiable for a given price? Edit 3: I should add the disclaimer that I am not an epidemiologist nor do I work on public health systems. As such this is really just my opinion based on my work and interactions with local health authorities as part of related projects.
  14. The reactions are obviously independent of the operator. However, the interpretation depends on the whole system that has been built around chemistry. The notations we use for example are the one that we found useful and therefore we teach it. Yet it does not mean that the ways we describe the reactions are objectively the only way to do it. In other words nature, is truly objective and independent of people. However, the way we investigate and interpret nature is not.
  15. Actually it is also based on a specific group of folks that have been trained a specific way. Reproducibility is important, but to various degree we establish threshold in which we accept variability for a given methodology. Threshold and methodology again are established by a specific group of people. Some things work out to be extremely robust and it gives a semblance of objectivity. Other concepts are or remain a less bound by nature and are part of what a group of folks have established to be useful in for their work. Species are such a concept, for example.
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