Dublin, here I come!

It’s official: I’ll be heading to Dublin this summer! Woooo! I’ll be giving a poster presentation at the Society for Molecular Biology and Evolution 2012 conference, which is in Dublin from Saturday, June 23 to Tuesday, June 26. I’m really looking forward to it. A lot of people from my department are going, including my boyfriend Sean (who was selected to give a talk!).

Sean and I arrive in Dublin around noon on Thursday the 21st, so we’ll have a couple of day to explore the city. Any suggestions? Do I have any readers in Dublin who would want to do a meetup on this rare occasion that I’m across the pond? Do you have local skeptics or atheist groups that would want to have me talk for an evening?

We’re also taking an extra week off after the conference for a vacation. I think our eyes are set on Paris, but nothing is set in stone yet. Now’s your time to throw suggestions my way.

Another academic accomplishment!

A new paper that I’m an author on has just been published in DNA and Cell Biology!

It’s a slightly atypical paper, though. When I was a senior undergraduate at Purdue, the Department of Biology staff nominated me to help develop the curriculum of a new NSF-funded, research-based, freshman honors biology laboratory course called CASPiE (Center for Authentic Science Practice in Education). That description is a mouth-full, but it basically means these freshman Biology majors were doing real research for a semester, instead of your typical cookbook lab experiments where the outcome is already known. The class was taught by a professor, a graduate student, and me. I like to say that my main duty was making sure the students plated their bacteria on the correct media and didn’t set themselves on fire*, but I also got to give a lecture on evolution and help out with general concepts throughout the semester.

And now that research has been published in a special undergraduate research edition of the journal DNA and Cell Biology. And it’s atypical because the subject matter is vastly outside of my normal field and interests: Isolation and Preliminary Characterization of Amino Acid Substitution Mutations That Increase the Activity of the Osmoregulated ProP Protein of Salmonella Enterica Serovar Typhimurium. That is going to look bizarrely random on my CV.

But the main congratulations go to the undergrads. They’d be juniors now, and having a paper published by then in a major accomplishment. So kudos to them!

*Though one somehow managed to set the rubber tubing connecting to the gas source on fire. I had a moment of “WTF” and then calmly turned the gas off, and the fire went out. Yay lab classes!

*insert academic joy here* :D

This fell into my inbox this morning:

“Congratulations! I am pleased to inform you that you have been selected to receive a 2012 National Science Foundation (NSF) Graduate Research Fellowship Program (GRFP) Fellowship.”

:D :D :D :D

Can’t say anything else. Too busy dancing around the room.

Pennsylvania church stages “fake” kidnapping of youth group to teach about religious persecution

Holy fuck.

Teenagers at the Glad Tidings Assembly of God Church in Middletown, Pa., were surprised when they attended a youth group meeting at the church on March 21 and were ambushed by what seemed to be real kidnappers.

Adults, including an off-duty cop, brandished weapons and put bags over the heads of the children, ages 13 through 18, and forced them into a church van. The group was driven to the home of an assistant pastor, who was presented before the group with a seemingly bloodied and bruised face, according to Dauphin County District Attorney Fran Chardo.

One of the adults used a real AK-47, though the gun was unloaded, Chardo said.

The church leaders who organized the fake hostage situation later told law enforcement that the event was meant to be a lesson to the children on how Christians are persecuted in places around the world, but the “educational” event may actually constitute a crime, Chardo said.

How in the world do you plan this sort of thing without considering that it may legitimately terrify and emotionally abuse these children? Is teaching about religious persecution really more important than protecting your children from harm? I guess I shouldn’t expect anything more from people who emotionally abuse children with threats of hell and damnation.

This Reason Rally sign is not funny

Buzzfeed has a list of the 36 best signs at the Reason Rally. I smiled when I saw mine while scrolling down the list. I frowned when I saw this:

I’m going to keep this short an sweet: This is transphobic. It’s obviously meant as an insult and thus is a slur against trans women. We need to cut this shit out. Stop saying Shirley Phelps has a penis, stop saying Ann Coulter is secretly a dude – just stop it. Criticize people based on their ridiculous arguments, not this.

(Hat tip to Elizabeth)

Blag Hag Census is open again

I was obviously seeing red last night because I thought PZ purposefully tried to ruin my data. It ended up not being malicious in nature. I know it’s hard for some of you to believe, but I’m not an emotionless robot or Vulcan, and sometimes I get mad. PZ didn’t realize what he was doing, I overreacted, the end. Let’s just leave it at that and move on with our lives instead of overanalyzing apologies and motives and bullshit. Any comment speculating about this dumb situation will be deleted.

The survey is open again. I will keep all responses that were previously submitted except ones that were obviously trolling or mentioned pharyngulating the poll.

And yes, I know some questions are US-centric. I know I forgot an “Other” response for the “How do you keep updated” question. I know I suck at survey making. I guess I’ll just have to not publish my results in Science like I had originally planned.

Take the Blag Hag 2012 Census!

It’s my favorite time of the year – the Blag Hag Census! It’s a wonderful time where all of you get to fill out a survey, and then I am overwhelmed with glee as I crunch data, look for correlations, and make pretty graphs. Seriously, last year I had way too much fun writing a Python script to parse the data. The survey only takes a couple of minutes to fill out, and it helps me learn about the demographics and interests of my readers so I can make the blog more enjoyable for everyone. And, you know, I’m just curious about who all of you are.  I’m really curious to see if there are any trends in the answers, since this is the third census I’ve given. This time I’ve also included some fun optional bonus questions at the end for shits and giggles.

Fill out the Blag Hag 2012 Census here! – EDIT AGAIN: I was obviously seeing red last night because I thought PZ purposefully tried to ruin my data, which ended up not being the case. I know it’s hard for some of you to believe, but I’m not an emotionless robot or Vulcan, and sometimes I get mad. Let’s just leave it at that and move on with our lives instead of overanalyzing apologies and motives and bullshit. The survey is open again.

And here’s the standard disclaimer – I’m not selling any of this information or using it to stalk you. At most you’ll be a datapoint in a pretty graph, or a comment you leave will be posted anonymously.

Please take it ASAP. I’ll shut down the census once the response rate drops off, which will probably be around Thursday. So don’t delay, take it now!

I’m in USA Today!

My photo is in the USA Today’s shitty article about the Reason Rally:

“Jennifer McCreight came from Seattle to Washington, D.C., to hoist this sign at the Reason Rally where 20,000 atheists and free-thinkers came to denounce religion and stand up for unbelief.”

I’ll write up a summary while I’m traveling home today. Right now I have to pull myself out of my zombie-like state and shuffle off to the airport.