Posts in category Big Accomplishments Friday

Big Accomplishment Friday – June 5, 2015

BAF 060515

Last Friday, @SKZingales and I had a little Twitter chat about work-life balance, and whether or not that’s something that young faculty members can achieve.  This was not a good work/life balance week for me.  I did accomplish a lot of things though – and that’s what we talk about on Fridays – right?

If you follow me on Twitter (@theSTEMinista), you may have some guesses about what my big accomplishments were this week – but I’ve saved the most exciting news to share with all of you here.

The highlight of my week was not getting a review paper accepted – although I’m pretty pleased to bring some Raman spectroscopy love to the farmers, and farm love to the Raman spectroscopists.

The highlight of my week was not a paper revision being resubmitted – although that was cool too.  Some other researchers at my institution did some really cool work on a biomedical project a little outside my area of expertise.  Their reviewers asked them to throw in some work on characterization on the material they developed, so I got to hop in on the project and help them out with some molecular characterization (which is my area of expertise!).  New collaboration, really cool project, and there are lots of opportunities to work together with this group again in the future – exciting!!

The highlight of my week was not submitting an R01 proposal – that was pretty much the low-light, LOL!  For those of you not in research fields, R01’s are big government grant proposals, that are due February 5, June 5, and October 5 every year (at least in my areas of study).  Putting them together can be tricky.  The proposal itself is only 12 written pages, but then you need a whole volume of accompanying paperwork to go with it.  If you do a proposal with multiple leaders, across multiple institutions, things get really crazy.  It can be frustrating to wait for everyone on the team to do their part to finish the proposal.  I am glad that it is done, but this is the main area where I lost on work/life balance this week.

Are you still wondering about my exciting news?  All those things got accomplished this week – what else could there possibly be to celebrate?

Well, my friends

I’ve been keeping it to myself until everything was official And now it’s pretty much official So, the big news is:


What’s in Budapest, you ask?

The 14th International Conference on Bioactive Lipids in Cancer, Inflammation, and Related Diseases.  Depending on what you do, or want to do, that may or may not sound amazing.  To me, it sounds amazing.  Lipid research has really taken off in the past 20-30 years.

When I was a kid, we were taught the lipids and fat were the body’s energy store, and that was pretty much the end of the story.  Now we now that adipose tissue is really an endocrine organ, and there is a lot of really important signaling going on within your fat, and with lipids found in your other cells as well.

You can sequence all the lipids in your body just like you can sequence all the genes in your body – it’s really cool!  They respond really quickly to various stimuli, so they’re often the fastest way to identify a physiologic change.

Not coming from a chemistry and biology background, a lot of the science and characterization methods are new to me, so I still have a lot of learning to do.  I love learning about the types of problems lipids researchers are studying, and developing ideas for how the technologies I work on can be translated to solving their problems.

And, did I mention the obvious?


I am really excited for the opportunity to travel to a new place, and see some of Europe!  The conference hotel is right in the heart of the city, and we’ll get great views of the Danube.  The Gala Dinner for the conference takes place on a river cruise – if you haven’t already noticed, I love love LOVE the water, and can’t wait to spend the evening at a fancy dinner, on a boat with brilliant scientists and beautiful views!

If you’re in the lipids field, you should definitely check out the conference.

Hopefully while I’m there, I’ll have the opportunity to share part of the experience with you, through pictures, and updates about all the cool science.

So that’s my week, in a nutshell!  What were your accomplishments this week?


PS –Mr.SciGuy also celebrated a birthday this week!  If you get the opportunity, wish him a happy birthday.

Big Accomplishment Friday – May 29, 2015

accomplishment fridayFriends, I’m writing to you in the very early hours of Sunday morning, but I haven’t forgotten about you, I promise!! There have been so many things going on this week that I’m just running a couple days behind schedule everywhere. So much got accomplished this week, but I’m going to leave a few things for future updates.

I only made it in to the office this week two days last week between Memorial Day and sick kids (I’ll get to that in a minute). That put me on a total time crunch, so I spent a lot of time at home working too. There were so many deadlines to meet! I had a proposal due Friday, and two paper revisions were submitted this week. I have a few other papers in various forms of submission, and three more grants due in the next three weeks, plus the rest of my job to keep up with! It’s a lot to juggle, but I get so much accomplished when I’m under the gun!

I finally finished something else I’ve been promising you for a few weeks now. I did my first “cool job” interview. Boom! It was harder than I expected to accomplish. I posted a few weeks ago about getting the webcam setup, but I didn’t realize it would be hard to logistically figure out when to actually interview people. Apparently I keep odd hours? I work all day, spend the evening with my kids, take care of chores, and then blog after that. Between the hours of 11 pm and 1 am isn’t the most opportune time to coordinate with other professionals – who knew?? Now that I’m over the hump of getting the first interview done, hopefully it’ll be easier to get going more regularly. I’ll try to post it in the next week. I have some more really interesting people in the pipeline with really neat STEM careers that I can’t wait to introduce you to!

OK – so getting back to the sick kids and missing work. My kids were sick on Thursday due to a bug that was going around daycare. Pretty normal sick kid stuff – no big deal.

Wednesday, however, was a different story. Back in March, my daughter got really sick and had to be hospitalized overnight. She took several days recovering at home to get better. About a week later, she got very sick again, and had to go back to the ER. She got a course of antibiotics for that, and was feeling better several days later. A few days after the end of the antibiotics, she was sick (again!). She took antibiotics again, and felt better after several days. Good. We were in the clear.

For like 2 days.

Then, she got sick….again. If you’re not counting, this is four pretty major sicknesses in about 6 weeks.

I’m normally pretty laid back, but by then my nerves were frazzled, I was really behind at work, and the poor girl was miserable. I had to do something. So, I called a favor in to one of the doctors I work with, and got her an appointment to see a specialist. We spent Wednesday morning getting tests done, and met with the specialist in the afternoon.

The results were a little mixed. We know for sure what caused her to get sick so many times now (yay!). It is serious (boo!), but it’s not life threatening (yay yay yay!). We have to be really vigilant about her health for the next few years, but she should go on to live a normal, healthy life as an adult, and I’m very grateful about that.

She will have to go back in at least two more times (but probably more) to see the specialist and get repeat testing done, which is kind of a bummer. One of the tests she had to have done was an imaging test. The patient has to hold really still during the test to ensure a good quality picture. In adults, it isn’t a huge deal because adults can lay still. But she is two, and two year olds don’t lay still. They wiggle and squirm and cry. So, the standard solution in the medical community seems to be either sedating or restraining children. For the test Wednesday, she was restrained.

Coming from a medical technology background, I 100% understand the need. You can’t diagnose a problem if you don’t have a good picture. But as a parent, it is terrible to see something traumatic happen to your child. I am really glad I knew what to expect with the test in advance.

I watched the whole process, and wondered why we haven’t come up with a better way to do these tests in kids. The crappy thing is, that this IS the latest and greatest. Before the imaging existed, I don’t know if there even was a way to confirm the problem – and that’s even worse! This is the reason I went into biomedical engineering, however. Seeing the way that the tests are done now made me remember how important it is to keep pushing innovation to improve healthcare technology.

Kids bounce back really quick, and my little STEMinista was pretty much back to herself by the time we left the imaging room. The ladies who worked with her were incredibly sweet, and showered her with gifts after the test for being such a brave girl. A coloring book, box of crayons, and teddy bear will fix anything, right?

So, I have a little weight lifted off my shoulders, now that we know why she was sick. We have specific strategies to keep her healthy, and if she does get sick again, I know exactly who to call, what to say, what to expect, and how to help her get better. It’s reassuring (and that’s an accomplishment!), even though it means doing more on a daily basis to keep her healthy.

What about you? What did you accomplish this week?


Big Accomplishment Friday – May 22, 2015

I love taking pictures of trees <3

I love taking pictures of trees <3

OMG you guys!!! It’s almost time for a loooooooong weekend! Who has two thumbs and is ready for the weekend??


This girl!!


For those of us in America, if you get a chance this Memorial Day weekend, thank a soldier or the family member of a soldier for their service to our country, and take a moment to remember those who have sacrificed their lives for our country. If you want to do more, consider supporting a veterans organization.

One organization I personally support, both financially and in person, is Team RWB. They do great work empowering servicemen and women, and helping them form meaningful relationships with the civilian population through physical, social, and volunteering events. Did you catch the ‘civilian’ part? They WANT everyday people like you and me to be involved personally. Team RWB does great work, and if you’re at all interested, you should really check them out (and FYI, nobody asked me to make that pitch – this is just an organization I truly, whole-heartedly believe in).

Ok – let me get off my soapbox now.

Can I talk about some other HUGE accomplishment Friday news?

It’s not about me – it’s about my husband – Mr. SciGuy. SciGuy has a degree in mechanical engineering and has worked in the auto industry for pretty much his whole career. The auto industry pays pretty good money, and Mr. SciGuy’s salary was able to cover the bills while I went through grad school and started my own career.

BUT – Mr. SciGuy wasn’t really satisfied with his career – he had a good job, but he wanted his dream job. He wanted to find something that left him more personally satisfied, but he had to balance that with the need to take care of the family while I finished school and started my career. I can’t say enough how lucky I am to have someone willing to make that sacrifice while I pursued my dream career.

Once my career began to stabilize, SciGuy started thinking about what he wanted to do in his career. He wanted a job where he could have positive interactions with people on a daily basis, and where he can make a meaningful positive impact in people’s lives (that’s pretty much a dream job for everyone, right?). After a lot of thinking and research and discussion, he decided he wanted to make the switch to the finance industry and become a financial advisor with Edward Jones. I couldn’t be happier with his decision.

The interview process was no joke – Edward Jones is consistently rated as one of the top companies to work for in America, and they only hire the very best. I’m proud to say Mr. SciGuy is pretty much THE best (obviously – I married him, right?!? LOL). After weeks (literally!!) of interviewing, SciGuy was officially hired, and is now well on his way through the training process to become a financial planner.

This will be a big adjustment to both of us as he switches industries completely and transitions to a different daily routine, but I am thrilled that he is taking time for himself to pursue his dreams. So this week, the credit, accomplishment, and recognition goes to him. I am so, so proud of SciGuy, and I look forward to his success in his new career.


–the STEMinista


P.S. I can’t have accomplishment Friday without recognizing all of you, too! The support I’ve gotten on Twitter and Facebook this week is wonderful, empowering, and uplifting. Thanks to all of you who have followed and liked me, and an even bigger thanks to those who have shared my pages/posts, left comments, and just been generally awesome. We have big accomplishments ahead of us, my friends! Tell me about what kind of accomplishments you had this week!

Big Accomplishment Friday – May 15, 2015

Cadillac square - got routed into a detour - love going by this gorgeous building!

Cadillac square – got routed into a detour – love going by this gorgeous building!

If you ever ask my husband, he will tell you I am perpetually late – to everything.  All.The.Time.

I disagree…I can think of lots of occasions (at least three) where I’ve been punctual, and I’m really good at coming up with excuses for the rest of the time.

Here we are, late on Friday night, and I’m just getting the chance to sit down to talk about the week with you – but remember how early I posted last Friday?  I figure it’ll still be Friday on the West coast by the time I finish tonight, so that’s ok.  It’s close enough to punctual in my book.

I kind of feel like a broken record, telling you guys and gals that every week is great and productive.  Guess what?  That happens when you have an awesome job you love!  Every week is about making progress, and going to work is almost as great as coming home from work.  Although coming home is pretty fun – I have a great time hanging out with the STEMboy and juniorSTEMinista:

Playing with rocks // Learning by play // Learning rocks!

Playing with rocks // Learning by play // Learning rocks!

Want to know what one of the highlights of my day is, every day?  I love, love, LOVE checking on my twitter (, or my facebook (, or my instagram ( or my wordpress (you’re here now!) and seeing that all of you are stopping by, more and more consistently. I love you gals and guys!! My sister tells me that I write just like I talk, and I am thrilled that all of you are interested in ‘hearing’ what I have to say.  More importantly, I hope that it brings you useful information, or encouragement, or empowerment in your day.  Thank you, thank you, thank you!

I had a few big milestones at work this week.  The first one isn’t mine to claim at all – but it made my week!  A student in the lab figured out a fractal coding project in autoCAD.  Sounds simple, but totally isn’t.  Coding in autoCAD is a little different than coding in other languages, and there was a lot of geometry and trigonometry involved for her to figure out the positions and angles of successive layers of branches.  Something that took me an afternoon in Matlab took quite a while longer to replicate in autoCAD, in great part due to learning their coding methods.  There are still many, many more steps in that project, but it’s good to celebrate all the little milestones along the way.  I made a lot of progress in several other projects this week, and have a ton of things in the ‘exciting news’ pipeline.  But I’m going to keep that quiet for now – you’ll hear about them soon!

Look!  It's a fractal! In autoCAD!

Look! It’s a fractal! In autoCAD!

This afternoon, I submitted the first couple of documents to begin the application process to get promoted from ‘assistant professor’ to ‘associate professor’.  Don’t get too excited, though.  If I get it, it won’t be active until August — of 2016!! And just like the fractal project, there are SO MANY steps to go through to get to that point.   If any senior academics stopping by want to proofread my professional record or personal statement, feel free to offer – haha!  And speaking of ‘haha’ – I was so impressed with how hilarious I was this morning:

My three COOLEST friends in STEM LOL (get it?  liquid nitrogen is -321F!!)

My three COOLEST friends in STEM LOL (get it? liquid nitrogen is -321F!!)

Last week, I was really excited to tell you that I got the video updates figured out, and was set to start STEM job interviews.  Then I got distracted.

Have you guys seen Finding Nemo?  You know the fish Dory?  And her attention span?  That’s me sometimes…  It works out in my job a lot of the time because I switch from task to task really well and am pretty good at handling interruptions.  But sometimes I get distracted.  The key to success is to find a way to turn your ‘shortcomings’ to an advantage.  Hey – that’s actually good – write that one down…we’ll revisit that in the future

Getting back to my story – I got the video setup, but then I noticed lots of you were stopping by the ‘shop’ section.  So I got a little distracted trying to set that up.  Because as the STEMinista, obviously I love shopping, and I want to get you guys a whole bunch of really cool, really empowering, really lovely things.  But getting a store setup was far more of a process than I expected.  So, it’s in progress now.  And maybe NEXT week, I’ll have more updates for you on the cool jobs, and on the store. For now, you get a Friday update, and my eternal gratitude to you for visiting.

That’s it for me for now – I’m still on track to meet my “Friday” deadline – for those of you on the West Coast.    How was your week?  Did you have any big accomplishments?  Let me know – I’d love to celebrate with you!


PS – since this is a STEM site, and we’re all a little nerdy, can we talk for a moment how the dates this week are all palindromes?  How lovely!

Big Accomplishment Friday – May 8, 2015

accomplishment friday 050715Happy Friday ladies and gentlemen of STEM – the weekend is almost upon us!

Around here, Friday is the day we talk about our accomplishments and celebrate each other.

IMG_5157Yesterday was the highlight of my week in the real world! I spent the morning doing an outreach program at a local middle school. At this particular school, beginning in 6th grade and running through 8th grade, each student maintains a portfolio which shows their progression in academic, personal development, and teamwork pursuits. At the end of 8th grade, professionals from the local community (that’s me!) come in to do one-on-one interviews with them. The students get to showcase their accomplishments, and talk about their future goals and aspirations.

IMG_5192It was invigorating getting the opportunity to talk to them – every student I spoke to had their own interests and excelled in their own individual way. It made me wonder how I would have presented myself in 8th grade, and if an activity like that would have given me more self-confidence since I was such a brainiac geek. Some of the students also had insightful feedback about the problems middle schoolers face in STEM education and in education overall.

IMG_5191After a delicious lunch with some fabulous ladies, I took the rest of the afternoon off to take the kids to the zoo. Just like I mentioned last week, kids learn through play, and it’s important to me to give them fun, easygoing, learning opportunities. I’ve included some pictures from our adventure for your viewing pleasure.

IMG_5190You’ll notice there aren’t a ton of pictures of the traditional zoo sights. My bad. My natural instinct is to grab a kid and point at the really cool sights when I see something cool, rather than grab my camera. I’m trying to be more conscientious about taking pictures to share with you, but I’m not going to try that hard.  My bigger priority is the experience with the kids. Sorrynotsorry, Internet.

(↑↑↑)Did you guys also notice the the youtube video right there (↑↑↑)?? I’m suuuuper excited to finally have that process up and running. I can’t wait to start bringing you content from other people in real-life STEM jobs. They can talk about their perspectives so much more effectively than I can repeat it. I hope next week I’ll have another really great update for you on the video portion of this website.

Seal?  Mermaid?  You be the judge...

Seal? Mermaid? You be the judge…

This week, I dipped my toes a bit into the social media pond, and I’d like to thank everyone on twitter who followed me, shared or liked my posts, and came to visit. I’m so excited to have a few ‘virtual’ connections. Welcome to all of you, I’m so glad you’re here, and I’d love to hear more about you. What is your involvement in STEM? What brought you to the site? What kind of content are you interested in seeing?

That’s all from me for now, have a great Friday, stay brilliant, and enjoy your weekend!


Big Accomplishment Friday – May 1, 2015

Dinner with a view

Dinner with a view


Ladies and gentlemen of STEM, it’s FRIDAY! We’ve made it through another work week. For me, this week wasn’t as high-profile as last week, but it was still pretty busy. On the work front, a graduate student presented her Master’s thesis work, and another one had a big step forward in some of her experiments – all good things! I also made it through a couple of big/tedious projects on my task list. I’ll never be all the way caught up (note to self: that deserves its own post sometime) but it was nice to take a few hours at a time to focus on finishing one big task.

On the blog front, some readers who aren’t my immediate family (Hi Mom, Dad, sisters, and SciGuy) came here to check things out. Welcome to all of you! I’m so glad you took a few minutes out of your day to stop by and visit. Please feel free to send me suggestions – I want to make this a valuable resource for you. I’m hoping as I develop relevant content and figure out some formatting issues, you’ll keep checking back, and maybe even share this site with your friends.  Sometime next week, we might also have a special guest talk about the awesome experiences she got to have this week because of her STEM career.  If you have a cool or unique STEM-enabled experience, I’d love to have you share it with our readers!

The SciGuy and I also spent some time figuring out Google Hangouts On Air this week. My biggest motivation in writing this blog was to provide career perspectives from different people in STEM to help you, my brilliant readers, figure out where you fit in that picture, or to provide you support and encouragement in your current job. I haven’t done that yet, and it’s making me crazy! I want to interview people in video format so it’s more personable than a written article, but I’ll give you a written article to refer to also. So far, we’ve figured everything out on the software side, now I just need to get access to a better webcam. I am in STEM, but everything in the world of blogging is all brand new to me.

We built a lake!

We built a lake!

For those of you who live in Michigan (or the north in general), can we talk about someone else who had a big accomplishment this week? Mother Nature. She got the memo that it is spring, and has made our weather absolutely beautiful. If you’re in the south and you’ve been enjoying spring for months, you should invite me on an all-expenses-paid visit to see you in one of our cold months. My kids, the junior STEMs love this weather as much as me, and insisted on going to dinner at the beach, with ice cream for dessert tonight. I’d be a bad mom if I didn’t deliver, right? I’m sure I’ll say this a million times in the future, but I love that my STEM job gives me the flexibility to have these date nights with my kids.

Want to know what I love more? I love watching how little kids develop, and learn through playing. They’re doing science all the time, without ever realizing that what they’re doing involves some big thought processes. One of their favorite beach games to play is ‘build a lake’. Basically, I (or the Sci Guy) dig a little hole near the water. Then, we pour buckets of water into the hole, and watch how the water eventually digs itself a channel back to the lake. Last year playing this game, we talked about erosion, and how the strong flow of the water can wash out the sand. Today, we experimented with putting flags (sticks), islands (sand piles), rocks, and grass balls in the lake, and seeing what would get washed away by the water and what wouldn’t. Great fun was had by all, and I’m looking forward to many more afternoons like this throughout the summer – starting with tomorrow!

I hope you guys had a great week too, and get a chance to see something beautiful outside this weekend! Let me know – what were your accomplishments this week? What do you look forward to this weekend?


–the STEMinista

Big Accomplishment Friday (Sunday edition) – April 24, 2015

View of snow squalls moving into the city

View of snow squalls moving into the city from dinner on Wednesday

This week was HUGE for me.  The kind of week that’s so busy your head spins, and the days are long but rewarding.  Weeks this full and busy only happen maybe once a year.  Here’s a quick summary of all the greatness that transpired week.

As you all know, on Monday night, I had the opportunity to hang out with the Cub Scouts, talk to them about science, and build marshmallow buildings with them.  It’s always rewarding to see little ones excited about science.

Wednesday morning, I got another opportunity to speak with some outstanding young women at a local high school career day.  A lot of the girls knew what they wanted to do – physicians assistant, nurse, veterinarian, engineer, and teacher were all mentioned as planned career paths.  Of course, many of the girls didn’t yet know what else they wanted to do.  I hope that some were inspired by the different professions that were discussed in my presentation, or at least encouraged to consider further education in STEM.

Long-distance view of the Tiger's game from dinner Wednesday evening

Long-distance view of the Tiger’s game from dinner Wednesday evening

Wednesday afternoon, my lab submitted a grant on breast cancer research.  Submitting a grant proposal is BIG work.  The proposal we wrote was a 12 page proposal, but also need to include four different one-page descriptions for various reviewers, budget information, information about the people doing the work and where it will be done, and a number of other documents.  Putting it all together takes a lot of team work, and is a quite a task.  I think we will be submitting 2 or 3 similar-sized proposals in early June.

Also on Wednesday (did I mention what a week this was?), a research group I’m in put on an all afternoon symposium about different aspect of lipids research.  Five speakers from around the country came to speak, and there was a student poster competition.  All of the talks were fantastic, and the posters were great too.  This particular research group is very interesting, because it involves people from lots of different disciplines who are brought together by their study of lipids.  We had medical doctors, biologists, chemists, physicists, engineers, physiologists, and many others.  The work done by our student researchers was so impressive – it was very hard serving as a judge for their competition with all the fantastic work they are doing.  This conference was very scientific, and used a lot of cutting edge technologies to better understand very specific processes at a cellular or molecular level.

Everyone loves a giant chair!

Everyone loves a giant chair!

A fun part about helping plan symposiums is that the planning committee gets to entertain the out of town guests.  I enjoyed fantastic company over fantastic dinners on Tuesday and Wednesday as well.

Many delicious desserts were consumed this week!

Many delicious desserts were consumed this week!

The week didn’t stop there!  Friday I had the opportunity to attend a brain tumor symposium put on by Henry Ford Hospital.  As opposed to the Wednesday conference, this conference was very clinically focused, with the aim of improving treatment and outcomes for brain tumor patients.  A lot of the talks were what you expect – how to treat tumors, understanding the genetic processes causing brain cancer, and what types of treatments are in development.  But – some of the talks were unexpected too.  Things like quality of life, how to standardize care, and research funding.  Working in academics, it’s always great to attend clinical conferences to get a better understanding of the problem we’re studying and find new ways we can help.  I walked away from the conference refreshed, and with lots of new ideas for the future!  That evening was another fancy dinner, and party to celebrate an amazing leader in brain cancer research.  The work he’s done has completely changed the way the entire country looks at and treats brain cancer, and the impact he’s made in research, clinical treatment, and to his patients and their families is an inspiration.

Big Accomplishments Friday – April 17, 2015

starsI’m a little late in posting this today, but my big accomplishment for the week is…..

setting  up this blog!

The whole concept of this blog is so exciting to me – I wish a resource like this (or what I envision this to be) was available to me in school and the very early stages of my career.  I have so many ideas I want to implement, but I am completely new to the blog world.  SO – please bear with me as I figure out this blogging thing, and please let me know what would make this website a more valuable resource to you.

In smaller accomplishments, I am super excited about my new dishwasher.  We recently moved to a new house, and it needs a LOT of work.  My husband, Mr. SciGuy, is also an engineer.  He uninstalled our old dishwasher and installed our new dishwasher in a snap.  We now have a kitchen full of nice, new, functional appliances – YAY, and thanks to Mr. SciGuy!

The nasty dishwasher is gone – thanks Mr. SciGuy!

Stay tuned for next week’s Big Accomplishments Friday – next week is a big week for me at work!


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