For the record: Chlamydia is NOT a virus. I am bummed. I like the little MicrobeWorld radio broadcasts, and the video podcasts are even more fun. But I was perusing the archives and I found this:

I could ignore this if it came from a different source, but MicrobeWorld is produced with ... Read more

Biology as a second-language: the immersion method Language teachers say the best way to learn a language is by total immersion and even better, spending time in the country where it's spoken conversing with native speakers. See it, hear it, speak it, use it! Put yourself in a position where you must do these four things to survive (or at least find the restroom) and you will learn more rapidly than by any other method. Graduate school serves a similar purpose for scientists. You go from an environment where your fellow ... Read more
One time I was watching a football game on TV and they had a short quiz, called "You make the call" or something like that, and you had to watch a play and pretend to be a referee. A short video clip showed football players falling over each other. Then you were three possible calls that a refereee might make and asked to chose which was correct. After the commercial, the announcer would tell you which choice was right and explain why it was correct. I suppose this was a trick to make us watch the commercials, but I thought the game was kind of fun. My SciBling "Mike the Mad" had a great ... Read more
Last week I found a bug in the new NCBI BLAST interface. Of course, I reported it to the NCBI help desk so it will probably get fixed sometime soon. But it occurred to me, especially after seeing people joke about whether computer science is really a science or not, that it might surprise people to learn how much of the scientific method goes into testing software and doing digital biology.


What happens when the scientific method ... Read more
Do course evaluations have to be a popularity contest? Or can they be useful tools for improving a class?


A few days ago, evolgen lamented that his students weren't giving him useful information on their end-of-course evaluations. I'm not surprised. When I first started teaching, I was a given a copy of the standard-teacher-evaluation-form-that-everyone-used.

The questions read something like this, with ratings between always and never:

1. Does your ... Read more

Science labs are not for all people. I've always enjoyed teaching lab courses, so some of you might find it strange that I agree with some of the comments from Steve Gimbel and fellow Sb'ers on the ... Read more
I received a mysterious file last week, via e-mail from one of my students. According the e-mail, the file contained the answers to an assignment. I downloaded the file and double-clicked it. Nada. I did notice that the file had an unusual extension. Most Word documents have ".doc" at the end. This one had ".docx" I thought that must be a mistake, so I tried other options for opening it with Microsoft WORD, even editing the extension to change it to ".doc" No. That didn't work. Then, I tried TextEdit, all I saw were strange characters. I did a few other things, but all I ... Read more
The bioinformatics classes that I teach use web services and web sites as much as possible, but I still find that it's helpful to have programs on our classroom computers. Here is a list of my favorite desktop programs for those of you who might want to add some bioinformatics activities to your biology courses. Why not use the Web? Before going on, I should probably explain, why we use desktop programs, we have so many things available on the web. We do use the web whenever we can. Web services are nice because you can shift the computation burden to someone ... Read more
I was frantically getting ready for class when I happened to glance out the window. What did I see? Big fluffy white flakes rapidly falling from above. You can't say we weren't warned. The newspapers have been predicting snow since Monday. It's just, well, unusual. And Seattle is never prepared to deal with it. Even the kids aren't looking too happy about it, though. By this time of the school year, they've caught on that every snowday has a price. And, they will pay ... Read more
There's nothing like the first day of class to make you appreciate the difference between the equipment you end up using at schools and the equipment that you get to use on the job. For the month of January, I'm teaching a night class in bioinformatics at a local community college. We're introducing lots of web-based programs, and databases, and concentrating on the sorts of activities that biotechnology technicians are likely to use on the job. It's fun. It's practical. And I don't have to suffer through any lectures about the Semantic Web. I'm also getting reminded (although not ... Read more

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