Sunday, August 21, 2011

Last Day in Milwaukee...

For a gallery of my visit to the Harley Davidson Museum in Milwaukee:

Women as an Untapped Resource in the STEM Workforce

ARTICLE:  "Women sparse in math, science:  females an untapped resource, says US report"  Milwaukee Journal Sentinel [Milwaukee] 16 August 2011, E-1-2.

TAKE HOME MESSAGE:  Always strike up a conversation with your seat mate on a flight; s/he may be your next source.  Sources (i.e. experts) are found in all sorts of contexts!

I asked one question of the Department of Commerce:  are there actually STEM jobs available in this sagging economy?

My outside source was a fascinating woman with a Ph.D. in higher education who works along with the NSF to improve opportunities for women in STEM fields, particularly those in the academy educating the next generation of STEM workers.  She was my seat mate from DC to Detroit on my way to Milwaukee.  We struck up a conversation, realized we had a few things in common, and she gave me her business card.  When this story came my way, I thought of her.  She was an ideal source because of her particular expertise.

The Empty Cradles Series: a newspaper's effort to confront Milwaukee's infant mortality problem

ARTICLE:  "Milwaukee-based researchers study prenatal exposure to toxins:  tiniest preemies appear more susceptible"  Milwaukee Journal Sentinel [Milwaukee] 16 August 2011, E1-2.

TAKE HOME MESSAGE:  This year the Journal Sentinel is focusing on addressing the issue of infant mortality in some of Milwaukee's most impoverished zip codes.  This idea to profile basic and translational research that may one day improve this situation was mostly inspired by a meeting I attended with the mayor of Milwaukee and a small group of reporters.  I walked away wondering how I could contribute to this important undertaking.  I did the one thing I think I did best this summer:  I told researchers' stories.


Investigator #1

1)      Are you thinking that the mechanisms by which TCDD is modulating developmental programming might be epigenetic?  If so (and if you’d allow it), it would be fun to describe the concept of the epigenome. 

2)      Can I discuss findings that are “unpublished” or “observed” in very general terms?  (eg hematopoietic stem cells undergoing senescence; increased susceptibility of disease in mice)

3)      What is the significance of stem cells senescing (as opposed to undergoing apoptosis)?

4)      I’m curious about your models (in vitro, in vivo) and the types of techniques or equipment you use in the lab routinely?  (I like to try to communicate something about technology used in research.)

5)      Can you give me some context for describing the rise in the incidence of immunological based diseases in children?  Any review papers that might summarize some of these findings?

6)      I’m interested in the types of translational questions you could ask if your hypotheses prove true.

7)      So what motivates you to pursue these types of questions?  I’m always intrigued by how one ends up choosing a particular line of research.

Investigator #2

1)      I’m not sure if this is explicitly stated, but NFKB1 (g-24519delATTG) sounds like it codes for the NFKB1 promoter region?

2)      This seems like a functional polymorphism or isn’t it?  I noticed that in Table 2 there is no change to the peptide.  So what role (if any) does this variant play in the actual pathophysiology of NEC?

3)      Is NEC a phenotype of the variant allele?

4)      You state that this variant is necessary but not sufficient to produce NEC.  What sort of environmental factors would interact with this gene variant to render preterm infants more susceptible to NEC?

5)      Susceptibility is a difficult concept to explain to a lay audience.  How do you describe the term?

6)      Would you say that polymorphic NFKB1 is a reasonable biomarker of NEC susceptibility?

7)      Could this variant contribute to other factors leading to preterm labor—perhaps alter the response of gestational membranes to bacteria?

8)      What type of mechanistic studies are going on to better understand how this variant is contributing to NEC susceptibility? 

9)      In Table 1, were more infants African American because of demographics or because preterm African American infants are more likely to develop NEC?  In other words, is this a disease where there is  racial disparity?

10)  NEC is described as a sign of disease, but is not itself consider a disease?  Is this the consequence of unresolved inflammation?

11)  Can you describe some of the behavioral aspects of NEC?  Do infants exhibit pain?

12)  Can you describe some of the medical or surgical interventions for NEC?

13)  Can you describe how NEC is diagnosed?

14)  If these infants survive—and it appears that many can die--what is their prognosis in adulthood?

15)  Tell me how this work led to your focus on oxygen toxicity—obviously, a real concern in preterm infants.

16)  How is oxygen toxicity associated with environmental exposures?  Can you describe some of those exposures?   Is this something that is mediated by over-production of ROS, say, during uncontrolled inflammation?

17)  What types of studies are you proposing?

Outside Source

I am interested in an outside perspective on Dr. Sampath’s work, which has implications for NEC susceptibility.  I am wondering if you are willing to comment on some of the implications of this work.  I am also interested in knowing how this work progresses the field; what some of the pitfalls of this type of research might be; and how these findings may be applied to other conditions in the very low birth weight infant.

Center Grant Director

Would you be willing to offer me just a few lines I can quote regarding the role this grant money plays in research that may one day help lower the infant mortality rate in Milwaukee and beyond?


Calling all Milwaukee's Strong Babies

ARTICLE:  “Wanted, poster child of baby health:  ads to address infant mortality.”  Milwaukee Journal Sentinel [Milwaukee] 10 August 2011, B3.

A photo gallery of the babies who came to the casting call:

TAKE HOME MESSAGE:  Sometimes press releases about ad campaigns can be about life or death...and unexpected generosity.

I was duped once during the summer by a press release about a new test of male infertility.  Behind its facade of offering hope for couples who couldn't conceive, the test turned out to be something re-purposed and hardly novel...and I felt silly for taking the bait, exhaustively researching the product, and involving tons of outside sources who were hardly impressed by this product.  The project was dropped and an important lesson was learned.

This press release was different--a casting call for a public health department ad campaign spearheaded by the all volunteer, non-profit ad agency SERVE Marketing.

These interviews really did happen on the fly.  My editor wanted to get this into the paper quickly so that parents and their babies could plan to participate.  I spoke to the city health department and to the creative director of SERVE and pulled it together.

And the winners of Milwaukee's next strong baby campaign are:

Saturday, August 6, 2011

Loose Lab Rat Makes Front Page: Expect the Unexpected

ARTICLE:  “New bacteria linked to ticks:  deer parasites blamed for Lyme disease cause new worry.”  Milwaukee Journal Sentinel [Milwaukee] 4 August 2011, A1+.

TAKE HOME MESSAGE:  Keep an eye on EurekAlert and be prepared to reconfigure your week so that can cover breaking news, particularly when it's of local import.

Access to embargoed scientific breakthroughs:  Priceless.


      Lead Author

1)      Were any of the 4 patients who turned up positive for the WI species also positive for Borrelia burgdorferi?

2)      Two of the 4 patients were immunocompromised.  Was the WI species more virulent in these patients?

3)      If so, might the status of the immune system predict the outcome of infection with the new species?

4)      What are the consequences of untreated infection of this new Ehrlichia species?

5)      Do you believe that co-infection with this new species and B. burgdorferi might explain some of the complications observed in some people who develop long lasting or undiagnosed Lyme disease?
6)      If a rash accompanies infection with this new species—and my understanding is that it usually doesn’t—what might that rash resemble?

7)      Why the high elevation of liver enzymes?  Does this suggest that the bacteria or bacterial toxins damage the liver?

8)      Are most labs equipped to test for this new species?  Would that amount to PCR with sequence-specific primer/probe set?

9)      How can patients request this test, particularly if a doctor hasn’t been informed of it?

10)  Can this new species be detected years after infection or is the titre likely to decrease after time?

      Outside Source 

What do these studies mean clinically for people bitten by ticks and for doctors encountering patients with certain symptoms who may have been exposed to ticks?

      Surprise Sources

Sometimes unexpected sources emerge.  A press person calls you with a patient or a technician on the other line willing to speak.  In these moments, you wing it.  Embrace the opportunity, imagine the possibilities to make your story a better one, and make it a great conversation.  These interviews will often afford you priceless quotes that end up highlighted in the story.

There is always another angle to a story--an aspect that is compelling to you as a scientist.  Your editors, on the other hand, may not see it the same way.  Learn to let go.  They know better than you, they really do.

Sunday, July 31, 2011

Blog Posts: No Outside Sources Need Respond

SCIENCE AND HEALTH TODAY BLOG POST Distant female bosses may reflect a sexist workplace

TAKE HOME MESSAGE:  Health and Science Today blog posts at the Journal Sentinel require no outside source.  This is a great way to highlight the research of new investigators.


1)   The Queen Bee response sounds a little like a “male” coping mechanism—distancing oneself from people considered outside the “in” crowd.  Can you speculate as to why Queen Bees would choose this particular type of coping mechanism in the work place?

2)   Do you think that Queen Bees behave this way out of fear of losing what she has earned?

3)   Do you speculate that Queen Bees feel as though their positions have been hard-earned, and therefore believe that other women should “pay their dues” rather than be mentored.

4)   Do you think those who identified with gender were more able to muster compassion for other women?

5)   Can you recommend some strategies for organizations who want female leadership that is more inclusive toward female members of organization?

Highlighting the Importance of Research, Recruitment of Human Subjects, and Technology

ARTICLE:  “Taking steps to prevent memory loss:  studyhopes to prove exercise could help many.”  MilwaukeeJournal Sentinel [Milwaukee]25 July 2011, E1-2.

TAKE HOME MESSAGE:  People who are passionate about their work deserve a boost.  Keep your eye open for opportunities to promote that passion by profiling good research.

Principal Investigator
1)  Are there collaborating universities you want me to mention in this article?

2)  Let's get clear the definition of mild cognitive impairment.

3)  How do you differentiate aMCI from non-Alzheimer's dementia?

4)  How do you differentiation non-Alzheimer's dementia from Alzheimer's?

      5)      I noticed that your exercised and non-exercised gropus had the APOE episilon 4 marker present. Must a genetic factor liek APOE e4 necessarily be present to participate in the study?

6)  How do you test for the presence of this allele?

7)      Can neuroimaging like PET or MRI show plaques and brain shrinking   characteristic of full blown Alzheimer's?

      8)      I want to be clear on the way in which on-going studies progress the work you published in Psychiatry Research this month.

      9)      You want to determine whether the caudate activation you observe with physical activity is compensatory or protective, how do your studies tease out this distinction?

      10)  I read with interest Verghese's 2006 article in Neurology focusing on the ability    of leisure activities such as reading, writing, crossword puzzles to lower risk of aMCI.  How did you control for instances when subjects were extremely mentally active in their daily lives?  Was it possible that these types of subjects were capable of skewing the results?

      11)  I also want to be clear on future implications of your findings:  do you imagine   that Alzheimer's can be staved in some way if exercise is increased after a diagnosis of aMCI?

      12)  Based on your findings so far, how much exercise is reasonably expected to delay Alzheimer's?

      13)  To qualify for the study, subjects also had to meet Petersen criteria for aMCI.  Can you describe some of these criteria?

Study Coordinator 
      1)  I understand the study’s major endpoint:  to measure blood flow in the caudate nucleus and semantic memory pre and post physical activity, but I want to clarify the ultimate goal of these studies:  is it to test the efficacy of exercise in staving off mild cognitive impairment or is it to stave off Alzheimers in people who have MCI or is it to keep blood flowing to a part of the aging brain that is involved in an important type of memory?

2)   Do you typically get study subjects who have been previously diagnosed with mild cognitive impairment?  Or are study participants typically people who have concerns about memory loss?  What do you think motivates your volunteers?

3)   The brochure says that participants need to be between 60-88 years old and able to walk on a treadmill.  Exclusion/inclusion criteria?  Are people with Alzhiemers excluded?

4)   Tell me about your screening process.

5)   Tell me about the famous name discrimination test of semantic memory administered to subjects who volunteer.  What do these results tell you about the subject?

6)   Have you started to collect data in control subjects (or perhaps the studies are blinded?).  How do you differentiate your controls from those who are cognitively impaired?

7)   Let me clarify the time commitment required for these studies:  4 d/wk, 30 min/day, 12 weeks.  This involves 46 visits to the patient by a trainer or lab staff? 

8)   Describe how the trainer works with study subjects to get them up to speed in terms of the exercise.

9)    Do you have any tips for study participants as far as coping with the confinement of the MRI machine?

10)  What have been the subjects’ impressions of the study?

Study Participant 
      Study participant was asked to describe her experience in the study and her motivation for participating.

Neuroimaging expert
1)  Would you be willing to describe that 1991 picture next to the MRI? 

2)  What has been your trajectory since that picture was taken?

      3)      What are some of the important advances in fMRI since you were a student in Milwaukee; what are still some of its limitations?

4)  Can you describe some of the work you’re doing in brain mapping?

Would you be willing to comment  on the significance or future directions, or perhaps the pitfalls of this type of research?

A Once in a Lifetime Piece: Honoring the Life of an Unusual Fellow Scientist

ARTICLE:  “Arvedson knew God and science.”  Milwaukee Journal Sentinel [Milwaukee] 24 July 2011, 6B.

TAKE HOME MESSAGE:   Embrace once-in-a-lifetime opportunities.  You may not  pass this way again.

Interviews for obituaries are discursive conversations with a family member, close friends, and associates of the deceased.  The death notice--a paid advertisement--provides critical pieces of information and serves as the basis of the interviews.  It was the Journal Sentinel's obituary writer Amy Rabideau Silvers who gave me the advice and courage to write this piece.  I was so grateful for the experience--a real honor as a scientist.

My Golden Story: Novel Nanotoxicology Research Gets its Day in the Sun

ARTICLE:  “Quest for gold:  Researchers study element as nanoparticle, effect on female reproductive tract.”  Milwaukee Journal Sentinel [Milwaukee] 19 July 2011, E1-2.

TAKE HOME MESSAGE:   Earning the trust of a scientist is foremost the job of a science writer.  Make your intentions and your motivations explicit. 


Principal Investigator
1)     Describe nanoparticles and gold nanoparticles, in particular, and the properties that you find most interesting about these molecules.  Give me a brief description of their history as well as their possible applications in industry, medicine, drug delivery, gene therapy etc.?

2)     Can you help me understand just how small these particles are?  Average molecular weight?  What biological molecules can they be compared to in terms of size? 

3)   Briefly describe the primary aims of your present studies.  What do you hope these studies elucidate?

4)      Describe the types of studies you do and how they address the aims of this research.  (In vitro, ex vivo, in vivo).

5)      How did you decide to pursue research in gold nanoparticles and their distribution in the ovary?

6)      What are the promises and pitfalls of gold nanoparticles and nanoparticles in  general?  What are the possible implications of this research whether or not gold nanoparticles prove to be toxic?

7)      What is the funding climate for the type of research you do?  Is the NIEHS yet  recognizing nanoparticle research as relevant in the field of toxicology?

8)       What is the most challenging aspect of this research?

 Outside Source Interview
I am looking for a brief comment—a few sentences at most-- on the state of nanotoxicology research, or how the field is progressing, or the importance of research and risk assessment with respect to nanoparticles. 

When a Scientist Writes about Sports... and Gets It Wrong

ARTICLE:  “U.S. team’s triumphs a boost for women’s soccer:  World Cup showing is a win for all, two local players say.”  Milwaukee Journal Sentinel [Milwaukee]  17 July 2011, B1-2.

TAKE HOME MESSAGE:  In journalism, check and recheck names and facts... three times.  My one correction of the summer occurred as a consequence of mis-naming US Women's soccer standout Abby Wambach "Amy".

I received a poignant and well-deserved comment from an anonymous poster on  "Lmao. This is hilarious. An article about women's soccer and how it's below the radar of men's sports, and you can't even get the star players name right. ABBY Wambach."  Touche, whoever you are.


1)  What is your age and hometown?

2)  What position do you play?  What skills do you need to be successful at that position?

3)  What sort of time commitment does your involvement with WPSL require?

4)  What motivates you to play with WPSL?

5)  Are any of your teammates your competitors on the college circuit?  How do you handle this?

6)  What is your future profession?  What aspects of soccer will help you be successful at your future endeavors?

7)  How long have you played soccer?  What has compelled you to stick with the game into your adulthood?

8)  One of the missions of WPSL is promoting the stature of female athlete as role models for youth.  How important is this mission to you?  What does soccer do for young girls?

9)  Your favorite moment so far in the women’s world cup tournament?

10) Who do you most admire on the US women’s team and why?

11) How does soccer contribute to your personal development?  What distinguishes female athletes from those who aren’t involved in athletics?

12) Goalkeeping is one of the US team’s strong suits.  What skills go into being a good goalkeeper?  Is goalkeeping more mental or physical?  What kind of personality type makes the best goalkeeper?

13) The US women’s team coach said the following:  “Technique is very important to the future of this sport and it’s something we need to work on in this country.  We need players who are more technical.”  What does she mean by this and would you describe the men’s US team as more technical?

14) The FIFA president Joseph S. Blatter said, “The football was exciting and very good, although you should never compare it to the men’s version, even though it is the same basic game, with 11 players against 11, one ball and one referee”.  Why not compare women’s soccer to men’s soccer?

15) It is always interesting to hear female players described.  The coach of the women’s team from Japan described her players this way:  “They are short little ladies, but the achieved a lot and I am very proud of my girls.”  I can’t think of an instance where men on a team where described in terms of their boyish qualities.  Do you think there is a certain rhetoric used to describe females athletes, that isn’t used to describe male athletes?

16) While the Japanese women were described as “short little ladies” by their coach, women on the US team have been described in the press as “fierce”, “tough”, “beasts”, and “fearless”.  Do these adjectives ever work against a woman?  When women in a certain profession are considered tougher than average, is there fallout to this?

17) It is said that the team from Japan are motivated to do well for their country because of recent events in Japan.  And while US women are predicted to win, the team from Japan is particularly driven by a sense of deep nationalism.   What obstacles do the US women face when they face off with Japan on Sunday?

18) There is the WNBA and talk of a WNHL.  Will there ever be a women’s major league soccer team?

19) What has the role of coaches been in your life?  Do you consider coaches mentors?  How important is mentorship in women’s sports?  Does this extend to other phases of a woman’s life?

20) What is the perception of women soccer players and how does this perception fundamentally differ from that of male soccer players?

21) What’s the dynamic of a woman’s soccer team and how do you think that dynamic fundamentally differs from the dynamic on a men’s team?

22) Do you think women’s sports are gaining more respect?  What legitimizes women’s athletics in your view?

23) How do men and women play soccer differently (mentioned Journal Sentinel Health and Science Blog about men faking more injuries)?

24) The number of nations seeking to qualify for the women’s world cup has tripled since the tournament began.  ESPN now features women’s world cup soccer.  What would you attribute this increased interest in women’s soccer?

Urban Apiculture: Keeping it Local

ARTICLE:  “Beekeeping creates buzz in Milwaukee:  Ordinances lets urban hives produce honey, pollination.”  Milwaukee Journal Sentinel  [Milwaukee] 16 July 2011, B1+.

BLOG: "Join the hunt for bees"   

TAKE HOME MESSAGE:  Stories that involve opportunities for citizens to engage with science are great ways to expand public interest in science.


Study Investigator
1)   Can people in Wisconsin still get involved in the nationwide bee count?  

2)   Can Lemon Queen sunflowers be readily obtained from home and garden stores?  How are these plants best planted and maintained?

3)   Can folks also use the other plant species mentioned in the press release to count bees (bee balm, cosmos, rosemary, tickseed, purple coneflower)?

4)   What would scientists say is the greatest implication of colony collapse disorder?  I’m looking for some statistics that would help people understand how critical bees are to the health of the planet.

Urban Beekeeper
1)  Were you part of the effort to get the bee ordinance passed?

2)  What motivates you to be involved with beekeeping?

3)  What is the greatest obstacle to urban beekeeping?

4)  Are there safety issues involved in this pursuit?

5)  What would you want to say to city residents who may be a little leary about urban beekeeping?

1)  Since the bee keeping ordinance was passed last year, there has been eight licenses either issued or in progress.  Are you involved in educating people who are applying for their licenses?

2)  What does this involve?

3)  What is your greatest challenge in teaching people to keep bees?

4)  Was there any difficulty in convincing the city counsel to pass this ordinance?

5)  The licenses were issued all over Milwaukee, with no particular section of the city represented.  Can you think of someone in Milwaukee who might like to talk about their experiences with urban bee keeping?


Energy Drink Use: Communicating about Study Design

ARTICLE:    “Study looks at musicians, use of energy drinks:  Researchers suggest link to misuse of other legal substances.”  Milwaukee Journal Sentinel  [Milwaukee]  12 July 2011, 2E.

TAKE HOME MESSAGE:  Don't judge a story.  That's the job of your sources.


Interview with researcher
1)  Have you looked at other cohorts (skateboarders/surfers, BMX bikers/X Game athletes, video gamers)?
2)  How do musicians in the cohort you studied perceive the health risks of these drinks?
3)  In addition to caffeine, what do you believe are the other worrisome substances in energy drinks?  
4)  Has anyone looked at possible synergisms between substances in energy drinks that may particularly enhance their effects?
5)  Do you believe energy drinks are used to enhance the effects of illegal drugs?
6)  Is there any headway being made to get the FDA to look more closely at the safety of these products?

Interview with outside sources
I am hoping that you will be able to comment on the findings of these studies.  These comments may take any form and may include, for example, the value or pitfalls of survey-based research in the field of addiction science; findings in animals you believe might relate to this research; impressions you have of this research that you think might offer a balanced or tempered view of it.

Lyme Disease: Two Sides to a Story

ARTICLE:   “Lyme disease on rise in state:   Wisconsin human cases up 35% in 2010.”  Milwaukee Journal Sentinel  [Milwaukee]  10 July 2011, B1+.

TAKE HOME MESSAGE:  There are two sides of a story.  The truth dwells in the space between.  Ask lots of questions of many types of sources and a balanced view will evenually emerge.


1)      What makes Borrelia burgdorferi such an infective, often insidious bacteria?

2)      Can you clarify how the presence of the bacteria is detected?  My impression is that an ELISA is performed and then confirmed by western blot?  What protein is actually detected by western analysis?

3)      Does the analysis occur using serum or whole blood?

4)      I’m under the impression that there are co-infections that are prevalent when one contracts Lyme disease.  Is this accurate?  Besides Borrelia burgdorferi, what are the other bacteria likely to co-infect a patient?  (I’ve been told that Babesia parasite is of particular concern?)

5)      Are there bacterial co-infections that are particularly worrisome in terms of how the disease progresses?

6)      Do you know whether or not co-infections can be detected in the clinic?  In your opinion, are co-infections clinically relevant when diagnosing or treating Lyme disease?

7)      Must co-infections be treated with different antibiotics?

1)      Are you seeing more Lyme disease in the clinic this past spring and summer?

2)   What is the most challenging aspect of diagnosing and treating Lyme disease?

3)   Why do some people become so sick from Lyme disease?

4)   Can you tell me about the chronic form of Lyme disease and what the standard treatment of chronic Lyme disease is?

5)   There are patients I’ve spoken to who are convinced they have been cured with long term IV antibiotics…and they have sought treatment through an underground network of doctors who have quietly agree to treat the chronic form of the illness.  These patients claim that doctors typically aren’t willing to prescribe long term antibiotic treatments because they are often flagged by insurance companies for doing so.  Can you comment on this?

6)   There is a perception among patients in the Milwaukee area that primary care doctors aren’t adequately addressing the disease in terms treating it when it’s suspected.  Rather, they tend to wait on blood test results, which sometimes results in a missed diagnosis.  Do you think there is an awareness among doctors that deer ticks are a problem in Wisconsin and that patients exposed to deer ticks have a high risk of contracting Lyme disease?

1)      Infected ticks are abundant in Wisconsin and in the Mid-Atlantic and Lyme disease is endemic in both  regions.  What about Wisconsin makes the state particularly hospitable to infected ticks?

2)   There was a 35% increase in human cases in Wisconsin last year, which doesn’t appear to be declining. Why the persistent increase?  Better surveillance, diagnosis, or awareness?

3)   Are deer still considered the carriers of Lyme disease-carrying ticks?  Do deer transmit the bacteria to the ticks?  If that’s the case, can you tell me a little about deer management programs in Wisconsin?  Is there an effort to manage the disease by managing the deer herd?  Are there other animals that are believed to transmit the bacteria to ticks?
4)   Are ticks always the vector of the disease in the human population?  Are there other insects or animals that can pass borrelia to humans?

5)   The black legged tick or the deer tick (Ixodes scapularis or Ixodes pacificus) carry borrelia burgdorferi.  Can you tell me a little about the natural history of borrelia infection in the black legged tick?  Why does this particular tick spread this particular bacteria?
6)   You have expertise in Integrated Pest Management.  Any recommendations for avoiding Lyme disease beyond covering up exposed skin?
7)   How is the state addressing the rising incidence of Lyme disease?

I let the patients talk and listened carefully.

Calorie Restricted Baboon Moms...My First Interview.

ARTICLE:  “Diabetes study looks at impaired prenatal diet:  Research in baboons says restricting maternal diet could predispose child to diabetes.” Milwaukee Journal Sentinel  [Milwaukee]  28 June 2011, E1-2.

1)  Do your homework and ask the right questions.  
2)  Learn to let go of a story angle that doesn't're "on deadline" now.
3)  Enjoy every minute of the access you'll get to a fabulous scientist!

Study Implications
1)  Does this study help refute the myth that "the baby takes what it needs"?
2)  You describe your findings as changes in "developmental programming" that may predispose a fetus to health effects later in life.  Would you say this study helps support the Barker Hypothesis?
3)  You developed your studies to better understand how sheep and rodent data can be extrapolated to primates.  How closely does data described in promates reflect what has been observed clinically in humans?
4)  In the baboon studies, you controlled for lifestyle factors.  In human populations, can we ever really tease out prenatal factors predisposing to disease from predisposing lifestyle factors?
5)  It appears as though none of the food-restricted females had preterm births, but we know that this can occur in humans.  Is it a reasonable hypothesis organ impairments, such as you observed in baboons, could contribute to preterm birth?
6)  Prediabetic markers are potentiated with age in type 2 diabetics.  Is there a way to reverse the prediabetic state in baboons who experience changes in their developmental programming in utero...or is their fate sealed?
7)  A woman who reads this article who suffers from hyperemesis in pregnancy, for example, might be alarmed to learn of these findings.  Certainly, there are babies born to undernourished woman who have no apparent health effects.  To what extent do you imagine there are compensatory mechanisms for the changes that may occur in a nutrient-stressed fetus?
Study Design
8)  Does the normal diet fed to primates resemble what would be considered normal intake by human females during pregnancy?
9)  The group of animals receiving a normal diet had an n=12 and those on a restricted diet had an n=6.  Why not equally distribute the number of animals between the two groups?
10)  Age of pregancy of baboons was 11.5 years on average.  How does this translate in human years?
11)  The juveniles were described as 3.5 years og age.  At what age would you expect to see the onset of pre-diabetic markers in humans?
Future Studies
12)  Diagnosis of pregnancy occurred approximately 30 days into gestation. which is when you began the food restriction protocol.  Do you anticipate that food restriction during the first 30 days of pregnancy might also have untoward effects on fetal or adult health?
13)  You assayed beta cell function, but alpha cells have also emerged as cells that have some involvement in the pathophysiology of diabetes.  Have you looked at any endpoints in alpha cells?
14)  Can you describe some of the more mechanistic questions you might ask using an in vitro system?
15)  Can you imagines the development of a test to screen for poor maternal or fetal nutrition?  What markers might be good candidates for such a test?

1)  How do you think this work adds to our understanding of the etiology of type 2 diabetes in children?
2)  Do you see any drawbacks of this study?  Are there any conclusions in this paper that you believe are too strong?
3)  Can you comment on the prevalence of type 2 diabetes in pediatric or adolescent populations with whom you work?
4)  Can you comment on the prevalence of “food deserts” or food insecurity in Milwaukee and to what extent a lack of maternal nutrition could be contributing to prediabetic markers in children?
Basic Scientists
1)  I’m curious to know what you think the impact of this work is on our understanding of developmental programming.  
2)  I’m also interested in knowing how you think this work advances what we already know.  
3)  On the flip side, do you see any drawbacks of this study?  Are there any conclusions you believe are too strong?

An Oasis of Fresh Produce: Cathedral Square Park Farmers Market

Fourteen blocks from my West Side apartment, across the river on Milwaukee's East Side....

 Homemade smoothies abounded...

Healthy Eating from Convenience Store Shelves at Three Times the Cost: A Public Health Dilemma

1. Food desert A food desert is any area in the industrialized world where healthy, affordable food is difficult to obtain.

These groceries cost three times what they would in a typical suburban grocery store.  Less healthy food is  far more affordable in an urban convenience store.  This is having an impact on the health of people living in cities.

A convenience store culinary creation--avocado and shrimp on a toasted whole grain bagel drizzled with olive oil.  Ingredients were gathered from various convenience stores along Wells Street and Wisconsin Avenue....

Dining recommendations for Milwaukee's West Side (University Hill):   what Marquette students and their neighbors eat....

High priced and old:   produce from a neighborhood convenience store...

The closest grocery store on foot:  MetroMart (like Wegmans for folks on the East Coast and just as pricey).  Metromart is located 1.6 mile from Milwaukee's West Side.  A round trip bus ride downtown will cost you $4.50.

For more on the complexity of food deserts, friend and fellow AAAS Fellow wrote a great article in the LA Times this summer:  The problem extends beyond the lack of fresh food in some city neighborhoods; it's also a proliferation of fast food restaurants in the inner city.  Given the choice of fresh food or fast food, according to Daniela Hernandez's article, people choose the latter.

Newsroom of the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel

The entrance of the newsroom...a glimpse of what I encountered my first day:  a Mary Tyler Moore moment to say the least.

The view from where I sit in the window-less newsroom of the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel.  If I thought window-less labs were heaven, window-less newsrooms run a close second!  Here I feel as if I exist "behind the world".  I know the news before it becomes "news".

Where my articles my desk with a phone and a computer.
A view of downtown Milwaukee from the fourth  floor of the Journal Communications building on West State Street.

About the AAAS Mass Media Science and Engineering Fellows Program...

A great resource for writing about research:  A Field Guide for Science Writers:  The Official Guide of the National Association of Science Writers.

Four tasks recommended by the book, which I lived by:

1)  Understand the science;
2)  Know the background behind the study;
3)  Find a skeptical source who will temper your initial excitement about a study;
4)  Figure out who is going to benefit from the study.

A great website about process:

Goals...Encapsulated in a Podcast

1)  To bring an increased appreciation for local science to the readership of the newspaper;
2)  To experiment with social media as a way to document my process for story gathering, writing, and disseminating the final product;
3)  To explore how best to take my experiences in science journalism back into the science or communications classroom.

Hear my first (and likely my last) podcast recorded at AAAS in Washington DC this past June.  This happened just days before arriving in Milwaukee:

TAKE HOME MESSAGE:  Always have a set of goals.  You just might accomplish them.

Follow me on Twitter this summer as I navigate this other world:  @Loose_Lab_Rat