Tuesday, April 5, 2011

Long time no see

Hard to believe that it has been almost a year since my last post. I got too caught up with other things, and finishing my degree, and moving to a new city and new lab :) But life is all good. I have hope that I will start writing again and will post more often.

I know this will look like serious bragging, but I cannot help sharing it: an interview by Society for Developmental Biology with me. Just to give you an update on my whereabouts!

Thursday, May 13, 2010

Good news...

I have been extra busy with the experiments and writing lately. I am just going to give two good news and go back to work:

1) We (a team of 4 translators) translated Richard Dawkins' latest book "The Greatest Show On Earth" from English to Turkish and it was finally published in March. We have been receiving many many good comments about how great the translation turned out. Very proud of this!

2) As "Hard-workers for Evolution" we applied to European Society of Evolutionary Biology's (ESEB) public outreach fund and were granted the fund for our proposal! This will be the first time our organization will have real funding for public education of evolution in Turkey. Feels great that our efforts are recognized by ESEB.

Thursday, February 11, 2010

“How Teams Work – and How to Work Better in Teams”

This semester I am taking an online class offered by The Center for the Integration of Research, Teaching, and Learning (CIRTL). I wanted to take this class because I thought it would help me become a better organizer for all kinds of volunteer activities I am and will definitely be involved in. Besides, I had never taken an online course and I was deeply curious about how it worked and whether it would be efficient. (I could have had a really long paragraph here revealing my distaste for the conventional education methods, but I am instead planning to write a science fiction novel on that matter.)

Our instructor is Patricia Rankin, a physics professor from University of Colorado. The students are joining from the USA and Japan (I do not know why Japan only but no other country besides the USA). We use a virtual environment called Elluminate Live. Everyone connects to the virtual classroom with their headphones and webcams ready. The classroom looks like this:

As you might have guessed correctly, this is not our classroom, I googled it. On the top-left, there is a list of everyone in the room, below that is a chat window. In our class, only 6 people can have their webcams transmitting at a time. But we usually have only the instructor's webcam turned on. However, whenever someone wants to talk, they turn their microphone and webcam on. On the right is the white/blackboard (whichever color you like, it will be that color). The instructor can have the powerpoint slides up there, or it can be used as a board everyone can write on. This way you can brainstorm or list ideas or just be mischievous (I mean it really is up to your imagination, as with any board, really)... Right below the list of people, there are buttons to show your emotions or answer yes or no to the polls, results of which will be calculated immediately and posted on the board. (Awesome, no? You do not have to count heads, I am sure the instructors appreciate this feature a lot).

What I love most about Elluminate, though, is the fact that these sessions can be recorded. Have you missed the class like I did last week? You go to the class website, click on the session video and watch it in your bed. (Well technically, you could have participated the class in your PJs anyhow, this is seriously fabulous stuff I'm telling you).

Result: I am happy about taking this class. I have no other experience with other virtual education/conference environments, but I think Elluminate Live has a very user friendly and efficient design (I promise I am not getting paid by them). I am enjoying the class as well. Our instructor, Tricia, said she has been very interested in social sciences, especially women studies in the last couple of years. Before the classes started, I thought the course was going to have an "Orrriight kids, tell me how do we setup an efficient team, ideas?" kind of theme. Instead, so far we have been learning about diversity in teams, implicit associations, gender schemas, social studies that show how people or organizations have gender bias or bias towards certain ethnicity. Becoming informed on these topics that I actually was curious about but did not have time to read is great. I hope I'll write more later about the details of what we have been learning and my experience with this online class. I'll end this post by saying "Happy Birthday" to Darwin. He is 201 today and I cannot believe it's been a year already since his 200th birthday!

Monday, January 18, 2010

Hard-workers for Evolution meet Richard Dawkins

Just some good news and then I have to go back working on my paper.

A couple of weeks ago, we (Hard-workers for Evolution) had a conference talk on Skype with Richard Dawkins and his assistant Paula Kirby because Dawkins was curious to find out about our group! We were extremely happy about this opportunity. Our meeting went great, we talked about our volunteer efforts of translating the UC Berkeley's Understanding Evolution website. Dawkins suggested this kind of work should be done in other languages. We already knew there is another group who started making trasnlations of scientific texts on evolution for Arabic. He was happy to hear this. We are hoping to work on this in the future, starting with a "How to translate a website" document that our group will write and this document will be available on Dawkins' website. I will be updating you as we progress.

The other piece of news is, (and this makes me almost equally happy) the release of Turkish philosophy journal cogito's Fall volume which is dedicated to Darwin and his theory of evolution. I have an article there with Ömer Gökçümen: "Humans and philosophy under the light of evolution". Ömer Gökçümen is a post-doctoral researcher in Boston and without him, this article could not have been a quarter of what it is right now. It was a great pleasure working on this with him.

Considering the strong anti-evolution movement in Turkey, it is always refreshing to see a respectable magazine dedicating a whole volume to the celebration of Darwin and his theory. Other Hard-workers for evolution contributed to this issue as well, and we are very proud of the outcome.

I am planning to graduate in December. Very busy with the experiments because I am working on a manuscript. Next writing the thesis will begin. I always hope to write here more often but we'll see how it goes with paper and thesis writing.

Wednesday, December 2, 2009

A Guide For Becoming and Being A Post-doc

A great book which will be useful for those who are planning on becoming a post-doctoral researcher after getting their Ph.D. degree:

(Click here to read)


A Guide for Postdoctoral Scholars, Advisers, Institutions, Funding Organizations, and Disciplinary Societies

Committee on Science, Engineering, and Public Policy




Sunday, October 18, 2009

Four Finches On My Shoulder

The most curious fact is the perfect gradation in the size of the beaks in the different species of Geospiza, from one as large as that of a hawfinch to that of a chaffinch, and (if Mr. Gould is right in including his sub-group, Certhidea, in the main group) even to that of a warbler. The largest beak in the genus Geospiza is shown in Fig. 1, and the smallest in Fig. 3; but instead of there being only one intermediate species, with a beak of the size shown in Fig. 2, there are no less than six species with insensibly graduated beaks. The beak of the sub-group Certhidea, is shown in Fig. 4. The beak of Cactornis is somewhat like that of a starling, and that of the fourth subgroup, Camarhynchus, is slightly parrot-shaped. Seeing this gradation and diversity of structure in one small, intimately related group of birds, one might really fancy that from an original paucity of birds in this archipelago, one species had been taken and modified for different ends.

After hearing that one of the professors in our department got a tattoo, I finally gathered enough courage to get one myself. I always wanted a nerdy, science tattoo, but I also wanted it to look esthetically beautiful. I quickly decided on Darwin's finches while chatting with my friend Tümay and told my husband about the idea. He loved it but said perhaps it will be better if I arrange them by flipping the two on the left, because the tattoo would not look that nice if I got it exactly the same as the figure in Darwin's book. So, I did it and when arranged that way (beaks pointing to a center), it looked like a butterfly, which added a nice surprise to the tattoo.

I took it to this great tattoo artist (Henry) at Electric Ladyland on Frenchman Street in New Orleans. He is amazing, he completed the borders and made the figure look more like a butterfly and he said:

-Look, you know that I will not be able to make the details here (pointing the birds' feathers and eyes) like they are in this picture. -Yes, that is completely fine, I just want it to look as close to the original as possible, so that people can tell they are Darwin's finches.

I am so glad I trust the artist! He did a wonderful wonderful wonderful job. Such a fine taste he has!

I could not imagine a better tattoo. I got it on Darwin's 200th, On The Origin of Species' 150th anniversary. I spent last few years reading and writing a lot on evolution (even though I am a developmental biologist by training), as well as playing the "editor-in-chief" for translating UC Berkeley's Understanding Evolution website into Turkish (Evrimi Anlamak), a completely volunteer work we have been doing as a group called Hard-workers for Evolution. And of course, I am a biologist and "nothing in biology makes sense except in the light of evolution"...

But as if these are not good enough reasons, on the night of the day I decided to get this tattoo, I started translating the Chapter 9 of Richard Dawkins' last book The Greatest Show On Earth. (Right now, I am one of the 4 translators who collectively translated this book into Turkish, and the book will be published by Kuzey Yayinlari very soon, needless to say, we are very excited about it). I just loved the fact that, Dawkins quoted the passage (above), where Darwin talks about Galapagos finches, in Chapter 9!

Well, seemed like the universe wanted me to get this tattoo and it wanted it to be this gorgeous. (I promise I am usually modest, but one just cannot be modest about such an art work on her back!)

1) Galapagos finches figure from Wikipedia (and as they cite it: Darwin's finches or Galapagos finches. Darwin, 1845. Journal of researches into the natural history and geology of the countries visited during the voyage of H.M.S. Beagle round the world, under the Command of Capt. Fitz Roy, R.N. 2d edition.)

2) Quote from Darwin 1845, p. 380

3) Photographs by A. Murat Eren

Saturday, March 14, 2009

Witty protest of the Darwin cover censorship by Turkish

In Middle East Technical University (METU), one of the most prestigious universities in Turkey, there is a stadium, and on the concrete seats of this stadium there is a giant print that says: DEVRIM (means “revolution” in Turkish). According to the urban legend, this was written by a group of revolutionist students in 1968 with a formula they developed together with chemistry students, and this was such a formula that, no other paint could cover this white paint. All the attempts of deleting it, painting on it by the officials in the years that followed proved to be useless. Obviously, the chemistry students knew what they were doing. So the word “revolution” stayed on, reflecting the revolutionist spirit of this university for decades*.

Yesterday, protesting the recent censorship of Darwin cover by the Turkish national science council of Turkey (TUBITAK), students and faculty at METU got together on the letter “D”. They called this protest “Censoring the censorship”. Because, when you remove “D” from the word “DEVRIM” you are left with “EVRIM”, which means “EVOLUTION” in Turkish.

The head of the Association of Faculty at METU, Prof. Dr. Melih Ersoy, says, “TUBITAK is the institution that should be promoting and encouraging the scientific research and thinking. It is unacceptable and very worrying to see this institution replacing the Darwin cover of the magazine, especially in 2009, the Year of Darwin.”

Photographs by: İsmail Çiftçi

*Now one of the symbols of METU, the DEVRIM print was repainted in 2008, celebrating its 40th anniversary. Pictures of this event are here.