This amazing image by Ben Marriot
So, a couple of weeks ago, I tweeted the fact that my lab managed to secure some funding from WWEST to start working on a Phylo card game deck that revolves around Women in Science and Engineering issues. I’m just about to place an ad in UBC’s career site, in the hopes of attracting a stellar student team that will take on the initial stages of this project.
In any event, in the interest of being open, I’ve copy pasted the grant below so you can check it out. I’ve also been chatting with a few colleagues who I think would make great advisors on this project, but the entire endeavour is ultimately going to thrive on as much constructive feedback as possible. In this regard, leave a comment below if you think you might be interested in beta testing the deck when we have our first edit playable version.
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THE WOMEN IN SCIENCE AND ENGINEERING TRADING CARD GAME: A K-12 TEACHER RESOURCE THAT EXPLORES AND PROMOTES THE INTERSECTION OF STEM AND FEMINISM
Advanced Molecular Biology Laboratory (the science education facility within the Michael Smith Laboratories, UBC)
January to April 2015
University of British Columbia (Post Secondary Institution)
A SUMMARY OF YOUR ORGANIZATION
AMBL (Advanced Molecular Biology Laboratory) is a fully equipped research space dedicated to the development, delivery and research of projects that provide experiences in the realms of science literacy, science communication, and science education. Situated within the Michael Smith Laboratories, AMBL hosts a diverse range of programs ranging from authentic research field trip programs, provision of publication outlets for creative science writing, as well as projects that engage in the interdisciplinary intersections between science and other cultures (please see http://bioteach.ubc.ca for full details).
A SUMMARY OF THE PHYLO TRADING CARD GAME PROJECT:
Currently, one of the lab’s more unconventional projects revolves around aggregating expert and non-expert activity around the creation of a trading card culture that focuses on science generally and biodiversity specifically. Called the Phylo Project (see http://phylogame.org), this endeavour has culminated in an open access process of card, deck, and game creation that has provided an invaluable resource for the education community at large. As well, the project has been in fortunate to include the support and collaboration from a variety of notable partners that span the academic (UBC), museum (London’s Natural History Museum, American Museum of Natural History NY, Beaty Biodiversity Museum), digital curators (Encylopedia of Life), scientific organizations (GSA – Genetics Society of America), publishing (O’Reilly), non-profit sector (The Beagle Trust), and education (various school classrooms) communities. Currently, two primary game mechanics have been devised and thoroughly play tested, whereby a variety of standalone and interchangeable decks are available in both free “print your own” online and purchasable print formats.
A SUMMARY OF YOUR PROJECT
Leveraging the already available expertise and resources developed via the Phylo Project (and in particular, the work done on the soon to be released GSA deck which focuses on the “process of science”), AMBL proposes the use of grant funding towards the production of a playable card game that is explicitly designed to embed a variety of important learning objectives around the subject of women in science and engineering. The funding will essentially be used to hire a team of 3 senior undergraduate or graduate students who will work part time with the lab (wage at approximately $15/hour over a one semester timeline), and using existing resources and Phylo game mechanics. Specifically, this team will be given the following objectives: (1) to research, evaluate and design the content presented on the cards; (2) to determine whether modification of existing game mechanics is required; (3) to produce a playable and playtested beta card game; and (4) to create a number of prototype lesson plans that can be used with the resource in light of existing provincially determined IRP requirements.
AMBL in turn will provide additional in kind funding to commission professional artists and graphic designers to ensure that the aesthetics of the card game is pleasing to both the educational community and the gamer community at large. The final product, like all Phylo related materials, may be branded accordingly (for instance, it could be called the WWEST deck), and will be made available for both free online access and via revenue neutral purchasing modes of distribution. Beta decks are envisioned to be available by April of 2015, whereas final decks (with commissioned art) should be ready by early 2016 latest. Furthermore, the lab is currently slated to use a variety of different Phylo card games to introduce “hackathon” principles in lesson plan design. This programming would be offered as recurring teacher professional development workshops, with the full expectation that this “Women in Science and Enginnering” deck will be utilized. This would provide a means for continued presence, promotion, and also creates circumstances where iteration and assessment of the card game can effectively occur.
Note that we are fully aware and sensitive to the nuances involved in broaching this complex topic. In fact, a crucial part of the project will evaluate what elements of the STEM/feminism culture do we tackle first, since some things are easier to do (i.e. highlight awesome female scientists/engineers), whereas some will take more nuance (i.e. highlight some of the challenging issues found within the women in science culture). Because the Phylo system is expandable, it is feasible to work on one facet first, as a stepping stone to tackle others. Overall, however, we will be cognizant of the card game working well somewhere in the curricula of the average North American K-12 system, but also want to make sure that we do not leave out elements of the game that provide the player some insight of the cultural challenges in STEM related gender roles.
THE NEED FOR YOUR PROJECT
This project is novel because it represents one of the few attempts at introducing game-based learning techniques to promote the objectives of the Chairs for Women in Science and Engineering Program (see objectives listed at http://www.nserc-crsng.gc.ca/Professors-Professeurs/CFS-PCP/CWSE-CFSG_eng.asp). Game-based learning is a relatively new and exciting form of pedagogy that many teachers are curious about, but are currently unlikely to adopt because of their unfamiliarity with available resources, as well as their lack of confidence in logistics and implementation. This proposal aims to produce a tangible freely available game that is ready for easy use, upon which the AMBL lab is committed to provide a mechanism for continued and teacher directed lesson plan development. This will hopefully enable teachers to address a variety of different learning outcomes including those around identification of “role models in technological occupations, including those that are sensitive to culture, gender, and physical ability.” (Grade 9 Social Studies IRP, British Columbia).
THE IMPACT OF YOUR PROJECT
Impact for the project can be demonstrated in a variety of ways:
1. The project will result in the production of a high quality trading card game that addresses issues in STEM and gender equality. More importantly, this is a tangible resource that will exist in perpetuity. This includes making the game available as a freely available online resource. Furthermore, the Phylo project has previously worked out a system for revenue neutral distribution of purchasable decks. This set up enables the existence of high quality versions of the game, which does not require any additional administrative support. As a result, this project provides the opportunity to create a legacy product, which in turn could act as a conduit to other similar projects.
2. The three university students hired will be given the opportunity to deeply examine the intersection of STEM and feminism: This we believe will be a transformative experience, as it will obviously involve proactive reaching out to a variety of individuals with different perspectives and contexts. The AMBL lab is well place make use of its own significant network, but this will also naturally include the community that WWEST envelops.
3. Given the widely disseminated and often heated narrative of this topic, the card game itself is likely to elicit great interest culminating in potentially achieving a wide reach. In particular, due to its open access nature (free versions available online), we envision great uptake from various internet communities, more so due to the overarching crowdsourced nature of the Phylo project. As well, given AMBL’s commitment to directly involve teacher professional development programming with the project, the card game will also have a guaranteed audience within the educational community. At present, it is hard to predict final outreach numbers, but we do believe that this project has the potential to generate great interest from the education, scientific, and media communities.
4. This project represents a concerted mechanism to embed more gender and diversity related STEM issues in AMBL programming. This, we feel, will create a greater expertise base within AMBL, so that more similarly themed programs can be developed in the future.
5. Although formal research assessment is not currently within the scope of this funding request, several of AMBL’s previous collaborators have already expressed some interest in exploring a research query around the effectiveness of game-based approaches in delineating and addressing gender related STEM issues. David Ng is currently being proactive in exploring possible avenues of research in this regard.
SUSTAINABILITY AND ORGANIZATIONAL READINESS
Guided under the direction of Dr. David Ng, AMBL is a fully operational academic science literacy lab, that is situated within UBC’s highly lauded Michael Smith Laboratories. AMBL has full autonomy over its research lab space, and is managed via internal operating funds, as well as additional sources of revenue obtained from professional scientific workshops and a variety of successful education-based grants.
This card project should enjoy good sustainability because of the already established longevity and viral outreach of the Phylo project, as well as the lab’s long term interest in investigating game-based learning outcomes. This includes a proactive stance to incorporate use of these cards into our upcoming “hackathon” based teacher professional development programs (slated to start in the spring of next year). This will provide a more directed platform to introduce the game to the educational community, as well as provide a continuing mechanism for formal lesson plan development.
So, first things first – you have to be a UBC student (undergrad or grad) to be eligible for these (two) positions. As well, I’d be keen to extend the positions beyond the 20 hours per week to a more full time scenario if that works for the successful candidates.
Anyway, the link you need (and you’ll also need to enter via UBC’s CWL system) is:
Full details are as follows:
Title: WL (Work Learn) S14 Science Literacy Lab Assistant
Salary/Wage: $16.10 per hour. Minimum 20 hours per week. Approximately 15 weeks during summer months.
Anticipated Start Date: May 5th, 2014
Contact Details/Employer: Dr. David Ng, Michael Smith Labs – more details about his lab at http://bioteach.ubc.ca
Apply by: Appointment paperwork needs to go in by April 19th, and I’ll definitely want to be interviewing the best candidates – so maybe by around April 11th is best.
Description: The AMBL science education facility within the Michael Smith Laboratories is looking to hire a senior undergraduate student or junior graduate student who is both passionate about biodiversity research and science education. In short, this student will be part of a team tasked to design an educational card game that focuses on a variety of learning objectives aimed to explore the science and genetics of model organisms (i.e. e. coli, yeast, drosophila, xenopus, zebrafish ,mouse).
This will be built around existing trading card culture mechanics from the PHYLO project (http://phylogame.org), and slated to be offered as both a freely accessible online resource, as well as stand alone product for physical printing and distribution within educational contexts.
For this stage of the project, the student hired will have a significant role in both the design, and the play testing of the final card game, which is slated for a late 2015/early 2016 launch.
Qualifications: Life science background (particularly in molecular genetics) is a plus, though not necessary. Interest in societal and historical issues that encompass science and technology topics is beneficial. Given that the project uses a variety of digital avenues for card design and production, comfort around various blogging platforms and graphic design software is also beneficial. Interest in game development, and general engagement with “games” is also a plus.
Learning Outcomes: Students will receive a variety of training on science literacy advocacy, game development, science pedagogy, as well as skills related to use of online tools, and some graphic design.
Students will be asked to work in both collaborative and independent contexts, with frequent meetings to assess needs and progress. Mentorship would likely involve contact with relevant experts in both the science education sector, as well as those in model organism research (many of which can be found at the Michael Smith Laboratories). One of the learning objectives examined in the project, will be to see if these cards can be used in both public school setting (high school in particular), but also whether this resource can play a role in undergraduate teaching as well.
In terms of expanding networks, the Phylo card game project has a number of collaborations in the mix (including those with major natural history museums, such as the American Museum of Natural History, and London’s Natural History Museum). This particular model organism deck will be aligned with the Genetics Society of America.
For further details, please feel free to email me at db at mail dot ubc dot ca. You can also apply via this route (I’ll need your CV and a cover letter).
This excellent list from Futility Closet:
Apt names of medical specialists, collected by the MEDLIB-L discussion list in 1998:
Cardiologists: Dr. Valentine, Dr. Hart, Dr. Safety R. First
Chiropractors: Dr. Popwell, Dr. Wack, Dr. Bonebrake, Dr. Bender
Dentists, endodontists and orthodontists: Dr. Pullen, Dr. Fillmore, Dr. Hurt, Dr. Yankum, Dr. Les Plack, Dr. Toothman, Dr. Borer, Dr. Pullman, Dr. Filler, Dr. Harm, Dr. Hurter, Dr. Toothaker
Dermatologists: Dr. Rash, Dr. Pitts, Dr. Skinner, Dr. Whitehead
Family practice, internists: Dr. Kwak, Dr. Blood, Dr. Coffin, Dr. Patient, Dr. Payne, Dr. Slaughter, Dr. A. Sickman, Dr. Deadman, Dr. Will Griever
Hand surgeons: Dr. Palmer, Dr. Nalebuff, Dr. Watchmaker
Medical librarian: Rita Book
Neurologists: Dr. Johnathan Treat Paine, Dr. Brain, Dr. Head
Pediatricians: Dr. Donald Duckles, Dr. Small, Dr. Bunny, Dr. Tickles
Psychiatrists/psychologists/mental health: Dr. Brain, Dr. Strange, Dr. Dippy, Dr. Moodie, Dr. Nutter, Dr. Looney
Surgeons: Dr. Hackman, Dr. Blades, Dr. Klutts, Dr. Graves, Dr. Cutts, Dr. Slaughter, Dr. Kutteroff, Dr. Doctor, Dr. Butcher, Dr. Hurt
“This is a piece for Delaware Today about young girls losing interest in science,technology, engineering and math related studies. The state’s schools and businesses are hoping to turn all this around. I love it when I come up with a few sketches that I still want to use for something and this was one of those times. A big thanks to AD Kelly Carter!”
By DAVID NG
The below is a point sheet I occasionally use for my molecular biology class. Essentially, if the timing is right, there might be one of those large scientific equipment/product showcases on campus, and if so, it’s always fun to let loose a pack of graduate students hungry for free geek-related swag. Note that this only works if you happen to have an hour or so, in between lab steps.
It’s quite funny to see this game in action (it has a real Amazing Race vibe to it), because if you get students who are in the zone, you’ll be surprised at how much cool stuff they get. Especially, since these trade shows seem to get stingier and stingier each year. Interesting sidebar: this use to be an annual activity given that UBC’s big scientific trade show consistently fell on our class day. However, there was this one year where the class haul was simply unreal, incredible, a bit offensive really and funny thing – the trade show dates were changed the following year. Anyway, I’ve always wondered if the move had anything to do with our silly game…
You can download a pdf of the sheet here
By DAVID NG
When I look out my office window, I see two sets of nucleotide bases – guanine and cytosine. I don’t mention this as an admission of psychotic delirium. The building where I work just happens to have a DNA molecule emblazoned on its windows. Admittedly, it’s an odd workplace view, but in my case it fits.
I’m a molecular geneticist—genomics, gene expression, cloning, and the rest of that good stuff – and these little guys are some of the fundamentals of what I study. In many ways, my field is actually about the flow of information in genes; how a code is represented in that mother of all blueprints and gets read to construct something so detailed and nuanced as life. My area of interest is how the information in that chain is used and communicated. It almost always happens in the same way; DNA to RNA to protein. It’s as good a slogan as any, and from time to time we even get to call it dogma.
More important than this dogma, is the way my field appears to me to be so much bigger than the molecules I study. Molecular genetics represents some of the most exciting, profound, communal, and frightening aspects of the collective scientific endeavor. Its speed of advancement defies belief, and its effects on the social, cultural, political and economical issues of the day do not afford the luxury of ignorance.
That’s why I sit at my desk and look at that DNA; to remind myself of the larger importance of those molecules on my window not only to myself, but to everyone else. I see that I am a participant in a greater flow of information—from expert to layman, from creating the trenches where research happens to leading the tours that engage our local community.
I suppose this isn’t a fashionable reason to do science. Perhaps a more proper reason is to talk of the glory and honor of being “first” —the first to discover, to see, to understand. But in my mind, that privilege is severely limited to just one or a few. Frankly, I have my sights on something bigger: a privilege that can be shared with as many people as possible; to make science come alive.
Scientist to citizen to decisions made – wouldn’t that make a lovely dogma as well?
“Many a man floated in water before Archimedes; apples fell from trees as long ago as the Garden of Eden, and the onrush of steam against resistance could have been noted at any time since the discovery of fire and its use under a covered pot of water. In all these cases it was eons before the significance of these events was perceived. Obviously a chance discovery involves both the phenomenon to be observed and the appropriate, intelligent observer.”
By Walter Cannon, The Way of an Investigator, 1945. Via Futility Closet.
I can get from BORA to YODA in only 4 lines…
KORA (a African harp-like instrument)
KODA (common name for the tree species, Ehretia acuminata)
A coincident?!? (I think not)
If providing sound advice on science blogging and science writing had a ranking system, then Bora Zivkovic would be clearly be somewhere at the top.
Anyway, here’s a quality must read for those of you who are curious about the traditional ways, the non-traditional ways, and various degrees of meta-ways in which a person can become a “science writer.”
By DAVID NG
LIESL: Why is it that we can all sing very well?
GENETICIST: Liesl, that is an excellent question! And essentially one that boils down to the classic debate of nature versus nurture. Are your genes responsible for this particular talent, or has it more to do with your upbringing? Looking at this scenario objectively, I would have to say that it is both. There have been reports that the ability to have perfect pitch—that is the ability to distinguish musical notes without points of reference—is a hereditary phenomenon, thereby strongly suggesting a genetic basis. This would seem to be supported by your father’s musical talent as well. Of course, you’ve also had the benefit of being tutored by your wayward novice governess with all-world pipes, Maria.
In conclusion, like most things pertaining to our individuality, we are influenced by both our biology and our surroundings.
GRETL: I think Liesl is very beautiful. Why am I not as pretty?
GENETICIST: Assuming no mutational errors occur during the production of sperm and egg cells, there was approximately a 1-in-70,000,000,000,000 chance that you would have been an identical clone of your sister. If you included the multitude of mutational and regulatory events that ensue during this process, that statistic would escalate to an even smaller chance that is, quite frankly, unfathomable to calculate. How did I get to this absurd number? Well, one must realize that your genetic instructions are housed as a collection of 23 pairs of chromosomes (i.e., 46 in all). In other words, it is correct to say that each human has two sets of instructions—one given to you by your father, and one by your mother. If you keep in mind that your parents themselves also have 23 pairs of chromosomes, and you realize that the child may receive only one from each pair, the likelihood of siblings having the same 46 chromosomes is the fantastic number mentioned above.
However, Gretl, do not fret. You are the youngest of the lot and still have a good chance to blossom into a stunning flower like your sister Liesel. Furthermore, cosmetic surgery these days I hear is quite impressive. And then there is always the chance of Liesl having a disfiguring accident—I hear she may be a Nazi sympathizer, which is never a good thing.
FRIEDRICH: Yes, Liesl is hot. Sometimes, even I have feelings for her. Why is it bad for me to feel that way?
GENETICIST: Incestuous relationships, as well as being frowned upon by most of society, are also disadvantageous from a biological point of view. In the genetic world, diversity breeds fitness. One example is to imagine the following. You have a set of genes that determine the ability of your immune system to recognize and combat various pathogens. Your sister Liesl also has a set of genes that do the same thing. And because you and your sister come from the same genetic pool (you have the same parents), Liesl’s immunity is quite likely to be similar to yours. Do you not see that the net effect of this is that you would create offspring with a limited repertoire of immune-system genes? Compare that to your having a child with, say, Marcia from The Brady Bunch, and you will note that this union will create offspring that have the benefit of a wider genetic pool (your parents and Marcia’s parents), thereby allowing your children to acquire a more diverse and fitter immune system.
Also, dude, she’s your sister.
BRIGITTA: Why do all of our siblings have blondish hair and blue eyes, whereas Marta and I have dark hair and dark eyes?
GENETICIST: You are thinking, perhaps, that your mother was a whore? It is true that the disparity in your outward appearances is a mite unusual. However, there is no reason to believe that any adultery has occurred. Here is the reason why. Although it is generally thought—though not confirmed—that extreme blondness (as in the case of Louisa and Friedrich) has a recessive distribution, there are numerous factors that can account for your instances of dark hair and dark eyes. First, hair and eye color are very subjective terms. Is Greta or Kurt blond, dirty blond, or strawberry blond? Genetic characterization is very difficult when the observational characterization is less than strict. Second, the pigmentation of hair is normally attributed to melanin levels, which have been shown to vary greatly during different stages of a person’s life. You may have noticed, for example, that a person’s childhood hair color tends to be lighter than their adult hair color. Third, the amount of melanin that an individual produces is influenced in part by their environment. For instance, melanin acts to protect the person from the damaging effects of the sun’s radiation. In conclusion, I do not feel that there is anything to worry about. Besides, you did not mention Liesl, who herself has dark hair. Did you omit her because you are secretly jealous of her hotness?
KURT: I think I might want to be with another boy. Is this to do with my DNA?
GENETICIST: Unfortunately, the answer is currently unknown. There have been numerous reports that have tried to implicate specific genetic regions to homosexual behavior, but presently those studies, although titillating, are at best only an indication that there is a hereditary factor for this type of sexual orientation. However, there is an abundance of ongoing research in this area, particularly with homosexual men. If you are interested, perhaps you could participate in the scientific process. Of course, it is important to remember that the Nazis do not dig gay people.
LOUISA: Why doesn’t anybody remember who I am?
GENETICIST: Alas, it appears that this is because you are the second child. I would not be surprised if there are very few pictures of you. It is not, I assume, because your parents did not love you, but simply a facet of being born after the initial excitement and newness of parenthood has passed. This, of course, has nothing to do with genetics. In order to be taken more notice of, you could try different fashions, or perhaps a new haircut. In truth, Liesl could probably give you better advice, as I am, sadly, only a geneticist.
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Originally published at McSweeney’s
More on Erinaceus europaeus here.
“When a creature is discovered, it is first necessary to determine whether it is a new species, a new subspecies or merely a variant of an already described and known species. As there is no single, unambiguous definition of “species” this determination can be time-consuming and subject to discussion and disagreement.
By tradition, the right to name a new species is given to the discoverer, or more precisely the scientific describer of the species (who is not necessarily the person who discovered the species in nature). There are, however, many regulations to be followed when naming a species, all of them fixed by the International Code of Zoological Nomenclature (ICZN) when animals are concerned, or the International Code of Botanical Nomenclature (ICBN) for plants.
In general, the nomenclature of creatures follows a system established 1758 by Carl von Linné and each scientific species name is a composite of two parts, namely the genus name and the species name. For example, the scientific name of the European Common Frog is Rana temporaria, where Rana is the genus name and temporaria is the species name.
As the genus name should reflect relationships among different species within the same genus, the first attempt after each discovery is to allocate the creature to a respective genus (and the systematic categories of higher hierarchical levels). Thus in most cases, with exception of the discovery of new genera, the genus name is fixed already, whereas the species name may be freely chosen by the scientic describer of the species within the frame of the ICZN or ICBN regulations.”
Via IFLS (no source provided – please let me know if you know where this came from)
I bet those 7 minutes must have been terrifying. Oh, and science FTW!!!