The Scientific Community and Networked Learning

In the world of science, there are few instances where a breakthrough or novel discovery are accomplished solely by individuals; some could argue that there aren’t any in history! The identification of DNA, though credited primarily to Francis Crick and James Watson, was an accumulation of the ideas, theories and experiments of many accomplished researchers. Jean Brachet, Rosalyn Franklin, and Martha Chase all held a hand in our understanding of DNA today. Researchers in science and technology fields have always understood the value of collaborative learning; by using information already gathered from others, new ideas are generated, allowing bigger and better advances in the scientific community. Today, more research-intensive institutions of higher earning are adopting a similar approach. Guided by principles of “networked learning”, nations are adapting a global collaborative approach to research. An article by Yojana Sharma(posted here on the University World News)  discusses the rise of global science system. The story states that the number of manuscripts with international coauthors have risen from “16% to 22%” between 2003 and 2016. The number of citations from international sources have also risen. The expansion of science beyond national borders is extremely important for its growth. By adapting others’ viewpoints and motivations, we can solve problems using means far from the standard used in one’s own country. We can tap into resources never once thought of to advance our own understanding of the world around us. The networked learning approach in the scientific community also generates a sort of healthy competition. In order to access the breadth of knowledge provided by the global science system, nations must bring some of their own research to the table. Doing so encourages researchers to provide quality information in exchange for access to global innovations, creating a feedback loop.

As with most movements, there are some obstacles in the world of globalization of education. Political leaders have begun incorporating nativism and nationalism into their ideologies. While there is absolutely nothing wrong with believing in and supporting your country, when you begin to shut out any and all ideas that aren’t generated within your borders, you miss out on new ideas and techniques previously unknown. Restricting free exchange of information in today’s interconnected society is a grave mistake and can potentially lead to more oppressive regulations in a nation.

Collaborative learning is an absolute must for growth and development, particularly in the sciences. If we are to truly to improve the human condition, make advances in technology, and evolve beyond our current selves, we cannot isolate ourselves behind imaginary borders, but reach out to each other and progress as the human race. As always, these are my thoughts and I’d love to hear yours. Give the article a read and drop some comments and let me know what you think.

GPP 19 First Post

Just testing to make sure I did the category correctly. Looking forward to the experience and getting to know the other members of the cohort.

Media Madness

Yo! I hope everyone’s having an amazing day! Today I’d like to talk about a product whose use has increased exponentially in the last decade, and that product, my friends, is social media. Social media has become one of the most widely recognized and globally used platforms in the modern age, showing no signs of slowing down. Many of us use social media on a daily basis for hours at a time, but it can also serve as a distraction from our daily duties. Students are quite prone to using social media as a means of avoiding tasks they deem as tedious or boring. As a result, faculty members in higher education have begun utilizing social media platforms to keep students engaged in learning.

 

A study by King, Greianus, Carbonaro, Drummond, and Patterson (2009) showed that integration of social networking into an inter-professional team course in healthcare caused growth in communication skills. Sadaf, Newby, and Ertmer (2012) conducted a study questioning soon-to-be teachers on whether they plan on using social media in upcoming classes; about 51% percent reported that they will, believing that it will increase student engagement. Many graduate students utilize blogging sites such as Ning as a tool to communicate on each other’s work and share information (Brady, Holcomb, and Smith, 2010).

 

Despite there being some apparent use for social media social media in the classroom, some faculty disagree with at the very least, the platform being utilized. In a study by Roblyer, McDaniel, Webb, Herman, and Witty (2010), faculty were less likely to use Facebook in the classroom, stating that students communication about coursework was the least likely to happen on the platform.

 

In this modern world, social media doesn’t appear to be leaving anytime soon. While many view it as a distraction, the new generation of educators have been raised along side it and understand how to properly utilize it. By incorporating social media in to lectures and other educational settings, we can potentially revamp an ancient and outdated system. These are just my thoughts and I’d love to hear yours. Let me know what you think in the comments!

Until next time,

Dr. Chaos, signing off

 

 

Future of the University

Higher education is not a perfect system. There are many flaws at an individual university level, a national level, and a global level. Reevaluating the education system is should be a priority and is something that I plan to contribute to as a faculty member. Of all the things I wish to see change in the future, perhaps what I’d like to see the most is abandonment of the standardized testing system. In my eyes, it makes no sense to spend around 12 years in primary school, only for one singular test to define and limit your options for higher education. This system is in place in countries across the globe and has been for several decades, despite more and more evidence that the scores earned in these exams do not accurately reflect individual intelligence or problem solving skills. Furthermore, the immense amount of pressure placed on students to be successful on the exams is crippling. Excessively trying to make sure students perform well on these exams almost ensures that they won’t. When you limit a student to a silent, fluorescent-lit room and ask them to complete hundreds of (intentionally misleading) multiple choice questions that most adults couldn’t, the results are going to be tragic. Then to limit the student’s higher education options based on this absurd test with outlandish conditions, it just doesn’t seem to be the greatest way to go about it.

I believe that if we develop a more reasonable means of evaluating student skills and knowledge instead of a standardized exam, we can open more doors for youth and allow them to attend universities that better suit their needs.  We should want more students attending colleges; a higher education rate often leads to better jobs and incomes, and perhaps with time, a more intelligent society. Standardized tests themselves are (in my opinion) a misnomer. People do not learn in the same manner as others and education can differ from classroom to classroom. There is no set standard of teaching that that leads to 100% retention. With that being the case, then there should not be a standardized exam but a more personalized exam, catered to evaluate the individual student rather than hundreds of students that actually partake in this exam.

Open-access: The Key to Graduate Student Success

Good afternoon all! I’m here with another topic, and that is open-access journals. Let’s jump right in! Now as you all may or may not know, I am a 2nd year PhD student in the field of food science. A big part of being a grad student is READING PAPERS! Yes, in order to become the future researchers of the world, we grad students must constantly being aware of the scientific advances made in the past. We build our knowledge on the foundations set by our predecessors. Unfortunately, in this world, nothing is free, including knowledge. Many journals require a subscription fee or one-time charge to view the entire article. These prices can be as low as $25 or rise above $100! Now being graduate students, we aren’t exactly rolling in cash, so for us to pay for each article we’d need to read would be just short of impossible. Some universities work out a deal between journals and the library to provide access to students so long as the students remain on the campus server. This is easily feasible by larger universities such as Virginia Tech, but smaller universities have a harder time footing the bill.  Alternatively, there are journals that provide free access to all of their articles; these are known as open-access journals.

 

In my field, I often use manuscripts from the Journal of Nutrition published by the Oxford University press. Now, the Oxford University press (OUP) has made it their mission to widely disseminate the highest quality of around the world, and what better way to do so then to provide articles for free. Some journals under the publishing body have even improved their impact factors and allow for drop box submissions. The OUP aims to continue providing free access to some of its journals and gradually increase the numbers.

 

Providing open-access is critical for the success of graduate students and the creation of new scientists throughout the world. I believe that what the OUP does is a step in the right direction of promoting and evolving the current education system. As always, these are just my thoughts and I’d love to hear yours! Leave me a comment!

 

Until next time,

Dr. Chaos, signing off.

Why So Anxious?

Hello all, I hope you enjoyed your holiday and are ready to hit the ground running this week! Normally I prioritize exercise and healthy eating on this, but I want to go a different route today and talk about a topic near and dear to my heart…or in this case, brain: mental health.

Now, students enrolled in higher education curriculum are no strangers to stress and anxiety, but more often than not, these levels go unchecked. Often times, people think these feelings will eventually pass and they’ll move on with their lives; unfortunately that isn’t the case most times. I’ve personally dealt with a bout of depression this past summer and I was Shocked at how crippling it can be. I had no desire to do anything but sleep (which was a chore itself), I couldn’t find joy in any of my favorite activities, and I relied heavily on substances to make me feel…anything. I dragged along, day by day like this until a suggestion from a colleague: visit the counseling center.

Now like most minority people, I wasn’t a fan of visiting any sort of counselor. I thought of it as admitting defeat, attention seeking, whiny, etc. But ANYTHING had to be better than this. So I begrudgingly scheduled an appointment. I was surprised at how quickly I grew comfortable. Having a stranger to talk and vent to just felt…liberating. Imagine talking to someone who has no context or bias, cannot judge you or your actions, and is only there to listen to your problems and provide the best advice. It was insanely comfortable.

I was also introduced to mindfulness, defined as “a mental state achieved by focusing one’s awareness on the present moment, while calmly acknowledging and accepting one’s feelings, thoughts, and bodily sensations, used as a therapeutic technique”. Mindfulness is essentially meditation, and while not something I was open to at first, it helps with massive levels of anxiety. It takes me out of my head, keeps me from the what ifs and allows me to be present in the moment. I stopped worrying about things I couldn’t change and started living again!

Mental health isn’t easy or fun to talk about, but it is critical that we do. There’s no point in having a fit, healthy body if you can’t stand life. We must not neglect this aspect of our health, but address it head on. So many deaths can be prevented if we reach out and just talk to someone. As someone who has lived through depression and chronic anxiety, I ask that if you feel that way, find some one or some (healthy) way to address it. You can beat this!

Share your mental health stories in the comments!

As always,

Dr. Chaos, signing off!

Too Stressed to Eat: The College Student Diet

Hey everyone, hope your day is going as great as mine! And I hope you made it to the polls as well.

Today I want to talk about a topic a lot of college students may ignore: proper eating habits. As we all know, college students are (for lack of a better word) broke. They can hardly afford to hit the grocery store weekly, let alone take the time out to prepare a delicious, nutritious meal. The food from the cafeteria …tries its best to be a healthy substitute, but can only do so much, especially at smaller, poorer universities. As a result, college students spend a lot of time cramming fast food and other junk into their diets to satisfy that hunger.

Numerous studies show that college students in the US tend to eat less fruits and vegetables on a daily basis, opting for higher calorie, high fat snacks. A study by the American College Health Association revealed that a mere 7.3% of students eat 5 or more servings of fruits or vegetables daily. Doing so can cause students to become malnourished, leading to mineral deficiencies.

So why do students eat so poorly? Many cite cost as the primary reason, others purely for taste, and still others for convenience. Regardless of the reason, one thing is clear: we have to start promoting healthy eating habits at universities. While focusing on academics is important, obesity rates are still rising and show no signs of slowing down. If we can show our future leaders the value of dietary health, perhaps when they move into the workforce as leaders and educators, they’ll bring their knowledge of healthy eating with them and pass it onward. It may be wishful thinking, but the obesity epidemic MUST be halted, and the best way to start is talking to the youth.

Why do you think college students eat so poorly? What do you think we can do to change them? Let me know what you think in the comments!

Until next time,

Dr. Chaos, signing off

Grad students and regular exercise: Is it actually feasible?

Today I’ll be covering a topic that most of us have encountered in our journey of health and fitness: time. As graduate students, we are busy for the majority of our day. Between research, meetings, TA assignments, writing, studying, and of course, attending classes, there’s hardly time to eat a meal much less fit in a workout. So how is it possible to be an outstanding student while having an active lifestyle? This problem has plagued me for many years, but I believe the key is to simply MAKE time. Hear me out:

Despite a busy schedule, we all have certain activities that we make time for, be it as trivial as a watching a TV show, or meaningful as spending time with a loved one. We prioritize them. If you are having trouble fitting exercise into your schedule, what you should ask yourself is not “How can I fit in a workout?” but “Is working out important to me?”. If you feel like fitness is something you truly wish to incorporate into your life (which has numerous proven health benefits) then begin by following these steps.

  1. Devote 45 minutes to an hour 3 times a week to exercising.
  2. Try and center each workout around the same time each day, so that you can establish a habit.
  3. Choose a time that works with you as an graduate student. Do you prefer to knock it out early and start your day more energized? Or would you rather use your workout to relieve the stress of the day and wind down for the evening.
  4. Stick with your established workout schedule for at least 1 month. Habit-forming is key. If you begin to associate working out with your daily routine, you’ll find it much easier to dedicate time to it.

Grad students are traditionally overworked, stressed, and all-around tired.  By incorporating regular exercise into our lives, we can improve our sleeping habits, reduce overall stress levels, and lead healthier lives while we contribute to higher education. Not to mention the numerous physiological benefits (to be covered in a different post).

 

As always, these are just my thoughts, and I would love to hear yours! Is it possible for a graduate student to incorporate regular exercise into our lives? or are we too busy entirely?

This is Dr. Chaos, signing off ~

Moral Kombat

Good evening folks! Hope your day was as great as mine!

Today I’d like to talk about an area that is near and dear to my heart: morals and ethics. Sounds like a strange thing to be passionate about, but hear me out.

I work in the field of food science and technology with a focus on functional foods and human health. Suppose I come out with an amazing new study claiming that I can use one of the compounds found in coffee grounds to reduce risk of heart attack by 40%, and I have all the figures, data, and statistics to back this claim. Now lets say that I…tweaked some of my results to be a bit more favorable to my conclusions. Nothing too major, just changing a few numbers to give me a little more statistical significance, maybe i took out some of my low values. No big deal, right? I mean after all, its for the greater good of improving human health? Well that may help me sleep at night, but falsifying data is a serious offense that falls into the category of research misconduct, a major taboo in the scientific community.

Research misconduct is not only illegal, but could also be dangerous in certain fields such as the human health sector. By falsifying results that could eventually get published and cited in other experiments, you could be playing a role in the creation of a new drug or medicine that may not actually work, or even be detrimental to the public’s health! Because of these staggering consequences, organizations such as the Office of Research Integrity (ORI) oversee and monitor research integrity activities within the U.S. Public Health Service on behalf of the Department of Health and Human Services. The ORI provides documentation of research misconduct cases to the public as both a reminder of the potential consequences and to serve as an example for anyone in a lab who may want to report an instance of research misconduct. 

I went onto the ORI site and pulled an article that I think illustrates my point, which you can check out here.

From the reading, we learn that Matthew is actually a graduate student, not unlike myself. More than likely, he was trying to get a manuscript published, a very important factor when pursuing a post-secondary degree. Unfortunately, Matthew decided to falsify some of his experimental results, which lead to some consequences. Now, Matthew must be supervised in any research which he could potentially receive funding for, and his employing university must cosign on ALL of his manuscript submissions, saying that the work is legitimate. Some might say that that’s not too bad, but consider this: any university who sees this background could be discouraged from hiring Matthew. After all, who wants to hire a researcher who needs to be watched over every time he wants to publish a paper?

Matthew may have made a mistake, but it isn’t one that is foreign to many graduate students. After weeks, months, years of terrible data, some students have toyed with the idea of toying with the data to produce more favorable results. Not out of malice, but out of desperation to finish their degrees. But these are only my thoughts, tell me what you think? Do you think the consequences are entirely too steep? Or that Matthew got what he deserves? Let me know what you thinl!

Until next time,

Dr. Chaos, signing off.