Academia, Career, Economics, Faith, Neurological Disorders, Pain, Problems to Solve, Spinal Cord Injury, Uncategorized, Writing

Grant Amazing

I  did! I posted again!

Okay, it’s been a long time since my last post. While I feel bad about not keeping up with the blog, at the same time, I have a good reason. I’ve been deep in the bowels of grant-writing.

Science, despite all it’s glorious discoveries and wonders, fails without cold-hard cash driving it forward. In our day and age, money motivates discovery. Almost all our breakthroughs in science have some kind of sponsored backing.

Sad, but true. But then, many of us who are in the field of academic science research are driven by more than simply the need for knowledge fulfillment. Personally, I believe I belong in research (for now). And I love to teach…. which in my position provides me with that opportunity.

Regarding Money

With my desire to propel my projects forward, I’ve stopped nearly all distractions from my ability to devote time and energy to getting a grant. As some of my friends know, I’ve made this a top priority. I firmly believe that the work I’m doing in the lab will have some future benefit as well provide an exciting perspective on the issues of Spinal Cord Injury and Pain. 

A metaphorical image….

So I give myself a pat on the shoulder, because just a day ago I got a phone call from the funding agency that my grant application has been award full-funding for the next two-years.

I’m a young investigator, and this is my first grant funded as the principle investigator. In the course of an academic career, this is a THE milestone toward something “bigger” or at the very least more independent. For a little bit of time, and to a point, I will have my own little research space to study something on my own. This is nice, scary, and exciting all at the same time.

As I move forward, as the quiet margins open up again, I will try my best to continue my ruminations. Writing continues to be a great outlet… no matter the topic.

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Aging, Career, Compassion, Humor, Kidults, Neurological Disorders, Philosophy, Problems to Solve, Relationships, Thinking, Time, Wisdom, Writing

Kid-ults: adults who need to grow up

The term “kidult” comes to mind, which is a hybrid of the words “kid” and “adult” and all the connotations involved. The kidult is your proverbial human (usually a male) who moves through life without care. Not the laid back, I’ve gathered enough of my material belongings around me so I can live well and take care of my loved ones. No. A kidult is a person who has reached maturity several years ago, but prefers to live as though they’ve still got a bedroom in their parent’s place, dinner on the table everyday (when they want it), and a select group of friends who think it’s cool to live this way for a lifetime.

I have a few relatives who lack so-called motivation and have probably earned the title of “kidult”. I also have friends who lack drive to do more than what they are currently doing.  Maybe this qualifies them as being kidults.

Sure, I may come off as sounding arrogant or that I’m sitting on some high horse, waving my finger in the air, nose pointed to the heavens, and declaring that I’m the antithesis of the kidult. But, allow me to elaborate: I firmly believe that kidults are the smartest people on the face of planet Earth!

They have made living easy (the kind of life that doesn’t require hard labor or mental effort) a form of martial art. This takes skill, intellect, and dare I say it, talent.

And this is why it bugs me! So much personal potential (power to impact the world and people) wasted. Thrown down the television tube or some other time-sucker, i.e., movies, video games, weed, or other powerful distractions.

And for some of you who wonder, what’s wrong with just living and doing things as long as you don’t hurt other people? Well, if everyone just ate their food and worked just enough for their self-survival then we’d all be in big trouble as a human race. Here’s why: Nobody, absolutely zero people who have this attitude are self-sufficient. There’s always somebody backing them up. There’s a safety net of other people ready to jump in and catch this person who lacks any drive in life to advance.

How do we get a kidult to grow up? How does one wake up a person from a slumber in which they are dreaming a pleasurable dream?

Pull the safety net away, I suppose. But, isn’t that mean, even rude. Kidults, ugh! Come on, friend, get a job. Go back to school. I know you can do it. If you can recite all the lines from The Matrix Movie by memory, you can certainly become a barista at Starbucks.

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Hyperreflexia, Memory, Neurological Disorders, Pain, Spasticity, Spinal Cord Injury, Writing

Top 5 Challenges in SCI Repair

Here are the top five challenges in the race for a cure for SCI:

  1. Post-injury survival – Keep nerve cells that survive the initial injury alive and healthy
  2. Regeneration and growth – Promote the re-growth of injured nerve cells and their fibers
  3. Axon pathfinding – Guide growing axons toward their normal targets (i.e., muscles or other neural tissues)
  4. Electrical conduction – Nerve cells must conduct electrical impulses with reliability and fidelity to carry information needed to execute complex tasks
  5. Synaptic connection –  Axons that reach their targets must connect and stabilize a line of communication

Progress: In my opinion, in more than 10 years in this field, I firmly believe that we’ve grown exponentially in terms of knowledge and application for milestones #1, 2,  3, and 4. And this is great news because this means that we are more than halfway toward fixing SCI. In fact, there are ongoing clinical trials in various parts of the globe investigating ways to increase the survival of nerve cells (a critical first step!), enhancing the growth of spared fibers, and guiding those axons toward their normal targets.

Next Steps: While less is known about how to promote re-connections between injured nerve cells and their targets (#5), we have a firm grasp on the molecular mechanisms involved in this challenge. We know that specific proteins interact in the growing nervous system (i.e., those that functioned when you were still in the womb, or just an infant) and that they turn-off, don’t work, or are non-existent in adulthood. So, in essence, we need to learn how to turn these switches back on, or replace them with functional ones. While no easy task, there are emerging tools to do this, including genetic therapies which has become a huge advancement and addition to our repair tool box.

What I expect: In the next few years, we will see some very big pushes on various research fronts in the SCI battle space. I think the biggest successes and those soonest to arrive will be in the form of new strategies designed to overcome many of the serious quality-of-life issues associated with SCI, including pain, reflex disorders, and poor autonomic function. Hang on; stay alert; stay hopeful!

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Career, Faith, Missions, Neurological Disorders, Philosophy, Spinal Cord Injury, Thinking, Time, Wisdom, Writing

Mission for a Cure


A small step….

I’m pleasantly surprised how this week has gone. Upon reflection, I’ve made tangible progress.

I’m always surprised by how the small steps when added together make this bigger goal come true. Every project I work on has been a huge undertaking.

I’m slowly working out a process on how to effectively manage these projects. It goes against my nature to slow down and take things one step at a time. But, this is how it should be done, I think.

Like a painter working on a masterpiece. It starts with a single brush stroke, followed by another, and on.

The mission to the Moon began as small rocket launches. The first orbit around the Earth was a step toward reaching the Moon.

Developing a drug for curing spinal cord injury would ultimately arrive the same way. A small step here. A small test there. Perhaps this preclinical study in an rat will provide the foundation for a successful treatment.

My projects, I suppose, are the brush strokes, the first launches into the stratosphere.

I reach for the Moon, but keep my eye on the prize which is Today.

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Academia, Existence, Faith, Grants, Neurological Disorders, Philosophy, Politics, Problems to Solve, Storm, Thinking, Wisdom, Writing

Ambition

It’s a hard job, being a scientist. This is not a complaint, but a mere observation in the spirit of scientific fashion. It is hard.

I’ve been in different jobs. At this moment, from this vantage point, the biggest difference I see between working in a lab in academia versus the world of commercial business is the competition, the struggle.

In commercial business, the main impetus appears strongest from the outside. Your boss, your client, your project demand your very best. And if you satisfy your boss, your client, and do a good job on your project, then you will most likely do well in your job.

On the other hand, in academic scholarship, the main impetus appears from within. While there are certain external forces that vie for your utmost effort and attention, it is within you that the most demanding pressure manifests.

In this world, there are no deadlines to meet, no benchmarks or milestones except the ones you make for yourself. Hence, if you do not self-motivate yourself, you could float around in the nether until you’re either fired or find yourself in a dead end, low-paying position (relative to your peers 10 years your junior) with no way out because you’re too old.

Now ambition says that relaxing and enjoying your life is a waste of time. Well, I suppose a glimpse into this world of academic science would help people understand how things are done in the scientific world.

There is that internal drive that must be tempered. That internal beast that says you must produce otherwise you’re a failure. I’m sure everyone who has wanted to do well in their career has at one point experienced this monster. I battle this thing so that I can get good sleep at night, enjoy time with my loved ones, and do what I like as a human being.

There is nothing worse than a worker with no soul.

© All rights reserved by Childish Dream

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Academia, Missions, Neurological Disorders, Pain, Problems to Solve, Spinal Cord Injury

Digging for treasure

I suppose it’s time to write something about my day. Just a quick note, a slice  of my 24 hours.

I’m now in the laboratory, sitting at my desk, thinking that I need to do more research. After my talk yesterday, I received a few questions and critiques regarding my next steps for my project.

The run down: I’ve built a firm foundation that I can rest my thoughts upon. The foundation are a series of papers I published that demonstrate a structural substrate, or medium, for the abnormal sensory sensations processed by the nervous system after injury (or disease).

Now that I’ve built this ‘floor’, I’ve been encouraged to explore targets that could test that foundation. Find the cracks, as it were. In order for me to do that, I have to go back to the drawing board; find out where there is a gap in my knowledge in my conceptual model.

To do this, I need to read. I need to read the plethora of literature regarding the possible mechanisms, or machinery, that may control what is happening inside the injured spinal nervous system. There is so much.

In the past, I’ve been able to focus my quest by the simple method of asking simple questions. So, now I will pose one as I dig into the netherworld of the internet databases, where decades of published work may reveal something useful for me.

I’m on a scavenger hunt, but I don’t know what I’m looking for. Not yet, anyway. How exciting….

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Academia, Coffee, Compassion, Missions, Neurological Disorders, Problems to Solve, Spinal Cord Injury, Writing

Steadfast, moving forward

I failed to meet my goal to maintain a posting frequency of one per day. I knew it was unrealistic given the workload I have in the lab. My well-being improves when I’m away from a computer as well (i.e., long-term desk work is bad for your health). Don’t get me wrong, I can be a prolific writer. I can dump my thoughts on a page and have you all read my freely associated mind boggles straight-up like a shot glass of 200 proof ethanol. Yes.

In other news, I’ll just say that drinking coffee chronically and then stopping abruptly is dumb. I couldn’t keep my head above my shoulders for more than 20 minutes this weekend. I’m back though.

In the lab today…

I presented my research to about 20 of my peers, including the director of the research Center. I’m happy to report that I’m alive with my ego intact. I’m at peace with my ideas; the tearing and gnashing of my conceptual approach did not happen. So, now that I’ve got the proverbial green light to continue moving forward, I shall.  I’d like to thank my friend, mswestfall who authors the blog My Unplanned Life, for her moral support over the weekend.

Now, I’m moving forward with writing a cover letter to an editor of an academic journal. I’d like to submit my report for publication in this journal. It would be really kind of them to accept my work there, because that would get the word out about what I do in the lab. It’s such a pleasure when people hear what you have to say, understand it, and then somehow apply it. Feels good to know my thinking is relevant and useful and that people agree. We’ll see….

Steadfast

I had a thought about how I had become steadfast in my work. Not always like this; not really. When I was younger, just a few years ago, I used to become anxious that I wasn’t doing a good enough job. I’d work hard, then I’d feel that I had done, inadequately. That was what drove me. It was a feeling of fear or anxiety in my job.

No longer true. I’m more confident than before, hence, I feel more “free” to explore my ideas, and know that should I choose, I have the technical capability to execute. This is maturity, I think, and what a silly ladder we climb. I’m not even sure I need to consider this stuff anymore. Just go. Step. This is how I live now I suppose; within this routine of work, rest, work, and final rest. Bad things happen in my job, failure in an experiment, but I keep moving.

A lesson of wisdom, perhaps. I’m pedaling a bicycle, up and down, but the end result is forward motion. I know I’m moving forward, metaphorically, because I see the anchors and milestones behind me. Alas, as a scientist, as a human, I’m steadfast, moving forward.

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