Each month, SoVan will feature a member of the ScienceOnlineVancouver community. This month we have Andy Hegle, winner of the NASA backpack from the first SoVan event, where do you get your science?
Could you tell us about yourself. Where are you from?
I’m originally from Michigan, and received both my BS and PhD from the University of Michigan, Ann Arbor. Go Blue!
Right now I’m focused on my current research project. I study tiny molecular machines called HCN channels, or “pacemaker” channels, which are the little bioelectric switches that help keep your heart beating, among other things. I use fruit flies as a model system to figure out how these channels work in the nervous system, and it turns out they’re pretty important, because they don’t survive to adulthood without them. I’m also quite involved with the UBC Postdoc Association, which promotes professional development workshops, advocates for postdoctoral affairs and hosts social functions for the ~800 postdocs at UBC.
In 10 years what do you picture yourself doing?
That’s a good question! I’m keeping my options open, but am currently exploring opportunities in the biotech industry.
Do you use social media? ie twitter, G+, facebook? Why/Why not? Do you think having an online presence a positive thing, maybe necessary?
Actually, I don’t really. I have a LinkedIn profile, and I use Reddit, but I’m not on Facebook, G+, or Twitter. I’m a strong proponent of online privacy, and so far I’ve not been impressed by the way Facebook, in particular, misuses people’s personal data. This is something that I could go on at length about, but suffice to say I’m waiting to see what will happen in the next few years as the technology evolves.
Do you consider yourself a creator, communicator, consumer or a mixture? Why?
I’d say I’m a mixture of all three. I’m a scientist, so I could call myself a creator, but science by its very nature also needs to be communicated well to other scientists and to the public. If no one knows what you’ve discovered, then what’s the point? So I’m a communicator as well, although to a lesser degree than some of the people reading this, I’m sure. Over all though, I’d honestly have to say I’m a consumer. I’m hugely interested in many disparate areas of science that have nothing to do with my field, so you’ll find me constantly reading about physics, astronomy, math, technology, etc.
What does being part of the ScienceOnline community mean to you?
It gives me a chance to meet a lot of great people who bridge the creator/communicator/consumer boundaries, and getting these different perspectives is really important to me. I think there are too many science “creators” who are either unable to communicate or are simply uninterested in how the public views what they do. We’re lucky to be living in an era of unprecedented access to information, but this has also allowed misinformation to flourish like never before. It’s essential that those who do science for a living are, at the very least, engaged with those who translate their findings to the public. It’s also just a lot of fun to be involved.
Where do you get/source your science?
Professionally, I go directly to the primary literature and to review articles, usually using a portal like PubMed. For science news in general, I use a combination of trusted blogs, newspapers and news aggregates, and the online editions of science journals. I’ve also found that Wikipedia has gotten better and better as a starting point for learning about scientific concepts, and the embedded links to related articles and outside references makes it really easy to get immersed in any number of fascinating topics.
What are you going to do with your NASA Backpack?
It’ll definitely come in handy when I go to the beach. Or to space.
Thanks Andy for the taking the time to chat with SoVan. See you next month!