xkcd by Randall Munroe (CC BY-NC 2.5)
xkcd by Randall Munroe (CC BY-NC 2.5)

Turns out biology is hard because biology is hard.

A Murder of Legos

"LEGO Crow" by nobu_tary (All Rights Reserved; Used with Permission)
“LEGO Crow” by nobu_tary (All Rights Reserved; Used with Permission)

It might be enough to say that I love Lego depictions of biology just because they are lovely. It might; but that would go against my nature. After a period of intense navel gazing, I’ve concluded that my febrile brain likes the idea of creating elegance from a simple set of basic building blocks – much like actual biology does.

This build of a crow by nobu_tary recently caught my fancy. It uses very few pieces to capture the essence of the bird and allow the dynamic motion of the wings to be represented.

"LEGO Crow" by nobu_tary (All Rights Reserved; Used with Permission)
“LEGO Crow” by nobu_tary (All Rights Reserved; Used with Permission)

HT: Brothers Brick

Opening for Biology Instructor at SCGSSM

The South Carolina Governor’s School for Science & Mathematics, where the better half of my kids’ DNA teaches, is looking for a new Biology Instructor.

Great teachers, students & environment = the S.C. Governor’s School for Science & Mathematics (GSSM). GSSM is growing and requires outstanding faculty in several disciplines to start by August 2014. For details, please visit

As part of our expansion, we are seeking an exceptional Biology instructor. Applicants should have a Master’s degree, Ph.D. preferred, and a love of teaching. Desired qualifications include a strong content background in Biology and experience in teaching Biology at college or advanced high school levels, knowledge and application of technology, an understanding of gifted learners, enthusiasm for teaching motivated and talented high-school-aged students and an ability to advise students in the completion of senior research projects. General academic advising, committee meetings, student activity advising, and occasional evening/weekend commitments are a regular part of faculty responsibilities.

Current courses taught at GSSM at the college or university level include AP Biology, Molecular Biology, Vertebrate Biology, Human Anatomy and Physiology, Neuroscience, Advanced Genetics and Ornithology. GSSM encourages the introduction of new courses. Courses offered will vary each semester depending on the interests and expertise of instructors, and on student interest. GSSM offers a unique opportunity to teach these subjects, including weekly two to three hour labs.

This is a full-time (10-month) teaching position, with full benefits available. A public school teaching certificate is not required. Salary is competitive and commensurate with credentials, experience and unique capabilities.

GSSM offers a wonderful teaching environment with motivated and talented students in a residential setting and is recognized among the top public elite high schools in the nation. We are a statewide, public residential high school for 11th and 12th graders specializing in the advanced study of science and mathematics. Historically, GSSM has maintained a 10:1 student to faculty ratio. Nearly 80% of the faculty members have earned doctoral degrees. Over five years, our students’ SAT average is 2059.

Please apply electronically. Forward a cover letter, resume and teaching statement, along with the GSSM application available at, prior to March 31, 2014.

Forward all materials to email address:

Please include the word “Biology” in the subject line.

The S.C. GSSM is an Equal Opportunity Employer.

So I take it you aren’t happy with ENCODE…

Mike is very busy being an awesome scientist. So, I have the duty of reacting to the latest “ENCODE takedown” published by Graur et al in Genome Biology and Evolution: “On the immortality of television sets: ‘function’ in the human genome according to the evolution-free gospel of ENCODE”. The title kind of tells you that the ENCODE consortium has a snowball’s chance in Hell of coming out of this one looking good – not that the paper was written by unbiased critics. Continue reading “So I take it you aren’t happy with ENCODE…”

ENCODE, Astronomy, & the Future of Genomics

The ENCODE media fail was epic enough that it totally dominated the discussion when the results were released to the public. Now our collective fury has abated1, I’d like to talk about, not what ENCODE did, but what it might mean for how we conduct genomic research in the future.

ENCODE produced an unprecedented amount of data with unprecedented levels of reproducibility between labs. This data will be useful to researchers around the world for year to come. To do so, however, it commanded tremendous resources and marginalized the concerns of independent researchers. Can we harness the data collection power of these collective projects without destroying the creativity and risk-taking of individual scientists in the crucible of collaborative compromise? Continue reading “ENCODE, Astronomy, & the Future of Genomics”

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