Thursday, September 29, 2016

Come say, "hi"

It's going to be a busy two months coming up, but if I'll be in your neighborhood, please let me know, and I'd love to say "hello"!

Oct 4 
Seminar: Sex-biased genome evolution
Human Genetics, University of Utah School of Medicine
Salt Lake City, UT

Oct 11
Seminar: Convergent evolution of dosage compensation in human and green anoles
New York, NY

Oct 13
Seminar: Sex-biased genome evolution
New York, NY

Oct 15-17
Hack-a-thon organizer: Inferring sex chromosome and autosomal ploidy in NGS data
HackSeq, Vancouver

Oct 18-21
Platform presentation: Modeling the subclonal evolution of cancer cell populations
ASHG, Vancouver

Nov 4-6
Invited participant
Irvine, CA

Nov 7
Seminar: Sex-biased genome evolution
Human Genetics (Genetics & Genomics), UCLA
Los Angeles, CA

Nov 17-19 
Conference organizer, presenter
Tempe, AZ

Wednesday, September 28, 2016

I forgot about self-promotion.

Yesterday at a faculty meeting, we started the meeting by being asked what the most exciting thing going on with us was.

Excited about teaching computing skills
I was pretty stoked because this class I'm teaching - and introduction to research computing topics - has been super-well attended (there's an option to take it for credit, or anyone can show up for a single session). It's a hands-on introduction to computing topics (e.g., SSH, SFTP, HPC, command line scripting, etc), and later it will be more domain-specific topics across different departments at my institution. I've been doing assessments after each class, and getting really constructive feedback, which is awesome. And, attendance has been awesome!

Exciting?! I got this!

I piped up about this being the most exciting thing right now. Then, in an effort to keep it brief so we could get on with the meeting, let the next person go. Short and sweet. Well done, self.

So... everyone else in attendance made sure to highlight multiple current research projects in their lab, and current/pending publications.

Right. Yes. Listening to everyone do this, I realized that is probably what I should have been focusing on too.

In my excitement about how well this computing teaching has been going, I forgot to mention those things that I probably should have. Those things academics value, for self-promotion, even among colleagues. They won't know unless I tell them.

For example, I should probably have mentioned that the lab has had two publications this month, and another coming out next week:
Narang P and Wilson Sayres MA. 2016. Variable autosomal and X divergence near and far from genes affects estimates of male mutation bias in great apes. Genome Biology and Evolution (accepted).  
Pagani L… Wilson Sayres MA… et al. 2016. Genomic analyses inform on migration events during the peopling of Eurasia. Nature (advanced access online). doi:10.1038/nature19792. 
Webster TH and Wilson Sayres MA. 2016. Sex-biased demography across human populationsCurrent Opinion in Genetics and Development  3(41): 62-71. doi:10.1016/j.gde.2016.08.002 
And, I also didn't mention that we've got some really great RNAseq data back, as part of a collaboration that we're starting to analyze. Seriously, it's the prettiest data I've seen to date, just look at it!! 

It's okay, you can be jealous.
Back to work
I'm really not sure what the best approach is. I *love* talking about my research. I do it incessantly. But, I also get distracted (I'd say, "motivated") by things outside of lab that are going well. For now, I'd better get back to work, so I'll have new science things to talk about the next time someone asks about how things are going. :)

Tuesday, September 20, 2016

Academic hiring committees aren't doing enough.

I'm sitting on my first search committee this year (assuming we get approval for the two hires). It is sometimes hard to believe that I'm on this side of the equation now. Being here, I feel a lot of responsibility. 

The first thing I started thinking of was ways we can do a better job of recruiting a diverse pool of applicants. There are many people who have been thinking, writing, and talking about this, so searching google, and asking twitter is helpful. I can share what I've learned there. I'm also happy that the committee I'm on has already been vocal about not sparing expenses on advertising in as many diverse venues as possible. 

Why come here? 
But, it's nagging on me, that it isn't ever going to be enough to just advertise in a variety of places. Why should someone want to join us? Why should they want to be my colleague? What are we continuing to do to build an inclusive environment that values and respects each person's contribution? And how are we making that known? How are we, as a department, as a University, sensitive to all the bigoted garbage that disproportionately affects people from underrepresented groups? How do we support them? 

Academic job hiring is always a two-way street. I want colleagues who choose to come here, over somewhere else, because it is a great academic environment that supports their growth as a researcher and a person. Every academic department should be like this. 

I'm not doing enough. 
For the past two years, since I started in this position, I've been focused on how I can build the best laboratory environment. We (mostly I) will always be learning, and adjusting. I feel privileged by the students and trainees that have chosen to join my lab. I try to advocate for my trainees. I try to make a space where we can be open, and inclusive. 

Last year I ran our seminar series, and worked to take suggestions from across the department (it's technically a school, but I'm using department because that is how most places are structured), and invited a group of speakers that were representative of the range of disciplines in our unit, as well as considered other dimensions of diversity. But I could have done better. I see ways in which I could have improved - working more with each faculty group to build up a more diverse list. 

This year, my service to the department is co-chairing the Evolutionary Biology graduate program. In doing so, we are working to build a sense of community among the members of the program. We had a welcome potluck, we are hosting a journal club, and working to set up peer-mentoring for writing grants/fellowships. 

Okay, so I can work on my lab. I can work with the graduate students in my program. But, what am I really doing to contribute to the department as a whole. How am I making a lasting impact on the climate of the department? I think it has to start small, with the lab, with a program, but I need to contribute more to the department as a whole. I'm still working on how best to do this. I welcome your suggestions. 

Advertising isn't enough.
I also think every academic should be thinking about the health of our working environments. It isn't enough to advertise broadly. It isn't enough to carefully craft the language of an advertisement to be inclusive. Though, surely, those things are important. 

Some units are small, with single digit faculty. Some, like mine, have around 100. In every case, there will be people we want to recruit who don't look like us. Their science is different, their experiences are different, they won't look or sound like us. But, our motivations should be the same. We should all be motivated to lift each other up, to do the best science we can, and to be good mentors and educators. That motivation  - shared across the department - should be abundantly clear to all applicants. Maybe it could be simple. As an academic, this is the question I want each department to ask: 

How are we building an environment that someone who doesn't look like us will want to join?

We need to ask ourselves this routinely, and work towards answering it. It is the long game. It takes conscious and persistent effort. And it will never be a question we don't have to ask. I think making our environment the best it can be is the most productive recruiting strategy we can have. 

Tuesday, September 6, 2016

Genomic signatures of sex-biased demography

Oh hey look! Our paper is out today!,2BdT7EGQ

Genomic signatures of sex-biased demography: progress and prospects

Sex-biased demographic events have played a crucial role in shaping human history. Many of these processes affect genetic variation and can therefore leave detectable signatures in the genome because autosomal, X-linked, Y-linked, and mitochondrial DNA inheritance differ between sexes. Here, we discuss how sex-biased processes shape patterns of genetic diversity across the genome, review recent genomic evidence for sex-biased demography in modern human populations, and suggest directions for future research.