Thursday, July 10, 2014

Dzień dobry!

Dzień dobry!

Greetings from Poland! Czy mówisz po polsku? Do you speak Polish?

This summer Katie Lee and Mary Rogers (that’s us!) from LEE are doing field work in Southern Poland. We will have a few blog posts over the summer about our experiences.

Jedziemy do Polski!  

Poland was chosen as our field site for a variety of reasons. Our badania (research) asks questions about life experiences and reproductive health. The area of Poland in which we are recruiting study participants is a more rural environment. The majority of the population breastfeeds longer than the average American, many people don’t use hormonal contraception, physical activity levels are higher, and eating habits are different. This population provides an interesting comparison to urban populations where most people have an energy surplus as sedentary activity is more common and food resources are easily available.

To get to Poland we flew through multiple airports. We left our home airport at noon on Friday and arrived in Krakow on Saturday mid-morning. Apart from a bit of jet lag, we had a fun time walking around in Krakow on Saturday – we visited Wawel Castle and walked around the centrum. We also tried to purchase any last-minute supplies for our fieldwork before we left on Sunday morning.  It was surprisingly difficult to shop for supplies when you can’t connect the name of a store with the type of product it might sell!  To add to the difficulty, many types of packaging are different here. For example, juice and milk are NOT found in the refrigerated section because they are in shelf-stable cartons.

On Sunday we left Krakow with our collaborators from Jagellonian University to head to our Mogielica field site in a van FULL of supplies and equipment. The curvy road and fast cars were at times a bit nauseating, but we made it to our awesome home-away-from-home in one piece. 

Van full of lots of equipment, supplies, luggage, and us.

Kate and Katie outside our new home-away-from-home. 
We have the top two floors for all of the research team and supplies.

Nie rozumiem, and other useful phrases

Living in a new city without knowing the language well has been quite difficult. It’s hard to do the easy things that we, as English-speakers, take for granted in English-speaking countries. For example, every trip to the store has been an adventure! We’ve been fairly successful figuring out what words mean by the pictures. “Ser” means cheese, and, wow, there are a lot of delicious types of cheeses here! Spreadable garlicky cheese, local farmer’s cheese (like goat cheese)… it is so delicious!

One of our adventures in language-learning included a day dedicated to finding a bus to Limanowa. We found a bus stop, but we also knew that there was another bus stop up the hill. We decided to go into a sklep (a shop) and ask for help. With our basic Polish words, we were able to ask where the bus for Limanowa could be found, and, as it turns out, we had gone to the right one! There was no timetable, so we just waited until a bus showed up.  The bus was much smaller than most buses in the US, and you have to open the door yourself with a handle, similar to a car door.  We had the next language difficulty of asking how much the bus would cost. After a few unsuccessful attempts, we got a phrase correct and learned that the bus costs 3 złoty. We successfully made the trip to Limanowa!

We were successful getting on the autobus!

However, once we got to Limanowa we were in for a bit of a surprise. Most of the shops and attractions had closed at 2 or 3 PM! We just walked around a little bit, and then decided to take a bus back home. We found a timetable this time, only to discover that there was just one more bus! Our purpose of the trip was to buy more research supplies, which we hadn’t been able to complete. We decided to go to one more shop and risk missing the last bus. We got our supplies, but, unfortunately, we missed the bus. It was a bit of a hike back, but our walk allowed us the opportunity to see more of Poland. Now we also know that if we want to do something fun on Saturday in Limanowa, we should go early!

Settling in

We are settling in to the field site and getting used to the rhythms of fieldwork and meal times.  Our collaborators have been very understanding about our limited Polish language skills and incredibly patient when they try to teach us new words.  The people who own the house we rent let us eat some food from their garden and have introduced us to some of their local family members.  Despite their rusty English and our stilted Polish, we can have a surprisingly good conversation.  As an additional highlight, we have friendly dogs at our house who greet us when we walk out the door and when we return from a long day walking the Polish countryside. 

Our dog loves Katie!

Wednesday, November 6, 2013

Who makes a scientist: LEE’s participation in a girls’ science camp

Over the summer, I had the opportunity to take part in a high school girls’ science camp in which LEE participated. The camp’s overarching goal was to inspire young women to pursue their interest in science and introduce them to different career paths in science available to them.

The aim of the camp was both inspiring and important in light of the underrepresentation of women in STEM  (science, technology, engineering, mathematics) careers. Hopefully, by acquainting the high school girls to an array of careers in science and the women already in those careers, it may motivate a stronger bond between the girls and their proclivity for science. Plus, it simply offered fun experiences for the girls in different science fields.

Those of us in LEE were privileged work with the girls a part of each day during the camp. Our first day in, everyone was excitedly getting to know the girls they were to spend the week with, my advisor, Dr. Clancy, and our peers. In order to gauge the girls’ relationship with science, we asked them some simple questions about it. What is science and who does science? How do you know when you know something? How do you know when something is correct?

Not surprisingly the girls - interested enough in science to attend a science camp - were comfortable with the scientific method, knew how to evaluate their own knowledge of a subject, and knew when a topic in question was substantiated enough to accept it as truth. Interestingly though, when asked, most of the group did not consider themselves scientist. Instead of reflecting on their own critical thinking as scientific, most simply connected the word ‘scientist’ to specific careers: doctors, engineers, and a few biologists.

Through the week we covered applicable topics concerning our biology in relation to our environment, including cultural influences on self-image, microbiomes in response to environment and the interaction of genes and environment on hair phenotypes. We used small groups to generated discussion and help the girls spark their own research interest concerning biological and environmental influences that pertained to their lives. It was clear they were thinking like scientists! It was important to us that the girls saw this too, so we designed reflections and activities to help them realize the sophistication of their scientific thinking.

One hope we had for the camp was to provide the girls with an encouraging atmosphere not only to stimulate scientific interests, but to build social connections with peers around those interests. The camp naturally brought together like-minded girls that could share their interest in science. As a fun way to introduce the importance of social support in protecting against psychosocial stress we created a social networking activity that I led (Thoits, 2011).  After an open discussion about the people in our lives that help buffer our stress, the girls made a list of those individuals in their social networks: relatives, role models and friends (and a couple pets too). They defined their relation to the people, how close they considered them (on a scale of 1-3), and how often they communicated (on a scale of 1-3). The final project was a graphical representation of their social network categorized by colors and linear connections, indicating their relation and closeness to the individuals in their network.  

The week was brought full circle on our last day together when Dr. Clancy presented some quick schematic analyses of surveys the girls filed out on day one. With bolstered confidence in their scientific thinking, the girls jumped at the opportunity to interpret the data with research-level questions in mind. Interests, curiosities and questions filled up the room as they evaluated data based on the classroom sample and built ideas by sharing as a group.

It was rewarding to see the girls excited about science as it pertained so closely to their lives. How do parental interactions and social relationships affect stress and mental health? How does stress affect hormone levels and menstrual cycles? If irregular cycling is normal for teenage girls, what cultural influences may make me believe otherwise? These are several of many of the discussion questions the girls were raising.

The camp ended on a strong note. Our week together was well spent introducing the girls to anthropology, a subject rarely available to high school students. Additionally, our lab got to be visible, accessible women at different levels in a biological anthropology career path - as a professor, a graduate student and undergraduate students. Several girls finding a growing interest in anthropology by the end of the week asked about courses to take or ways to get involved in anthropology while still in high school.

The girls’ attitudes and conceptions of who a scientist is and who does science (including themselves) seemed to expand a lot as participation and enthusiasm shown in class discussion increased. It became clear by the end of the week that what makes a scientist is less about a specific job and more about how one perceives, questions and explores the world.

Providing the girls encouragement in their own abilities as scientists, a welcoming atmosphere to develop their passion for the subject and a means to connect with others with the same passion, in hope, left the young women with a growing excitement for any scientific paths they may choose to pursue.


Thoits, Peggy A. 2011. Mechanisms Linking Social Ties and Support to
Physical and Mental Health. Journal of Health and Social Behavior
52(2) 145-161. doi : 10.1177/0022146510395592

Wednesday, October 2, 2013

Women in Science: LEE leads a girls’ science camp!

There is a clear gender gap when looking at the under-representation of women in comparison to men in STEM careers (Blickenstaff, 2005).  This gender gap in science preferences emerges in high school (Marx and Roman, 2002). Formally equal standardized test scores in science begin to change, and female students begin to have lower average scores in science and math than male students (Good et al. 2010). Young women tend to begin to underestimate their ability in science courses and subsequently take fewer courses in math and science (Good et al. 2010). Even gifted young women in science tend to underestimate their intellectual skill in comparison to gifted young men in science (Eccles et al. 1999).

While there are multiple factors affecting career choice, a few of the reasons young women tend not to continue with science includes: a lack of academic preparation for a science major/career, a lack of positive experiences with science in childhood, the absence of female scientists/engineers as role models, irrelevance of science curriculum to many girls, the pedagogy of science classes favors male students, a ‘chilly climate’ exists for girls/women in science classes, cultural pressure on girls/women to conform to traditional gender roles , and an inherent masculine worldview in scientific epistemology (for a full review, see Blickenstaff, 2005).

Many people will say that less girls choose to continue in science because of biological differences between men and women. In contrast to such a viewpoint, we see that at age 9, girls and boys similarly engage in science classes and activities, while by age 13, girls begin to show less engagement (Good et al. 2010). Since differences emerge so late (high school), Good et al (and others) argue that: “these differences in ability and preference between male and female students are not sex differences caused by genetic, chemical, or biological factors, but instead gender differences learned through socialization” (2010:133).

Our lab’s goal for the week was to help camp participants see themselves as scientists and see the many ways they already engage with scientific ways of thinking every day. We did this through introductions to the philosophy of science, to social science, and to research questions relevant to girls’ development and health. For instance, we focused on the girls’ attention on research on the very first day by asking some common questions:

  • How do you form a research question? How can you then test that question? What would be an interesting thing for you to study? How would you approach that? How do you decide what is enough evidence?

Our hope was to bolster the girls’ confidence in their abilities to formulate research questions and address those question with difference research tests. We followed up with this theme throughout the week and had multiple discussions about research focused on what the girls found interesting and what they might chose to study. For example, we had a discussion about microbiomes. The girls in my small group came up with expectations of what might affect nasal microbiome alterations and how those different variables would either increase or decrease microbiome variation.

Beyond inspiring the girls’ own abilities, we also naturally provided the students with a panel of women on different steps in a biological anthropology career pathway. All the members of LEE who participated were women, which included undergraduates, a graduate student (me!), and our advisor Dr. Clancy. As you might expect, this led to questions from the girls about future college major options, what biological anthropologists do, what career pathways they could take, how long/how much school would they need for different options, and what steps could they take now.

Throughout the week we ate lunch with the girls to give them a chance to ask these questions. Some students had come to the camp knowing exactly what they wanted to do (become medical doctors, perform stem cell research, design prosthetic limbs for people, and more!). Others had come to the camp liking science and wanting to learn what they could do within a science field. Still others came because they were encouraged to do so and had no idea yet if they wanted to go into a scientific career path.

While the camp pulls a select audience (those who would elect to go to a science camp), I think that the major accomplishment of the camp was newly formed friendships with other young women interested in science. As mentors, we can only provide so much – a small research project, an inspiring book to read, a good documentary, online resources, or college major and career suggestions. By gathering young women interested in science, they validated and supported each other’s passion for science. They have a new support system and already have been keeping in touch. Having a positive friendships associated with science correlates to higher positivity about one’s conceptualization of one’s self as a future scientist (Stake and Nickens, 2005).

By providing the girls with the tools to succeed and creating a support system, we hope they were left at the end of the week with a kindled love for science and a growing confidence in their own abilities as scientists, as well as increased positivity about their potential success in a scientific career.


Blickenstaff, 2005. Women and science careers: leaky pipeline or gender filter? Gender and Education, 17(4): 369-386.
Eccles J et al. 1999. Self-Evaluations of Competence, Task Values, and Self-Esteem. In, Johnson NG, Roberts MC, Worell J (Eds.) Beyond Appearance: A New Look at Adolescent Girls. Washington, D.C.: APA, pp. 53-84.
Good JJ, Woodzicka, JA, and Wingfield, LC. 2010 The Effects of Gender Stereotypic and Counter-Stereotypic Textbook Images on Science Performance. Journal of Social Psychology, 150(2): 132-147.
Marx and Roman, 2002 D. M., & Roman, J. S. (2002). Female role models: Protecting women’s math test performance. Personality and Social Psychology Bulletin, 28: 1183–1193.

Stake, JE and Nickens SD. 2005. Adolescent Girls’ and Boys’ Science Peer Relationships and Perceptions of the Possible Self as Scientist. Sex Roles, 52(1): 1-11.

Monday, April 11, 2011

LabEvoEndo Journal Club: Dana Ahern presents on PMDD

This is the third guest post of the LabEvoEndo Journal Club, a new series for the LabEvoEndo blog meant to highlight student contributions to the lab (first post here, second post here). The author is Honors Anthropology Junior Dana Ahern. Dana has been in my lab since her sophomore year.

* * *

I’d like to start this blog post with a little background on progesterone. Progesterone is fascinating and it affects a lot more than just the menstrual cycle. We are starting to understand just how big of an impact progesterone has, and the research project I am working on is beginning to show some of the potential applications of progesterone in medicine. These applications include improving recovery time after traumatic brain injury and strokes, as well as helping us understand postpartum depression (PPD) and premenstrual dysphoric disorder (PMDD).

PMDD is similar in mechanism with postpartum depression, although the exact mechanism is still being researched. Some research suggests a hormonal influence, as allopregnanolone, an offshoot neuroregulator of progesterone, modulates GABA, which is a neurotransmitter related to mood and anxiety. Too much GABA results in increased anxiety and mood related issues, so it is a logical conclusion that the drop in progesterone during the late luteal phase of the menstrual cycle would result in excess GABA and therefore symptoms of PMDD.

The article we discussed looked at PET scans of 12 women with and 12 women without a diagnosis of PMDD, taking scans during the follicular phase and the late luteal phase of their menstrual cycles. The women in the study were screened for two months with mood surveys and then taken in for a day of PET scans and blood/urine samples, once during the follicular phase and once during the late luteal phase, when the symptoms of PMDD would have begun. PMDD can affect certain brain functions, so they were using the PET scan to detect brain dysfunction, such as one study the article looked at that showed frontal lobe dysfunction associated with PMDD.

The hormone measurements didn’t show anything significant and PET scans showed increased cerebellum activity from follicular to late luteal phase in PMDD women only. The cerebellum has many GABA receptors, which is a possible explanation of this, but in journal club, we wondered if it is the lack of modulation after a drop in the progesterone, or if there is something going on with the number of receptors, such as perhaps some sort of diminished sensitivity to allopregnanolone.

In journal club, we discussed some of the problems we had with this study. Someone brought up the small sample size and too few collection times for samples and scan. The fact that only one cycle was measured impacted the study. Kate also mentioned that blood hormones are a less useful measure than salivary hormone measurements. Finally, while the article states that the cause of PMDD is an overactive cerebellum in women suffering from PMDD, they never really reach a definite reason for what is causing the increased action. Ultimately, the article would have benefitted from examining the hormones more closely and more often.


Rapkin AJ, Berman SM, Mandelkern MA, Silverman DH, Morgan M, & London ED (2011). Neuroimaging evidence of cerebellar involvement in premenstrual dysphoric disorder. Biological psychiatry, 69 (4), 374-80 PMID: 21092938

Monday, April 4, 2011

LabEvoEndo Journal Club: Sophia Bodnar presents on cervical cancer

This is the second guest post of the LabEvoEndo Journal Club, a new series for the LabEvoEndo blog meant to highlight student contributions to the lab (first post here). The author is Anthropology Junior Sophia Bodnar. Sophia has been in my lab since her sophomore year.

* * *

In light of recent acceptance to a summer program where I will be working in immunology, I wanted to choose an article relevant to reproductive health and immunology. The first place I turned to was the Journal of Reproductive Immunology. This seems like a copout, but I found a very interesting and recent article for the lab meeting entitled "Higher levels of cervicovaginal inflammatory and regulatory cytokines and chemokines in healthy young women with immature cervical epithelium" by Hwang et al in 2011.

It would be wonderful if human variation was always taken into account, particularly when discussing reproductive health. This is exactly what the researchers from UCSF aimed to do and why this article was a refreshing read. It is known that women aged 15-24 have the highest rates of Sexually Transmitted Infections (STIs) and is commonplace in the medical community to associate STIs with risky sexual behavior. The study looked at cervical epithelium, tissue that lines the cervix, and accompanying levels of cytokines and chemokines in order to show basic biological differences in immune function of the cervix between adults and adolescents to account for the predominance of STIs in younger women.

Thirty-two women aged 13-21 were selected. The women were placed in the immature group (>50% columnar epithelium) or mature cervical group (<5% columnar epithelium). In order to help you envision these epithelial cells, think of a single line of figure skaters (fragile, columnar cells) versus a stack of sumo wrestlers (strong, squamous cells). Younger women have more columnar cells and throughout development the columnar cells become squamous cells. This is why it is extremely important to take variation into account, because at any given point in a woman’s development the ratio of squamous to columnar cells varies.

Participants were excluded for pregnancy, surgery on the cervix, cervical dysplasia (grades above 1), taking immunosuppressive agents, or being symptomatic for genital complaints such as yeast. However, women were not excluded for having HPV because the researchers consider it a very common infection. The women filled out surveys detailing sexual and nonsexual behavior (number of partners, contraception, substance abuse, etc) and reproductive health history (previous pregnancies, menarche, etc). Colpophotagraphs were taken of the cervical epithelium and the researchers measured and rated maturity by counting pixels from the photograph. Women were evaluated only once, a strong drawback to this study as they are interested in the variation of the epithelium.

They found that ten of the cytokines and chemokine levels were higher in the immature group (one cytokine was excluded). Although other studies have previously looked at cervical levels of cytokines and chemokines, this study looked at levels of these cell-signaling protein molecules in relation to type of cervical epithelium. The authors note that having more columnar cells may be considered beneficial for young women as these cells are more easily damaged and likely to initiate an immune response, but this would mean that younger women are less prone toward infection. The researchers then go on to conclude that because these columnar cells are more prone to damage and thus immune response, chronic inflammation is more likely which could lead to greater rates of infection. This study only looked at the epithelium of healthy women, so it is important to examine women with various infections in the future. The epithelium and levels of cytokines/chemokines in women with STIs could lead to a better understanding or correlation between type of epithelium and its subsequent immune response and risk rate.

In our discussion of the article, it was mentioned that there are no “normal” levels of cytokine and chemokine levels with which to compare the researcher’s values. In the study this was referred to as a challenge. Perhaps there will never be established normative levels of these protein molecules, but so what? Our lab group concluded that this should not be considered a challenge and may be beneficial as we will simply have to take variation into account which is strongly lacking in the medical realm of reproductive health! We all agreed that this study should have been conducted over a longer period of time, and that the women should have had their epithelium photographed and correlating levels of cytokines/chemokines measured far more often. Because this study’s main focus was variation of the epithilium, it would make sense for these women to contribute visits over the course of their entire menstrual cycle whereas this study simply adjusted for days since last menstrual cycle. We also discussed that this study may be perceived as far more qualitative than quantitative. However, we acknowledged that the clarity of the cervical photos was great so quantitative measurements of the pixels could be taken seriously. It was also noted that these findings were not all that surprising. It seems commonsense that younger women have cells that are more easily damaged and that this could lead to chronic inflammation that poses negative risks. Although this may be true, I think that we should still applaud these authors for acknowledging variation throughout their research.

I also find it interesting that the most common cervical cancer is squamous cell carcinoma. Columnar cells may be damaged more easily, but it seems that squamous cells are more prone towards division and supporting abnormal growth. Most cases of cervical cancer are due in part to HPV infection, which in going along with the findings of this article, is more common in younger women with immature columnar cells. It would be interesting to see how the squamous cells in women with cervical cancer compare to the columnar cells of women with HPV. Perhaps cervical cancer, as a result of HPV, is more common in women who have more columnar cells than squamous cells, but the cancer arises in and prefers the squamous cells because they are less likely to initiate a strong immune response. In general, I appreciate how easy and enjoyable this article is to read. Hopefully more articles acknowledging variation, particularly when it comes to reproductive health, will be published as a result of this interesting finding.


Hwang LY, Scott ME, Ma Y, & Moscicki AB (2011). Higher levels of cervicovaginal inflammatory and regulatory cytokines and chemokines in healthy young women with immature cervical epithelium. Journal of reproductive immunology, 88 (1), 66-71 PMID: 21051089

Thursday, March 24, 2011

LabEvoEndo Journal Club: Laura Klein presents on food allergies

This semester I'm trying out something a bit new -- I've encouraged my students to do quick write-ups of the papers they present in journal club in a way they think would be suitable for a blog post. This is to share what we're up to and give my brilliant students a chance to show their stuff.

This first guest post of the LabEvoEndo Journal Club is by Integrative Biology Honors Senior Laura Klein. Laura's been in my lab since her sophomore year.

* * *

Welcome, readers! This blog post will start a series of posts by undergraduate lab members about the topics that LabEvoEndo currently finds interesting and are discussing in our weekly lab meetings. Usually, these will be related to our own current research projects and will somehow tie into the broader goals of the lab.

The other week, I spent a lot of time looking at some Polish survey data related to food allergies and food intolerances that Dr. Clancy and I collected last summer. This led me to thinking about the health implications of food allergies, so this week’s lab meeting article is "Food allergies in children affect nutrient intake and growth” by Christie et al from 2002. As the authors from this article are all medical professionals, I also wanted to supplement this article with some information about the daily social stressors that food allergies can have on individuals or families, so we also read excerpts about The Impacts of Food Allergies on the Quality of Life’ from Fernandez-Rivas and Miles “Food allergies: clinical and psychosocial perspectives.”

To give you some background for the study, 6-8% of American children will develop food allergies in the first 3 years of life, which also happens to be a critical period for growth. Of children with food allergies, most will have a single allergy to cow’s milk, eggs, peanuts, what, soy, tree nuts, or fish. Previous studies have found that children with cow’s milk allergies have a lower height/age ratio, though they did not propose a mechanism for this trend. One possibility is that elimination diets in general may reduce the amount of macro or micro nutrients available in the diet.

In this study, Christie et al. compared 98 children with and 99 children without food allergies (all about age 4) to determine if food allergies and elimination diets impact the growth and nutrient intake of children with food allergies. All children who were diagnosed with an allergy had been following a food elimination diet. The BMI, height-for-age, and weight-for-age for all children was compared to the CDC’s Health Statistics Growth Charts, and individuals were classified as having ‘potential undernutrition’ (<25th percentile), ‘adequate nutrition’ (25th-75th percentile), and ‘potential overnutrition’ (>75th percentile). Parents also completed three days of dietary intake records, which were compared with recommended dietary allowances.

The authors found that more children with allergies were categorized as having ‘potential undernutrition’ as determined by height-for-age than children without allergies. Additionally, a large number of these children had two or more allergies. Because the article only focused on height-for-age despite collecting many other measurements, we were skeptical that food allergies were the sole cause having low height-for-age. Some possibilities that we discussed but the study did not control for included premature birth and genetic influences on height or growth rates.

Another study result that generated much discussion was that more than 25% of the children in both the control and allergy groups were not getting the recommended daily intake levels of calcium and Vitamins D & E. We thought this was problematic, not necessarily for the health of the children, but for how recommended daily intake levels are defined. Children with milk allergies who consumed supplementary fortified beverages were more likely to be meeting all of the intake recommendations than even children without any dietary restrictions. Considering this, are the current guidelines a reflection of realistic intake for small children?

In the discussion, the authors introduce the possibility that ‘catch-up’ growth during puberty. They suggest that this could be many food allergies disappear as children mature, so foods can be reintroduced into the diet. However, we also suggested that early teenagers are usually simply hungrier than toddlers (as anyone who has been in a high school cafeteria knows). Greater consumption of calories may provide greater energy sources for growth. Also, by puberty, people usually have more access to food because they are able to prepare it themselves. Both of these situations could contribute to more available energy that could be used for growth.

Finally, we wrapped up our discussion talking about how different kinds of elimination diets have biological and social impacts. For members of our group with food allergies and intolerances, especially ones like nuts or gluten, group dinners can be a challenge because hosts can be unsure what to prepare and may only have one or two ‘safe’ dishes. This related to a problem brought up in both articles- that parents with children newly diagnosed with food allergies may unnecessarily restrict many foods because they are unsure what will cause an allergic reaction. This could cause an artificially limited availability or nutrients or calories. And, to tie this back to an earlier point, as children grow up and learn what foods to avoid, their teachers and friends’ parents may give them more freedom to choose a range of foods that are acceptable, instead of limiting them to one or two ‘safe’ foods.

A good analogy to this situation might be someone who has just decided to adopt a vegetarian diet. Younger people may at first be so focused on avoiding meat that they don’t pay attention to the nutrition content of their food. For example, cheese pizza and grilled cheese are meat-free, but don’t provide all protein, vitamins, and minerals needed for a complete diet. Also, young people who still live at home may have less control over the types of food bought or prepared. As one former vegetarian in the group told us, to balance all the portions of your diet takes a lot of effort and planning. She said she had never been more aware of what she was eating, but that it took time to figure out how to achieve a good balance of nutrients.

Stay tuned for updates and about brains and hormones!


Christie L, Hine RJ, Parker JG, & Burks W (2002). Food allergies in children affect nutrient intake and growth. Journal of the American Dietetic Association, 102 (11), 1648-51 PMID: 12449289

Fernandez-Rivas, M, & Miles, S (2007). Chapter 1. Food allergies: Clinical and Psychosocial Perspectives Plant Food Allergens DOI: 10.1002/9780470995174.ch1

Tuesday, February 22, 2011

Join me in a conversation about hormonal contraceptives! Eat free food!

Women in the United States use hormonal contraceptives more than any other nation in the world. Doctors and patients in other countries report a hesitance to prescribe hormonal contraceptives for off-label use (to improve the skin, or regulate the cycle) where most pharmaceutical advertisements in the US celebrate exactly those uses.

Why do women in the US use hormonal contraceptives more frequently? How did you and your doctor decide that this prescription was right for you?

If you live in or near Champaign-Urbana, we would like to have you come participate in a focus group on exactly this topic! We would like to validate a survey that will be used online, but also get freeform responses from real women about their real experiences.

Please email us to participate! We can answer any questions you may have. You must be:
  • Over eighteen years old
  • Female
  • Have been prescribed hormonal contraceptives at least once
Participation involves:
  • Filling out an eligibility survey and indicating your time preference for the focus group (5 minutes)
  • Attending a focus group, where you will fill out a survey and discuss your broader experiences with hormonal contraceptives (90 minutes)
We will provide you with some tasty snacks during the focus group. So far we have found that participants have really loved being a part of this, because it’s given them a chance to reflect on their own contraceptive choices. Join us! Email us today! You will be helping us put together a comprehensive research program to understand why US women take hormonal contraceptives far more than women from other developed countries.

IRB approval for this message: #12269, amendment 02/22/2010

Monday, February 7, 2011

An embarrassment of riches

Cross-posted at Context and Variation.

I have been quite the fancypants lately. In addition to the flood of new traffic from Science Online 2011, and in particular my post on the women scienceblogging panel, folks have been heading here to talk about broader issues of underrepresentation and racism, and, of course, iron-deficiency and the ladybusiness.

Then, because of a happy accident and the fact that Laura Weisskopf Bleill of wanted to help me promote some focus groups I am running for a study on doctor-patient relationships around hormonal contraceptives,* I became a Chambana Mom to Know. At the same time I was recruited by the ever-clever John Hawks to do a diavlog where we discuss women in science, blogging in academia, my fieldwork, the ladybusiness, #aaafail, and lots of other stuff.

I am feeling quite overwhelmed by the fact that I have a lot of new readers, and this is no longer the intimate space it once was (usually when I write, I imagine myself to be talking to a group of female friends while we sit on the couch and hang out - it now feels like giving a seminar to a medium-sized room full of people, where we are somehow still able to manage cool sidebar conversations). This is new and exciting, and while there is a part of me that will grieve for that little space where I knew most of the people who read me, I am delighted to bring anthropology to more people and keep pushing myself to write more accessibly for more people.

So, I am trying to think of next steps in terms of my writing. I still owe you all a summary of the survey I did on my readers a few weeks ago: given my day job commitments, that is the plan for what will probably be my single big post of the week.

However, I also want to continue to do two things: shorter researchblogging posts on articles I find interesting, and longer posts on specific issues around women's health, anthropology and medicine. So if there are particular papers you want me to read, particular topics you want me to cover... head over there to say so in the comments!

*I need to double-check with the IRB about whether I have approval to advertise this on the blog. If it turns out I do, expect a post on it this week!

Tuesday, January 18, 2011

LEE folks in the news

Dr. Clancy was mentioned by Robin Lloyd in Scientific American today regarding the panel she co-chaired with Anne Jefferson, Sheril Kirschenbaum and Joanne Manaster at Science Online 2011 this past weekend on the Perils of Blogging as a Woman under her Real Name.

A quick highlight:
The entire concept of a woman science blogger overturns various long-held assumptions about science and gender. Kirshenbaum urged the session audience to bring important science and health information to women readers even at old guard, mass-media "women's" magazines such as Redbook. "I am adamantly a believer that we have to reach beyond [conventional science news outlets]," she said. "Science is not addressed to women. It's written for men and marketed to men even if men at the magazines don't claim that it is."
A face-palm reaction rippled among the 20 or so mostly female attendees of the session when "Not exactly rocket science" blogger Ed Yong (@edyong209) said, "I suspect there is a bias in terms of what is pushed to me through Twitter." He explained that, although other male writers often ask him to retweet links to their latest blog posts, not a single such request has ever come from a woman writer. Women in the room immediately broke into laughter, and commented about the novelty and presumptuousness to them of such a practice. Said Yong, "The fact that people haven't done this speaks volumes."
Check it out!

Cross-posted at Context and Variation