Tuesday, December 4, 2007

Faith, Science, and Success

“Science as something already in existence, already completed, is the most objective, impersonal thing that we humans know. Science as something coming into being, as a goal, is just as subjectively, psychologically conditioned as are all other human endeavors.” Albert Einstein

We scientists are a tough bunch. With our emphasis on data, reproducibility, and natural causes, we pursue atheistic explanations of the universe. Even religious scientists are not allowed to invoke God as an explanation for their data—or if they do, their manuscript will never get past peer reviewers! An outside observer might not expect faith to be a part of science. Formally, of course, you won’t find faith listed as a step in the scientific method: Step 1: Form a hypothesis. Step 2: Have faith that your hypothesis is correct. No, the real trick is to form a hypothesis that can be tested empirically with experiments that will be informative, no matter what the result. This is my advisor’s mantra. Nowhere in this process are we asked to have faith.

And yet, if it weren’t for faith, I would not still be in graduate school. My faith is not supernatural. Rather, I have faith in the scientific process itself. I have faith that my graduate advisor has the wisdom and patience to guide me toward scientific success. And despite my enormous anxieties, I have faith in my own abilities. And I’m too stubborn to leave unless they kick me out! Oh, I have my days when I wish someone would tell me I can’t do science, but so far, that has not happened. To be honest, I am a little surprised it hasn’t happened yet, considering the utter lack of success I experienced for the better part of two years in the lab!

But now is a different story. As a fifth-year graduate student, I feel I am starting to close in on my Ph.D. My thesis is emerging out of the muck. My very first first-author paper was reviewed by the Journal of Neuroscience, and the paper did well enough that the editors asked us to address reviewer concerns and resubmit. I’m in the thick of reviewer-induced experiments, hanging tight to my faith that these experiments will yield something of worth. Most exciting, my in-lab “team” had a paper accepted! I am the third author on a paper that was recently accepted by the journal PLoS Genetics! After all that faith and science, success! And this acceptance happened just in time for me to tell the reviewers of my NRSA grant application that I am an author on an accepted paper. Not “in preparation,” not “submitted,” or even “submitted and currently being revised,” but ACCEPTED. As in done. It’s gratifying enough that it almost makes me forget the struggles I have survived to get here. But this Ph.D. ain’t over yet!

Luckily, success comes more easily to me in the kitchen. Many an unhappy day in the lab has been followed by a pleasant evening in the kitchen. The kitchen is sustenance, solace, and sanctuary. It’s also a good place for snacking! Several months ago, I had instant success with yet another version of my favorite granola recipe. By adding half a cup of sweetened shredded coconut, I have achieved granola nirvana. Loaded with coconut, peanut butter, and chocolate chips, this is one decadent granola, but I love it. I still think it has something to offer nutritionally: oats are high in fiber, B vitamins (it has seven of them!), minerals, and protein*. Peanut butter is high in protein and is known to promote satisfaction among its devotees**. And if you mix this granola with plain lowfat yogurt, you get calcium and a sweet and delicious snack that keeps hunger at bay until dinner time. It’s almost as satisfying as seeing your name in print.

Deluxe Granola
Makes 1 8 x 8-inch pan of granola or ~4-6 servings, depending on how much self-control you have (I don’t have much when it comes to this yummy stuff)

2 ¼ cups oats

½ cup flour

½ tsp. baking soda

1 tsp. pure vanilla extract

1/3 cup vegetable oil (or you can use a bit less than 1/3 cup; I usually do)

1/3 cup peanut butter, chunky or smooth as you prefer (I do like the texture chunky peanut butter gives the granola)

¼ cup brown sugar

½ cup mini chocolate chip morsels

½ cup sweetened shredded coconut

1) Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.

2) Mix together the oats, flour, and baking soda in a large mixing bowl. Stir in the vanilla extract.

3) Add the vegetable oil and peanut butter and mix. The mixture will be a bit chunky.

4) Stir in the brown sugar.

5) Stir in the chocolate chips and coconut. The mixture will be a bit moist from the oil and peanut butter, but overall it will be rather dry and chunky. Spoon the granola into a square 8-inch cake pan.

6) Bake the granola at 350 degrees for 18-20 minutes or until lightly browned. Cool for 10 minutes in the pan, and then dig in! This granola gets hard to scoop out of the pan as it cools, so I recommend stirring it around after it has cooled for ten minutes to break it up. Before storing, allow granola to cool completely in the pan and then store it at room temperature in a tightly sealed container. This granola will keep for at least a week. My batches never last longer than that!

*Information about the goodness of oats is from Passionate Vegetarian by Crescent Dragonwagon. This book really is The Joy of Cooking for vegetarians.
**Okay, maybe this is just annecdotal. Okay, maybe I just love peanut butter.


JD @ run-thru-life.blogspot.com said...

Congrats on the paper acceptance! I want you to know that your friends also have faith in you. I know I will soon be calling you Dr. Rosiecat. Godspeed

Rosiecat24 said...

Hi JD!

Thanks so much for your kind words. You rock.

I do hope I get to see you in a few weeks at our annual holiday get-together!