Finally some time to catch my breath at the end of the semester. All the grades are in, I'm setting up a PCR (!), interviewed a prospective student yesterday. Updating the website a little bit so it looks better when I link it to collaborator's pages (and maybe so the prospective student will choose to come to UGA!). And of course following the news.

It can be hard to keep focused with such social and political turmoil around us. I'm trying to keep my focus on my family, our health, and keeping our home functional with some minor renovations over the break. And here in the office/lab, the little bit of Sanger sequencing I'm trying to finish before I leave for a short holiday is to pad the data for a paper I hope to have out to collaborators in January.

Academy Member and founding member of the UGA Genetics Department, Wyatt Anderson, once pointed out that what we should look for in our colleagues is having "a habit of writing". We are scientists, but the science isn't real until it is communicated. The better we can do at having a habit of writing, the more effortless it becomes. Not that there isn't a tremendous amount of headache and woodcrafting to make it all come together, not to mention the diligence of editors and reviewers to make it better. But I find that references, ideas, context, flow from me so much better than they once did. When I was a grad student, a postdoc, I felt like each paragraph was a monument to my ideas mixed with the great work that came before me. Now I realize that the paragraphs aren't about me or my ideas - they are the context that helps other readers, new to the field as well as experienced, figure out why I thought this had to be done, why I worry that there is more to do or to be done differently, and why this information might be useful.

My favorite paper on technical writing, by Gopen and Swan, establishes the need to meet 'reader expectations'. What things are the readers worrying about after each sentence? What keeps them on track? What gets my message across most effectively, and simply?

I can't claim I do that all the time, but I'm better at it for sure. I've tried to convey this to my students, undergrad and grad alike - and I'm always happy when one of them brings their own gifts to the writing and helps me become better through our interaction as well.

A bit of a long ramble, but I'm glad to have so many ways to spread the word of what I think is useful to track in science. This silly blog, my twitter, my publications, my teaching. Even when this job beats me down, it brings me a lot of joy at the same time.