Saturday, March 15, 2008

Legal problems of Ph.D's in Germany

As some of you may know already, my husband is German, so what I read last night in C&EN (don't you think it is ridiculous that I often don't get C&EN until Friday?) really shocked me. Apparently some internationally-trained (non-EU) scientists in Germany are facing charges for using the title "Dr." on their websites and business cards. Before I started reading, I was sure that it must be something to do with the fact that the "Dr." title might be confused with a medical doctor in a foreign country. But as I read further, I realized this wasn't the case. According to Spiegel, this law stems from 1939--and in simplified terms states that foreign degrees are suspicious, and need to be verified. In those times, such a law might have made sense, but now it just seems outdated. Luckily, the German government has already started to fix things up; at a conference in Berlin last week (see point 5) it was decided that an American Ph.D's can use the "Dr." prefix in Germany as long as their degree was granted from an institution recognized by the Carnegie Foundation for the Advancement of Teaching.

Friday, March 14, 2008

Happy Pi Day!

This video is kind of freaky, but it fits the pi day theme nicely. Enjoy!

Monday, March 10, 2008

New Bacteria isolated....from hairspray

Earlier today when I read the news online, I came across this article. Basically, researchers in Japan have discovered a new type of bacteria. And it lives in hairspray. Of course, I had to look up the original article, and I just want to know why researchers decided to search for "hairspray bacteria" in the first place. Of course I've heard of various cosmetic products becoming contaminated with bacteria, and I know that many bacterial species are thermophiles, acidophiles, or even both, but I just didn't think that hairspray would be such a great environment. The newest ingredient in your hairspray bottle is from the genus Microbacterium and researchers have proposed the name Microbacterium hatanonis (in honor of the scientist Kazunori Hatano, a Microbacterium expert). For those interested, the rod-shaped Microbacterium hatanonis is aerobic and Gram-positive.

On a side note, when I first read the article and saw the words "parsimony analysis," I had to laugh, because my brain could only think of the Parselmouths (the characters in the Harry Potter books that can speak the language of snakes). In reality, parsimony refers to the idea that "less is more," or that the simplest explanation for something is generally the best. In this paper, maximum parsimony analysis was carried out to create phylogenetic trees demonstrating the relationship between the new hairspray bacteria and other strains of Microbacterium.