Jason McSheene

An Outlet for Thoughts, Ideas, and Discussion

Month – May 2014

Podcasting Mini Milestone


EP005_card_aPhD (in Progress) Podcast Episode 5

Episode 5! A small but important milestone for me. They say “You haven’t made it until episode 10”, so we’re halfway there!
Also, this continues a major theme in our show, which is the important of self-direction and self-management.

There are plenty of resources out in the world geared towards professional development outside academia/grad school, and even a few focused on grad student issues. However, I think we provide the best show that captures the spirit of the (at least our collective) grad school experience. Sure Nikhil, Abigail, and I are a bit more STEM-centered, but we really do hope to reach out to others along the way.

It has been a lot of work and much fun putting together this show, so I’ll continue to work on it as much as I can in my “free” time. Episode 6 is already recorded and about to do part of 7 tomorrow. Keep pushing!

Science Fiction: An Inspiration


I’m the first to mention that I’m a huge nerd. Those silly 80s and 90s cartoons fueled my interest in science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM) even more than shows like Bill Nye the Science Guy or Mr. Wizard. What really got me excited was the prospect at participating in the development of the fantastical futuristic machines I saw in Transformers, Star Wars, and EXO-Squad. Just to aiding in the development of some helpful technology would mean success to the 9-year-old Jason.

Now, as I forge my own unique career path in bioengineering/tissue engineering, I am constantly analyzing my decisions. Thinking about the past too much gets one caught up in the webs. It’s way too easy for paralysis to trap my progress. As a graduate student on the edge cusp of earning his PhD, a piece of paper saying that I’ve spent 22+ years in school and made a little contribution to the body of human’s knowledge, I’m asked almost every day “What’s next?” When I mention that I’d like to help develop artificial limbs and/or organs, I inevitably end up launching into the brief story of my inspiration behind it.

And of course this reason is completely nerdy. One of the movies that really shMiles_Dyson_with_Original_Armaped the way I thought was… Terminator 2: Judgment Day. I was probably too young to watch it when I did and thankfully it did not ruin my life by creating an ultra-violent psychopath. What really gripped me was this scene: Dyson, a scientist/engineer (AND Black! I did not know at the age of 6 that this was considered rare) lead the creation of the tech that eventually lead to the human-hunting terminator machines. The “good” Terminator from the future, played by Arnold Schwarzenegger,  goes to Dyson’s house, sits down with the scientist and his wife, then… SLICES AND RIPS THE ARTIFICIAL FLESH FROM HIS ROBOTIC ENDOSKELETON! Oh man. I was fascinated. I got the chills. I still do when I see that. 1) It was freaking cool,  2) The scientist was able to see what his creation became, and 3) Seeing the robotic arm reminded me of a major current event that I was also too young to understand.

t2dThe Gulf War was wrapping up when I was in kindergarten. I really didn’t know what war meant. I knew our US soldiers were punishing bad guys with our “awesome” planes and weapons. Among all the types of footage I saw on TV, I remember only the night vision bombing videos and interviews with young men who returned home without arms and legs. That’s about it. “How cool it would be to make robot legs for these guys”. That’s all it took. During my particularly active childhood, I always thought about how our bodies moved while sparring with my brother. I always looked at the articulations in my fingers, hand, and wrist. Later in my high school Anatomy and Physiology class I learned the specialized joints between the radius and ulna allowed for the rotation (or “pronation” and “supination”, if you want to impress your friends). How machine-like our bodies are… it’s amazing.

This applies to our organs too, I began to understand. The highly specialized cells of the liver, brain, and skin, for example, all have specific functions. As I learned more biology throughout high school and college, I wanted to find out what caused cells to be different and how I, as a scientist in a lab, could push cells to become one type versus another. By delving into developmental biology, the study of how an organism is able to develop its distinct tissues and organs, I hoped to gain this knowledge. To a large degree, I have been successful. Now the scary part: what can I do to apply how nature deals with building specialized tissues to the development of products that can help people?

While I’m on my job hunt, I will do my best to remember what inspired me along the way.

If you ever do talk to me in person, you might notice pride when I talk about nerdery or geekdom. I’m always happy when others are able to celebrate what they enjoy and inform others about “topic x” as well. Some of my friends do the most amazing things because they are nerds. One nerd hacks together some of the coolest little computer programs and little machines because it’s fun for him. Another has spent so much time and energy inspiring the next generation to appreciate science. Another creates some of the most pleasing music I’ve ever had the chance to listen to. These people are inspiring. The people who dedicate the time to an art or practice they love. I always wonder what I would be dedicating my time to if I did not see Terminator at such an early age.

For the sake of everyone: be a nerd.

Start Recording: The PhD (in Progress) Podcast


Well friends,

I made a decision with my friend to start a podcast. After feeling left behind when I was not accepted into a certain program I was hoping to, I felt so down. Actually, I was angry. I never get angry but I was. I truly felt that I was an amazingly strong candidate who would return the investment 10-fold. This anger, however, turned into a new energy… an energy which reinforced my ambition, which had been lost in the day I was rejected.

As a life-long radio listener (well, close to 20 of 28 years) I was a quick podcast-adopter. After listening to such inspirational people like Dan Miller, Pat Flynn, and members of more “entertainment” style shows like IGN’s Game Scoop! and NPR’s Car Talk, I chose to start a podcast. What surprised me the most was how quickly this turned around.

I received the “bad news” March 17th.

I resolved to produce a podcast on March 20th.

I assembled a trio (including myself) of hosts, outlined a first episode, and came up with the name on March 30th. Purchased the domain two days later.

By April 8th, our first episode was published on iTunes! PhD (in Progress) Podcast aims to help former/current/future grad students improve their educations, careers, and lives. Grad students, PhD’s in particular, encounter somewhat unique experiences and obstacles, therefore our goal is to provide guidance and education.

I want to thank everyone who has been inspirational. I’m glad I got a mad. I’m glad I now have a podcast. When I was a young kid, I would have DIED to work on a radio show. Now I can make one in a room with my friends and I have spent under $200 doing so.

More importantly, this is a platform to help others. Nikhil, Abigail, and I can now reach out beyond our university, beyond our friends, and even beyond our continent. From April 8th to May 8th, we have had over 500 downloads across 4 episodes and each new installment increases the audience. I’m so happy to have the support of my friends and family to help hundreds of others.

As the three of us examine our graduate school experiences, we’ve seen that there are endless topics to discuss and countless stories to hear. Let’s try to collect some of those in our show!

My goals for the PhD (in Progress) Podcast:

  • Improve the PhD experience for everyone
  • Relate interesting stories
  • Discuss issues that are maybe a bit taboo or hushed
  • Help reform the idea of what being a grad student means


As I continue this project, I wish you luck in your pursuits. Keep rocking it.

“Ten Simple Rules for Choosing between Industry and Academia” by David Searls

From http://www.ascb.org/ascbpost/index.php/compass-points/item/285-where-will-a-biology-phd-take-you

Throughout your grad school experience, you should constantly evaluate your path and goals. Although this article is a few years old it seems to hold up as it addresses fundamental issues when considering beginning a scientific career in either academia or industry.

In the linked article appearing in PLOS Computational Biology, David Searls outlines the 10 points of assessment vital to a strong career search.

Ten Simple Rules for Choosing between Industry and Academia


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