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I Think I am a Unicorn

September 30, 2012 1 comment

Here’s another TED talk (albeit an old one) that I’d like to share thanks to Ms. Geshke. Shawn Achor discusses how in our society today, we are led to believe that happiness depends on our successes when it should be the other way around. The problem with attributing happiness to one’s success is that once you reach a goal whether that be earning a grade in class, getting accepted into a school or achieving a sales target, those goal posts are moved again so actually you feel like you haven’t succeeded at all yet. I found this point interesting since my conception was simply that many people are unhappy because they feel like they don’t have enough in life, that they want more.

Instead we should focus on being positive in the present. Once we have that happiness advantage our brains work more intelligently, creatively and resiliently which in turn will lead to success. I would have liked to hear a more in depth discussion about the research findings (the majority of Shawn’s talk was anecdotes), but I still enjoyed his witty talk. He also mentioned simple things that if done on a regular basis, would have a huge impact on one’s well-being and happiness:

  • List three new things that you are grateful for
  • Journal a recent positive experience
  • Exercise
  • Meditate
  • Participate in random acts of kindness

 

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Categories: Research

Battling Bad Science

September 29, 2012 2 comments

Tyler recently shared Ben Goldacre‘s TED talk in which Ben illustrates the problem of publishing only positive results. He cites medical examples where many drugs are tested first, but the trials yielding negative results are discarded (ie not included in publications). He also highlights the implications this has when doctors are prescribing these drugs to patients. I agree with Tyler that this problem needs to be expanded to science, not just medicine.

Ben actually gave a very similar TED talk (posted below) a while ago. Personally I like this one better since it’s more generalized than his recent one (only a tiny bit more though :P).

 

Categories: Research

Multidisciplinary Undergraduate Research Conference 2012

April 1, 2012 Leave a comment

Daphne and I recently attended UBC’s Multidisicplinary Undergraduate Research Conference (MURC). It was my first time at a research conference so I wasn’t sure what to expect in terms of the quality of the presentations. However some of the students’ research were incomplete so there wasn’t any merit to presenting (one study reported results on data from only six test subjects). I also noticed there were flaws with methodology and data analysis with many presentations. Is this common among undergrad research?! 😦

The opening keynote was given by Ashley Whillans. The talk centered around her research in money and happiness. She reported people were more happy spending money on other people than themselves. Whoever said money doesn’t buy happiness didn’t know how to spend it :P. Personally, it’s more important to base one’s own views of happiness (contentment is probably the more appropriate term) from his or her own experiences rather than simply follow a scientific (or religious) one.

Afterwards we went to see the first session of oral presentations. They ran simultaneously so we listened to only six out of thirty talks. One interesting one was the Perceived threat of infectious disease and its implications for conformist attitudes and behaviour by Houman Rashidian (the paper is here). The basis was different threats can have different effects on social cognition and behaviour. It wasn’t explicitly stated, but I think it’s fear of the unknown triggers conformity. My theory is if one is facing an unknown (ie obscure) threat then he or she would feel safer going along with a group instead of  standing out, hence conformity. Perhaps that helps explain why so many people unnecessarily went to get the H1N1 vaccine… One problem with this study (and other psychology studies at the conference) was 79% of the test subjects were women (women have a greater tendency to conform than men).

MURC provided us with lunch after while we got a chance to look at all the poster presentations. Arjun Nanda’s poster detailed the benefits of yoga to treating bipolar disorder (BD). However most of the cited benefits apply to only the depressive phase of BD and the student told us yoga actually brings out the manic phase so I was confused about that. Anyways there is potential to studying the effects of various physical activities on patients with BD.

There was a second session of oral presentations following lunch. This time Daphne and I decided to stay in the same room the entire time although we quickly regretted that after. I seriously think I have ADD since I can’t sit in the same seat for long periods of time and I have a short attention span… I was looking forward to hearing about The effects of pre-exam writing exercises on student exam anxiety by Stephanie Ryn since it was a study on education, but was very disappointed with how it turned out. She reported students believed participating in expressive writing (write about one’s feelings) and brain dump (write the concepts one think will be tested) exercises right before an exam helped them achieve a higher grade and there were no differences in anxiety levels among students participating in both exercises. However this study measured only perception and not if those exercises actually improved exam performance. Also apparently there was no control since she didn’t report the relative anxiety levels for students who didn’t do the pre-exam exercises.

There was a chance to network with everyone else afterwards. One attendee came up to us and asked if we were one of the presenters at the conference. We said no although I realized five seconds after she walked away I should have said yes and pretend to be a presenter. Unfortunately my Mafia instincts didn’t kick in at that time 😦

Natalie Sopinka gave the closing keynote. This was a bit different from the opening keynote, but I found it inspiring for people who wanted to get into research. She talked about her journey through research and gave her winning three-minute thesis speech.

 

Overall I enjoyed my day very much. MURC should have kept the Learning how to network workshop they had last year since it’s important to know how to connect with professors. I also liked that all the sessions started on time (one of my biggest pet peeves is events not following on schedule). That made it easy for us to go to different rooms to listen to various presentations since they were in sync with each other. Also guys need to participate in more psyc studies since most of them (at least at UBC) are biased towards using women test subjects. Other than that, I wish I had more to say, but I don’t 😛 (lesson learned: don’t wait a week after an event to blog about it or you might forget some parts).

Categories: Research, UBC

Multidisciplinary Undergraduate Research Conference

March 17, 2012 Leave a comment

Just to let you guys know that this year’s Multidisciplinary Undergraduate Research Conference (MURC) will be held next Saturday March 24 in Irving K.B. Learning Center (on UBC campus). I recommend any student interested in a career in research to attend this conference. You’ll get to network and see what your fellow undergrads have been up to. You’ll have to register here.

Categories: Bulletin, Research, UBC

Secrets of the Emergency Department

December 9, 2011 1 comment

I worked in the emergency department at BC Children’s Hospital as a research assistant for a year and gained a lot of insight into the health care system. It’s no surprise that one of the problems in the ED is overcrowding which leads to longer waiting times (average wait time is about three hours) before patients are seen by a doctor. Keep in mind that this is BCCH so only patients seventeen years and under are admitted.

1. Arriving by ambulance doesn’t mean that you will receive special treatment or get special status. You will have to wait in line to get triaged like everybody else.

2. Be nice to everyone, especially nurses since they are the ones who take care of you. Doctors just come in and tell what is wrong with you.

3. You will have to repeat your story several times separately: to the triage nurses, MSIs/residences/fellows, emergency physicians and possibly specialists. You will save yourself and all the staff a lot of time if you tell the same full story each time.

4. It’s not a bad thing if you have to wait for hours, that means you are not going to die. You should feel sorry for the one who gets rushed into the ED and is seen by a doctor immediately.

5. Doctors do not cure stupidity. I have seen patients that came in and said “My son ran up a set of stairs and now his heart is beating faster than usual” and “My daughter has been coughing and having a runny nose for days, does she have cancer?”. It’s comforting to know that those people are part of the reason why patients are waiting for hours in the ED.

6. Doctors spend a large time doing paperwork. I can tell you, to the second, precisely how much time physicians spend on administrative duties. Believe me when I say they do not idle around.

7. If you come in with a broken bone, be prepared to stay for several hours at the minimum. During triage, most, if not all nurses, know you will need an x-ray, but they are not allowed to order it for you. They can order x-rays for only specific body parts (I don’t remember which ones). Once the doctor calls you in, he or she can do the (re)assessment and then will order the x-ray. You will have to wait until the radiology department is free. After the x-ray, you go back into the waiting room again until the physician gets a chance to see the images and calls you back in for a casting procedure.

8. Staff at BCCH are much more cheerful and lively than staff at Vancouver General Hospital. Not sure why, but you guys can make educated guesses.

9. The staff ARE trained to deal with emergencies, that’s why they work in the ED. There was an incident where a pregnant person came and gave birth to a child. The reason it was done in the ED and not maternity ward: she concealed her pregnancy entirely from her parents until that day.

10. There are optimal times to come to the ED (by optimal I mean least waiting time). During last season’s Stanley Cup playoffs, I had a Saturday afternoon shift during a Canucks vs Sharks game. There were any barely patients that day, guess where all the children were? It’s also safe to assume that patient flow would increase slightly the very next day.

Categories: Research