Every week, I will post a quick Q&A with one of our new bloggers on the network, so you can get to know them better. I start today with Michelle Clement of the 'Crude Matter' blog.
Hello! Let's start with first things first. What is the name of your blog and why did you choose that name - what does it mean?
My blog is named Crude Matter, and the idea for the name came to me one day when I was re-watching the Empire Strikes Back. In one of the scenes on Dagobah, Luke is feeling dejected because he can't force-lift his X-Wing out of the swamp, and Yoda explains the nature of the force to him. "Luminous beings are we, not this crude matter." The crude matter refers to the body as a vessel for some greater purpose, which some people believe is the soul, the consciousness, or the force. Whether or not you believe in any of these lofty ideas, we would not be able to exist without the function of the lowly crude matter, and that's the basis of physiology. Physiology is the study of how the body works: how the gears crank and how the fluids flow. I taught physiology for non-biology majors when I was in graduate school, and I noticed that my students would often preface their questions with, "I know this is gross, but..." Bodies are gross, yucky, and crude, but all of that yucky stuff is really awesome when you get down to it because that's what keeps you alive.
Where does the artwork for your banner come from, and what are you trying to convey with it?
My banner is from an illustration in a turn-of-the-20th-century anatomy textbook. What better way to get at the concept of "crude matter" than to show some guts right up front?
What is your blog about? Who is your target audience, and why do you think people should read your blog?
Like I said above, my blog is mainly about physiology, which is the study of the function of the body. I don't limit myself to human physiology; animal physiology is a wonderful comparative field that I blog about as well. When I write about physiology I tend to write at the same level as I would if communicating with some of my brighter students, which roughly corresponds to the interested non-physiologist with at least a cursory biology background. I try not to talk over anyone's head because physiology is really, really cool, and I'd hate for anyone to tune out because they don't understand what I'm trying to say.
That being said, I definitely don't limit myself to only physiological topics. I am a generalist at heart, and just about any subject in the life sciences is fair game for this blog. I've recently been blogging my experiences with personal genomics, an interest that I've grown and cultured in the past year, so that topic will likely pop up from time to time. I am also very interested in the intersection of sociology and biology, so be on the lookout for that as well.
Tell us more about yourself - where are you from, how did you get into science?
I was a naturalist from a very tender age (like most life scientists, I have fond memories of camping, hiking, and generally being outdoors as a kid), and biology was one of my favorite subjects in high school. It took me a while to figure it out in college, but honestly, there wasn't anything else that I was made to do. My grandparents fostered my inquisitive nature; they were the ones who taught me the names of all the birds and trees we could find when we went hiking, and they also bought me my first chemistry set. I guess I have them to thank (my thesis is dedicated to them).
How did you get into science blogging and science writing? What were the early influences on you regarding your blogging style and topics?
I started reading a mix of blogs about science and blogs about life as a scientist in the last few years of undergrad, when I was trying to decide whether or not to go to graduate school. My main influences at the time were Janet, Isis, and FSP, who were blogging mainly about life as a female scientist. Then I branched out and started reading bloggers that went heavier on the science like Razib, Darren, Scicurious, PalMD, David Kroll, and Christie Wilcox. I didn't start blogging myself until about two years ago, and I started making friends with some of the bloggers I'd been reading for years and several new bloggers which had cropped up since, many of whom are on SciAm now. Please don't go all the way back through my archives; it's actually somewhat embarrassing.
Anything else interesting about you, perhaps cool hobbies?
Hobbies?! I was very recently a graduate student, so who has time for hobbies? Okay, if you must know, I'm a bit of a huge geek for sci fi, fantasy, horror, you name it. My favorite color is dark brown (think coffee beans), I speak broken Italian, I still play SNES video games when I need to relax, I can trace my genealogy back to the Mayflower, I'm a carrier of hemochromatosis, I really like paisley and teacups and paisley teacups, I recently lost over 50 pounds, there's a genetic basis for my agoraphobia, when I was in 6th grade I got to go to the Bahamas because my grandmother won a cruise from the McDonalds Monopoly Sweepstakes (so, yes, people do actually win stuff from those), and I don't actually like long walks on the beach very much.
[The photo is me age ~7 outside of a wildlife station at (I think) Shawnee State Forest.]