Tag Archives: biology

What We Think of Blue and Pink: a Discussion with Julia Serano

by Lina Schmidt, ’15

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Stanford Students for Queer Liberation would like to invite you to “What We Think of Blue and Pink,” a discussion with activist Julia Serano on Tuesday, January 15th at 7:30 PM in the Black Community Services Center. Students of all disciples are welcome at Dr. Serano’s talk, which will examine social conceptions of gender — for example, the idea that pink is “for girls” and blue is “for boys.” Such prejudices are reinforced through media, literature, and even theories of psychology. Dr. Serano examines this in her book, Whipping Girl: A Transsexual Woman On Sexism and the Scapegoating of Feminity.

Whipping Girl broke ground when it came out in 2007, because it provides a way of looking at gender that makes room for everyone’s differences and different experiences, while finding the underlying patterns. Continue reading

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STEMarginalized (or Why I’ll Never Take Another Class Outside the Humanities)

by anonymous, ’14


My mother likes to tell the story of how I applied for Stanford as a hardcore biology major with a concentration in genetic engineering, then called her after one quarter to come out as a drama major. For perspective, I’d never been involved in theater in any shape or form before college. For her, this makes an amusing anecdote about the liberalizing/artsy big blue blob that is California. For me, it’s a sobering reminder of just how alienated I felt in the STEM courses I’ve taken at Stanford.

It’s not that the material is too difficult or uninteresting—I was actually really engaged with my biology, physics, and calculus courses in high school, and looked forward to working in labs and doing research when I “grew up.” My shift from STEM is rather due to the different approaches to discussing (or not) marginalized peoples in the humanities and sciences. Whereas most of my Theater and Performance Studies professors (and especially my Comparative Studies in Race and Ethnicity professors) regularly use examples and materials that validate and explore the experiences of people who aren’t at the top of the privilege food chain, my STEM professors often make me feel angry, invalidated, and anxious. In TAPS and CSRE courses, I can speak to and learn about the lived experiences of people like me (and unlike me!). In STEM courses, data which appear to be objective often show that marginalized groups are inferior to dominant groups, without including a discussion of the systematic challenges that can produce those data. Put another way, we don’t discuss confounders that happened before we began our study.

Let me give you an example from a popular statistics course at Stanford. Continue reading

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The Science of Collaboration

by Jovel Queirolo, ’14

Every great scientist in history and the Pogonomyrmex Barbatus species of ant, often referred to in my lab as Pogos, have two things in common. They have always relied heavily on their peers in their respective fields – whether that is a field of science or a field of desert grass and mesquite.

This summer, I watched and participated in collection of data about the Pogos. Every morning I woke up sometime between 4 a.m. and 5 a.m. (depending on the day’s assignment) to eat a small breakfast of yogurt, granola, and coffee usually while blinking awake with my fellow field researchers. We then drove from our mountain research station about 30 minutes to watch the sunrise and arrive at the research site.

The first ants to leave the nest mound are the patrollers who tuck their abdomens down and drowsily mark paths with their colony scent. How and which way they decide to go is a mystery. Continue reading

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PRACTICING COMPASSION: Infusing Activism With Altruism

by Jovel Queirolo, ’14

Stanford’s Project Compassion recently brought evolutionary biologist (and revolutionary) David Sloan Wilson to campus to discuss the evolutionary significance of altruism and compassion. He defined the term compassion, in biology, as awareness of suffering and the wish to relieve it. He defined altruism as concern for another’s welfare even at the expense of oneself. He explained that altruistic and compassionate creatures often sacrifice themselves for others, which is seemingly “not fit.” In evolutionary jargon, fitness means one’s ability to reproduce and pass on one’s genes.

The answer to this evolutionary puzzle, Wilson says, is that altruistic and compassionate groups are favored by natural selection even if an altruistic or compassionate individual is not. He presents a case featuring water striders – the research conducted by his former student, Omar Tonsi Eldakar. Continue reading

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POST-POWER PUPAE: What Leaders Can Learn From Anarchist Arthropods

by Jovel Queirolo, ’14

Look to the ant, though sluggard – consider her ways and be wise. Without chief, overseer or ruler, she gathers the harvest in the summer to eat in the winter.”  -Proverbs 6:6

For the past month or so, I’ve been spending about three hours a week watching video footage of harvester ants for an ant behavior project I’m working on in the lab of biologist Deborah Gordon. The more time I spend with the ants, the more intrigued I become with the relationships between an individual ant and its colony. Perhaps human activists can learn from harvester ants and their ability to see their lives as a part of the colony’s life. No ant is born or raised to do one specific task. Rather, at any given time, ants do tasks that will benefit the colony and enhance its chance of survival. For example, if there’s a lot of food around, more ants switch into foraging mode to gather food. If a part of the nest is damaged, then more ants switch into nest maintenance mode to repair the nest.

The ants appear to be quite selfless and are able to live in harmony with their fellow ants without any sort of “power ant(s)” orchestrating their work. In Ant Encounters, Stanford Biology Professor Deborah Gordon explains that, “An ant does not perform according to instructions – from some inner program, or from other ants of higher rank. Ants use local information, such as chemical communication, but they do not tell each other what to do… An ant’s behavior depends on both what it perceives in the world around it and on its interactions with other ants.”

What if humans could perform according to local information without telling each other what to do? What if our actions depended on our surroundings and on our interactions with other humans? Continue reading

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