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Stories by Janet D. Stemwedel

The Sciences

Crime, punishment, and the way forward: in the wake of Sheri Sangji's death, what should happen to Patrick Harran?

When bad things happen in an academic laboratory, what should happen to people who bear responsibility for those bad things -- even if they didn't mean for them to happen?This is the broad question I've been thinking about in connection with the prosecution of chemistry professor Patrick Harran and UCLA in connection with the laboratory accident that killed Sheri Sangji...

March 27, 2012 — Janet D. Stemwedel
The Sciences

Suit against UCLA in fatal lab fire raises question of who is responsible for safety.

Right before 2011 ended (and, as it happened, right before the statute of limitations ran out), the Los Angeles County district attorney's office filed felony charges against the University of California regents and UCLA chemistry professor Patrick Harran in connection with a December 2008 fire in Harran's lab that resulted in the death of a 23-year-old staff research assistant, Sheharbano "Sheri" Sangji.As reported by The Los Angeles Times : Harran and the UC regents are charged with three counts each of willfully violating occupational health and safety standards...

January 4, 2012 — Janet D. Stemwedel
The Sciences

Science and ethics shouldn't be muddled (or, advice for Jesse Bering).

Jesse Bering's advice column is provoking some strong reactions. Most of these suggest that his use of evolutionary psychology in his answers lacks a certain scientific rigor, or that he's being irresponsible in providing what looks like scientific cover for adult men who want to have sex with pubescent girls.My main issue is that the very nature of Jesse Bering's column seems bound to muddle scientific questions and ethical questions.In response to this letter: Dear Jesse,I am a non-practicing heterosexual hebephile—and I think most men are—and find living in this society particularly difficult given puritanical, feminist, and parental forces against the normal male sex drive...

December 24, 2011 — Janet D. Stemwedel
The Sciences

How do we make room for pink microscopes? (More thoughts on gendered science kits.)

As we've been considering the hazards of gendered science kits for kids, some have suggested that it is simplistic to paint pink microscopes as an unalloyed evil.One response on the potential value of girls' science kits comes from Meghan Groome at Pathways to Science: As someone who studies the formation of science identity in middle school students, I see everyday how girls try to navigate acceptable girl identities with those teachers look for to identify science talent...

December 2, 2011 — Janet D. Stemwedel
The Sciences

Some reasons gendered science kits may be counterproductive.

We want kids to explore science and get excited about learning (and doing) it. Given that kids learn so much through play, rather than just by trying to sit still at a desk and to pay attention to a teacher who may or may not convey enthusiasm about science, you'd think that science kits marketed as "play" would be a good thing.Why, then, am I skeptical about the value of science kits for girls?...

November 28, 2011 — Janet D. Stemwedel
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