After the nano gold rush: thanks and farewell Tim Dreier

Tim Dreier (@NotHF) took over the reins of RealScientists in late November, covering the Thanksgiving period for our North American friends. Tim covered the basics and not-so-basics of gold nanochemistry, changing careers, and life as a graduate student in chemistry.

He also delved bravely into politics and also showed us his COOL DOGS! We love dogs! Check out these dogs!

Tim also figured out how to do subscripts in a tweet which seems like a pretty major development.

And shared his atomic orbital tattoo which is gives me a jealousy that just can’t be curium-ed.

Tim got right into our post-curation survey, so we’ll leave you with his reflections on the week.

In general terms, how did you find your week as a curator?

I thought it was fun, but maybe a little more stressful than I thought it would be. I’m used to using twitter to talk to maybe a couple hundred people many of whom are personal friends, so an audience 100 times that size was a bit exciting. I definitely felt a sense of obligation to try and do a good job in order to build on what other people had already managed to accomplish.

Overall, though, I think it was a good experience and one that I’d recommend to other people interested in further exploring how to use Twitter as a medium for discussing their particular scientific field. I know that I’ve learned a lot about disciplines that aren’t my own through following RS, and it was pretty fun to get to talk to a big audience about what I think is exciting in chemistry.

It can be a shock talking to so many. Did you find the sudden rush of interactions (good and bad) daunting?

Most people were pretty nice, and most of the interaction was friendly. I was expecting a little more of people being horrible, to be honest, but that mostly wasn’t the case. It was a bit overwhelming to try and keep up at first, but after the first day I felt like I got the hang of it. The hardest part was really picking what to respond to, because I think it can be difficult to tell the difference between somebody who genuinely wants to have a conversation, and somebody who is trolling or just wants to say their piece and be done.

What were the highlights? Were there any lowlights?

I’m going to take a second to fanboy pretty hard: for me, personally, getting to talk to Bruce Cordell about RPGs was pretty fantastic. Not science related, but that was pretty great. He’s been involved in the design and testing of a lot of games that have meant a lot to me over the years.

More on-topic: I love answering questions about what I do, I love talking about it, my only other scientist relative and I aren’t allowed to sit near each other at family gatherings because we’ll bore everyone else. A lot of people were really interested in some of the stuff that nanoparticles are getting used for, and how we’re trying to push things forward into new discovery.

I was also able to talk to some people about the process of learning organic chemistry, and I think that’s incredibly important. There’s this belief that o-chem is only for weird geniuses, or that it’s all memorizing things by rote, so really getting to talk to a pretty big and interested number of people about how that isn’t really the case was great.

The only real lowlights were, I think, partly holdovers from the previous curator. A couple of “climate skeptic” trolls, and one person who I ended up blocking because he was a racist. And I don’t mean maybe a racist, I mean “white men invented everything good so of course we’re superior” sort of racist. The dressing up in a bed sheet and committing hate crimes racist. Nobody needs that nonsense in their feed.

The only other sort of bad interactions were when I made a couple of tweets about Trump on Thanksgiving and when I told a mildly technical, but definitely extended, story about how a scientific discovery comes together. Those were mostly not rude, but sort of “Great, Trump’s bad, but what about O-chem?” and “Who are you talking to?” The latter point, okay, maybe that kind of story isn’t for everyone but I think the narrative of how science actually gets done is important. When you read a paper or a media account everything looks nice and tidy, but that’s not how discovery happens. I think the kind of stay-in-your-lane attitude that the Trump tweets triggered is due to people thinking science exists in a vacuum, which simply isn’t the case.

Is there anything you wanted to get out of / do on the RS account that you didn’t manage to fit in?

I wanted to talk a little more about equity issues in science, and especially within organic chemistry, but I lost Friday to many real life tasks and didn’t get as much of a chance as I’d have liked. Not that anybody needs my opinion on equity issues, but I do think it’s important. The follow Friday list I put together was mostly people I think are doing a good job talking about equity issues, and they know more than I do about them for sure. I know that Dr. Maggie Hardy did a very nice job with her RS time talking about equity in science, as have a couple of more recent curators.

Coming from where I come from (white, upper-middle class, male, straight, American) it’s easy to not see problems. The world is basically setup for people like me to succeed.* From that place it can be very difficult to see the structural barriers that other people face, and I think recognizing that is important. Science is better when more people who want to participate can. Science is better when the people doing science are more representative of humanity as a whole, when it is more diverse.

The one specifically science topic I wanted to get to and didn’t was where I see the future of synthetic chemistry going. I think that there’s a big potential for people with organic training to still do some great stuff, the death of synthetic chemistry has been greatly overstated, but I don’t think we can really focus narrowly the way we could for most of the 20th century.

*I mean, just look at Donald Trump: a semi-literate racist who’s so bad with money he managed to bankrupt a casino, and now he might be president.

Did you have a plan? If so, did you stick to it?

I did make an outline for each day of the week, just to help myself stay focused. If you’ve looked at my personal twitter feed, it’s pretty apparent that I have a lot of different interests and can also be a little bit unfocused. Having an outline helped me stay at least pointed in the right direction.

I stuck to it in terms of what I covered, mostly, although a lot of it didn’t happen in the order I first wrote down or even on the same day that I’d planned. That’s okay, though, I still think having a plan really helped a lot.

Do you have any tips or advice for future RS curators?

Have a plan, but be flexible. You won’t be able to respond to everything if you want to actually get anything you’d planned out there, so pick what seems like it will lead to interesting discussions.

What other people or accounts should people follow if they enjoyed your tweets this week?

There are so many great people, it’s hard not to just say “all of chemistry twitter and a bunch of former RS curators.” Here are a few, in pretty much the order I thought of them.

Science & Related:
Dr. Raychelle Burks (@DrRubidium)
Dr. Carolyn Bertozzi (@CarolynBertozzi)
Dr. Maggie Hardy (@DrMaggieHardy)
Dr. Tressie McMillan Cottom (@TressieMcPhD)
Paulette V-R (@pinkyprincess)
Super Science Girl (@supersciencegrl)
Dr. Chris Cramer (@ChemProfCramer)
Dr. Teshik Yoon (@TeshikYoon)
Dr. Dan Singleton (@DASingleton)
Chemjobber (@chemjobber) – the duck with the numbers

Not Science:
@MST3K
@TraceBeaulieu
@FrankConniff
@tanehisicoates
@WesleyLowery

Thanks once Tim from all of us here at RealScientists HQ. If you missed anything from his week, the tweets are all collated at the following link.

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