Happy 2016 and cheesy interview by me

hi pro designers!

Happy 2016.  I hope you had a great break. I wanted to share a tiny bit of info with you.  For better or worse, I did my first ever interview that got turned into a podcast. It is cheese I know, and you have certainly heard me enough!  However, I did try to focus on the challenges that I faced as scientist, promote diversity, and remind listeners that doing science is also a form of activism.  Give it a spin if you like – you can download as podcast or just click on the play button right on that page.

People Behind the Science Podcast

Note – I did not mention Star Wars but did see The Force Awakens twice already!  Also, you may get a request for a letter about my teaching in biology. I would love if you could do it and highlight the innovations we tried together (and not failed as Jedi).


Systematic review marks

Hey designers!

Your final systematic review marks are on turnitin with associated comments. Please make sure you check the rubric mark, as the mark at the top is rounded (sometimes up, sometimes down) to the nearest whole grade out of 15.

Congrats, they were generally VERY well done and I enjoyed reading them!

Your Figshare marks are as follows:

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Systematic review marking guidelines

Your paper is due Thursday November 3rd @ 2:30 PM, on Turnitin. Please reference links I posted a few weeks ago with systematic review examples, particularly for the methods and results.


5-8 pages of text (double spaced, size 12 font). Maximum 10 pages of text, then a few pages of figures (use the whole page please) and title/references pages

Required sections:

  • title page
    • proper scientific title, collaborators
  • introduction
    • sufficient background on topic and related theories to set the context of your study
    • rationale, purpose, objectives
  • methods 
    • full search method, inclusion and exclusion criteria (including reference to PRISMA flow diagram in abstract http://www.prisma-statement.org/
    • explanation of the data you extracted to tackle your objectives
  • results (text and figures with captions)
    • what did you find by extracting data on these studies?
    • reference to figures
  • discussion and conclusion
    • describe main results (but do not re-present them or reference stats, figures, etc) for each objective you proposed succinctly
    • discuss these results and the status of the literature on the topic you are studying
    • from this, describe the research gaps, and why they are important to study in the future
    • future directions for the field
  • references (min. 10, please cite throughout in APA or CSE; name date format for in-text)
  • appendix
    • PRISMA (linked above)
    • figshare to be posted online which will have all articles from original search, as well as meta data.


  • data
  • metadata
  • tags (BIOL3250, ExperimentalDesign2015, RuttanED2015), plus additional tags
  • description (methods)


Please select ONE of the questions you did NOT do on test and submit to turnitin

Here is your chance to design the perfect experiment. NOT under pressure.  PURELY OPTIONAL.

Select on the questions you did NOT do on the test already.
Prep it. Submit it to Turnitin by Friday Dec 4th by 10pm.
If it is there, I will mark it and replace one of your test question marks for this section ONLY if it goes up. If not, I will not replace.
NO LATE submissions accepted as this is an extra opportunity.


  1. You have some lovely fruit trees in your orchard, and it is important to you to protect your crop from pests. Unlike some other growers, you prefer to not trap out the small mammals (squirrels & rodents) but need to keep the ripening fruit on the tree branches till harvest. The animals can eat the fruit that falls to the ground. You have read that metal flashing wrapped around the trunk prevents animals from climbing up. You have $10,000 you were going to spend on advertising but want to spend on doing an experiment this year with flashing so that you can be organic and animal friendly when you advertise next year. You have three major fruit orchards on your farm, each separated by a 1km, and you have noticed animal activity in all three locations. The growing season is 6 months long, beginning in May and ending in October, and at each location you have approximately 300 trees. The metal flashing is sold in rolls 10 ft wide and 100 feet long. Each roll costs $1000. You have 3 staff, part-time to help you set up experiment. All three locations have fruit trees that are even aged and approximately the same size at 25 feet tall with a trunk diameter at breast height of on average of 3 ft. Please design experiment to determine if metal flashing wrapped around the trunk will work. Also, determine whether the height of placement and width of flashing needed are important considerations. Write a hypothesis, predictions, and the methods with a sketch to show outline of experiment as you are planning on sharing the find in in a local fruit grower publication for others within the region.


  1. You are managing a running race. Design a ‘validation’ experiment to demonstrate that the system you have developed minimizes bias and inaccuracies. You have a limited budget for equipment but many volunteers. In your design, also include best design principles for the volunteers too. Develop a checklist you provide to them. Explain the design but also do a very clear schematic to show the validation design to the race officials to get your race Ontario Track and Field Certified. You do not need a hypothesis and prediction for a validation protocol, but you do need the protocol to very clear and decouple bias from inaccuracy. Ensure you also have redundancy and a checking system in place for races in case one system fails because these competitions are very important qualifying races for potentially professional athletes.


  1. You have decided to do some research contract work after your undergraduate before you make your big career decision. You took an experimental design course and are now confident you can advertise yourself as an expert in design to help out companies. You are also really into the physical training literature and sports. You have secured your first contract with a really innovative gym called P3 that trains many pro-athletes including potential draft recruits for the NBA. As part of the research by the gym, they test really novel training techniques including use of hi-res recordings, electronic muscle stimulation (EMS), and also transcranial direct-current stimulation (tDCS). Both are basically forms of electrical stimulation of either the muscles or the brain directly and preliminary but accumulating research has shown both can have positive effects on performance. They have hired you to help them use this really expensive equipment they purchased to train athletes but also collect data in a meaningful way to publish and establish their company (gym but they are branding it as a research clinic). Show off what you know here from experimental design using the terms and ideas of avoiding psuedorep, within-subject measures, PPV, how to decide on replication levels, specificity in testing protocols, etc. Remember however, all althletes are paying clients but return many times for training within a single season. Assume they handle approximately 120 athletes pre-season before draft picks, each athlete can visit up to a dozen times over the course of 6 months, and your goal is to design an experiment that tests whether stimulation works. Ensure you test frequency, contrast direct muscle versus brain stim, and whether you need to both. They train only men 17-21 years but they can vary in height from 6ft upwards. Provide a visual outline of the design as well to show to pitch your design to P3.




  1. The global goals are an inspiration. We need them. Design an experiment that can provide evidence of success after 5 years of hard work by a nation for just one of the 17 goals listed. Other researchers will test the remaining goals so ensure your design has some elements of repeatability and that they can compare their findings to yours.
    List your hypothesis, predictions, and include a description of your pilot experiment.   Do this in writing. Clearly state how you are invoking best experimental design principles because your written full grant will be reviewed. You also have to present this to the UN for funding as part of the application process (they want to see if you can also communicate and summarize complexity well). You get only three slides and a few minutes to compete for the funding. Prep three visuals to show during your proposal. I recommend you do one figure showing the hypothesis and prediction clearly in a visual form, one figure showing the design, and one figure showing what you anticipate the outcome of the experiment will generate (i.e. a data visualization plot).


  1. VW likely failed to communicate clearly to the public about TDI cars. Someone within the company programmed a cheat code that allows the car to pass aircare tests. However, when driving, it produces 4-40x above acceptable emissions. Design an experiment to determine the frequency that this cheat was applied to their TDI models (3 different models with TDI engines) for cars currently on the road, test if they are set to cheat including the amount they pollute, and the extent that the cheat activates in testing within each model (i.e. is their sensitivity in the cheat turning on). To be clear, the cheat activates when the cars are put on rollers and only two wheels roll. Develop a hypothesis, predictions, and a very clear design. Include a visual sketch of the experimental design in addition to your description. Anticipate the outcome of your testing by providing a set of data visualization figures from the experiment. VW will likely challenge your findings no matter what you report so ensure you have a robust design you can defend by invoking the ‘best experimental design’ principles from your training.

Turnitin will check for plagiarism so please write it yourself.

Grant proposal rubric

Hey Designers,

Some have you have been asking for comments on your grant proposals, so I just wanted to do a quick post to show you how to access the rubric as it’s a little finicky if you don’t know how.

There is a little tab at the bottom of the grade-mark page on turnitin (shown in the picture below). You will need to click this to see your rubric, and all the comments by section.

There are additional comments throughout your report in speech bubbles.

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unofficial blog for experimental design @yorku