Tuesday, August 18, 2009

Class #5: Forensic Psychology

This week's speaker, Paul Appelbaum, discussed the relationship between the criminal justice system and psychiatry, specifically, forensic psychiatry. He began with an overview of the roles psychiatrists play in the criminal justice system.
  1. They can offer assessments of plaintiff’s injuries, or the state of mind of a defendant during an alleged felonious act.
  2. Psychiatrists can be involved in treatment options for convicted criminals during their incarceration.
  3. They can be involved in competency hearings, for both defendants and expert witnesses.
Besides state-of-mind (intent) assessments and penalty phase determinations in a criminal trial, psychiatrists can also be part of a civil litigation. For example, during a child custody case, if visitation rights are contested, a psychiatrist might become involved in determining the nature of a parent-child relationship. Tortuous interference is another cause of action, which requires proving the degree of harm and/or causation. Workplace discrimination is a common example, when a plaintiff alleges that s/he is suffering from depression due to inappropriate conduct s/he experienced on the job. In malpractice claims, assessing the standard of care offered a patient during therapy treatments, when the patient subsequently commits a homicide or suicide also requires assessment by outside expert psychiatrists. Dr. Mandell referenced the book “Autopsy of a suicidal mind,”as an example of this kind of assessment. Finally, accidental harm can cause a post-traumatic stress disorder, which can also be an action for damages in a court.

As for competency hearings, the most obvious role for a psychiatrist concerns “power of attorney” actions. For example, if a patient’s leg is gangrenous, and must removed to save the patient’s life, and the patient refuses to have the operation, then a psychiatrist may be asked to assess the patient’s capacity to consent to the operation.

All of these descriptions illustrate how psychological considerations can impact the legal system. Conversely, there are occasions where the criminal justice system affects a psychiatrist’s actions. For example, when a psychiatrist is involved with situations including involuntary commitment, confidentiality, liability issues, and treating sex offenders, there are legal consideration s/he must consider when treating a patient.

We then moved to student questions, which I hope where helpful to all of you.

The Toolbox Question

Finally, I asked Dr. Appelbaum’s to answer our “toolbox” question, that is, what kinds of science classes should an undergrad enroll in order to successfully develop a career in science. He stated that undergrad students should make an effort to acquire hands-on experience in a clinical setting. Students can volunteer, or find ways to enter a courthouse or prison environment (in a non-felonious way ;-) . It is only after the iron bar doors slam shut that a student can truly know if working in a prison environment is a career worth pursuing.

So here's what our guest speakers have offered as advice to you, as you move through your undergrad experiences:

  • Dr. Duan said being familiar with methodologies like statistics are good skills to have in your portfolio.
  • Dr. Brooks stated that undergrad science student learn about a variety of ways to get information, based upon whether the inquiry focuses on individual or sociological phenomenon. Instead of just getting good at one particular scientific technique, like titration, students should become familiar with many different methodologies, so that when they are designing their own studies, they’ll know the best ways to get better data, and how to best interpret that data.
  • And again, Dr. Appelbaum underscored the importance of obtaining experiences outside the classroom to learn about the environments that a scientist must work in, so to figure out if you are in fact comfortable in those environments.
What I would like each of you to do for this class is think about all of this advice you have received, listed above, as well as any personal memories you might have of the guest speakers, and answer the following question on your wiki page:

Given all of the discussions we have had with our guest speakers to date, how might these discussions inform your matriculation at college in the near future?
In other words, are there certain classes you are now interested in taking, activities you will look for on or off campus, or new research programs you will investigate as a result of your contact with these guest speakers?

Please write a 2-3 paragraph response to the question.

Wednesday, August 12, 2009

Class #4: Public Health Programs

So to recap this past Monday's class, we met with Tushar J. Makadia, who worked at the Pandit Dindayal Upadhiyay Medical College, B J Medical College, and the Karnavati School of Dentistry before coming to this country. We discussed his experiences at
Specifically, we talked about the obstacles to furthering public health policies in religious communities, or, more accurately, poorly educated communities who resist activities such as immunization. We also talked about the differences in family structure in American and Indian households.

For this class, please go to your wiki page, and write down your impressions about the "Women in Prison" movie we saw at the beginning of class, about incarcerated mothers jailed in South Carolina. Please describe anything that surprised you, made an impression on you, etc. We are expecting a 2-3 paragraph response.

As for our next class, we are extremely honored to have Paul Appelbaum join us next Monday morning. He was a past President of the American Psychiatric Association, and a nationally renowned expert in forensic psychiatry. We invited him because of your interest in that science career. I would list some of his publications, but the list is voluminous, so I'll leave it to you to find articles you are interested in discussing. Please come prepared to discuss the nuances of forensic psychiatry.

Tuesday, August 4, 2009

Class #3: Language Development

A lot of action coming up! It's hard to believe yet another week is coming to a close. Here's what's up for our 10AM morning class tomorrow:

We are privileged to have Patricia Brooks join our group to discuss language formation. Here are a few of her publications:
Even if you don't think you will be pursuing a career in this field, we all know people who live in a family with an autistic child, or children with other speech impairments. My sister has a two year old son, and I am always curious to try to figure out how he is processing the language he hears around him. So think about these kinds of language issues for tomorrow's class, and please try to have some questions ready for her.

As for last week's class, I have uploaded three questions about sampling techniques to each of your wiki pages. You don't have to knock yourself out on answering the questions, just reflect upon what you heard in last week's class, and think about how you might apply sampling techniques in the career you are considering pursuing. A paragraph for each answer will be sufficient. Remember, you are expected to write a report at the end of your internship, and the answers you upload to your wiki page now will make it much easier to produce your report at the end of the summer.

Further, there hasn't been any movement on the Trinity Cemetery wiki page. Again, you know more about those tombstones than pretty much everyone else on Earth! I know there will be people who will want to know about your findings, and if you don't publish them, no one will ever know. If each of you could please write a few sentences about the procedure, or calculations, or reflections, the page will be done in no time. Feel free to edit other students' text if you feel it is inaccurate or missing an important detail. Okay?

Finally, next Monday (August 10) at 10 AM, we will be meeting with Dr. Tushar J. Makadia. We will discuss what that class will consist of tomorrow.

see ya!

Wednesday, July 29, 2009

Class #2: Biostatistics

It's Wednesday, hard to believe that this week is already coming to a close (or that August is just a few days away) -- so here's what's cooking this Friday:

We are honored to have Dr. Naihua Duan offer an Introduction to Sampling presentation this Friday at 9:30 AM. Please plan to be here around 9 AM, so that we can start promptly. If you are curious about his recent work, here are some of his online publications:

We will then be attending Grand Rounds with Linda Fried at 11 AM.

Please read this excerpt from the book, "Designing Surveys" to become more familiar with the science of surveys for this Friday.

Bye for now!

Friday, July 24, 2009

What sort of careers use sampling techniques?

So we've finished our first class. In the future (like next week), here's the procedure to follow for each class:

  • Check this blog on Wednesdays to learn about what that week's Friday class will be about.
  • Be prepared at the beginning of class to complete any "pre-assessment" requirements posted on the blog
  • After each class will be a writing assignment, designed to help you with your final writing requirement concerning pursuing a career in science. You will save your work to the class wiki
For this class, I would like you to do three things:
  1. Post a comment to this blog concerning my summary of your interests in science we discussed two Fridays ago. Let me know if I should revise your summary in any way, or if I should add any additional interests.
  2. As a group, I would like all of you to describe how we reached a consensus that there are 11,215 tombstone in Trinity Cemetery. Post your reflections on the wiki page. Feel free to edit other students' text if you feel it is inaccurate or missing an important detail. The full set of instructions are listed on that page.
  3. Finally, I would like everyone to choose a scientific career that uses sampling techniques from the list of links below. I would like everyone to choose a different career path for investigation. If you have a burning desire to research a career not listed, email me a link with a description/example of the career you want to research and I'll make sure it's OK to research. Here are the links to the various scientific careers that use sampling techniques in the job:
Once you have read the information in the link, go to your wiki page, and answer the questions listed on the page. To edit a wiki page, click on the 'Edit' button on the top right side of the page, and type in your comments. Most importantly, please remember to click the 'Save' button on toolbar to save your comment. Clicking File | Save from the menu will not save your work, so don't do that.

Here are the summaries, so please post a comment at the bottom of this posting if I should change your summary in any way.

Jakob Layman

Expressed interest in "neuroeconomics." Additionally, how are space age "green" polymers different from their original chemical structures (e.g., biodegradable, create more efficient laminar flows).

Maritza Montanez

Selected as an area of interest language formation. Specifically, what are the effects when immigrants losing the ability to use their native language on their connection to their native culture. Along a similiar line, what are the contrasts between large city medical institutions, and small town folk remedies. Finally, what are the relationships between stress and not having health insurance.

Geraldine Diaz

Generally speaking, what is the relationship between criminologists and urban populations, focusing on the sociological aspects.

James Rini

Has an interest in the relationship between brain morphology and psychological disorders, such as neorogentica of schizophrenia, transgenic mutations, reverse engineering of the 1918 flu. Additionally, he listed some technological interests, such as cold fusion, batteries of the future, and opposing theories to global warming.

Kennesha Dickson

Offered a most generalist perspective. Her question was, "what is the relationship between (boring) research and (interesting) applications, such as social services and counseling?" She also mentioned interest in the relationship between juvenile delinquency and genetics and crime.

Dayna Heckstall

Addressed more ethical, rather than purely scientific concerns, Generally speaking, "what is the role of public health? What actions are ethically justified in a scientific investigation?"

Soulkya Agana-Woodbine

Has a personal interest in gentrification, specifically of Bedford-Styvesent. Maybe this would be a good place to have a GIS module.

Here's how you post a comment to this blog:

  • Scroll to the end of this posting, on the line that starts, "posted by terminus," and click on the 'comments' link.
  • On the right side of the screen, type your name in the text box.
  • Answer the questions listed above, under your name.
  • Below the text box, click on the 'Anonymous' radio button.

That's it! Please check back on Wednesday to find out what's up this Friday.

Thursday, July 23, 2009

Class #1: How many tombstones are in Trinity Cemetary?

Welcome to Stimulus Science!

Hopefully this storm will clear out by morning, and we'll able to sun ourselves at Trinity Cemetery. New York City cemeteries are fascinating objects of study. The original solid state databases, you could spend your life mining their data-rich substrates. We will invest a simple question, and apply a basic scientific technique this Friday. Your mission, should you choose to accept it, is to figure out how many tombstones are in Trinity Cemetery.

If you take "Biology 101" in college, you'll likely experience some field work, where field really means walking a field, and your work will be trying to figure out the number of some species living in the field. You may smirk at the simple minded task, but take a moment to think about what sort of scientific procedures you may have to implement in order to establish a valid number. People spend their lives, writing books about this seemingly simple task.

The key issue in this sort of investigation is finding a scientifically credible way to be lazy, that is, not count all of the objects of inquiry, and yet claim to know to a reasonable degree of certainty, what the total number of objects is. In other words we need to sample a limited number of objects of interest, and project from that number, what the total number of objects in the field is.

The biggest problem to sampling is making sure your sample isn't biased. We could overlay a grid on the field, and count the number of objects in every third square of the grid. But systematic sampling isn't necessarily representative sampling. Can you think of a case where picking off every third object would lead to a biased result? Here's an example.

The key, therefore, is to develop a random sampling technique. What I'd like you to think about between now and our field trip, is what sort of scientifically credible way could we sample a number of tombstones from Trinity Cemetery, and deduce the total number of tombstones in the cemetery. You don't have to read everything in the links provided, but think about the question, and get ready to develop a scientific procedure on site tomorrow!