Meet our Citizens
Each month "The Citizen" spotlights one of our many contributors! This issue, Dr. David E. Volk is profiled.
The Citizen: A short introduction, if you please :).
David: I am a jack of all trades, expert at none. At various times in my life I have been a bowler, a state champion boxer, a soccer player, and a cyclist, and I started playing guitar at age 36. Having found accounting somewhat lacking in interest for me, I jumped into math instead, which lead to math & physics for my undergraduate degree, followed by chemistry in graduate school. Then I went to Duke University for a postdoc and got more involved in medical research, which continues at my present job.
TCZ: What are your hobbies? / What do you do for fun?
David: For fun, I mostly play bass guitar as part of two groups. In one group, I play bass guitar for Rex Bell, who at one time played bass guitar for Lighnin’ Hopkins (at Carnegie Hall) and Townes Van Zandt, but who is now a singer-songwriter and guitar player. My wife Lisa plays rhythm guitar, with Gary Ragan, playing lead guitar when he is in town. This is a weekly gig at the Old Quarter Acoustic Café in Galveston, TX, to start the open mic each Weds. and sometimes we are the opening act for the main bands on the weekends. Our next big gig is to play at the annual Stingaree Music Festival put on by Hayes Carll. The other incarnation has Lisa as the lead guitar player and singer, with me on bass guitar and sundry other musicians (violin, harps, guitars) joining us for a dozen or so gigs a year. These have mostly been at Cocktails, The 39th Street Bar and Poor Michaels, all in Galveston, or functions for my department at the university.
If my dog (Rocky) could read, he would suggest first billing in this category as he takes up a considerable amount of our time. He is a hundred pounds of lovable fur, until a stranger hits the front door. His sister lives a few blocks away with the inlaws, so we spend a considerable amount of time with her as well. Dogs love the beach and golf carts, because all four “windows” are always down.
Finally, I love to play Texas Hold ‘Em.
TCZ: What do you professionally?
David: I am a research scientist working at The University of Texas Medical Branch at Galveston (UTMB). My work is centered around using NMR spectroscopy to study the structures of proteins and DNA molecules of relevance to human diseases. The last few years my work has mostly involved determining the structure of the envelope protein domain III of West Nile virus, Dengue virus, Omsk Hemorrhagic fever and Yellow fever. I also dabble in quantum mechanics calculations involving the base pairing of oxidized or otherwise damaged DNA base pairs. In the last year or so, I have started a variety of metabonomics-based projects investigating fatty liver disease, diabetes, breast cancer, burns and other medical conditions.
TCZ: What is your favourite topic of discussion?
David: By far, my favorite topic of discussion is politics. You can always get a lively conversion started using the ‘’Cobert Report’’ style: “President Bush (Clinton), as bad as Nixon (Carter), or the worst president ever?” But why leave out the wishy-washy, do nothing Congress that has been abdicating its power for decades? I love discussing local politics just a much as national and state politics. Local politics have many more personalities.
TCZ: Does your profession relate to any of the contributions you have made?
David: Yes, I have started or worked on several articles relating directly to my work, including West Nile virus and Dengue fever, to name a few. In general, not counting the music articles I started, most of my contributions have been chemicals, drugs and diseases, which somewhat match my work.
TCZ: What is your role in Citizendium?
David: Although I am an Editor in Chemistry and Biology, to date my biggest role has been as a chemistry/health sciences author. At present count, I have created over 100 articles on CZ. I have just recently become an Editorial Personnel Administrator (EPA), but that takes very little time so far. My second biggest contribution has probably been helping to whittle down the CZ:Unchecklisted Articles list each week. I have plans to write many pages concerning the music scene in Texas, with particular attention to the folk, americana and outlaw country genres. Finally, I do a lot of random page searches trolling for articles that need corrections.
TCZ: How do you see yourself fitting into the overall structure of CZ?
David: One goal is to create pages for > 3000 drugs, complete with structure images, drug interactions, brands and so forth. I perhaps have started 20 or so drug articles so far, so there is much work to be done in this regard. I look forward to doing more editing of chemistry articles as they come in.
TCZ: What motivates you to contribute?
David: It is said that scientists do not do enough to spread the value of science to the general public. The CZ is one way to help in this regard. One of my functions is to assist and train younger scientists, so spreading knowledge just seems natural to me. One of the first pages I attempted was the list of NMR experiments so that I can direct new NMR users at work to that page for assistance in explaining what certain experiments do.
More directly, stubs get under my skin and so do chemical articles with no structures. I try to improve both of those situations as I come across them. Steroid was one such article I came across that I think was 1 or 2 lines. I added many structure images and discussed the biosynthesis of the steroids. This in turn lead to stub articles for a handful of particular steroids, and then Robert Badgett joined in to improve the medical aspects. This page has a lot of work to go, but each new section illustrates new pages that need to be made.
TCZ: What is your best experience on the wiki so far? Your worst?
David: I really enjoy the friendliness and help I received from folks who were here when I first joined. I can also expect a fairly reasonable response time to questions as they come up. Following Robert Badgett around has been very fruitful for ideas for me. When he writes up a medical page about something, it lists drugs taken for that illness, which gets me motivated to start new pages for each of those drugs discussed. Recently, I have started pages about many of the statin drugs (think Atorvastatin (Lipitor), Crestor, etc) used to lower cholesterol. Trolling the Recent Changes page is great for getting the next idea for a page too.
To date, I have had no bad experiences at CZ. This is a nice contrast to working on WP where corrections are replaced back to incorrect statements, repeatedly. I thank Kim Komando for pointing out CZ to me. Does she have a page on CZ yet?? She certainly deserves one.
TCZ: What do you look forward to the most?
David: A new president, from either party, with integrity, honor and a concern for all Americans.
TCZ: What would you like to see happen in CZ's future?
David: I would like to see more people reach out to others asking for assistance with articles, particularly with aspects that they themselves cannot do. For example, I have asked others directly, via user email, for assistance on medical aspects for articles I have started. I do the chemistry part, and ask others for help when their former contributions suggests that they would be a good fit. I find this works better than waiting for someone else to join in or sending a generic message to a list. If you need a structure of a chemical, a protein, or DNA, just send me note and I can whip it out for you in a minute.
TCZ: Do you have any specific goals for your involvement on the wiki?
David: Although I touched on this earlier, it would be to make lots of pages for prescription drugs and chemicals, because laymen have virtually no knowledge of them. Secondarily, I want to fill in the whole Texas music scene, excluding Tejano music, because I don’t follow that at all.
TCZ: What do you predict the future will be for wiki-based projects?
David: I predict users and contributors will be in the millions as word spreads and the worldwide use of computers continues to expand.
TCZ: Who will you vote for president and why?
David: Although there are too many still in the race, at present I would like to see McCain as president. His honesty and integrity are beyond question, and his centralist views and ability to work with both parties would be a great asset. It would be nice to end the outright hostility present in politics in the last 25 years or so. At present, my second choice would be Obama, but more vetting needs to be done with him.
TCZ: How would you like to see wikis implemented in the future?
David: Eventually, corporate deals might become a huge factor. Image picking up a prescription at a drug store chain, and the information flyer listed an approved CZ web page in large letters at the top that patients could refer to, rather than trying to read the size 6 font used for the rest of the page. The article could then lead the patient to read about generic equivalents or other treatment regimes for their illness to discuss with their doctor. And eventually, Wiki’s might have voice readings of the text for use by those with very poor eyesight.
Thanks for the insight, David! Next issue will feature Aleta Curry.