When (bad) humor gets you into trouble, twice removed

I have always been fascinated by proteins, and in the course of my post-doctoral research, I began to study the process known as “endocytic recycling”.

In simple terms, protein receptors sitting on the cell membrane frequently are bound by an extracellular ligand, which often “activates” the receptor and sets off a cascade of events within the cell. In addition, the receptor and ligand are taken up into the cell.

Recycling is the reverse process, whereby this receptor is returned to the cell membrane, where it can again undergo activation.

When I began to receive job interviews for a faculty position some years ago, I searched for some way to highlight the biological/physiological significance of “recycling”.

My search on PubMed elicited the following paper:

J Forensic Sci. 2002 Sep;47(5):1065-6.

Death by compaction in a garbage truck.

Staats PN, Jumbelic MI, Dignan CR.

SUNY Upstate Medical University, Syracuse, NY, USA.


We report on two deaths by compaction in a garbage truck that recently occurred in this county. In both cases, the victim apparently climbed into a recycling dumpster to sleep, and was emptied with the contents of the receptacle into a garbage truck. Subsequent compaction of the victim with the load led to death. We also discuss several similar fatalities that have been reported to the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission.

PMID: 12353548 [PubMed – indexed for MEDLINE]

Although I did get several job offers, I can’t help thinking that had it not been for my warped sense of humor, I might have received even more offers.

And now for my “Karmic Spam Revenge”: Here is an e-mail that I received just yesterday:

Dear Prof. Caplan,

Sub: Second International Conference on Recycling and Reuse of Materials (Polymers, Wood, Leather, Glass, Metals, Ceramics, Semi Conductors, Water etc) and their products (ICRM – 2011), 5, 6 and 7 August 2011, Kottayam, Kerala, India.

Conference website:  www.recycling.macromol.in

Greetings and best wishes from the Institute of Macromolecular Science and Engineering (IMSE), Kottayam, Kerala, India Beijing University of Chemical Technology , Bei San Huan East Road 15#, Chaoyang District, Beijing, China and Venen – Klinik Dr. Mathew, St. Primus Weg 68, A-9020 Klagenfurt, Austria. We are glad to write to you that we are organizing the Second International Conference on Recycling and Reuse of Materials (Polymers, Wood, Leather, Water, Glass, Metals, Ceramics, and Semi Conductors etc) and their Products (ICRM-2011), Kottayam, Kerala, India. The last conference on Recycling and Reuse of Materials in 2009 held in Kottayam, India (ICRM 2009) was a great success. This conference will cover the following areas:

  • Recycling of Thermoplastics
  • Recycling of Rubbers
  • Recycling of Thermosetts
  • Recycling of Polymer Blends
  • Compatibilisation of Recycled Polymer Blends
  • Recycling of Composites
  • Feed Stock Recycling
  • Recycling of Wood
  • Processing of Recycled Polymers
  • Recycling of Leather
  • Recycling of Water
  • Recycling of Paper
  • Recycling of Pulp
  • Recycling of Agricultural Wastes
  • Recycling of Biomass
  • Biomass Gasification
  • Recycling of Glass
  • Recycling of Metals
  • Recycling of Ceramics
  • Recycling of Clay
  • Tire Recycling
  • Polymer Product Recycling
  • Wood Product Recycling
  • Leather Product Recycling
  • Ceramic Product Recycling
  • Metal Product Recycling
  • Recycling of Glass Products
  • Recycling of Clay Products
  • Recycling of Natural Fibers
  • Recycling of Building
  • Recycling of Ships
  • Recycling of Airplanes
  • Recycling of Automotives
  • Recycling of Industrial Waste
  • Recycling of Electronic Waste
  • Recycling of Computer Waste
  • Recycling of Hospital Wastes
  • Recycling of Chemical Wastes
  • Recycling of Nuclear Wastes
  • Recycling of Fusion Materials
  • Recycling of Semi Conductors
  • Pyrolysis of Wastes
  • Processing of Recycled Materials
  • Environmental  Issues of Recycling
  • Life Cycle Analysis of Recycled Products
  • Modeling and Simulation

Anyone see proteins on the list?

About Steve Caplan

I am a Professor of Biochemistry and Molecular Biology at the University of Nebraska Medical Center in Omaha, Nebraska where I mentor a group of students, postdoctoral fellows and researchers working on endocytic protein trafficking. My first lablit novel, "Matter Over Mind," is about a biomedical researcher seeking tenure and struggling to overcome the consequences of growing up with a parent suffering from bipolar disorder. Lablit novel #2, "Welcome Home, Sir," published by Anaphora Literary Press, deals with a hypochondriac principal investigator whose service in the army and post-traumatic stress disorder actually prepare him well for academic, but not personal success. Novel #3, "A Degree of Betrayal," is an academic murder mystery. "Saving One" is my most recent novel set at the National Institutes of Health. Now IN PRESS: Today's Curiosity is Tomorrow's Cure: The Case for Basic Biomedical Research (CRC PRESS, 2021). https://www.amazon.com/kindle-dbs/entity/author/B006CSULBW? All views expressed are my own, of course--after all, I hate advertising.
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10 Responses to When (bad) humor gets you into trouble, twice removed

  1. MGG says:

    Finally, you are getting recognized for your work on recycling!!!
    Since the conference is being held in “God’s Own Country” and one of the 50-must-see-places- before-you-die, I guess you could ask them to add one more “recycling” to the list.
    Though I cannot predict how the meeting will be, I promise you the place will be worth the effort. If that doesn’t tempt you, how about a trip to Ayemenam…of “God of Small things” fame…

    • Steve Caplan says:

      2 points:

      1) “God’s Own Country”??? Correct me if I’m wrong, but I thought the majority of people of this country believe in many Gods

      2) “50-must-see-places- before-you-die” Correct me if I’m wrong, but wasn’t planning on that anytime soon, either!

  2. Cath@VWXYNot? says:

    Does the term protein “trafficking” also bring you unwanted attention? 🙂

  3. Heather says:

    You know, I got a whole wave of this kind of invitation at the beginning of the year, most having to do with conferences in China or organized by Chinese conference planners, and very vaguely having to do with molecular biology (and of course nothing to do with my own expertise). I was “invited” as a speaker. But then, much like certain journals who propose that you write a review for them, then I think they expect you to drum up attendance, other speakers – etc. and then you find yourself putting on a conference single-handedly in a faraway location. If it gets that far. I wonder if like for Nigerian scams, you’re requested to ante up a bit to start. And then someone makes off with your professional reputation and identity?

  4. Steve Caplan says:


    We apparently get the same e-mails! I agree with your interpretation of how it works. I think it’s somewhat funny that all the organizers have carefully “anglicized” their first names, in a somewhat pathetic attempt to make these meetings more “mainstream” to the lists of spammed e-mail recipients.

    I am planning shortly another post about such an e-mail–this time one that thanks me for being on the editorial board of a chemical engineering journal. Of course I am a cell biologist/biochemist who knows NOTHING about chemical engineering…. Hope to get that up soon.

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