Friday, December 28, 2012

Translating for the manufacturing sector

Interview by Karen Tkaczyk
Scientific and Technical Translator

I was intrigued by a comment I read in Nataly Kelly’s recent Forbes piece: “Likewise, the majority of the world’s translators (who deal with written words) do not translate books. The largest amount of work in this field comes from the manufacturing sector.”[1]

The largest amount? I wanted to know more! I bet other scientific and technical translators would, too! I contacted Nataly, who works for market research firm Common Sense Advisory, with a view to writing something relevant for my colleagues. The firm has a new research report, “How Manufacturing Companies Buy Translation,” that had led to Ms. Kelly’s statement. Common Sense Advisory was generous enough to allow me the opportunity to interview Rebecca Ray, the lead analyst on this report.

KMT: Why did you research translation in the manufacturing sector?

RR: Depending on the vertical, translation buyers may have somewhat different requirements, so we decided to research the top ones that provide the most opportunity for revenue for freelancers and language service providers (LSPs). We chose the verticals based on our in-depth market sizing report that we publish every year, “The Language Services Market: 2012.”

Manufacturing represents the largest single vertical by far: more than US$11 billion for 2012, which corresponds to one-third of the total market language services market! What’s great is that there are hundreds of sub-sectors to serve. As a result, there are many opportunities for translators with an established offering for manufacturers, as well as those new to the vertical. We uncovered at least 16 specific opportunities while doing our research, including expanded language coverage, expansion into related patent- and IP-related services, and transcreation.

One of the big opportunities we uncovered was source content optimization, or editing original source text before it is translated. We confirmed that engineers – especially ones required to write in a non-native language – are one of the main causes of quality problems originating in source content in various manufacturing sub-sectors. They typically cut and paste from corrupt Word templates and recycle legacy PDF files that raise costs and lengthen delivery times for downstream translation teams. Therefore, opportunities for freelancers and LSPs abound in this area, including writing and editing services, education in how to write for global audiences, and automation for re-use.

KMT: You must have classified the market segments you were surveying. Do your results cover a wide range of technical areas? Do any stand out?

RR: Yes, we reviewed several sub-sectors within manufacturing. The largest ones for the language service industries are machine and equipment; pharmaceutical; computer, electronic, optical products; and motor vehicles and other transport equipment. In fact, these manufacturing sub-subsectors occupy four of the top 10 categories and 13 of the top 36 categories for the language services industry.

KMT: What differentiates the manufacturing sector from other market segments?

RR: A language provider must be able to supply the additional subject matter expertise in whatever sectors they focus on in this vertical – this is a given from the buyer’s perspective. Freelancers can do this through their own educational or work experience, or they can collaborate with colleagues who already have it. In fact, due to the pervasive requirement for deep subject matter expertise, freelancers and single-language vendors (SLVs) should be able to compete quite well against larger LSPs in this sector.

Suppliers should also be prepared for the fact that manufacturing clients often prefer to select their partners on the basis of word of mouth. Supplemented by their own experience, networking with peers, and translator portals, buyers in this vertical generally bypass the request for proposals (RFP) process. Vendors may also be surprised to find that price is not a top issue in vendor selection for this section. It actually ranks below subject matter expertise, linguistic quality, flexibility, and quality of the business relationship. This is probably because the actual users of language services – not purchasing specialists – often have the biggest say in this vertical when it comes to vendor selection.

KMT: My impression is that finding subject matter experts is a perennial problem for translation buyers. Would your results support that theory?

RR: Manufacturing buyers told us that the resources are often available, but it is a question of locating and vetting them. If you’re a freelancer who is fairly fluent in one or two other languages in addition to the ones in which you’re currently working, you should consider teaming up with a colleague who is stronger in one or more of those languages, but who may not have your technical expertise. Or, vice-versa. Presenting your service this way will show your clients that they can count on you for more than just one or two languages in one or more sub-sectors.

If you’re a language service supplier, you should confirm the languages that will be required by your targeted manufacturing sub-sectors over the next few years. If you don’t have the right talent under contract yet, start recruiting now.

KMT: A common problem for technical translators is not being able to find out what something means in context: the client does not send drawings, or when working via another LSP or in large firms the translation project manager has no access to the author. Do you have any impressions on this being a problem?

RR: This is definitely still a challenge for many verticals – not just manufacturing. Interestingly enough, more than one manufacturer we interviewed mentioned that they had offered training for translators and editors more than once that no one took advantage of. That may have something to do with the time commitment required, and perhaps no compensation being offered for the time involved. This is one reason some buyers in specialized verticals like to work directly with freelancers. By taking out the middleman, it can be easier for them to ensure that the knowledge transfer takes place.

KMT: In considering translating for manufacturing, we often imagine user manuals or standard operating procedures. What about marketing copy for manufacturing as being a translation challenge? Did you consider the varied types of documents that manufacturers need to have translated?

RR: Yes, we did. As in many other industries, content volumes, the number of required languages, and the variety of publishing channels continue to expand. Those responsible for translation and localization at manufacturing companies described to us a world in which their companies are being required to deliver more tailored products for more local language markets to stay competitive into the foreseeable future. They explained that this translated into smaller amounts of content per project, but rising volumes overall.

In several sub-sectors, manufacturers continue to move closer and closer to the final consumer as more of their products and services go mobile. For those companies, translation managers are experiencing an increased focus on marketing content, especially audio and video for online consumption. We think that freelancers and agencies should look for those opportunities, rather than waiting for their customers to approach them.

Sample Content Types in the Manufacturing Sector
Assembly instructions
Compliance documentation
Data sheets
Diagrams and CAD files
Employee handbooks
Engineering specifications
HR manuals
Installation, operator, and maintenance manuals
Labeling and packaging
Legal documents
Marketing content
Material Safety Data Sheets (MSDS)
Safety manuals
Sales tools
Service agreements
Service bulletins
Standard Operating Procedures (SOPs)
Training manuals
Troubleshooting guides
User manuals
Warranty agreements

Manufacturers Produce Many Types of Content
Source: “How Manufacturing Companies Buy Translation,” October 2012, Common Sense Advisory, Inc

KMT: Did anything about the results surprise you? 

RR: Yes, and it concerned suppliers, rather than buyers. We reviewed several websites for our research and discovered that the majority of language suppliers still aren’t differentiating or marketing themselves very well to this vertical. Therefore, we address that in the report by including several specific ways that agencies can improve their websites and marketing programs to attract manufacturing companies. We also include a list of more than 200 possible keywords in English for people to make sure to include in their web content.

KMT: Is there anything else you would like to share?

RR: Yes! There is a lot of change going on in the manufacturing sector right now which may offer even more opportunities for language suppliers. As one geographic area slumps, another one usually appears on the horizon. The same applies to individual countries and clusters of cities where manufacturing sub-sectors tend to congregate. We expect this scenario to play out for at least the next few years as tens of millions of people continue to join the ranks of the middle class. By 2025, annual consumption in emerging markets is estimated to reach $30 trillion.

Currently, the largest 100 companies in developed markets generate only 17% of their revenue from emerging markets, even though these markets represent 36% of global gross domestic product (GDP). Small- and medium-sized companies, including many manufacturers, are busy taking up the slack. The language services industry is fortunate in that its members can play both sides of the fence: supporting veteran exporters that must replace waning domestic revenue with sales from new markets, at the same time enabling companies in growing economies to move beyond their borders for the first time.

KMT: Based on your results, what should technical translators be thinking about
· to promote themselves to LSPs?
· to promote themselves to the translation buyers? 

RR: Buyers in this vertical told us that they rely principally on three methods to identify potential suppliers: their own experience, recommendations from peers, and translator portals. Technical translators should trumpet their subject matter expertise and any additional languages they may be able to handle – either on a first-pass basis or through collaboration with colleagues. If they are comfortable with post-editing machine translation output, or they have expertise in editing technical content in its original source language, they should market those skills strongly.

All of this information should be easily accessible through a website, even if it’s fairly simple, and the content doesn’t change much – except for updates with customer testimonials. With current customers – whether direct buyers or LSPs – they should let them know exactly what services they can offer, in addition to the ones they are providing. And last, but certainly not least, they should be very visible on translator portals.

Your research shows that there is opportunity “for suppliers to differentiate themselves through targeted web content, smart use of SEO, and the purchase of URLs related to manufacturing and translation.”[2] On a personal note, I’d like to thank you for inspiring me to rework my website!


[2] “How Manufacturing Companies Buy Translation,” Common Sense Advisory, October 2012

Tuesday, December 11, 2012

How to start a Successful Career in Science and Technical Translation

Interview by Susanna Weerth

This year the American Foundation for Translation and Interpretation JTG Scholarship in Science and Technical Translation or Interpretation was awarded to Jennifer Clowery. The scholarship supports undergraduate or graduate students who plan to enroll or are training at an accomplished US university or college and have demonstrated achievements in the field as stated by their teachers or supervisors. More information about the award can be found on the ATA website:

If you are interested in starting or switching to a career in science and technical translation and want to know how to start you might be interested in reading the advice from this year’s JTG awardee Jennifer Clowery. Jennifer graciously provided answers to questions on how she became a science and technology translator and interpreter. I would like to thank Jennifer for sharing her experience and ideas on how to pursue a successful translation and interpreting career in science and technology and wish her luck and striking success for her future!

 When did you decide to choose translation and/or interpretation as a career and how did you decide on a school for translation/interpreting?

I had been an English as a second language teacher for several years after I graduated from college and enjoyed it very much, but eventually decided to move on to a different challenge. Since I loved languages, I started to think about the possibility of pursuing a career in translation and enrolled in an online translation course through New York University. I absolutely loved it, and subsequently began to research Master’s degrees. It wasn’t until I came across the Monterey Institute for International Studies (MIIS) that I thought about incorporating interpretation into my studies as well. Once I realized that MIIS was the only school in the U.S. where I could get a degree in both fields, and that the program has an international reputation for excellence, I knew that was where I wanted to go.

Why do you think it is important to specialize?

There are many good reasons to specialize. First, there are so many translators on the market, especially in my language combination (Spanish-English), that you need to think about how you are going to set yourself apart from everyone else. Clients want to hire translators who have an in-depth knowledge of the subject matter and have experience in the field. Moreover, specializing is beneficial to us as professionals because it enables us to be faster and more efficient by cutting down the time spent on research and terminology, but still allowing us to maintain high quality. 

What was a major event/turning point in your translation/interpreting studies that sparked your interest in science and technical translation?

Actually, for a long time, scientific and technical translation intimidated me and I never thought I would want to work in those fields. I think this is a common attitude among novice translators and interpreters – we think we are “language people” who are not cut out for science. However, the program at MIIS includes a heavy emphasis on scientific and technical texts and speeches, and our professors insisted that with sufficient preparation and research, we could produce high-quality work. I realized they were right, and that, like most things in life, it was merely a matter of time and effort. I enjoy scientific and technical translation and interpretation because it affords me the opportunity to learn more about the world in which we live and how it works. 

Which trainings/mentors where the most important to guide you in learning the skills for your specialization and/or choose the career path of your choice?

Every single one of my professors in the program holds their students to high standards and teaches us the skills necessary to excel in the field. Professor Uwe Muegge, director of CSOFT, a prominent language service provider, teaches computer-assisted technology classes and provides us with a wealth of information about translation tools, terminology management and best practices. In order to be competitive and to minimize (potentially costly, and even deadly) mistakes in the scientific and technical translation fields, it is essential for translators to be able to utilize all these tools at our disposal.

Outside this academic training, where could you see yourself developing the necessary experience to become an excellent technical and scientific translator/interpreter?

From what I have seen, it is a rather difficult field to break into as a translator because many translation companies require several years’ experience as a scientific and technical translator. In addition to my studies, I have been working as a freelance Quality Assurance Specialist for a highly regarded translation and localization company that focuses on life sciences, and this has given me the opportunity to work with project managers and gain experience working with a range of different text types. Moreover, I plan on exploring possible internships and fellowships after I graduate that could enable me to gain more hands-on experience.

Susanna Weerth is an English - German translator, editor and interpreter specializing in life sciences, patent and legal translations. She received her doctorate in Biology at the University of Munich/Max-Planck-Institute of Neurobiology and worked as a research scientist in laboratories studying neuroscience and neuroimmunology in the US and Germany. Prior to her studies she was a trained and certified medical assistant in a physician's office and clinical veterinary laboratory in Germany. She is involved as a special assistant to the board member at the National Capital Area Translators Association (NCATA) and in the leadership council of the S&TD.

Tuesday, December 4, 2012

You know you’re from Ohio when…

Review of S&TD sessions Sarah Koby, Greenleaf Translation

This was my second year attending the ATA Annual Conference. My first was last year in Boston with the snowstorm. I loved every minute of ATA53! It’s so sunny in San Diego… though you know you’re from Northeast Ohio when it starts to get “too sunny” and you start hoping to see a cloud or two!

Last year in Boston I attended as a student. This year I attended for the first time as a professional, having just started my business – Greenleaf Translation – in the spring. It was surprising to me how much of a difference this makes: when I came as a student, I was there for the experience, to get a feel for the conference, and to meet people. Of course, I was there to learn, too – but it was more general. As a translator, now, I experienced the conference in a whole different way: I targeted sessions that could be useful to me in my daily work, and I experienced how helpful the moments between sessions can be for getting to know potential business contacts. My notes in the sessions were far more copious, too, because the sessions are conceptually and terminologically helpful. After my return, non-translators asked me what is in a session at a translators’ conference. The answer was, of course, complicated by the fact that the listener had only a sketchy understanding of translation in the first place. (I do my best to remedy this, but sometimes it is a grand undertaking!). I found myself using the words “continuing education” and “subject-area information,” which is what I focused on in my session selection.

Because I am specializing in science and technology, most of the sessions I attended had some form of a Sci/Tech (ST) focus. I attended sessions that were listed as ST (ST-4 “An Introduction to Aviation and Air Travel” and ST-5 “DNA Translation: It's All in the Genes”), several that had a fairly ST focus (G-2 “Milestones in DNA Sequencing Technologies and Genome Analysis”, G-6 “Wind Transportation and Logistics Terminology, Part I”, and G-7 “Wind Transportation and Logistics Terminology, Part II”), and part of another ST session (ST-10 “The "God Particle," Dark Matter, Black Holes, and All That”). For that last one, my mind was largely on my upcoming certification exam (fingers crossed!), so I wasn’t fully focused and ended up sneaking out early. That was unfortunate, since I heard it was fun and interesting–and informative, particle physics not being something I’ve read a lot about.

And I have to say, I had a lot of fun in these ST sessions! They were perfect for deepening my understanding in fields where I already have experience, and were also great for giving me a basic foundation and insight into fields where I have less experience. The sessions also allowed me to notice who else enjoyed similar topics, which was a great way to start networking.

I supplemented the technical sessions with visits to technically-inclined museums, too: the maritime museum (tall ships!) and the Midway aircraft carrier museum. These both allowed me to contextualize some of the info I’d already been gathering (such as the aviation terminology from Nick Hartmann’s session) and to learn new terminology, as well!

In all, this was a very rewarding conference for me, as I hope it was for others. I had fun, learned a lot, and met many people, though I’m happy to be home where there are sometimes clouds! And now I can’t wait ‘til next year!

Sarah Koby, (German>English, Sci-Tech), is a recent graduate of the Kent State University Masters in Translation program. She graduated with an MA in Translation, German. While she grew up learning German from an early age, she admits that she probably picked translation as a career because her father is also a professional translator. That said, she studied English as her major (and had a host of minors!) when an undergraduate. This gave her the chance to explore, so that she would later be certain that translation was the correct career choice for her. She now works from home as a freelance translator in Northeast Ohio.

Wednesday, November 28, 2012

San Diego conference session ST-5 “DNA Translation: It's All in the Genes”

San Diego conference session ST-5 “DNA Translation: It's All in the Genes” by Leo van Zanten, is reviewed by Karen Tkaczyk

I arrived at “DNA Translation: It's All in the Genes” looking forward to learning. As a chemist with no formal biology training, and a translator who frequently works on biological subject matter in pharmaceutical texts, I always feel my work benefits from a better understanding of biology.

Not all scientists can explain their fields clearly to those without the same background, but this was not the case here. Leo van Zanten, a Dutch translator with a background in plant breeding, is knowledgeable and well able to explain his subject. The topics introduced were clear and structured logically, moving from chromosomes to DNA, then genes, proteins, RNA, PCR and forensics. The visuals were impressive and enhanced the explanations.

We started with an introduction to chromosomes, explained through the seminal fruit fly study. Chromosomes store DNA, so we moved there next, with descriptions of the double helix, nucleotides and base pairs. Since DNA forms the language of life, here the first creative element of the session appeared. 

Leo used a word-related analogy to help wordsmiths in the audience understand scientific concepts:
– The alphabet only has four letters: A, C, T and G
– Every word is only three letters long: AGA GGC
– A word is the name of an amino acid
– A sentence is a gene

Just as the concepts were becoming trickier, Leo snapped us to attention with a clip from ‘Jurassic Park’ to help explain more about these pieces of DNA string. Later, well-timed video clips clarified other concepts.

From genes we moved to proteins. Here, I was at home. At one time I could name and draw the structures of all twenty amino acids that are used to produce proteins. But, oh, shock! Horror! Leo called organic chemistry boring! He insulted my first scientific love!

Next we covered DNA transcription and translation: the process where the DNA code is used to produce polypeptides or proteins. Lastly, we moved into modern methods in the field: polymerase chain reaction (PCR) and gel electrophoresis. Leo explained how these techniques are applied in forensics and paternity testing. As he concluded, he explained how forensic scientists analyze DNA to help solve crimes, referring to popular crime dramas to help anchor the audience. We ended back in Hollywood, with a clip from ‘Gattaca’. Remember the alphabet?

This session delivered a well-planned balance of theoretical and practical, and mixed high scientific register and popular culture effectively. Leo was so engaging that I have forgiven him for calling organic chemistry boring.

Karen M. Tkaczyk, PhD, CT, MITI, is an ATA-certified French>English freelance translator. She is originally from the UK and now lives in Nevada. Her translation work focuses on chemistry, its industrial applications and intellectual property. Karen holds an MChem in chemistry with French (University of Manchester, UK), a diploma in French, and a PhD in organic chemistry (University of Cambridge, UK). She worked in the pharmaceutical industry in Europe, and then in pharmaceuticals and cosmetics in the US. Since 2005 she has been technical translator and editor. Karen is the current administrator of the ATA Science and Technology Division.

Sunday, November 18, 2012

Drugs of Abuse: A Pharmacological Perspective

Drugs of Abuse: A Pharmacological Perspective
R. A. (Bob) Lyon, Section Head R&D Proctor and Gamble
Reviewed by Brian Howells

Outline of drug action in the central nervous system
The talk began by outlining the functioning of the central nervous system, wherein the neuron bodies emit electrical signals along the dendrites to the terminal branches to release neurotransmitters into the synapse to communicate between nerve cells, etc., and the various levels at which drugs can affect this process: before the synapse (presynaptic) by affecting firing, synthesis storage and release of the neurotransmitters, or inhibiting their re-uptake so that their effect persists for longer, or after the synapse (post-synaptic), by interacting with their receptors to potentiate or block their effects on their target.
They can stimulate, or mimic, the action of natural substances (agonists, e.g. serotoninergic drugs such as LSD, which are 5HT-2A agonists) or block this action (antagonists such as Naloxone, an opioid antagonist).

The language of drugs (Reference USA)

Drugs can be used for medical or non-medical (“recreational”) purposes. Medical drugs are classified broadly as over the counter (OTC) or prescription (Rx, ethical); there is also a further category of “behind the counter” for OTC substances which can be used as starting materials for illegal drugs (eg. pseudoephededrine, a nasal decongestant which can be used to make methamphetamine).

Potential drugs of abuse are “scheduled”, ranging from Schedule 1, with no known medical use and high degree of danger from abuse (e.g. heroin and LSD), to Schedule 5, with medical use and low abuse potential (e.g. codeine, an opiate). Benzodiazepine and amphetamines are 3-4, and cocaine is 2, because of medical use in eye surgery.

Designer drugs are synthetic drugs employing chemical modification to avoid scheduling. Until identified and scheduled, they remain legal; however, since they are not subject to any conventional approval process, they are potentially extremely unsafe.

Route of administration - how the drug is administered e.g. orally, nasally, by smoking, intravenously, rectally, vaginally.
Drug delivery device - the device used to administer the drug, e.g. sugar cube, pipe, syringe, cup.

Addiction: psychological craving
Dependence: a physico-chemical need for the drug for well-being
Withdrawal: what happens after cessation in dependents
Tolerance: the need for more in order to get the same effect

Classes of drugs of abuse

Central nervous stimulants: include caffeine, nicotine, amphetamine, cocaine, and “bath salts”. Effects include high energy/focus and decreased need for sleep.

Caffeine: adenosine receptor antagonist, side-effects diuresis, nervousness, rapid tolerance, addictive, leads to dependence (withdrawal effects)

Nicotine: nicotinic receptor agonist; side effects increased blood pressure and heart rate; rapid tolerance, addictive, leads to dependence (one of most addictive)

Amphetamines (illegal synthetics): increase dopamine and norepinephrine release and block reuptake; side effects increased BP and heart rate, psychosis and long term psychological changes (schedule 2)

Cocaine: snorted, smoked or injected in increasing order of effect. Increases dopamine release and reuptake; side effects increased BP and heart rate (potentially lethal) (schedule 2 -use as anaesthetic in eye surgery)

“Bath salts”: designer drugs (mephedrone, methylenedioxypyrovalerone, etc., Ivory Wave, Vanilla Sky, etc.). Cheap high, effects similar to amphetamine; side effects include paranoia, hallucinations and suicidal tendencies (schedule 1)

Central nervous system depressants: include alcohol, opiates/opioids, barbiturates, benzodiazepine; effects, relaxation, analgesia, sedation

Alcohol (ethanol): affects acetylcholine, GABA (γ-aminobutyric acid) and NMDA (N-methyl-D-aspartate). Exact mechanism not fully understood; general depressive effect with dose response from relaxation to death; side effects foetal alcohol syndrome, alcoholism, liver disease; tolerance, addictive, leads to dependence. Warning as to the potentially dangerous effects of combining with a stimulant such as caffeine and guaraná (e.g. Four Loko)

Opiates/opioids: e.g. morphine, codeine, thebane; µ opioid receptor agonists; side effects include constipation; highly addictive/dependency creating (withdrawal)

Barbiturates and benzodiazepines: GABA receptor agonists; anxiolytics and hypnotics (librium, valium, rohypnol)

Psychedelics: principal effects are enhancement or modification of reality

Marijuana: mildly hallucinogenic, contains delta 9-THC and >60 other cannabinoids which act as cannabinoid 1 and 2 receptor agonists; effects include euphoria, laughter and relaxation; side-effects, anxiety, coughing and paranoia
K2; Spice and THC are more potent and more addictive

LSD, psilocybin, mescaline, DMT, dimethoxytryptamine (santo daime); serotonin 5HT2A agonists; effect (8-12 hr) is alteration of experience, vivid colours, the setting determines the trip; side effects include weakness, jaw clenching and increased heart rate; rapid dependence, no dependence or addiction; potential applications to enhance spirituality in terminal patients

Ecstasy, (N-methyl)-3,4-methylenedioxyamphetamine), MDMA; adrenaline uptake inhibitor, serotonin 5HT2A agonist

Dissociative: e.g. PCP (phencyclidine), ketamine and dextromethorphan; NMDA antagonists, altering distribution of glutamate, associated with out of body experience/detachment.

PCP is addictive and associated with psychotic side effects; ketamine is used as an animal tranquilizer, and can lead to amnesia, depression and breathing problems at high doses. Dextromethorphan is an OTC cough suppressant which causes similar effects at high doses

Saliva divinorum, κ-opioid agonist, can induce dissociative effects and “visions”; used in Mexican native religion.

Delirants: alkaloids atropine and scopolamine are (competitive) muscarinic cholinergic antagonists, associated with tachycardia and hyperthermia.

Brian Howells
Brian Howells has a bachelor’s degree in agricultural science and has been a freelance translator from Japanese to English for around 25 years specializing in technical (principally chemical) and patent-related translation. For the last 20 years he has been living on the beach in São Paulo state, Brazil.

Friday, November 16, 2012

Basic Concepts of Pharmacology in Drug Development

Review of Basic Concepts of Pharmacology in Drug Development - S&TD conference session 2012 by R. A. (Bob) Lyon, Section Head R&D Proctor and Gamble - reviewed by Brian Howells
The objective of the talk was to outline the process of drug development, the principles underlying this process and some of the associated terminology and techniques.

Drugs are exogenous substances that bring about a change in biological function through a chemical interaction with the endogenous mechanisms within the body.

The overall flow of drug development is as follows

Identification of a target mechanism in the body which brings about a desired alteration in biological function (e.g. 5HT1A (serotonin) receptor activation, alleviating anxiety)
Screening of numerous compounds in vitro to try to identify compounds having the desired effect and narrow down to a single “lead compound” which has the best and “cleanest" effect (low toxicity and fewest other, possibly undesirable, effects)
Various animal studies, examining the specific and general pharmacology of the lead substance, and its safety (toxicity, mutagenicity, effect on reproduction, etc.)
Phase I (preclinical) studies on humans, typically healthy, investigating safety (adverse effects), tolerance (dosage) and pharmacokinetics (absorption, distribution, metabolism, excretion)
Phase II clinical studies on small numbers of target subjects to investigate efficacy (proof of concept - effect on target, e.g. anti-anxiety) safety, and dose-effect relationships in this population
Phase III large-scale clinical studies on the target population
Submission to the regulatory authorities
After approval (possibly with contingencies)
Phase IV

This process typically takes of the order of 10 years, and costs of the order of $500 million.

Principles of drug action

Drugs largely work by interacting with signalling between cells. In the talk, this was illustrated by signalling at the synapse between neurons.

There are various possible targets for this interaction, which include:

·         a direct effect at the cell level to stimulate or block the release of a chemical substance such as a hormone, neurotransmitter or enzyme (e.g. releasing agents);

·         activation or blocking of the receptors for such chemical substances, provoking the receptor to produce a response by mimicking the natural substance (agonist); or blocking or altering the receptor so that the natural substance cannot produce a response (antagonist)

·         activation or blocking of a transporter substance, to enable a substance, or nerve impulse, etc., to reach its target, or stop it from so doing.

·         activation or inhibition of an enzyme, by altering the molecule to make it more or less active, or by mimicking a natural substrate and blocking active sites

·         stimulation or repression at gene level, to activate or inhibit expression of an enzyme

There are numerous possibilities, and the molecular mechanisms are exceedingly complex.

Expressing drug dose/response (in vitro)

Agonists can be full agonists, giving a 100% response, or partial agonists, giving less than a 100% response. The effect of an agonist is typically expressed as ED50 or EC50 - the dose or concentration giving a 50% effect. The maximum effect is Emax. For measuring dose [D] vs. effect, log[D] vs. (E/Emax) is generally used, which gives a sigmoidal curve.
The dose-response is an expression of the affinity of the agonist for the receptor or receptor occupancy.
Potency expresses dose/effect - i.e. is related to EC50; in general, high potency is preferred since a lower dose is likely to generate fewer side effects.

Antagonists do not have intrinsic activity but shift the effect of an agonist. Antagonism can be competitive, when binding to a receptor is reversible and the antagonist competes with the agonist, or non-competitive, when the antagonist binds irreversibly or alters the receptor. Competitive antagonism increases EC50, and it may be possible to achieve a maximal effect with more agonist. Non-competitive antagonism on the other hand lowers Emax, because fewer receptors are available.

The remarks on competitive and non-competitive antagonism also broadly apply to competitive and non-competitive inhibition of enzymes, except that in this case competition is between an inhibitor which can reversibly bind to an active site on the enzyme, and a natural substrate.

Effectiveness of course needs to be weighed against safety. One index of this is the therapeutic index, which is
ED50 for a therapeutic effect/ED50 for a lethal effect

Measuring drug-receptor interaction

Radioligand binding was introduced as a method for studying receptor interactions, by radiolabelling drugs (ligands) to study affinity for receptors by comparison with the same or different unlabelled ligands.

Reviewed by Brian Howells
Brian Howells has a bachelor’s degree in agricultural science and has been a freelance translator from Japanese to English for around 25 years specializing in technical (principally chemical) and patent-related translation. For the last 20 years he has been living on the beach in São Paulo state, Brazil.

Wednesday, November 14, 2012

A Pink-Ribbon Perspective: The ATA Conference from the Viewpoint of a First-Time Attendee

A Pink-Ribbon Perspective: The ATA Conference from the Viewpoint of a First-Time Attendee - by Amy Lesiewicz
Last month I attended my first ATA Conference at the urgings of my mentor, a German to English translator named Amanda Ennis. She assured me that it would change my life, and she wasn’t wrong.
I opted to come a day early and take advantage of two of the pre-conference seminars. My first stop after picking up my name badge with my pink “first-time attendee” ribbon and color-coded language dot was Corinne McKay’s seminar entitled Beyond the Basics of Freelancing. In just three hours, Corinne taught us about marketing, specialization, pricing, negotiating, working with direct clients and agencies, invoicing, scheduling, and more. At once, I felt that this was the best three-hour investment I’d ever made in my career, and I’ve been kicking myself ever since for not reading her book years ago. During the seminar, I met a Japanese to English translator who shares my specialization (chemistry) and an internet acquaintance who shares my language pair (Russian to English).
My next seminar was all about negotiation. Although I didn’t find everything in that session to be immediately applicable for me, I did have two “light bulb moments,” one intentional and one quite by accident. The first was the concept that negotiation is not an event, but a process. Although I love translating and hate business, I realize now that I am a businessperson, like it or not, and negotiation is part of the process. Resenting the time “wasted” on negotiation will get me nowhere; instead, I should learn to think of that time as an investment in each project and a learning opportunity for future negotiations.
The second light bulb moment came when the presenter stated that a technical translation could be split between multiple translators without any real impact on the outcome, but a marketing translation cannot. I have read this type of attitude expressed in various online forums, but I didn’t expect to hear it from a presenter at the ATA Conference. Various similar comments throughout the conference made me realize that perhaps I need to become more active in the ATA and other groups to promote scientific and technical translation. I am just as passionate about the art and science of translation as my literary counterparts!
Once the main conference got underway, I found myself drawn to many of the medical and technical sessions, in addition to sessions aimed at helping independent contractors with some non-linguistic aspects of our careers. I was pleased that many of the subject-matter expert presenters, as fellow translators, placed an emphasis in their sessions on terminology as well as the science or medicine they were discussing. For example, I never knew before that the word vaccine comes from the Latin word for cow – because the first vaccine was developed based on the observation that milkmaids were immune to smallpox after exposure to cowpox (thanks to presenter Tapani Ronni). Two of my favorite presentations were in the Science & Technology Division track: DNA Translation: It’s All in the Genes by Leo van Zanten (whose creative use of humor and multimedia kept his presentation interesting and entertaining, as well as very informative) and Basic Concepts of Pharmacology in Drug Development by Bob Lyon (though not a translator, Bob fielded several linguistic questions with great answers and provided very clear and thorough explanations of terminology).
One important point I picked up from Chris Durban’s presentation on The Care and Feeding of Direct Clients was her axiom that as a specialist, I should be able to mingle with professionals in their element and blend in with them for at least two minutes. Could I pass for a research chemist in a room full of PhD scientists and R&D experts? I also enjoyed Judy Jenner’s 10 Habits of Highly Successful Translators and Interpreters and a great presentation on making my own website from Tess M. Whitty.
Unfortunately, the Slavic Languages Division annual meeting fell into the same time slot as Carola Berger’s session on some very cool physics stuff. Since I would never presume to translate anything in the field of theoretical physics and my interest was pure curiosity rather than professional education, I felt I should attend my language division meeting, but I still wish I could have been in two places at once. The Slavic Languages Division Banquet also conflicted with the S&TD dinner, and I opted for the Russian and Georgian food, which brought back memories of my favorite restaurants in Moscow.
My flight out of San Diego was delayed, so I missed my connection in Dallas. This turned out to be a blessing in disguise, because I was quickly rebooked and ended up sitting next to a fascinating medical doctor and researcher who is also bilingual. He received his medical education in Spanish and his scientific education in English, and I found it interesting that this affected the way he understands and approaches medicine and research. We had a wonderful conversation about the intersection of science and language, and the advantages it has brought us both professionally and personally. He told me that people who are monolingual as children and study a foreign language as an adult have one language center in the brain, which they use for both languages. People who are raised bilingual from birth or early childhood develop two language centers, one for each language, in opposite hemispheres of the brain, so when they translate or transition between languages, impulses have to travel across the narrow bridge between the hemispheres called the corpus callosum. (I immediately wondered if that is why the translation field is dominated by women: there are gender differences in the structure and activity of the corpus callosum, though these differences are still a matter of dispute.) This chance meeting was the perfect capstone for the conference; I got to meet someone outside the translation profession and practice some of my new skills, and we exchanged ideas and business cards. We’ve already connected via e-mail and I hope we’ll stay in touch.
Amy Lesiewicz is a Russian to English translator who specializes in scientific translation. As a chemistry student, her academic advisor suggested that she take French, German, or Russian so that she could read important chemistry journals in a second language. The Russian class fit into her course schedule the best, so she enrolled, expecting to take no more than a few semesters. She earned her BS in chemistry and went on to earn an MA in Russian and a Certificate of Advanced Study in translation. After three years at an engineering company translating for Russian oil and gas projects, Amy is now a freelance translator.

Sunday, November 11, 2012

How to Translate Engineering Material and Live to Tell the Tale

A review of Don Jacobson’s presentation at the ATA 53rd Annual Conference about Translating for the Design and Construction Professions in Israel, reviewed by Ami Argaman, a Hebrew-English translator.

Ten minutes before this session began, I found Don Jacobson standing alone in the lecture room. By the time he started, two others had joined me, and later a third sneaked in. However, Don did not appear fazed by the poor turnout: he was there to share his experiences and knowledge, and so he did, regardless of the size of the audience.

Jacobson, who was born, raised and educated in the United States, but has been living for many years in Israel, explained to us that large construction and design projects in Israel often require the cooperation and partnership of companies, builders, investors and designers from various countries. Hence, the materials involved – proposals, RFBs, bids, plans, etc., – need to be rendered in several languages. He is mainly involved in translating from Hebrew into English.

The presentation began with a historical background of Israel and its language, followed by descriptions of its topography, demography, politics and economy. The types of construction were delineated, and the needs for each one of them analyzed.  

Several projects were described, analyzed and discussed:

-          The newly completed light-rail system in Jerusalem
-          The ongoing construction of a rapid railway between Tel Aviv and Jerusalem
-          The ongoing construction of the Cross-Israel Highway 6 expressway
-          The Carmel Mountain tunnels that bypass the City of Haifa
-          The still-planned light-rail system in Tel Aviv.

There was extensive discussion of the difficulties and challenges involved in rendering the complex concepts, the engineering papers and proposals, some of which are language-specific and culturally based, and some also poorly written to begin with, so have to be interpreted as well. As three of us were also Hebrew linguists, albeit not experts in this particular field, the session turned quite interactive, with the audience actively participating in deliberating about the translational issues and evaluating Jacobson’s solutions.

One fascinating example featured the original Hebrew design idea, which read [my literal translation – aa]: “The gallery that is deployed on the ground floor constitutes a cultural front in the direction of the city and a grass theater in the direction of the plaza that the structure creates.” This, of course, makes no sense whatsoever in English. Following a lively discussion, Jacobson presented his interpretive solution: “The art gallery, which covers the entire ground floor, together with the grassy amphitheater facing the plaza created by the structure, will act as a cultural magnet oriented toward the city.” Impressive!

As the small audience was fully engaged, the session ended with an extensive segment of questions, which Jacobson answered and explained, thus expanding the boundaries of presentation. We left the room feeling that it was educational, informative, language-challenging and at times even entertaining.

Ami Argaman, who was born and raised in Israel but has lived most of his adult life in the U.S., has been a professional Hebrew-English translator for the last 20 years. For the last 10 years, he has been serving as a language specialist and a Hebrew speaking-proficiency master tester for the U.S. Federal Government.

Thursday, November 8, 2012

Review of the presentation by Nicholas Hartmann, ST-4 “An Introduction to Aviation and Air Travel”

Nicholas Hartmann’s presentation on aviation and air travel was the very first SciTech session I attended at my very first ATA conference. As a pink-ribboned newbie, I did not quite know what to expect. Actually, I was afraid to be overloaded with dry terminology and vocabulary. I could not have been more wrong!

Nick explained the physical principles of flight, something I personally could relate to, and then went on to explain the inner workings of an aircraft. He answered one of the issues I had worried about every time I boarded a plane, namely, how the wings could be attached well enough to the main body of the aircraft to withstand all the forces they are subjected to in flight. The answer, as Nick explained, is of course that there is only one big wing, which is intertwined with the fuselage such that it doesn’t break off. I also learned that the seemingly sagging wing (singular!) of a plane that is just about to take off is nothing to worry about, because the sagging is due to the fuel that is partly stored in the wing.

Just as the flight-phobic part of the audience (me) was feeling reassured about the safety of air travel, he showed some terrifying landing strips next to mile-high walls of rock. After I made a mental note of never booking a flight to anywhere near these locations, the pictures of too short landing strips next to sunbathing beach-bodies and downhill skiers became funny. He then proceeded to “translate” the various cryptic symbols one encounters on the runway into plain English, before getting into the nitty-gritty of the inner workings of airplane engines, especially modern jet engines. I can’t do the humor Nick injected here justice: he illustrated this with a toy pinwheel and a toy fan. It was a hilarious and at the same time an instructive and illuminating explanation of an engineering principle.

In summary, while I’m still not a fan of flying after Nick’s very clear talk with just the right amount of geeky humor, I now understand the underlying structures and principles much better and won’t be quite so apprehensive the next time I board a plane. Unless I see the numbers in the square signs next to the runway go from 3 to 2 to 1… (These numbers denote the distance to go till the end of the runway in thousands of feet.)

Written by: 

Carola F. Berger
spacerCarola F. Berger was a researcher in theoretical particle physics for over a decade before becoming a freelance English>German translator and consultant. She has a Diplom-Ingenieur der Technischen Physik in engineering physics from the TU Graz, Austria, and a PhD in theoretical physics from Stony Brook University (Fulbright Scholar). She was a researcher at the INFN Torino, Stanford University, and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. She also conducted research visits in North America, Europe, and Russia before settling down in California as a translator specializing in technical and scientific texts.

Friday, October 19, 2012

Note from the Division Administrator, Karen Tkaczyk

Many of us are gearing up for the ATA Annual Conference next week. San Diego here we come! 

We will start by mingling during the Opening Reception and at the S&TD table Division Open house on Wednesday to reconnect with our friends and colleagues. Let’s see if can match the fun we had with the marble run last year. In spite of the hectic atmosphere, we should all manage to meet a few old friends and some new ones there and perhaps plan calmer meals and chats for later in the week!

The Leadership Council hopes that you are pleased with the science and technology related sessions available. Thank you so much to all the division members who offered to share their knowledge with the rest of us. We have a great range of subjects covered this year, many of which we have not heard about in recent years. One change has been made to the S&TD sessions since we all received the preliminary program: our Distinguished Speaker from Italy had to cancel her trip. She received a promotion that meant she could not leave her university during October, so we have no sustainable architecture sessions. Instead, we have an extra session by Salvador Virgen called "Instrumental Chemistry: Understanding the Lingo and Underlying Technology." Thanks Salvador! The current list of S&TD sessions is here:

On Thursday night, we have the division dinner. As of writing, about 25 of us will gather at “Candelas” in the Gaslamp district to enjoy each other’s’ company and an intriguing Mexican-French menu. We will post photos on the website after the fact.

We will conduct our very brief official business on Saturday. One item is to approve the members of next year's Nominating Committee for the division. We have had two volunteers already, Abigail Dahlberg and Salvador Virgen. We thank you. In theory, we should have three people on that committee: that way if they disagree there will be no tie. Would anyone like to join Abigail and Salvador? Those present at the Annual Meeting in San Diego will form the committee by acclamation, then next spring the committee will start to find an administrator and assistant administrator for the 2013-2015 term. If you are interested or have any questions about what it would involve, please let me (Karen Tkaczyk) know before that meeting on Saturday 27.

Keep an eye on usual venues for updates: the Yahoo! Group, the Facebook group, tweeting @ATASciTech, and the LinkedIn group. For those of you not going to San Diego, I recommend following the Twitter hashtags #ATA53 and #TIFuture. If you don’t have a Twitter account you can still follow the conference’s Twitter feed at As we move into November, look out for blog posts reviewing the sessions and social events here.

Hope to see you next week, or hear from you soon. Let’s keep networking!

Photo from