Time in graduate school can seem like it stretches on forever: all those never-ending classes, exams, long experiments, time courses, lab meetings, conferences, departmental talks, etc… And yet, I’ve noticed that graduate students are scared, nay terrified, of their thesis defense! What should be the happy, proud culmination of years of research, hard work, and effort ends up as a miserable month or two of writing, preparing, and defending the thesis.
As a postdoctoral fellow at the NIH, in the National Heart, Lung and Blood Institute (NHLBI), I have been strongly encouraged from the outset of my five-year appointment to start making serious decisions about my career path. Although I have always loved basic research and the thrill that comes from making a novel discovery, I also feel a strong pull to have a job that allows for more interaction with people and less with cultured cells and pipettors. Being at the NIH, I did not have to look far to learn about scientific jobs away from the lab bench.
The average age for an academic researcher to receive his or her first NIH R grant is 42.
Like many of you, I am concerned about this for a few reasons. First, it reflects an ever-increasing “training” period, with investigators not truly achieving independence until they have their own dedicated source of funding. Second, it suggests that as scientists we are not getting the benefits of a “real” job until our early 40s, including getting established in a stable location, retirement benefits, and the like.
Climate change is real, and the recent UN Climate Summit highlighted the fact that more must be done to mitigate this problem. On an individual level, there are several ways to be eco-friendly. Perhaps you do your part by recycling or composting. Maybe you bike to work, carpool, or use public transportation. Some of us make sure to use reusable grocery bags. Whatever the method, simple sustainability measures in our personal lives can make a difference in reducing pollution and preventing further climate change.
The Communications Subcommittee of the Committee for Postdocs and Students (COMPASS) is pleased to announce its Science Writing Competition. All ASCB postdocs and graduate students are invited to share their passion for science through writing. Writing is an invaluable skill for all those in research-related positions. In addition, science writing is one of many career options for graduate students and postdocs, and can vary from medical writing to editorial work and even science blogs. This is a great opportunity to try it out!
The ASCB and COMPASS are calling for applications from enthusiastic students and postdocs to be associate members of COMPASS, the ASCB Committee for Postdocs and Students. COMPASS members represent the voices and perspectives of students and postdocs in the ASCB, and interact with the ASCB leadership to develop initiatives that reflect our interests. The specific initiatives and projects are driven largely by COMPASS members’ ideas. What does COMPASS do, exactly? We’re glad you asked!
As the real (i.e., inflation-adjusted) purchasing power of the NIH has fallen by 25% over the last decade, there’s been a lot of debate about how the biomedical workforce should adjust to the changing landscape. This reduction in NIH funding is imposing a hard limit on the number and size of stably funded academic research labs. And combined with the fact that there are far more trainees than available academic faculty positions , one option is to reduce the number of trainees.
If you are a scientist, you know at least a little bit about the current crisis academia is suffering. The large number of PhD students inside a system that does not have enough academic jobs for all of them after they finish their postdoctoral training is alarming. It is also common to hear that competition for faculty positions at universities (and we are not talking only about Harvard, MIT, and Stanford) includes hundreds of qualified individuals for one job. Yes, only ONE.
An academic year is over, and a new one has begun. For us in the lab, it may seem like nothing has changed as our daily load of experiments continues. But the way I see it, a new academic year ushers in new conferences (and yes, this includes ASCB's 2014 Annual Meeting in Philadelphia, which if you haven't registered for yet, you should!)! Conferences represent the best about science: A gathering of minds, sharing of information, discussions of data both published and unpublished, and chances to meet the people working in the field—Nobel prize winners, established or young PIs, and other grad students and postdocs. With that said, here are my approaches toward a successful conference season ahead:
Intense competition in the biomedical sciences has been a hot topic recently, pinned as everything from the impetus to commit fraud to a symptom of the overall unsustainability of the research ecosystem. It drives us to hide our findings until publication, chase down scientific fads, and leave negative data to languish.