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.

Published in COMPASS Points

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.

Published in COMPASS Points
Friday, 10 October 2014 00:00

Being Eco-Friendly in the Lab

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.

Published in COMPASS Points
Friday, 03 October 2014 00:00

ASCB’s COMPASS Science Writing Contest

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!

Published in COMPASS Points
Friday, 26 September 2014 00:00

Students and Postdocs: Get Involved with ASCB!

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!

Published in COMPASS Points

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. 

Published in COMPASS Points

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. 

Published in COMPASS Points


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:

Published in COMPASS Points
Friday, 29 August 2014 00:00

How Competitive Should Science Be?

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.

Published in COMPASS Points
Friday, 22 August 2014 11:24

Science, a Cause Worth Fightin’ for

Although there may be quite a lot of science in the news lately (the Ebola scare, climate change, 2013 Merriam-Webster's "word of the year"), the sad truth is that the future for science research in the United States is bleak. For those of us in our PhDs or postdocs, this probably doesn't come as a surprise. You may have read the viral article, Why You Don't Actually 'f*@king love science' or have seen this depressing infographic. The research enterprise in the USA has been on the downward trajectory, losing critical funding (the NIH has lost about 25% of its "purchasing power" in the past 10 years). And what that means is that there is little future for a career in science, ESPECIALLY for our generation of scientists, the 20-30 somethings.

Published in COMPASS Points
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