Hashem Dbouk

Hashem Dbouk

Hashem is a postdoctoral fellow in Dr. Melanie Cobb's lab at UT Southwestern, in Dallas, Texas. His long-term research interests focus on identifying protein-protein interactions and the mechanisms by which they regulate functions of kinases, with research spanning WNKs and PI3-Kinases.

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. 

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represent the best about science: A gathering of minds, sharing of information, discussions of data both published and unpublished, and chances to meet the people working in the field—Nobel prize winners, established or young PIs, and other grad students and postdocs.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:

It's a sad but inevitable truth: enthusiasm ebbs and flows, never consistent or unwavering. This holds true for many things in life, but to scientists this is most pertinent to our enthusiasm toward our projects. Whether you're a grad student or postdoc (and maybe even a PI), you have definitely gone through a period when you're simply tired of your project, don't want to read another word or article about the same-old topic, lack the motivation to do any experiments, and in short find anything related to your work off-putting and depressing. One good point to keep in mind: You're not alone having this feeling.

The current funding environment is proving to be a very difficult hurdle for many. Although the grant situation at the moment is dire for nationals here in the US, it is and has always been a difficult task to get funding as an international student or postdoc. The lack of NIH opportunities for international students/postdocs decreases the chances of getting other grants, and some international graduate students and postdocs have a hard time joining labs because many PIs are looking to hire people with actual, rather than practically non-existent, funding potential.

1) Retractions in the scientific literature seem to be more common now than 10 years ago. How often are articles being retracted? How many retractions are due to outright fraud, compared with possible "sloppiness," as in use of a bad cell line, technical problems, or other unintentional mistakes? Should scientists worry about what they read in the literature now or do you think scientists should always be skeptical of what they read?

It is truly alarming to see the sharp increase in retractions in the scientific literature due to misconduct such as outright fraud and data falsification. To put the rising trend in perspective, the number of articles retracted due to misconduct, rather than errors, has increased ~10-fold since 1975 [1]. Multiple studies have tried to explain this distressing trend by providing information on the numbers of scientists who knowingly committed misconduct (for examples, see [2-5]), studying the patterns in retractions from different journals [6], or even analyzing details about the scientists committing misconduct [3]. However, I believe a look at the causes is necessary in order to battle this epidemic.

The Arab world. Let's face it, when you hear that term, most of you don't really think about science. In the best case scenario you think about the "Arab Spring" that has gripped that part of the world recently... but that's the best case scenario, let's be honest.