Friday, 01 August 2014 00:00

Life Outside Lab? I Can Have One of Those?

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Playing a musical instrument. Ballroom dancing. Musical theater. Knitting. Painting. Woodworking. What do all of these activities have in common? Most obviously, they all have an extremely creative component. But what if I asked about motorcycle racing, rock climbing, skiing, and distance running in addition to the activities above? Now the common thread is a little less obvious, but very intriguing—these are hobbies of graduate students, postdocs, and professors in the University of Massachusetts (UMass) college system.

A collaborator and I are about to submit a manuscript, a process that is deeply satisfying. However, it also leads me to reflect on the inefficiencies of the current publishing system. For example:

● Traditional academic publishing is extremely expensive, and much of its cost goes to filling corporate coffers rather than paying for services necessary for publishing. For example, Elsevier alone pulled in $1.1 billion in profit in 2010, an astounding 36% of its total revenue. In an age of tightening budgets, this is probably not the best use of public funds.

In my last post, I covered the initial steps of applying for academic faculty jobs, basically preparing and submitting the application material to the universities. Most universities will shortlist the applications to between 5 - 20% for further evaluation, which usually includes two types of interviews: first, a remote interview (via phone or Skype), and finally the last round—a visit to the university. To get to this final step is already a significant achievement, since competition for faculty positions in certain universities in the United States can be intense—around 300 applications for 1 position.

Friday, 11 July 2014 00:00

The Study of Being a Neighbor

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Scientists can be reclusive. Not just in the "lab work all day, time course all night, cell culture all weekend" way, but also because we can be a very isolated community. We are busy trying to keep afloat in a competitive field, and other scientists and like-minded academics often surround us. Our friends, colleagues, classmates, and sometimes even partners, are part of the science community that encompasses most of our time.