Friday, 25 April 2014 00:00

On Parenting and Postdoc-ing

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When I was a kid, I didn't know that I would be a scientist. But I did know I would be a parent. Having children was a high priority in my life. However, during graduate school, I started to see the professional demands placed on graduate students, postdocs, and junior faculty. When, then, would be the best time to start a family? There is not one right answer, as it depends on each individual's personal and professional situation. And you will probably never think you have enough time or enough money to start a family. I had my first son at the end of graduate school, and my second son four years later, shortly after starting a second postdoc. So, how is it going? Can I be a great parent AND be a successful postdoc? Can I have it all? The answer is Yes! And...No. And, both Yes and No, sometimes even at the same time. Let me explain:

One topic represents a common problem of science today: the academic faculty job market. The competition for an assistant professorship in cell biology in a middle-sized university in the United States results in a clash of approximately 300 applicants warring against each other for ONE position. In times of impact factor dominance, limited fellowships, and fewer grants, the focus has shifted from creativity to irrational productivity, sometimes measured by the number of CNS (Cell, Nature, Science) papers published. Even though the career transition from postdoc to assistant professor is broken now, how can you proceed to the next academic step if you really want to?

Friday, 11 April 2014 00:00

Where Will a Biology PhD Take You?

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Based primarily on the 2012 NIH Workforce report this infographic represents current workforce sizes and annual fluxes before and after a PhD in the biomedical sciences in the US. The picture is not as dire as that painted for the UK by this 2010 Royal Society report, but many of these figures are based on estimates and self-reporting. We'll have to wait for the NAS Postdoc Report for better data. In the meantime, that report's chair, Greg Petsko, has divulged some interesting tidbits in his iBiology talk: the data on postdocs are so poor, many institutions can't estimate the number of postdocs they have within an order of magnitude. Hopefully, clear data on these job markets will empower trainees to make better-informed career decisions.

Friday, 04 April 2014 00:00

Exotic Electronic Lab Notebooks

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A few weeks ago, we heard about two of the most popular tools for maintaining a lab notebook: Evernote and OneNote (now available for Mac). I'm a devout OneNote user myself - for my needs, it's fantastic. Then again, I'm mostly just making in-line buffer calculations, linking to other documents, taking advantage of URL annotations on my copy and paste jobs, and using the Snipping Tool like it's going out of style. But what if I had more heavy duty data analysis to do, or computational projects to manage? As more and more biologists are building their own software tools, it makes sense to have a notebook that can interface with code in a more meaningful way.

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