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.

Every scientist has had "that" conversation: the casual conversation with family members or friends that inevitably ends with eyes glazed over because of the seemingly esoteric and incomprehensible nature of what you do in the lab. Explaining your research can be challenging. The disconnect that follows these conversations with family and friends can be easily glossed over, but it is actually quite telling of the severe communication gap that is growing between scientists and the general public. COMPASS, ASCB's Committee for Postdocs and Students, has set a priority on efforts to close this gap.

On a cold morning in Nashville, Tennessee, Ron Vale, professor at the University of California San Francisco, and a Howard Hughes Medical Institute (HHMI) investigator, recalls the story of the beginnings of iBiology. Vale's inspiration for iBiology dates back to 2006 while he was on a trip to India. Vale had the chance to talk to around 120 people from some of the country's leading scientific institutions. However, he kept thinking about the people who didn't have a chance to come to his talks. So he started to "think of new ways for people who are not in leading institutions to also have access to leading scientists" he said.

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