San Diego radio station KPBS reported last year that a local lab was looking for a PhD to work for free. The "Unpaid Volunteer in a Basic Science Research Laboratory" ad (chemjobber) on Craigslist requested a PhD and 2-3 years of postdoc experience to work on methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus (MRSA) research. The ad quickly disappeared, but now a lab in Hackensack, NJ is offering a similar arrangement.

There are many reasons for wanting to go to graduate school: You want to become a professor, you love pipetting colorless liquids, you really liked your biology classes in college, or you are burning with an insatiable desire to understand biological mechanisms. Whatever your reason, you should know what you're getting into: Not only does your future happiness depend on it, but this knowledge may also determine your success. Let me explain.

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.

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