Hanging out with friends

Published August 08 2016

The two stories I wrote for this month’s issue of ASBMB Today were born out of tips from scientist friends.

The Q&A I did with Christine Pfund at the University of Wisconsin-Madison on mentoring came out of a lunchtime break with a friend at a nail salon. As we settled into pedicure chairs, my friend, who is an investigator at the National Institutes of Health, and I started to chat about recent conferences and talks we had attended.

My friend mentioned a talk she had heard by Pfund in which Pfund described the interesting work she and her colleagues were doing in making mentoring in the sciences more effective. I sensed Pfund would make a great person to interview and learn more about a critical aspect of the scientific enterprise.

The second story is the magazine’s cover story. It’s about the inappropriate and illegal questions that get asked of female job candidates during hiring for tenure-track faculty positions. That story came to me during a happy hour with two other girlfriends who, like my NIH friend, are scientists. As we downed a bottle of sparkling wine at a French bistro, one of my friends started to tell us about her experiences of going on interviews for tenure-track faculty positions. While she had enjoyed visiting most of the places where she was invited to interview, one place stuck out because she had been asked a blatantly illegal question right off the bat. I began to wonder how many women on the academic job market had similar experiences. So I asked around, and others affirmed that the issue deserves attention.

I am telling you this because I want to drive home the point that this magazine is at its best when you share with me and the rest of the ASBMB Today team your experiences. The executive editor of ASBMB Today, Angela Hopp, and I believe that everyone in science — be it an undergraduate student from India attending a small-town American college or a retired scientist in the San Francisco Bay Area — has a story worth telling. By telling us your stories, you help us give voice to the excitement of science, the perseverance needed to chip away at a vexing problem, and the awe and thrill that come when you realize you’ve observed something for the first time. You also help us highlight the issues that are part and parcel of life as a scientist.

So go on and drop us a line. You can get a hold of me and the rest of the ASBMB Today team by email or find us on Facebook or Twitter. Tell us about the scientific adventures that you embark on and the directions in which they take you, the notable accomplishments of your colleagues (and your own), and tangle of challenges you face in your profession. Even if you don’t have a full-fledged story to share, we love hearing from you, because we never know from where the inspiration for the next ASBMB Today story will come.

Rajendrani Mukhopadhyay Rajendrani Mukhopadhyay is the chief science correspondent for the American Society for Biochemistry and Molecular Biology. Follow her on Twitter.