Opinions and Issues

An “honorable” career in academia vs. an “alternative” career in the private sector

There is a huge disconnect between how we currently train scientists and the actual employment opportunities available for them.

ScienceOnline: Science in the Internet 2.0 era

ScienceOnline represents a new paradigm for how science will be conducted in the 21st century, one that brings together a (rapidly growing) segment of the scientific community that works at the interface of research and communication. As ScienceOnline Executive Director Karyn Traphagen explains, ScienceOnline “enables connections between researchers in diverse fields of science by bringing them out of their specialized conferences and tapping into their shared experience of using the Internet to do and communicate science online.”

Minority affairs: in need of a new narrative

Newly minted Ph.D. Natasha Brooks questions the validity of common narratives about minorities and science.

Look at an exam, see a job application

In the blink of an eye, today’s students will be filling out job applications rather than pop quizzes. They will be questioned during interviews. Both the substance and form of their responses will determine whether they will be able to gain admission to graduate or professional schools or employment and advancement in their chosen professions.

Rethinking “good outcomes”

Like most mentors, I can be pretty clueless. As professors in graduate institutions, our ideas on mentoring usually began with our own experiences as students and postdocs, and by definition our experiences revolved around how to become professors at graduate institutions. In other words, we begin our mentoring careers fairly clueless about mentoring, at least beyond our narrow view of what the outcome of successful mentoring should be. But from cluelessness can spring enlightenment.

Task force report: ASBMB women in academe

Results and conclusions from an ASBMB survey of members and directors of departments with biochemistry Ph.D. programs about women in academic biochemistry.  

2012 survey of young biochemists and molecular biologists

The results from the American Society for Biochemistry and Molecular Biology’s survey in 2012 of young biochemists and molecular biologists are now out. The respondents, who were between ages 20 and 39, ranked intellectual freedom as the most influential factor in choosing a career.

Sidebar: A wake-up call on mentoring.

2012 graduation survey

Every year, the American Society for Biochemistry and Molecular Biology requests demographic data on students graduating with bachelor’s and graduate degrees in biochemistry and molecular biology from more than 800 programs across the United States. The 2012 survey yielded 135 respondents, 94 of whom provided data.

Why pursue a Ph.D. in the biosciences?

As the number of postdoctoral fellows working at U.S. academic research institutions has skyrocketed during the past couple of decades, competition for faculty positions has intensified. Postdoctoral researchers often feel that applying for academic positions is like a long, drawn-out crapshoot, regardless of publication record. So why pursue a doctorate in the biosciences?

President’s Message: Dimensions of diversity

We are all shaped by our life experiences. I certainly was influenced strongly by the community in which I grew up. My father was a math professor at Stanford University, and my mother was a physician who worked as a researcher at Stanford Medical School during my early childhood. We lived in a house on the university campus, and I attended an elementary school whose student population was about equally divided between children of university faculty and staff members, children of graduate students and children from the surrounding town.

Service is in our best self-interest

Advertised descriptions for faculty positions in American universities almost always refer to “research, teaching and service” as expectations of successful applicants, and the merit and promotion procedures in universities almost universally address faculty members’ activities in these three areas. Success in research and teaching usually can be gauged relative to some clear standards, but success in service is generally much more difficult to ascertain.

Barriers to minority funding

The ASBMB Minority Affairs Committee undertook an initiative to identify the perceived barriers faced by underrepresented minority faculty applying for extramural funding. These are their findings.  

Are scientists with disabilities the forgotten underrepresented minority?

The traditional definition of a disabled person referred to someone who required routine use of a wheelchair or who was visually or hearing impaired. Now the definition has been broadened to include people with learning disabilities and psychiatric disorders. A 2011 study by the National Science Foundation of students and employees in science and engineering showed that the disabled consistently have higher unemployment rates than those of the general population, and many leave the labor force prematurely (1). Furthermore, it is believed that disabilities are underreported for fear of discrimination.

Mentoring is a primary responsibility

Many graduating students will be unprepared for the challenges that lie ahead. This problem is not new or unknown, but, it is too often ignored.  

The toxic professor syndrome

Established investigators are disillusioned and overwhelmed, beginning investigators are disheartened, and students are turning away from pursuing academic careers in biomedical investigation. Proposed here are the symptoms, etiology, pathogenesis, and treatment of toxic professor syndrome.  

Advancing women of color in academia

Although all women in academia are challenged with maintaining a balance between career and family, women of color (that is, black, Hispanic and Native American women) face additional demands that make advancement up the academic ladder even more arduous.

Why you should judge posters at the ASBMB annual meeting

Your abstract for the American Society for Biochemistry and Molecular Biology annual meeting is in, and you’re starting to put together your poster or presentation. You’ve made your travel arrangements and are about to get back to preparing for this afternoon’s lab when you notice an email inviting you to serve as a poster judge for the undergraduate poster competition. We’re hoping to convince you to join us by telling you how the process works and about the benefits that we have received by participating.

Teamwork: industry and academic perspectives

The public often perceives science as an endeavor pursued by lone individuals in isolated labs. However, teamwork is essential to all scientific discovery from acedemia to industry.  

Come and knock on my door

When I introduce myself lately, I have to remember not to say, “I’m a postdoc.” About a year ago, I became the only research assistant professor in the vascular surgery division at Northwestern University Feinberg School of Medicine. I’m still learning the ropes.

Challenges facing the international postdoc

Tips for postdoctoral fellows and their mentors to make the training period go smoothly.  

Giving minority investigators a hand

The NIDDK Network of Minority Research provides minority faculty with mentorship and advice.  

The importance of mentorship

It seems obvious that junior scientists need mentors; senior scientists need them, too.  

Decisions: from industry to finance and back again

The summer before my sophomore year in high school, I opened my sister’s biology book in an attempt to prepare for my biology class that fall. I soon found myself lost in the chapters discussing DNA replication and protein manufacture. I was mesmerized by the sections devoted to carbohydrate metabolism and fatty acid production. I waited for biology class to start with great anticipation and couldn’t wait to take chemistry the next year. By then I knew what I wanted to do for a living, and I charged through the rest of high school with a laser-like focus on college.

Why the drop-out? A junior faculty perspective

Didem Vardar-Ulu explores the reasons why the number of women scientists dwindle as they go up the scientific ranks.  

A major step forward, with many more ahead

While women in STEM disciplines have made progress, there still is much work to be done.  

Careers in motion

Finding solutions to the problem of balancing one's own career. 

Too many Ph.D. trainees?

Current economic circumstances have led some to suggest that we are training too many Ph.D. graduate students. Are we?