National Academies report on postdocs


The National Academies released a report in December that advocates for improvements in training and salary for postdoctoral fellows in academia. Although postdoctoral training is necessary to pursue careers in academia, it now frequently is associated with poor pay, indefinite terms and uncertain prospects for career advancement.

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Commit


Chris Pickett writes frankly about leaving academe: "Finding a job away from the bench can be a frightening prospect. Are you sure you want to leave the bench? Does your training even give you the necessary skills to make this jump? What if you get a job and don’t like it? What are your options then? Will you be able to go back to academia? When I left academic science, I had all of these fears and more." 

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Like water in a desert


Andrew D. Hollenbach and Kristen L. Eckstrand write about the new publication “Instituting Curricular and Institutional Climate Changes to Improve Health Care for Individuals Who Are LGBT, Gender Nonconforming, or Born with DSD: A Resource for Medical Educators.” 

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Providing hope in a hostile environment


Contributor Andrew Hollenbach writes: "In our chosen profession of academic research, it seems that everything we do is about that dreaded impact factor or just how much our work will impact the larger field of science or clinical knowledge. However, the families and children at St. Jude couldn’t care less about this impact factor.

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Young grasshopper becomes the teacher


Postdoc Paul Sirajuddin writes about mentoring summer interns.

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Passive obstructionism


This month contributor Andrew Hollenbach writes about one of his pet peeves: when people passively stand in the way of change.

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A response to the NIH Biomedical Research Workforce Working Group Report


Excerpt: "Some of the recommendations in the Tilghman report already have been implemented by the NIH. As we stand poised for implementation of additional steps that could affect graduate and postgraduate training and research for decades, the Association of Medical and Graduate Departments of Biochemistry convened a working group to consider the repercussions of the Tilghman report from the perspective of department chairs who work at the interface between faculty and institutional administration. While we concur with some of the recommendations in the Tilghman report, we have serious reservations about others."

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The measure of success


Columnist Andrew D. Hollenbach offers a thought-provoking assessment of his job as a mentor and of what success really means.

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Give credit where it is due


Eleftherios P. Diamandis, a regular ASBMB Today essayist, this month writes about the so-called “competition” between senior and young investigators. He writes in part, “Students sometimes forget that even a rare meeting with the supervisor can generate ideas about how to perform experiments better or smarter.”

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Petsko on the Ph.D. pipeline


Gregory Petsko of Brandeis University, a former president of the American Society for Biochemistry and Molecular Biology, sat down not too long ago for a Google Hangout about the Ph.D. pipeline, postdoctoral training, careers in science and funding issues. In his interview, he emphasized the need to make major changes to Ph.D. and postdoctoral training programs in the U.S. Here, ASBMB Today contributor Lymor Ringer Barnhard offers a recap of the discussion.

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ScienceOnline


ASBMB's outreach coordinator, Geoff Hunt, writes about the changing nature of scientific communication and conferences: "With science reporting by the mainstream media fading, science communicators are becoming the sole sources of reliable, accurate scientific information. Luckily, meetings like ScienceOnline are providing the venues for novices to become experts, individuals to become part of a community, and the community as a whole to grow and improve." But, he adds, "Now it is up to rest of the scientific community to come along for the ride."

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In need of a new narrative


Natasha C. Brooks, a member of the ASBMB's Minority Affairs Committee, writes, "Unfortunately, narratives intended to perpetuate fear for past transgressions, those highlighting health disparities and those regarding minority scientists as exceptional and rare have become the norm. The existing narratives perpetuate the notion that science is 1) perpetrated against them and 2) not for them."

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Are scientists with disabilities the forgotten underrepresented minority?


Given that certain racial and ethnic minorities have been historically underrepresented in science, technology, engineering and math fields, those groups have been targeted to increase their numbers. However, ASBMB Minority Affairs Committee Chairman Squire J. Booker, argues, the disabled are also a rich source of talent that has been underutilized.

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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.

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Survey of young biochemists and molecular biologists


The results from the American Society for Biochemistry and Molecular Biology’s survey 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.

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Come and knock on my door


Nick D Tsihlis writes, "I’m a Ph.D. who gets emails about scheduling operating-room time, since I’m in a department full of surgeons. I’m a nontenure-track faculty member who has no use for invitations to seminars about new classroom software, because I don’t teach. On top of all that, I’m the guy who feels a little awkward at the lunch table, because I got promoted above my postdoc and grad student friends. I still feel strange calling myself a professor, because I don’t have my own lab, but that’s what’s on my new business cards and the placard outside the door to my new office."

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The reality that dare not speak its name


Andrew D. Hollenbach writes about the factors that forced him to close his lab at the Louisiana State University Health Sciences Center. He says: "Look at my picture, and you will not see a failure. You will see someone who worked hard, excelled at what he did, held true to himself and maintained his integrity. However, you also will see someone whose work was brought to a halt by an unfair system."

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The ASBMB 2012 graduation survey: a synopsis


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.

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Look at an exam, see a job application


Students are becoming experts at negotiating for a few more points when their answers on assignments are close but no cigar. Peter J. Kennelly says teachers who allow themselves to manipulated this way are doing their students a disservice.

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Dimensions of diversity


In his column this month, Jeremy Berg writes about why diversity in the American scientific workforce matters and about the benefits of a diverse workforce to individuals, institutions, the research enterprise and the nation.

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Service is in our best self-interest


Thomas Baldwin from the the University of California, Riverside, says that university administrators need to take a closer look and seek out scientists truly engaged in service to the larger community.

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Good outcomes


Johns Hopkins University’s Jon Lorsch discusses the need to expand science mentors’ views of what good outcomes of graduate education might be.

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Advancing women of color in academia


Marion Sewer of the University of California, San Diego, explores mentoring efforts for women of color in the sciences, writing, in part, "Although all women in academia are challenged with maintaining a balance between career and family, women of color ... face additional demands that make advancement up the academic ladder even more arduous."

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


Promega Corp.’s Martin Rosenberg writes about what it will take to train future scientists for the jobs that will exist — instead of ones that most likely will not. He writes, in part, "There is a huge disconnect between how we currently train scientists and the actual employment opportunities available for them."

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Task force report: ASBMB women in academe


A special task force reports on survey results that showed the number of women among biochemistry teacher–scholar applicants is low relative to the number among postdoctoral trainees.

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Why pursue a Ph.D. in the biosciences?


Part 1: Dealing with economic misconceptions and aligning expectations with career realities.

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The toxic professor syndrome


Academic biomedical research is experiencing many existential problems as relative funding dries up. This already is resulting in serious consequences for the very fabric of American biomedical investigation.

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Giving minority investigators a hand


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

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Decisions


Ralph Thomas talks about going from industry to finance and back again.

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A major step forward, with many more ahead


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

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Challenges facing the international postdoc


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

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Barriers to minority funding


Recently, the ASBMB MAC undertook an initiative to identify the perceived barriers faced by underrepresented minority faculty applying for extramural funding.

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Teamwork: Industry and Academic Perspectives


Teamwork is essential to all scientific discovery from academia to industry



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Too Many Ph.D. Trainees?


This year, overall biomedical research funding is sadly flat, and university growth has reached a plateau. State budgets are in crisis, and university endowments are still recovering from deep losses suffered during the economic downturn. Given the current circumstances, it would be impossible for all of our current Ph.D. students to move on to academic positions.

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Mentoring is a primary responsibility


The American Society for Biochemistry and Molecular Biology’s Minority Affairs Committee has several missions. One of them is fostering the development of scientists.

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Careers in Motion


Ask any astrophysicist to describe the “two body problem,” and the answer will involve orbiting celestial bodies. Ask a young scientist, and the question takes on a very earthly meaning.

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