Wow, there must be a loooooooooooot of folks who don't f*cking love science

Sep 20 2013 Published by under Issues in Science

Yes, the funding situation for science research and the career trajectories for PhDs are all sorts of suckery right now. I’m currently in that boat navigating those waters. So if you ask me, “Should we push for increasing research funding?” The answer is obvs yes. Should we push to put people in office who reflect this sentiment? Yerp. Should post docs be paid more? Yes….err...I'm open for debate (see below). Should all of these issues get "debated in the media, that sees equal time with the wars we fight and the bills we pay our aging workforce?” Absolutely.

So why do I find this WHY YOU DON’T “FUCKING LOVE SCIENCE” post misdirected?

Breaking people down into a false dichotomy of those who truly love science and those who just proclaim that they “fucking” love science dismisses the multitude of ways people (have to) prioritize matters that impact their lives. If science funding isn’t your number 1 priority...well, psshh, then you’re doing it wrong is quite frankly condescending. Ever wonder why people thumb their noses at scientists? Well…

If the point of the post is to preach to the choir, then bang up job. But if it’s to make a case to those who prioritize entitlements/earned benefits, military spending, etc. ahead of science to bump science higher on that list, then I don’t think this helps:

“No, what you love is social security, high-tech fighter aircraft, and bombing the Middle East so that it stays in the stone age where the government has assured you it belongs.”

Can anyone else taste the contempt?

Also this:

Not to mention that many graduate students are paid less than the average unemployment benefit.  That’s right: for the first five years of those two decades, most people would’ve gotten paid more if they’d not had a job at all.

Cool. Thanks for contributing to the “you’re better off doing nothing and suckling at the teat of government” narrative. One, as far as I know you can’t draw unemployment benefits for 5 years. Two, as a graduate student you agree to be trained and receive said stipend. Three, although they may not end up in their expected/intended careers, science and engineering PhDs have the lowest levels of overall unemployment (1.5%). But you know...trivializing the unemployed is *totally* ok.

As for increasing postdoc pay, this is debatable and I’ll let the peeps with more experience in the postdoc game hash it out. For me, I have several questions: Is a postdoc really about further training anymore if the intended career opportunities on the other side are dwindling? Or has it basically transitioned into a de facto midcareer position? In which case, should we really be making what is essentially a temp position more desirable by increasing its salary? Is it possible to have better paid, more permanent-y, PhD-level research positions instead?

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How is your PI training you to write grants?

May 07 2013 Published by under Late-stage PhD student

An interesting thing happened during last week's lab meeting. Rather than spending the first 30-40 minutes on mundane lab issues like who left the dishes in the sink or who's responsible for teaching the undergrad how to dissect Drosophila larvae, my PI held an impromptu Q&A session on grantsmanship. Being the old-blood, gray-beard, grad student that I am and having lived through (and helped in the process of) writing grants, progress reports, and renewals with my PI, I've heard her thoughts and experiences at various points during my grad school career. But, I could see that her advice on to how to craft each one of these things as well as cultivating a relationship with your program officer was enlightening to the newer students and foreign postdoc in the lab.

It got me thinking about if and how other PIs were directly preparing their trainees in successful grant writing.

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Two Bombs Prevented Me from Saying Thank You

Apr 16 2013 Published by under Potpourri

I sat down to write a blog post yesterday, only to have my day derailed by two bombs exploding by the finish line of the Boston Marathon. An attack like yesterday's isn't just about harming and maiming as many people as possible as it did in killing three and injuring more than a hundred people. It also knocks the rest of us off our psychological tracks. I spent the rest of my afternoon distracted and glued to my computer searching for answers. Reasons. Rationalizations for what happened. More information. Always looking for more information. Judging by my Facebook and Twitter feeds, I wasn't alone.

Invariably, you think about 9/11. About where you were, what you were doing. This time was different. New York City felt close. This was my backyard. I've sat a countless number of times on the steps of the Boston Public Library. Had drinks at the Mandarin. The shock I was feeling wasn't the same as it was 11 years ago. It was the sobering realization that that thing you were quietly fearful of happening again...was happening. And maybe that it took this long.

I thought of my organic chemistry professor, who refused to cancel class just hours after the planes hit on 9/11. His rationale? "If we let them disrupt our lives, then they win and we lose." But I didn't have it in me to write what I had wanted to write yesterday. Even if I had my professor's resolve, it would have been lost in all of the din of yesterday's explosions.

Which is unfortunate, really, since it was a message of appreciation (unrelated to the bombings) that I had sat down to write. And when the smoke cleared from the explosions and victims were shuttled to hospitals, I started seeing that same spirit of appreciation as people were thanking the first responders, volunteers, doctors and nurses. Everyone who tended to the needs of the injured. Everyone who was opening their homes to runners and others who needed places to stay for the night. Thank you.

Here is what I wanted to say yesterday:

Earlier today, DM sent out a tweet thanking US taxpayers for funding science research:

I was preparing cell culture media at the time and thought to myself, "$100? That just about pays for a case of powdered cell culture media that lasts me about 10-12 months." While buying it in powdered form means there's added labor in dissolving the media and sterilizing it, it's a hell of a lot more economical this way since it's about 1/10 the cost of premade liquid media (hey, I'm looking out for you, US taxpayer!). More importantly, it allows me to customize the media for my purposes (e.g. pH, other nutritive supplements, etc.).

M3 media

$10 worth of cell culture media

Anyway, the media is used to grow cells derived from fruit flies (Drosophila) and has been instrumental for my research. So, let me take a moment and join DM in thanking you for your support!

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