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Author: Suzy | Views: 3003 | Comments: 19
Last by Michelle on Nov 27, 2011, 10:37pm
Thank God it's Thursday because I am already burnt out from the first three days of this week. It has been an inordinately stressful week for multiple reasons, one of which I will talk about today.

It's not the lab. Lab work is like heaven for me. I love escaping to the bench, avoiding human contact, and focusing on how to get something puzzling to work.

It's not the next looming product launch, although it does have my stomach in knots and feels a little like a 800 lb gorilla on my back. I am still 75% sure we'll finish on time.

What’s really causing me mad stress this week is managing people.  I can see why experience in managing people is so critical to employers. Because it is tough and every problem situation is unique so there is no way to train for this.  You just have to learn through doing and then figure out what you could have done better after.

It all started with an email. Doesn't it always start with email? Email is so tricky, you know. Intentions and tone can be misinterpreted through email and this happens on both sides. When you send an email to someone, you have no idea what their day was like. They might be having the worst day ever and even the slightest comment may be perceived antagonistically. Even dealing with people you . . . More
Author: Thomas Joseph | Views: 387 | Comments: 10
Last by Thomas Joseph on Jan 28, 2011, 11:35am
I imagine that most scientists are creatures of habit, and some superstition as well. Speaking from experience, I know I have protocols which I've worked with for a decade or more and I'm loathe to change or tweak them. They work, why reinvent the wheel? This same thought process extends to reagents that are typically used in the lab. There were certain manufacturers that I "grew up" using, and remained loyal to that particular brand throughout my graduate and postdoc work. When putting my own lab together, while I was willing to negotiate some* on equipment**, by and large I was more than happy to stick with the "tried and true" microbiological and molecular reagents that I had used for years. For instance, I would never consider buying my restriction enzymes from anywhere but NEB. They work, why switch?

Problem is, projects change, which means conditions change. This point was eloquently brought home to me this past week. We had received some free Taq. We were told that in our system, this Taq would most likely perform better than any other Taq we could find on the market. For general amplifications we use what I would consider a "middle of the line" (in terms of cost) Taq which has worked pretty well in our hands. After all, Taq is Taq, no? Now there were inst . . . More
Author: Thomas Joseph | Views: 252 | Comments: 3
Last by Geeka on Jan 27, 2011, 3:25pm
You know, there are some things which you really shouldn't have to tell people. Like the following little gem of common sense that I'm about to tell you:

When you run a service lab, and someone calls you to inquire about said service, call them back.

Now, there is some work we've been planning to do, and we've been ramping up our efforts. We have all of our ducks in a row and we're ready to launch into the data acquisition portion of the project. We wanted to do it in one big go because doing it "in bulk" would reduce our costs. I've spoken with other collaborators, friends, friends of friends, and a few have mentioned the service lab of a particular university as having unparalleled service. So I sent them an email. Never heard back. I waited awhile and sent off another email. Never heard back. I made a couple of phone calls. Never returned.

Now, in their defense, I was told that they are routinely hard to get ahold of, but if you could get ahold of them, the work they did was great. Ok, fine ... habitually lazy when it comes to getting in touch with people, but do great work. I was willing to put in the effort to eventually make contact (even if I had to drive there as a last resort). And if they were booked solid, I could always go with another option tha . . . More
Author: Suzy | Views: 45896 | Comments: 18
Last by Suzy on Jan 27, 2011, 11:25am
I would like to thank AGreenMonster for these great questions for discussion. I am going to answer these from my perspective, which is from a life science company. I welcome anyone to give their feedback as well. In fact, if any of the readers out there feels like they have a lot to share, I would be happy to host your article on my blog so that you may provide more details. Just drop me a line.

Hi Jade!

The question from me would be, what would you say is the biggest difference between academic research and industrial research?   You say you don't have the same independence- how does that translate day by day?  Does that mean that you're given a project and are told what procedure to do at every step?  Or do you mean, that you told you need to work on x and get y in whichever manner you can?

To answer this question, let's first list some of the pros about working in an academic setting. You get to ask your own questions, questions that are interesting to you personally. No one is telling you what to do, how to do it, or for that matter keeping track of your time in any way. As long as you are productive and moving forward, you are doing well.

In contrast, in a company, you may have to work on a project that doesn’t interest you much. You ma . . . More
Author: Suzy | Views: 7889 | Comments: 14
Last by Suzy on Jan 23, 2011, 2:53pm
Many thanks to the scientist who sent in these great questions for discussion.  I welcome input from everyone so please share your advice with this reader. If anyone has more questions, please feel free to email me privately if you prefer. These questions were edited to remove specific details and indentifying information.


Hi Jade,
I'm a frequent reader of the blog, if a rare commenter. I thought I would ask your advice on moving into biotech jobs. To give you a bit of background, I am doing my PhD at a UK university and still in my first year, but I'm certain I would like to work in industry. I spent two and a half years before grad school at a small company, working in a contract research division that ran tests looking for acute toxic effect in pre-clinical compounds from pharmaceutical companies. I found I liked the company environment for research, and quickly figured out that tenure-track faculty positions aren't what I'll be looking for. My work has mostly been happenstance, not that I don't find it interesting, but I have many other research interests, like cancer biology, immunology, and virology. I want to have a game plan in moving forward in my career, and figure now is better than later to have one. I am curious for your opin . . . More
Author: Thomas Joseph | Views: 1336 | Comments: 11
Last by JaySeeDub on Jan 25, 2011, 3:05pm
These are tough times. Everywhere you look money is tight, budgets are stagnant or shrinking, we're being asked to cut costs, and incorporating money saving methods to keep those costs down are becoming commonplace. I started out 2011 (actually ended 2010) intent on doing my part in not only cutting costs in the operation of my lab/office, but greening them up as well.

As I looked about my office there was one thing that jumped out at me. The volume of paper which was cluttering my desk and shelves (I actually have a set of metal shelves I purchased two years ago to hold all the scientific papers I've printed out in the past several years).

Paper, paper, everywhere,

Until all the trees were dead.

Paper, paper, everywhere,

Nothing interesting to be read.

Coleridge, if he had ever seen my office.

Between the cost of paper and the price of ink, I imagine that I have spent a lot of institutional money printing out versions of my manuscripts, other peoples scientific papers, progress reports, and other assorted stuff. It all adds up over time.

I'm not sure how much my institution pays in paper and ink costs each year (though I'm going to ask), but I'm sure it's significant. As such, it seemed like an . . . More
Author: Suzy | Views: 2030 | Comments: 3
Last by Ruby Gadelrab on Jan 12, 2011, 7:24pm
For those of you who follow the tweets of @DivaBiotech, you are already familiar with the varied interests and activities of outgoing world traveler and international marketing guru in the area of genomics, Ruby Gadelrab. Ruby is one of my favorite tweeps, keeping me up to date on the personal genomics scene and the latest biotech science news. I asked Ruby to guest post on LabSpaces so we can hear more from this former molecular biologist turned marketing executive supertalent. Her background and experiences in biotech and her love for cutting edge science make her an excellent source of information and inspiration for up-and-coming biotech scientists.

Thank you Ruby for sharing this article with us. I hope we can print Part 2, when you report the results of your genetic profile. Depending on what comes back, I may do the same.


During the summer of 2009, I came across a fascinating Genetic Study that I decided to participate in. Part 1 of this blog will describe the study and some of its features I particularly liked. In Part 2, I will share some of my personal experiences in participating in the study.

The Coriell Personalized Medicine Collaborative ( . . . More
Author: Suzy | Views: 6868 | Comments: 31
Last by Atet Kao on May 24, 2013, 3:04pm
I am a scientist for profit. This means, as you are well aware, I have to work with marketing people to generate pretty pictures showing perfect results with any product that we sell. You know those flyers and brochures and ads in BioTechniques where a tiny picture of a gel or a qPCR assay with photoshop perfect curves or bands is plopped on the page next to some meaningless picture and supposed to convince you to call or go to a website? Those things.

Before working for a company, I would take a look at those pictures but I never put much stock into them. I mean, of course they're going to show perfect data. What else will they show? Their kit sucks next to a competitor? So marketing data never really did sway me much. I looked at it, but not in any depth. I guess, I expect there to be some attempt at science in the ad, but it's merely representative data.

My first biotech job wasn't in marketing. The company I worked for was and still is considered one of the best in the world and I was so very proud to be a part of that company. When they would introduce a new product, the product manager would come present all the beautiful R&D data proving the product works and it was convincing. I would walk away from those meetings absolutely positive that . . . More
Author: Angry Scientist | Views: 1986 | Comments: 3
Last by Tideliar on Nov 22, 2010, 1:06pm

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Author: | Views: 680 | Comments: 1
Last by GUEST COMMENT on Nov 12, 2010, 7:43pm
This month's LabSpaces blogging theme is all about mentoring styles. The topic is pretty open ended, so we'll see where everyone ends up! We decided that the basic theme would be mentoring styles and we'd all write on the topic from our chosen perspective as mentee or mentor and then provide some insight on how we think the process can be improved upon. I'll keep updating this summary post as more entries go live! Happy reading.

Genomic Repairman kicked this one off early. He's off on his honeymoon but gave us a great post on his experiences as both mentee and mentor. Appearances by lazy PI, Awesome PI, and the amazing Genomic Repair Girl.

Dr. Girlfriend thinks that the mentee-mentor relationship should be an open one with mutual respect and the knowledge that the mentor is not all knowing, but there to provide some support and guidance as long as the mentee is willing to put in the effort

GertyZ thinks the mentor is there for support and the relationship . . . More
Author: Brian Krueger, PhD | Views: 1529 | Comments: 11
Last by Brian Krueger, PhD on Feb 07, 2011, 10:01am
When I started graduate school at Iowa, I went in there with a chip on my shoulder.  They didn’t choose me, I chose them.  They weren’t a highly ranked “elite” institution, so to make my mark I had to work for the biggest and the best that Iowa had to offer, or so I thought.  I sought out the highest profile researchers at Iowa and picked the one that best aligned with my interests.  No matter what school you look at, there’s always, “That Professor.”  You know who I’m talking about.  The professor who publishes the most papers, who has the most respect.

I did my homework on my mentor.  I read a bunch of old papers, I understood the direction and the goals of the lab.  I remember our first lab meeting vividly, well, I remember how I felt after the lab meeting.  I was exhausted.  My brain physically hurt.  I thought I knew it all going into that meeting and I realized I didn’t know anything.  It was a wake up call, but I think I liked that feeling.  It was fresh and challenging.

During my rotation, I put in ungodly long hours, not because I thought it was expected of me, but because I wanted to.  At this point in time I was enamored with the science.  It’s funny how this changed for me as I look back on my four and a half years in t . . . More
Author: | Views: 1305 | Comments: 0
This is a guest post by XrayManCoUk about his experiences as mentee and mentor as a crystallographer in the UK.

They say you never forget a good teacher but to be honest this is somewhat, erm, crap, you never forget a bad teacher either. So in short you never forget a teacher. Unless they were wholehearted bland. So this is wholly transferable to you never forget a good mentor or boss. In my somewhat chequered life I can remember the woes and follies of my supervisors and the purity and talents of my bosses. How I tried to learn from them and then put into practise their mistakes and triumphs.

My own experience as an underling

In academia we have always got some sort of hierarchy, the lecturer lectures to us via whichever medium they can utilise to get the job done. In my day blackboard and if lucky photocopied handouts, then OHP transparencies and photocopies of OHP transparency as handouts. Then came powerpoint and photocopies of powerpoint print outs, now a whole world of technology is there to transpose this information.

So whilst my PhD supervisors (I had two) had of course gone through this mellay of learning themselves, no one had really stopped along the way and given them a . . . More
Author: Evie | Views: 8206 | Comments: 4
Last by Evie on Nov 01, 2010, 9:06am is a great idea. It allows anyone and everyone to help out with as little or as much as they choose.

Basically school teachers in the US who find themselves in need, make a request, explaining exactly what they are missing from their classroom. They tell you what it is they need that would be of tremendous help, they explain what they need it for. And how it's gonna help the kids learn, and love science, possibly just as much as you do!

If you can spare a few minutes and a couple of bucks, you can be responsible for making a kid fall in love with science. A love that can last a lifetime.

You the donor, get to pick exactly where your money goes. There are literally thousands of 'projects' you can choose from. I am sure if you browse through the list, at least one will be near and dear to your heart. And perhaps you will choose to donate a few dollars to the cause, in place of your morning coffee.

As a huge bonus, this month, under 'Science bloggers for students', all us science bloggers are trying to get as many people involved as possible. You see, for every dollar you donate, HP will match it, and we'll get double the impact and double the help!

So what do you say? Can you throw a couple of . . . More
Author: Brian Krueger, PhD | Views: 1053 | Comments: 10
Last by biochem belle on Oct 10, 2010, 6:30pm
Today is: "What I'd be doing if I wasn't doing science" blog post theme day. The goal of this post theme is to let our readers get to know who we are and what our non-scientific interests are.

1. DamnGoodTechnician says that she'd probably have majored in sociology and become an administrative assistant if it wasn't for her high school sweetheart and his penchant for genetics.

2. Dr. O was involved with every group and club under the sun in high school and really wanted to become a broadway performer and until recently she had her heart set on teaching high school science but research sucked her in.

3. Evie would be everything. First she'd be a ninja kung fu master, then she'd learn how to talk to dolphins, create world peace and turn earth into an atheist utopia. Evie needs to lay off the caffeine pills

4. . . . More
Author: Brian Krueger, PhD | Views: 1163 | Comments: 14
Last by Brian Krueger, PhD on Apr 10, 2011, 6:49am
I thought about this question probably everyday of my graduate school career. My days usually went like this:

1. Get to lab at 7am
2. Start 12hr experiment
3. 7pm, experiment failed
4. 7:15pm set it all up again for tomorrow

Eventually I got everything to work but that 12hr period in the middle was filled with:

"I bet me engineer friends don't have to deal with this shit, and they're getting paid 6 times as much as me."
"I should have just become a web designer. I have fun doing that AND things usually work the first time."
"I want to run away to the cirus and become a Barker."

My PhD mentor once told me that I was the weirdest person he'd ever met because I have too many hobbies. He didn't think I could be successful in lab if I ran a website, went to the gym for two hours in the middle of the day, maintained my saltwater fish tank etc. I think he saw all of these things as distractions, or more like, "If he spent that energy in lab, he'd have a billion papers by now." Well, Honestly I can only take so much science and I need all of these hobbies to keep me sane. Further, I think I could turn any of my hobbies into careers.

In middle school, my mom worked for a computer training c . . . More
Author: Brian Krueger, PhD | Views: 44129 | Comments: 12
Last by Brian Krueger, PhD on Jun 24, 2013, 8:39am
I’m totally late to this party. I spent the morning writing my rebuttal to DrugMonkey and Co, doing the news, and cranking out a few pesky experiments. Ah, to live the life, right? Anyway, I’ve noticed that all of the good topics are now taken so I have to scrub the bottom of the bucket. I think one of the most important decisions I made in my scientific career was when I decided where I wanted to go to graduate school. The factors that play ball in this game are numerous and obviously not the same for everyone, but here’s my rundown of all of the things I wish I knew before heading off to graduate school.

Not to be too bitter about my undergraduate experience or anything, but the graduate school preparation was horrendous. No one told me from the beginning, “If you want to go to graduate school, here’s the X, the Y and the Z.” This may all sound like common sense, but some of it is not and having someone tell me all about X, Y, and Z my freshman year would have been helpful.

Do grades matter?

YES. They matter as much as they do for your annoying pre-med classmates, especially if you want to go to a . . . More
Author: Disgruntled Julie | Views: 1431 | Comments: 17
Last by GMP on Aug 29, 2010, 7:29pm
Yesterday, LabMom discussed the problems with science and gender at a very young age when trying to enroll her daughter in science camp. Seeing as I have no children myself (nor will I anytime soon), I tend to steer clear of discussions relating to children and parenting. However, something else LabMom mentioned caught my eye.

“It is no secret that boys tend to lean towards subjects in the physical sciences, while girls tend to have more interest in the biological sciences, but I had just assumed there were be a few other girls at dinosaur camp.”

I feel like this is a topic that is coming up more and more frequently. While I used to just read about the problem with getting girls interested in science, more and more I see individuals phrasing it as a necessity to get females more interested in the physical sciences. (Note: I’m not trying to say that LabMom is doing this, but rather her post and subsequent comments made me realize how this is becoming a more common topic.)

But I have to confess… I don’t understand why this is a BAD thing. I’m not talking about situations where women are not exposed to science at the same level as men, but rather . . . More
Author: Holly | Views: 4330 | Comments: 3
Last by Holly on Aug 25, 2010, 11:42pm
After one of my previous posts, there were a lot of questions/comments that involved funding so I decided to write a two post follow up. This will focus on how/where to look for funding. The next will focus on angel investors that focus on funding biotech companies.

In no particular order:

1. Your Rich Uncle: So many people have mixed feelings on having your wealthy family/friends invest in your company. I have heard entrepreneurs say things like: "Hey whatever helps it get off the ground." If you want to choose this option, then it is completely up to you. Do so with caution. If you go this route you have to be prepared that the relationship you have can go down the tubes. Even if it doesn't go down the tubes, in the event that your business fails you may have undue guilt towards your friend/family member. This is completely a : DO AT YOUR OWN RISK option.

2. Bank Loans (Typically SBA): This is very traditional option. The SBA association will guarantee your loan to the bank. To qualify you usually need to have a business plan, and other information about you personally. It's a great option, especially if you haven't nabbed any other grants or investors.

3. SBIR- Known as Small Business Innovation Research. The NIH also gives grants to . . . More
Author: Holly | Views: 404 | Comments: 2
Last by Holly on Aug 23, 2010, 9:16am
Fantastic, Amazing, Life Changing new products/services are being imagined and developed all the time to help enhance research. Sometimes it is hard for us to know what is out there. Which is why I am starting a mini-segment on my blog called, "The Latest and Greatest." I will be highlighting interesting products/services that might help out your research.

If you know of something revolutionary and want me to consider it for a piece then feel free to contact me though labspaces.

I know it is a HUGE deal for anyone to post anything with bias, and I recognize that being in the industry I may have some of those. So I have decided to create a small key so that you can see where my possible bias lies:

*Have not personally tried
(If this is the case then it is likely that I heard about it through colleagues in the industry and am listening to how they say their product service works. I am also willing in these cases to write a follow up if a reader has personally tried out the product and has an opinion on it. Please contact me though labspaces to do so.)

(This means that I have some sort of relationship with the product that I am writing about. It could be that one of my customers is selling the product or that I have a personal in . . . More
Author: Lab Mom | Views: 3106 | Comments: 16
Last by Reymundo on Jan 21, 2012, 1:03am
Today I was listening to Car Talk from NPR, which happens to be one of my favorite pod-casts. (If you live under a rock and don't know what Car Talk is, it is a call-in radio show featuring two hilarious brothers who give car repair advice, along with equal parts harassment.)

What does this have to do with my science blog? Ah-ha! I'm getting to that!

Today's episode featured a caller who happened to be a newly appointed college professor who was seeking advice about what kind of car to purchase. She was currently driving a beat up 1992 Honda Civic Hatchback (sexy!) and didn't think that fit the stereotype of a college professor. She was worried that people would mistake her for a lowly TA or graduate student if they saw her rust-bucket out in the faculty parking lot.

Now, I am not exactly sure what kind of car the stereotypical college professor is supposed to drive, but Click and Clack had their opinions. That is where it got amusing: The Tappet brothers suggested that the type of car a professor drives should be more closely correlated to their discipline and not the mere fact they are a college professor. However there is one cavea . . . More