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Post Archive
2020 (0)2010 (36)
December (1)

Wednesday, December 8, 2010
November (2)

Payoffs of wasting time
Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Monday, November 1, 2010
October (12)

"Lessons from a Recovering Postdoc" on Benchfly
Thursday, October 28, 2010

Question about the Void: Guidelines for postdocs
Wednesday, October 20, 2010

Question about the Void: What *is* a postdoc?
Monday, October 18, 2010

Blown away!
Monday, October 18, 2010

Living in the Void: How much is a postdoc worth?
Sunday, October 17, 2010

The Tale of Mrs. T and the Rats
Wednesday, October 13, 2010

DonorsChoose: The Rat Race Is On!!!
Tuesday, October 12, 2010

Shock Week
Sunday, October 10, 2010

Science Bloggers for Students: The Prelaunch
Friday, October 8, 2010

Wednesday, October 6, 2010

Repost: What's in a name?
Saturday, October 2, 2010

Method Madness
Friday, October 1, 2010
September (8)

A friendly warning
Friday, September 24, 2010

Tuesday, September 21, 2010

Lighting fires
Monday, September 20, 2010

Learning without teaching: A repost and addendum
Monday, September 20, 2010

The Changeup
Tuesday, September 7, 2010

I wish that I knew what I know now...
Tuesday, September 7, 2010

For Science's Sake, Pay Attention
Saturday, September 4, 2010

Saturday Morning Silliness: A Speech to Remember
Saturday, September 4, 2010
August (11)

#ACS_Boston: In my PJs
Sunday, August 22, 2010

Turning the Spotlight on Women in Science
Saturday, August 21, 2010

Give us something to talk about
Thursday, August 19, 2010

Roundup! Aug. 8-15
Sunday, August 15, 2010

Roundup! Work-life balance
Wednesday, August 11, 2010

Roundup! July 31-Aug. 7
Sunday, August 8, 2010

Blogging with substance-which substance, we won't say
Saturday, August 7, 2010

Living in The Void: Healthcare
Wednesday, August 4, 2010

Give and take
Tuesday, August 3, 2010

What some smart women have to say about balance
Tuesday, August 3, 2010

Viewpoints on Mega-Science
Monday, August 2, 2010
July (2)

Wednesday, July 28, 2010

Surviving the game
Wednesday, July 28, 2010
Blogger Profile

biochem belle

Research-and careers therein-rarely follows a linear path. Instead, it is often a long and winding road. These are stories about science and my personal experiences on this road.

My posts are presented as opinion and commentary and do not represent the views of LabSpaces Productions, LLC, my employer, or my educational institution.

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Recent Comments

Before I get the AHA grant, they definitely have been using that excuse (money is tight) to reject me. But now I have the AHA grant, which means they will have extra money once the fellowship start. . .Read More
May 31, 2012, 12:52pm
Comment by Brian Krueger, PhD in Living in the Void: How much is a postdoc worth?

A good start is to look at the NIH's recommended guidelines.  I'm in the same boat as you.  I've been working here for almost 3 years with no pay raise and that's real. . .Read More
May 31, 2012, 11:52am

I just got the American heart association postdoctoral fellowship, in which I'll be receiving my salary from AHA (not much, just 39K). I do think that I have been under-valued, and my institution i. . .Read More
May 31, 2012, 10:25am

Nashsaid: Fine, the most important issue with industry is that you don't have the complete freedom to r. . .Read More
May 06, 2012, 4:53am

Hi. I am living in Indonesia. Perhaps, scientist  would be a little bit suprise to know the truth, but yes this is the truth. Having givin. . .Read More
Jul 09, 2011, 7:54am
Awesome Stuff

Banner photo adapted from image by Alexander Baxevanis under Creative Commons license.

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Locations of visitors to this page

Nov 07, 2010, 4:50pm
Views: 23462 | Comments: 11
Last by David Manly on Dec 11, 2010, 8:53am
I have decided to stop updating my blog on LabSpaces. My future in blogging here has been under consideration for sometime. This decision was not made flippantly or hastily. The reasons are varied, but I am sharing a couple here. It is not my intention to malign Brian or anyone else here but rather to provide some food for thought for this and other communities.

As much as we may dislike them, the truth is there are double standards in the world. And for me, there is a standard of conduct for bloggers and another standard for community administrators. This double standard exists because the viewpoints expressed by a community administrator reflect not only on the individual but on the community as a whole. This requires an impartial, balanced, composed presentation. A community admin should respond to criticisms but needs to do so in a reasoned tone that does not denigrate contributors or other communities. As discussed in a thread on this site, there is 'guilt by association', where the opinions or approaches of a few voices are ascribed to the entire group. Likewise, when an opinion is expressed by a community admin--particularly in a space intended to share site news and updates with readers--it can easily be take as reflective of that community's opinion . . . More
Views: 35382 | Comments: 17
Last by biochem belle on Nov 27, 2010, 9:35am
"Nothing matters but papers."

This is the mantra of some folks in academic science, as highlighted in Doctor Zen's post, which was sparked by a comment from an SfN10 blogger on Tideliar's post regarding the negative reaction of some colleagues to his blog.

"Papers are the only thing that counts."

For the benefit of any undergrads or new grad students out there, this is a bald-faced lie!!!

In the case of the most self-absorbed "mentors" (and I use this term lightly with the preceding modifier), then it could very well be true that the only important thing, in their minds, is for trainees to crank out papers that in turn get them (the PIs) grant. Note I say "for trainees" because these may be the very same people who spend a very small percentage of their time in their labs or offices because they travel so much. And they might also be the same ones who sit on papers until they're perfect... or at least until they're ready for their closeup in GlamourMag.

Papers are important. After all, they show that you produced results that survived the scrutiny of peer-review. But there are those advisers . . . More
Views: 4876 | Comments: 2
Last by biochem belle on Nov 12, 2010, 8:15am
There are only nine days left in the Science Bloggers for Students DonorsChoose Challenge! You guys rock--having donated over $2500 through the LabSpaces giving pages. We fully funded one of my favorite projects, Oh! Rats! But there are still plenty of great projects remaining, and there's still time to get in on the action and to get some more moolah out of HP for classroom science projects. And you still have a chance to win adorable plush molecules from Prim and Plush!

My goal for the final push of the DonorsChoose campaign is to reach 25 donors. When my page has 25 unique donors, one of the new donors (#16 to #25) will get a cute Mr Methane molecule (pictured right). If you want in, make a donation (as little as $1!) through my giving page. If the donor acknowledgemnt matches your LabSpaces user name or Twitter handle, you're all set; if you prefer to make an anonymous donation but want a shot at Mr Methane, forward your DonorsChoose email receipt (you can a . . . More
Views: 2837 | Comments: 1
Last by Prabodh Kandala on Oct 29, 2010, 6:24am
A quick piece of shameless self-promotion...

If you haven't already, go check out my guest post on the Benchfly blog, Lessons from a Recovering Postdoc, where I talk about how I came to be a disgruntledoc and the things I learned about getting out.

And when you're done, take a look around Benchfly. You might find some vids to share with your noob students or some tips that you can use in your own work.

. . . More
Views: 731 | Comments: 11
Last by Professor in Training on Oct 22, 2010, 9:55am
Monday, I asked you to weigh in on how postdocs are classified at your institutions--employees, contractors, trainees? Thanks to those who have voted so far. If you haven't, do that after you vote on this new poll

I was surprised that 25% of respondents thus far have indicated that postdocs are classified as employees with full benefits. Several people left comments, expanding on postdoc categories and how they can vary within the same institution.

An equally important question is whether governing guidelines exist for postdocs. Is there any document that details rights, responsibilities, and expectations for postdocs--and recourse when those are not met? For instance, is it written anywhere that you can be terminated without cause with no notice, or is your supervisor required to give you 90 days warning before booting you out of the lab? This brings us to today's poll question:

Does your institution have written guidelines defining rights and responsibilities for postdocs?online survey

As before, since many people have gone thro . . . More
Views: 1210 | Comments: 13
Last by biochem belle on Oct 23, 2010, 6:56am
I think we're getting into some interesting discussions about the state of postdocs, so far regarding pay and health insurance. One of the ambiguities encountered is whether postdocs are employees or not, which varies between institutions. So here's a quick poll for readers. Let me know if I missing any obvious choices or if any choice is unclear. This is a rare instance where I'll allow repeat voting, so you cast a straw for each institution you've worked at (whether as a postdoc or not).

. . . More
Views: 424 | Comments: 3
Last by JanedeLartigue on Oct 18, 2010, 12:18pm
That describes how I feel. Wow! I'm blown away by the generosity of the readers here and the science blogging community at large. As of Sunday night, just one week after the official launch of the Science Bloggers for Students DonorsChoose Challenge, you guys have donated over $400 through my giving page. Together, the LabSpaces bloggers have brought in 34 donors contributing almost $1700. And the challenge has raised over $14,000 for classrooms across the U.S.!

I promised a token of appreciation to a randomly selected donor. Javelin, creator of Prim and Plush, found my post offering a crocheted molecule to a donor, and she was wonderfully generous, donating some of her creations for me to use as incentives in the DonorsChoose campaign. They arrived over the weekend, and I must say, they are even more adorable in person than they are in the pics! The first bar I set was $350 donated, a . . . More
Views: 46314 | Comments: 61
Last by Normalman on May 31, 2012, 12:52pm
A couple of months ago, I wrote what I intended to be the first post in a series about issues concerning postdoc pay, benefits, protections... We tend to fall into this amorphous, ambiguous state. We’re not students anymore, but we’re not always classified as employees. We're neither here nor there. Being a postdoc is like being stuck in The Void between realities—hence the title of this series. Here we (re-)tackle a topic that is near and dear to all postdocs and that always sparks off debate: postdoc salaries in academia. This is an expanded, updated, and revised version of a post I wrote at the beginning of the year.

Late last year, Professor in Training initiated a discussion about the realities of the tenure track. A subplot emerged about paying postdocs "what they're worth". PhysioProf suggested that th . . . More
Views: 267 | Comments: 0
I grew up in the rural Southeastern U.S., a working class place of dairy farms, chicken coops, tobacco fields, and textile mills. A place where you're likely to find generations of one family living on the same hill, possibly even working the same jobs. A place where a kid couldn't get away with much of anything (good or bad) without it getting back to the family.

Even with that last one, it was a great place to grow up. That was in no small part due to the caliber of education I received in the public school system there. I had some wonderful teachers, especially in my science classes. Although I wouldn't seriously entertain the idea for a few years, my chemistry teacher (a middle-aged white guy) was the first to plant the idea that I could pursue and excel in a career in chemistry. Other teachers encouraged my scientific curiosity and sparked my interest in biology and anatomy. Much of my understanding of and enthusiasm for science was precipitated by hands-on learning--pH testing, synthesis, dissections. That's one reason I'm supporting DonorsChoose and, in particular, . . . More
Views: 5124 | Comments: 7
Last by a rat trap on May 06, 2011, 10:03am
The Science Bloggers for Students Challenge at DonorsChoose is officially under way! What is that, you say? Well, let me tell you.

DonorsChooseSchools in the United States keep seeing budget cuts, which translates to cuts in classroom supplies and activities. Teachers are spending money out of their own pockets to help cover the gap. DonorsChoose was founded 10 years ago by a teacher who wanted to provide a way for people to donate directly to classroom initiatives they wanted to support. To date, donations through DonorsChoose have exceeded $61 million and impacted over 3.7 million students in the U.S., most in high poverty school districts.

How does it work? A teacher writes a project proposal, explaining what he or she wants to do, how it fits in with the class curriculum, what supplies are needed, and how much those supplies cost. Staff at DonorsChoose vet every project and verify . . . More
Views: 877 | Comments: 14
Last by yannisguerra on Oct 11, 2010, 9:58pm
As you're probably aware (unless you've been living under a rock), the Nobel Prize announcements were made last week, with the Prize in Economic Sciences being revealed tomorrow. Of course, it seems we can't make it through Nobel Week without some amount of controversy, and this year was no exception. Please note that given the inflammatory nature of some comments, respondents only agreed to be quoted anonymously. Also be sure to check out the fine coverage by other bloggers by clicking through the links here.

Bob O'H of This Scientific Life provides excellent synopses of the dissension created by the first two Prize announcements. Confidence in the Committees' decisions was shaken from the start, as the Nobel Prize in Molecular Biology was awarded to Robert Edwards for a medical breakthrough, in vitro fertilization.

The controversy continued on Tuesday as the . . . More
Views: 375 | Comments: 7
Last by biochem belle on Oct 11, 2010, 2:17pm
You've started hearing from bloggers here and around the blogosphere about the DonorsChoose campaign in which we're trying to raise money for science classrooms around the U.S. Officially, the campaign starts on Sunday, October 10, but the donations are already starting to come in. I'll have more to say about this awesome opportunity in the days to come. However, to kick things off, I am going to throw down a challenge.

Mrs. L teaches middle school science at a large school in Chicago. She wants to introduce them to forensic science by giving them a chance to perform a rat autopsy! Carolina Biological Supply will fund half the project, if individual donors chip in the rest. My first donation went to this project, so that leaves only $112 to fully fund the project. Here's my challenge to readers: Let's get The Rat Stuff fully funded by the end of launch day--11:59 pm Eastern Daylight Time on Sunday, October 10!

*I have in mind to offer a surprise to a randomly selected donor, but as this is my first year doing this, I have to see how it's going to come together logistically.

How do you contribute to this great cause and get your chance at a cute water molecule? Go to . . . More
Views: 410 | Comments: 15
Last by biochem belle on Oct 08, 2010, 9:31am
My apologies for being uncharacteristically late to the party... or rather for showing up while everyone else is cleaning the Doritos out of the couch and tossing the empty beer bottles in the bin.

There's always a running joke amongst benchmonkeys that goes something like, "If this whole science thing doesn't work out, then I'll..."

- Open a coffee shop in Hawaii - Run a restaurant/bakery - Start a combination icecream/cocktail truck (that will make stops at all area research institutes) - Run for Congress - Work for the FBI/CIA/NSA Such commentaries are born out of long-held dreams, hobbies, or unexpected skills acquired during our careers, among other things. What's my thing? I would be a writer.

For many, writing is tantamount to torture. Not for me. I love to tell stories. Reality, fiction. Science, adventure, drama. Short, long. An audience of one or 100. It doesn't really matter. I tell stories as much to enrich and satisfy myself as I do to inform or entertain others.

It's something that started at a young age, though I didn't realize it then. And to an extent, my brother is partly to blame. I was a ravenous reader, and the sort who places herself in the story, experie . . . More
Views: 1051 | Comments: 8
Last by microbiologist xx on Oct 03, 2010, 7:34pm
I initally reposted this on There & (hopefully) back again, but I thought peeps over here might like to weigh in. For the October Scientiae Carnival, podblack asked bloggers to think about how things have changed or stayed the same in STEM since we started out and what we see for the future. I started out less than 10 years ago. Yet in that time, I've seen considerable dissension and contention about how certain fields are defined. Here's something I posted on the topic last year. With the announcements for the 2010 Nobel Prizes just around the corner, it seems fitting.


"What's in a name? That which we call a rose

By any other name would smell as sweet."

Thus says Juliet in Shakespeare's Romeo and Juliet. Admittedly, it is possibly one of the most overused quotes of Shakespeare, but in a way (albeit, perhaps a strange and slightly creepy way), it basically sums up my vi . . . More
Views: 1178 | Comments: 42
Last by biochem belle on Oct 16, 2010, 10:14am
I know. Things have been a bit quiet over here. But that's to be expected during transitionary phases.That's right. Ifinally wrapped things up at the old, unhappy postdoc place and have started the new, shiny postdoc. I will have more to say about that at my other home.* Of course, this move--in physical, professional, and emotional contexts--has necessitated changes to my routine, which I'm still tweaking. For instance, my commute is longer and now occurs via public transit. I'm on a train!** Yah!

Anyhoo, enough about me--kind of. Down to business. And my business is science, specifically research.

Everyone has a different approach, and approaches vary between career stages (e.g. undergrad, grad student, postdoc...). Obviously the foundation ofany research is the design and execution of experiments using any number of methods. It's the methods*** portion that I want to focus on today.

Scientists have a plethora of techniques at their disposal. The ones you use, of course, depend on your field, the question you want to answer, the materials and equipment available, the cost and how much money you have... But someone, somewhere, has to have a fundamental understandin . . . More
Views: 939 | Comments: 2
Last by Dr. O on Sep 24, 2010, 6:57pm
Genomic Repairman has started losing his shite, hence the warning below is posted:



Need one for your own senior grad student? Then head over to Benchfly for your warning sign.


. . . More
Views: 311 | Comments: 1
Last by Dr Becca, Ph.D. on Sep 21, 2010, 9:53pm
Sometimes there are things I want to say, but I often restrain myself.

Not so much here. Hope you enjoy my pseudononymous farewell to a "special someone" in my scientific life...

Christina Aguilera - Fighter
Uploaded by xtinaweborg. - See the latest featured music videos.

. . . More
Views: 281 | Comments: 1
Last by Brian Krueger, PhD on Sep 20, 2010, 7:10pm
As I was cleaning out my desk recently, I found this:

A rule of research

If it sounds a little like a blogger you know, that's because it is. Well, to be exact it's adapted from a comment left on my blog quite some time ago. It's what we should do with "the most disposable of lab supplies", as Odyssey puts it.

The Post-It* pictured has spent several months hanging out in a lab book and desk. I think now it will hang out in my Scicurious-inspired research 'bible' for my next project/postdoc.

*I love stickies! . . . More
Views: 694 | Comments: 1
Last by Brian Krueger, PhD on Sep 20, 2010, 12:43pm
GertyZ is a little irritated with all the whiny grad students and disgruntledocs. My own response reminded me of a post I wrote a year ago. It seemed appropriate to repost and update now.


The following was originally posted on Blogger on Sept. 19, 2009, not quite a year after completing my PhD. For new readers, Bear is my PhD adviser, and PSU is the Pretty Southern University where I did my PhD

Last weekend I got together with former member of Bear's lab (we'll call him Forte) who was in town for a meeting. Forte was a senior grad student in the lab when I joined, and he taught me a lot about the techniques used in our lab, the system we were studying, and the politics of the lab. He finished up a little less than a year after I joined. It had been a couple of years since I'd seen Forte or talked with him much, well before I finished my dissertation.

Part of our recent conversation revolved around the education we received at PSU and what we learned from Bear. At . . . More
Views: 719 | Comments: 9
Last by Tideliar on Sep 17, 2010, 6:24pm
A few years ago, the end of my PhD was in sight (even if it was a bit hazy and afar), and thus the time had come for me to decide what I wanted to do next. I had spent four years working in a interdisciplinary* lab where the focus, broadly speaking, was how chemistry drives biology at a molecular level. It was something that I really got and truly enjoyed thinking about and working on. But I was a bit restless. I wanted to expand my horizons, and what better time to do that than in a postdoc. I chose an discipline that fascinated me and in which I saw opportunities to create a niche, bringing together approaches from my background and this new discipline, that would be be beneficial to a lab and my future career.

As you've probably gathered, things did not go as planned. I spent a great deal of time and tears trying to figure out what went wrong, what I could have changed, what warning signs I missed. I realized that there was more than a little naivete about how smooth the transition would be and why. Here are a few things I wish I'd known before trying to make a switch-some of which I probably did, but didn't consider:

Be mindful of the "personality" of the discipline. Every field is different in its interactions and spirit. Some are quite open with . . . More
Views: 2626 | Comments: 5
Last by Tideliar on Sep 09, 2010, 12:12pm
A couple of weeks ago we asked you to give us something to talk about by helping us pick a topic for another themed post day at LabSpaces. Today is the day for those posts, and by a slim margin, "what I wish I knew before..." has prevailed. What follows that ellipsis is up to each blogger, and for the most part, I'm looking forward to seeing what we've come up with. I say "for the most part" because, in Genomic Repairman's case, I'm just a little scared.

Anyhoo, look for some great posts on the theme today-I'll be updating this page as posts go up. Here's a little something to set the stage.

*This entry contains a YouTube video*

A Lady Scientist, Amanda, writes about about the dissertation writing process.

Geeka discusses the things she did know-but didn't realize-when she started work in her graduate lab.

Your humble narrator makes a few points about . . . More
Views: 614 | Comments: 10
Last by Nikkilina on Oct 15, 2010, 8:31am

I can't quite explain it. I've never been that into politics, but I am a bit of a junkie when it comes to science policy. I don't write about it that often because I generally feel like I don't know enough to add a full blog post. So instead I created a LabSpaces Group :) So if you too are interested in science policy-what's going on, why it's made, how it affects you-then join For Science's Sake, Pay Attention. . . . More
Views: 566 | Comments: 7
Last by Prabodh Kandala on Sep 06, 2010, 11:46am
With his daily music posts, Genomic Repairman has clearly demonstrated that scientists can possess a great love of music. What many younguns in science and most folks outside science many not realize is that under that crusty, grumpy, "why are you rafting instead of doing experiments" facade, many scientists dabble in making music. I've encountered at least a half dozen full professors who play an instrument and/or sing-sometimes even in public. So I guess it should come as no huge surprise that current NIH Director Francis Collins has a musical side too.

He also has a sense of humor, as evidenced by the musical commencement speech he's given a few times.

I wonder if he's written a new version "Their Way" for his position at the NIH... . . . More
Views: 562 | Comments: 0
In case you missed it, the 240th Meeting of the American Chemical Society kicked off this morning. I deeply miss hearing about awesome chemistry and biochemistry and long for my return to that field. Unfortunately, for a variety of reasons, I'm not able to attend-at least, not in person.

But, hark, yesterday I heard from a little bird that there was another way to keep up with the meeting. With the invaluble aid of free wifi, some folks at the meeting are/will be tweeting and live blogging sessions, including some ACS journos and bloggers.

The official hashtag is #ACS_Boston, which is now trending on Science Pond. Penelope Lewis, Acquisitions Editor for the Journal of the American Chemical Society, has been tweeting tidbits from sessions for @ this morning. One of the cool things she referenced is a talk by . . . More
Views: 3398 | Comments: 13
Last by biochem belle on Aug 30, 2010, 5:25am
DrDoyenne over at Women in Wetlands has noted over the years how often the students comment on the lack of female role models in science... and how difficult it is for them to name famous female scientists and their contribution to science on the spot. She points to a survey that reported 65% of Americans polled could not name a single female scientist. I find that statistic disheartening. Let's hope that the 2009 Nobel Prizes in Chemistry and Medicine & Physiology drop that number. DrDoyenne recently highlighted what I consider a gem providing a glimmer of hope. The Library of Congress has posted a reading list of biographies of women scientists.A small gripe is that it's listed "For Girls and Young Women". Now I think we should be doing things to get girls interested in science, to show them that it's not just the playground of boys. But I also think it's just as important for the boys to know that women do science too. S . . . More
Views: 877 | Comments: 4
Last by biochem belle on Aug 20, 2010, 2:22pm
A couple of weeks ago, the LabSpaces bloggers coordinated some posts to create a mini-carnival on work-life balance. And we're ready to go at it again on September 7! But we need a topic. We've thrown around some ideas, and we want your help deciding. Cast your vote in the poll below. Just be warned-if you follow in Tiddles footsteps, I might stalk you on the internet and punch your avatar :P

What topic would you like to see as the theme for the next LabSpaces mini-carnival?online surveys
. . . More
Views: 1187 | Comments: 4
Last by biochem belle on Aug 18, 2010, 7:03am
Amanda experienced Murphy's law while writing her thesis with the death of her hard drive, so you get to read my take on this week at LabSpaces again.

Another roundup, another new blogger!

Gerty-Z joins the LabSpaces crew and starts off with a post all about her! We're stoked to have her :)


In case you missed the drama on Twitter, our LabSpaces overlord Brian got into a little keruffle with a dead armadillo this week--which landed him in the emergency department for several hours and resulted in a broken hand and concussion. But that hasn't stopped him from coding and tweeting. In honor of this mishap, Tideliar shares his long string of unfortunate events resulting in injury. Now Genomic Repairman has taken a tumble down the stairs. Seems like the LabSpaces bloggers had better . . . More
Views: 982 | Comments: 0

I was planning to put together this roundup over the weekend. Then I got distracted by Project Runway and Doctor Who--we'll call that little escape part of my work-life balance plan.Which brings us to the theme of this roundup: Work-life balance...

(Insert maniacal laughter here.)

The LabSpaces bloggers threw a mini-carnival of sorts last week on this subject, which really focused on how we balance science and relationships. DrugMonkey threw together a little summary post that day, but here's a complete* listing:

Brian talks about choosing science over his relationship in grad school and finding another scientist who puts up with his antics.

LabMom shares here biggest challenge in balancing career and motherhood: good old-fashioned guilt.

LadyScientist wants her home life and work life to be . . . More
Views: 1177 | Comments: 12
Last by Dr. O on Aug 09, 2010, 3:28pm
You may have noticed that blogging on LabSpaces has exploded over the past couple of weeks. Those of us writing here are really excited about the building community, and we hope that our readers are too! Of course, with such changes come some growing pains. Our fearless Overlord and mastermind of LabSpaces, Brian Krueger (who is single-handedly posting science news, maintaining the site, and fielding the demands of LS bloggers, while doing research) wanted to clear up a few perceptions of his vision and mission in a faux interview with Ed Yong; thanks to Ed for keeping a sense of humor about it. Seriously, though, the site is in a state of flux, and plans for a redesign of the front page are being discussed. Genomic Repairman points out we want your input! Join in the conversation on site suggestions in LabSpaces forums-includi . . . More
Views: 1255 | Comments: 5
Last by Damn Good Technician on Aug 08, 2010, 8:11am
A couple of days ago, Jason Goldman of The Thoughtful Animal tagged me in a little meme purportedly started by The Blogfather Bora. This meme is short, and the rules simple:

1. Sum up your blogging motivation, philosophy and experience in exactly 10 words.

2. Tag 10 other blogs to perpetuate the meme.

My blogging philosophy

Keeping self and spouse sane whilst muddling through postdoc life.

I'm tagging:

Candid Engineer in Academia

dr_leigh of the path forward

Prof-like Substance

Prof in Training


Eugenie at There's a War Under My Bed

. . . More
Views: 1939 | Comments: 15
Last by 27 and a PhD on Oct 17, 2010, 10:45am

Being a postdoc is like being stuck in The Void between realities.* We tend to fall into this amorphous, ambiguous state. We’re not students anymore, but we’re not always classified as employees. Even if we are classified as employees, we’re often not eligible for the same benefits (i.e. life insurance, 401K, etc.) as those with real, grown-up jobs at the same institution. We’re neither here nor there.

The kicker is no one really knows where we’re at. That is to say, there is no hard data on postdoc benefits, pay, leave… Hell, no one even knows exactly how many postdocs there are in the U.S. I’ve seen estimates running as high as 95,000; according to the NPA Postdoc Scholar Fact sheet, NSF estimates run the gamut from 43,000 to 89,000. The information we have is based on surveys that are largely targeted toward students completing Ph.D.s in the U.S., which misses a substantial portion of the postdoc force.

The immense variation in the titles and classifications of postdocs makes it quite difficult to get a clear picture of postdoc training in the U.S. Instead we have this muddle . . . More
Views: 688 | Comments: 9
Last by biochem belle on Aug 04, 2010, 8:06pm
Balance seems to be one of those things that everyone is trying to find. It's a difficult and delicate thing to maintain. For me, it often ends up looking like this:

*This entry contains a YouTube video*

Video 1. belle chases her tail whilst precariously balanced. It's all well and good and fun... until she falls on her face.

OK. I am being a bit dramatic--amusingly dramatic, but dramatic nonetheless. The point is, regardless of profession or career stage, finding balance is a tricky thing--especially if you're the sort of person who goes "all in", and science really seems to select such persuasions.

Around the time I started visiting graduate programs, a seminar speaker lunching with students asked what our plans were after undergrad. When it came around to me, the conversation went something like this:

belle: I'm going after a Ph.D.

prof (glancing at my hand): You married?

belle: After graduation.

prof (cynically): Good luck with that. I went into grad school married. I came out not married.

After that conversation, one criterion for graduate programs was 'still married when I finish'. (That was later expanded to 'still married and not in jail for strang . . . More
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Last by Silver Fox on Aug 03, 2010, 11:30am
While we're talking about work-life balance over here at LabSpaces today, let me point you to a fantastic interview with four women awarded Nobel Prizes last year (2 in Medicine & Physiology, one in chemistry, and one in economics) posted by ScienceNOW. I highly recommend listening to the entire interview if you have time.

One of the things that really struck me was Elizabeth Blackburn's take on balance:

"I think that the message of balance is somewhat overplayed, in my view, because if you're doing something intense like having a family and doing science, they're both intense things, and so this idea that somehow every day is sort of balanced I think it's really a bad message, actually, to try and send people. ... So I try and send the message, for goodness sake, don't go for balance. That sounds very boring to me, you know, in this sort of 9 to 5 and you're balancing your life. Go for these things intensely in the periods when you have to go for them and the balance will take care of itself over decades."

What do you think? . . . More
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Last by biochem belle on Aug 02, 2010, 10:26am
Genomic Repairman, it seems, is a fanboy of NCI Director Harold Varmus. Recently the flames of the professional crush were fanned when Varmus commented on the importance of "small science". In The Cancer Letter, Varmus is paraphrased/quoted, saying:

Although “big science” and “mega-teams” have a role, “we have to remember that the great achievements of science have almost always begun with an individual scientist—a lone explorer—working in his or her lab, having an unexpected idea. This in an essential precept to remain faithful to if we are going to retain the stature of the NCI, the NIH, and American science.”

Recently, other prominent scientists have expressed their feelings about mega-science--especially genomics--in less friendly terms. In an interview with The Scientist, Jan Klein states:

I . . . More
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Last by biochem belle on Aug 07, 2010, 6:32am
Life has a way of interfering with your plans. Or at least it does mine. Looking at where, a year ago, I expected to be now and where I actually am is like looking at two completely different stories. I had planned to continue with my running and weight training schedule, but I allowed other things to squeeze out my time. I thought I had a very clear idea of what I wanted my career to look like, but I have begun to wonder just how much I'm willing to commit to that path. I certainly had no idea that I would be moving to a different lab.

With the exception of the first item, it's really not as bad as it might sound, though, because these deviations either signify or have initiated consequential changes for the better. To start with, I'm far less timid than I was a year ago. I have insinuated myself into conversations and initiated introductions--instead of running away. I have tapped into my network of peers and colleagues and, with some help, have even expanded it. In many ways, this was triggered by questioning my career path and deciding to survey other options. I have rediscovered my voice--or perhaps more accurately the courage to speak my mind to someone other than my spouse (this change has not been universally appreciated). I was very recently reminde . . . More
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Last by unbalanced reaction on Aug 02, 2010, 6:30pm
For some of you perhaps, this little nook on LabSpaces might be the first time we've met. Maybe some of you reading this have followed me from Blogger and/or WordPress. To all, welcome and thanks for stopping by! To the latter group, also thanks for your patience and tagging along. I've been blogging "solo" for over a year, but I thought it would be nice to join this little band of bloggers for a while. After all, misery loves company, right?

And speaking of misery... to start, doesn't the title of postdoc say enough? (Only kidding... OK, mostly kidding.) If you've arrived here via Twitter or a previous edition of this blog, you might have noticed that my journey so far has been a bit bumpy. I know that a career in science, and in particular, a postdoc position, is never exactly easy. There are always hurdles and sometimes walls. I also will acknowledge that some people have good postdoc experiences. However, this one has been... suboptimal, for reasons that I mig . . . More