Big Lab or Small? What’s right for you?

Similar to my advice about picking a PhD advisor, a new article in Nature asks the same question… about postdoc labs.

I particularly like the story of an advisor needing to rend 3 buses to get everyone to the end of summer party (I can’t even imagine a lab that big)(no seriously).

Read it here!

nj7673-553a-i2

Ann Miller (centre) carefully selects postdocs to ensure that they are a good fit in her small lab.

Advertisements

Science first, scientists later

In the biological sciences, authorship of scientific, peer-reviewed articles is perhaps the single biggest determinant of career success, recognition and grant funding. However, merely being one author out of, say 5, on an article is not enough, where you are on that list matters too.

Steven Burgess has proposed a radical idea on how to do away with this problem:

Want to know how? Read about it here!

1-2xOEEA_AljSvs0NoKicl_g.gif

 

 

Publishers go after ResearchGate for illicit sharing of journal papers

“The unasked question that this all comes down to is: Do publisher-owned rights matter more than the sharing of research for whatever benefit?” says Jon Tennant, communications director of professional research network ScienceOpen (also an STM member) in Berlin. “There’s a chance that ResearchGate will fail to recover from this, unless they fight back, and crumble as a business.”

Want to know more? Read about it here.

iStock-524904953_16x9.jpg

Are preprints the future of biology? A survival guide for scientists

Although physicists have been posting preprints for nearly 3 decades, many biologists have only just begun to widely share their unreviewed papers. The shift has been catalyzed, in part, by endorsements of preprint publishing from high-profile scientists, as well as the 2013 launch of the nonprofit bioRxiv by Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory (CSHL) in New York; bioRxiv now holds more than 15,000 papers. But in contrast to physics, where preprints took off without much fanfare or controversy, the leap into preprints is stirring strong passions in the hyper-competitive world of the life sciences.

Pros:

  1. accelerate the pace of science—and improve its quality—by publicizing findings long before they reach journals,
  2. helping researchers get rapid feedback on their work
  3. giving a leg up to young researchers who don’t yet have many publications
  4. little difference between posting a preprint and presenting unpublished findings at a meeting, except that the preprint audience can be far larger

Cons:

  1. competitors may steal their data or ideas, and rush to publish similar work.
  2. preprint servers will become a time sink, as scientists spend hours trying to sift through an immense mishmash of papers of various quality
  3. easy, rapid publication could foster preprint wars—in which the findings in one preprint are quickly attacked in another, sometimes within hours. Such online squabbles could leave the public bewildered and erode trust in scientists.

Read about it here!

Preprint-3.png

Thanks Dynamic Ecology!

Saving me the time of having to write a “how to pick a great postdoc” Dynamic Ecology has already written a great post about how to pick a postdoctoral advisor.

I agree with almost everything they wrote. So if you are finishing up and want to know where to go next, start here.

IMG_0893

Me and my postdoc advisor Robert Paxton doing field work in Scotland. Very good advisor!

 

Are you my advisor?

Ok, great news!  You’ve figured out you want to go to graduate school (thanks to this post here) and you have decided on your degree (MS vs PhD).

Now the question is: who will you work with? Graduate school is different from undergraduate in that where you go isn’t nearly as important as who you work with.

A good advisor will increase your number of publications, assist you in avoiding going too far into debt, and generally make your life better. So before you sign up for this person to be a critical, and intrusive part of your life for the next 4-10 years  (there are many people who spend a really long time in graduate school), here are some things to consider.

  1. Do you want a big lab or a small lab? A big lab means your advisor will be splitting his/her time between you and the 10+ other graduate students and postdocs in the lab. This can mean that you’ll have a good community of peers (and suffering together makes your bonds closer, remember), and you might get more help overall. Conversely, a small lab means your advisor spends more time with you. If you want a lot of attention and time from your advisor, fewer other people in the lab might be ideal.  But if you’ve got a problem with authority, or are nervous in front of your advisor,  this might result in problems. There is no right answer to this question, it really is personal preference. But it’s something you need to think through before you seek out an advisor.
  2. What is the funding situation? This is one of those things you need to ask up front, and means more than YOUR funding situation. If you are not independently wealthy, and are seeking financial assistance to complete graduation school, you need to gather critical information.  Are you going to have to teach every semester? If you love teaching and want to inspire young minds, this might be good, but keep in mind, every hour prepping for class, teaching class, and having student office hours is time not doing your primary research. So teaching at lot will likely affect how long it will take you to get your PhD. Are you going to get paid during the summer? Are there opportunities for you to get funded (grants in progress), or does your advisor already have money (multi-year research grant)? Not only are these important for your PhD (having to take a second job really cuts into your PhD time) but also for your future (being in debt forever really sucks).
  3. Are the current and former students of the advisor happy/satisfied/graduated? This one is key. If you want to know what an advisor is like, ask his students. Don’t limit yourself to just the students currently in the lab (especially if they are new), but ask the older students. And the recently graduated. Honestly, towards the end of my PhD, my friend Bobbi and I stopped being invited to the recruitment events… because the department wasn’t wild about the new students seeing how much we were suffering. But these are the people you want to talk to. They will give you the honest opinion on the things the advisor is bad at. And here’s an important point: EVERY ADVISOR IS BAD AT SOMETHING. You need to figure out if their “bad something” is a thing you don’t care about, or things that you actually like/require in an advisor.

Pick someone who is right for you. There are a lot of advisor-advisee interactions that make a  graduate student successful.  An advisor that someone else had difficulty with may be ideal for you, your personality, your interests, and your work ethic.  That’s why the big lab vs. small lab, and the qualities of the advisor are so important. Picking a person who is a really good scientist, but not a good fit for you is going to end up difficult for everyone involved.

original.jpg

 

A Wolf Would Never Fucking Do This

I don’t know how to respond to the shooting in Las Vegas, and I especially don’t know how to do it publicly. But over at Medium, a wonderful guest post by a North American Grey Wolf really brought it home for me (or added some humor in a dour and humorless time).

Read it here, or read the excerpt below:

I am a North American Gray Wolf and I’m mad as hell. Yes, I am a bit of a loner but let me be clear, I would never do something like this. You humans never care about me unless it’s to describe a psychopath mass murderer. Just because I’ve chosen not to reproduce or run with a pack doesn’t mean you can use my name to describe white mass shooters. Stop appropriating wolf culture and come up with your own term for it. I have a suggestion: Terrorist.

Do you even know what actual lone wolves like to do? We like running, howling, eating small mammals, smelling, and more running. You know what we don’t like to do? Shoot up concerts with weapons your founding fathers never could have imagined.

In conclusion, a murderer with a lawfully purchased personal arsenal is nothing like a lone wolf. A lone wolf is a majestic grey animal who just wants to do his own thing and maybe get married when he’s ready, ok?

Please stop using my name for terrorism. I don’t even have thumbs.