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091: Cross-Train for the Faculty Track with the Academic Pathways Postdoctoral Fellowship

Think about your training as a grad student and postdoc – you spend countless hours at the bench, running experiments and reading papers to finish your personal research project.

Now think about your PI or faculty advisor.

Does she spend time at the bench?  Or are you more likely to find her in her office, writing grants, attending departmental meetings, and managing people, projects, and money?

If you’re noticing a mismatch between academic training and the actual work of a faculty member, you’re not alone.  The skills and traits that make us successful students may not translate into making us successful professors and PIs.

That’s where a unique postdoctoral fellowship steps in to bridge the gap: it’s the Academic Pathways program at Vanderbilt University in Nashville, Tennessee. Their goal is to prepare postdocs for entry-level faculty jobs, with a special focus on increasing diversity at the highest levels of academia.

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011: The 8.5 Fixes That Will Save Biomedical Science (R)

Josh and Daniel are on the road this week, so we decided to bring you some goodies from the archive.  An 8-ish step plan to save science!  

Biomedical science is broken.  Funding is unpredictable, training programs drag on indefinitely, and some of our best scientists are drawn to careers outside of the university or drowned in paperwork if they stay.  Can anything be done to support research staff and boost lab productivity?

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088: 15 Transferable Skills PhDs Can Use In Any Career

But I have no skills! At least no skills employers would be interested in!

Melanie Sinche
Melanie Sinche, Director of Education, The Jackson Laboratory for Genomic Medicine

As a career counselor, Melanie Sinche heard grad students and postdocs voice this concern nearly every day.  She looked at these talented scholars and saw the ability to think critically, analyze data, and solve problems. To her eye, these were transferable skills very much in demand outside the research lab.  Why couldn’t the students see it?

“I felt frustrated by that comment, and motivated to conduct a research study around skill development. I would argue that scientific training, by its very nature, lends itself to the development of LOTS of skills.”

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080: Postdoc Straight Talk – Where Are They Now?

Uncertainty is a defining feature of postdoctoral training:

  • Q: Is a postdoc a student or an employee? (A: Neither. Both?)
  • Q: Should you continue in your PhD research field, or try something new?  (A: Yes)
  • Q: How are you supposed to find a job while you’re ALSO doing research and writing papers? (A: Pray that the Career-Fairy leaves one under your lab notebook while you’re at seminar.)
  • Q: How long should a postdoctoral fellowship take? (A: Now you’re just being mean!)

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negative postdoc criticism

073: Stop Telling Me My Project is Going to Fail!

Is your lab is filled with compassionate, positive individuals who offer nurturing support and gentle guidance to help you achieve your full potential as a scientist?

We didn’t think so.

While you may encounter a handful of Positive Pollyannas throughout your career, you’re also likely to run into a few Negative Nancys. Rather than encouraging you to keep trying when an experiment fails, they’ll take every opportunity to throw shade on your emerging research project.

Everyone’s A Critic

This week, we heard from Amygdala (not her real name…), who was getting nothing but discouragement from one of the postdocs in her lab.  She writes:

There is a postdoc in my lab who is tangentially involved in the project that I’m working on. This postdoc has extremely negative views regarding the project. This negative view spans from the amount of time it takes to train animals on this task to the variable results that we get with each animal, etc. While I agree about some points that this postdoc is making and that there is always room from improvement, it’s hard for me to not get down about this project. I’m the one directly training the animals and obtaining the results. Given that training animals takes 6 days a week and at least four hours each day, I’m trying to remain positive and not think that I’ve wasted all of this time. My PI and the postdoc whose project this is remain positive and encouraging. However, the tangentially-involved postdoc is someone who I interact more frequently with.

This is a very long-winded way of asking: How does one remain positive regarding their own project while still showing respect to other people’s views regarding the project? And is it appropriate for people to comment negatively on other people’s projects?

We address her concerns and offer some (hopefully) helpful advice for dealing with negativity from your lab mates.

Cloudy Waters

For Science in the News, Josh celebrates Healthy and Safe Swimming Week with a story about Cryptosporidium in pool water.  It’s a serious water-borne illness that you can prevent by not drinking where you swim.

Or you can get YOUR test strips today!

We also try an unfiltered sour beer from Sierra Nevada.  It’s the Otra Vez Gose-Style Ale brewed with cactus and grapefruit.  

Since the trendy flavors have shifted from intensely bitter IPAs to intensely sour Goses, we predict the next big hit will be beers that taste like cigarette butts and cat urine!

And soon after that, the hipsters will complain about those flavors being ‘mainstream.’ Sigh…