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108: My Green Lab with Allison Paradise

It’s Monday morning and you arrive in lab a little late. No worries, you drop your tissue culture media into the warming bath, turn on the hood, and head down the hall while things ‘warm up.’

Next stop is the -80 freezer. You dig through the drifting piles of frost and snow, around the boxes of samples with labels that wore off ages ago, and find your quarry. You throw your weight into the door, and manage to get it latched – just barely – and head to the lab.

Once there, you dump yesterday’s gel buffer down the drain and start measuring out agarose and ethidium bromide for today’s experiments. With the gel poured, it’s finally time for coffee. Then maybe you’ll get around to splitting your cells.

It may be an easy morning for a cell biologist, but it was pretty rough on the planet. This week we explore some simple tweaks this busy scientist could make to be greener and more sustainable!

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students celebrating good grades

094: Do Grades Matter in Grad School?

We got an email from a first-year student who seems to love everything about grad school… except the tests.  He’s wondering: Do grades matter?

Dear Josh and Daniel,

I am a first year chemical engineering PhD student and am currently working through a class-filled semester. For two of my classes, my midterm grades were much less than desirable for me. Now, I’m not the quickest when it comes to math, so a lower score in classes like transport compared to other students has been the norm, but these scores are even lower than what I usually expect.

Nerves have been a typical part of my exam state of mind, but past experience has shown I can usually overcome them. I feel like I understand the concepts, and my homework and quiz grades for the class would seem to indicate that. However, the tests have gotten the best of me both times.

I have to maintain a certain GPA and while I don’t know what the final grades will be yet, I feel like I should be doing better.

I guess my real question is, are class grades indicative of whether or not a PhD is right for me?

I have a master’s and have done research for more than 3 years, so I feel that the actual research portion of the program will not be the issue. And every time I get to talk research with my lab group and new advisor, I love it. For now, it just seems like my grades aren’t indicating that I’m a good enough student for the program, and I really don’t want that to be the case. I plan on talking to my advisor about it all soon as well as older grad students.

Thanks for listening and thanks for your show,

Sincerely,

Zachary

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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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grad student investing

089: The Grad Student’s Guide to Investing for Retirement

On a graduate student’s stipend, it’s hard to imagine having enough money left over to afford a dinner out, let alone enough to invest for retirement.

But if you can scrape together a few dollars each month, you have a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to grow that investment. As a grad student, time is on your side.

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income inequality

074: Does Science Have an Income Inequality Problem?

On May 2nd, NIH Director Francis Collins announced a plan to limit the total amount of grant funding awarded to an individual investigator or lab.

According to Collins, “the distribution of NIH grant funding is highly skewed, with 10 percent of NIH-funded investigators receiving over 40 percent of NIH funding.”

The funding proposal would limit an individual lab to the equivalent of 3 RO1-sized grants, and free up an additional 1600 funding opportunities that could go to early and mid-career scientists.

On June 8th, the plan was scrapped…

Addressing the 90%

This week on the show, we cover the contentious and somewhat confusing reversal of Collins’ plan to spur innovation by spreading around the money.

Did the plan change due to criticism from the labs with the deepest pockets? Or was there evidence to support the replacement plan that earmarks money for early-career scientists?

At the heart of this issue, we discuss whether basic research would benefit from a shift in investment strategy.

Do science and innovation advance faster when the ‘best’ labs get all the money, or is there value in making many smaller bets?

Tell us what YOU think in the comments below.

Everybeer

Some beers sing with complex aromas, malty bitterness, and just-right effervescence.  And then there’s brown ales.

This week, we sampled the Legend Brown Ale from Legend Brewing in Richmond, VA.  Don’t get me wrong, it’s a great beer.  Very tasty.  It just tastes like every other brown ale ever.  If you sneakily replaced the contents of this bottle with some other brown ale, I promise no one would notice.

I don’t know whether that makes us beer snobs or beer newbies.  Either way, we’re just counting down the days before we get back on our IPA kick…