Scientific training has its roots in the ancient world. From Aristotle’s natural philosophy to the modern biomedical research lab, science training has relied heavily on an apprenticeship model.
Senior scientists take promising young students into their labs and train them, hands-on, in the practical activities of research.
The assumption has always been that the aspiring scientist will ‘grow up’ to be like her mentor – running a lab of her own someday. And for a long time, that made sense.
Is it time to rethink the PhD process? Can we modernize scientific training to support the diverse interest of today’s scientists?
That was the question posed by The National Institute of General Medical Sciences (NIGMS) in their push to modernize scientific training.
We rise to the challenge with a Trilogy of Solutions. This week, we unpack the first idea: revising the graduate school curriculum so that training is more standardized, and time to completion is fixed.
Imagine a world in which your PhD program was limited to 5 years. What type of training would build your research skills and make you ready for the workplace?
The fact is, our current system is extremely variable – each student has a unique project with individual successes and failures. One student might sail through in 3 years, while another is forced to change labs and stays through year 9.
Is the first student smarter? Better equipped to succeed? Or is the second student better trained by the additional time?
The reality is that ‘time to PhD’ is not synonymous with skill or training. And if time isn’t correlated with success, then there’s an opportunity to tighten up the training schedule without sacrificing pedagogical quality.
We share a handful of ideas an concerns about a fixed-five year PhD, but we’d love to hear what you think! Is it worth standardizing scientific training, and where should we start?
Big fruit, small bottle
Josh took a trip out west (but not too far!) to pick up this week’s brew: Wicked Weed Watermelon Saison from Asheville, NC. It’s big on watermelon flavor, and makes us long for one last weekend trip to the beach. Grab some before summer melts away!