“Things are not progressing as they should. You’re having a hard time focusing on the research, and we know that you don’t want to be in academia anyway. Do you want to quit?”
The question landed like a punch, and Mónica’s committee meeting took a turn she hadn’t expected. She was in the fourth year of her PhD training at Harvard, and her committee had just asked her if she wanted to leave the program.
“That was incredibly devastating to have these four people that you respect, and that their main role is supposed to be supporting you and helping you, and to have them ask you, “Do you want to leave?” It was devastating. But I somehow found the strength to say, ‘I don’t want to quit!'”
Mónica Feliú-Mójer finished her PhD and went on to a dream job doing science outreach and communication, but that committee meeting was a turning point.
Her story holds a valuable lesson for any graduate student considering a career outside of the academic tenure track.
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?
Traditionally, spending time on social media was a great way to make your PI angry. Your job is to finish experiments, read papers, and present your work at conferences, not to upvote and share the latest blue-dress illusion.
But there are some unexpected benefits to the Twitter network that could help your science and your career.
When we imagine what life is like for people who are blind, our first reaction might be paralysis. We consider just how difficult our lives would be without sight; preparing breakfast, dressing for work, and navigating from home to the lab sound like insurmountable obstacles.
And if those trivial tasks seem daunting, consider your work day. Could you keep up with the pace of scientific research, running experiments and publishing papers with your eyes closed?
In our imaginary blindness, many of us would despair and find an alternative career path, but we’re missing a very important distinction between the thought experiment and reality.
The fact is, people who have been blind since birth have developed the skills to leap each and every hurdle we’ve listed. It’s a normal part of every day to commute to work or read a scientific paper.
Their biggest struggle may be overcoming the decidedly limited imaginations of their sighted peers.
Think about your first few months of graduate school. You moved into a new apartment in a new town, you met hundreds of other students and scientists, and you had to pick a rotation lab and classes for your first semester. It’s an unbelievably stressful time for most students.
Now imagine doing all of that in German.
Most of us learn enough vocabulary in a foreign language to take the train or buy a coffee, but students who travel internationally for graduate school are expected to do much more. “Where is the library?” is an easy phrase to learn. “The Drosophila histone demethylase dKDM5/LID regulates hematopoietic development” is not. (Morán T, et al.)
This week on the show, Josh interviews Haifa, an international student who grew up in Saudi Arabia and is now studying Drosophila at the University of Kansas. She shares her experience with coming to the US and talks about learning the nuanced English required to communicate with other scientists. She also reveals the subtle differences between lab culture at home and abroad.
Now that it’s officially the season for shopping, we tell you about a very unusual toy that should be on every microbiologist’s list. It’s Poo Dough, and it is perhaps the worst toy devised in a decade. Seriously, who thought this was a good idea? (Warning: it contains wheat for some reason.)
Josh is startled this week by the recent spate of Cats vs. Cucumber videos appearing online. Be sure to watch what happens when the cucumber menace sneaks up on unsuspecting scientists:
And in honor of the University of Kansas, we’re drinking another beer sent in by a Lawrence listener. It’s the Copperhead Pale Ale from Freestate Brewing. Thanks to all our friends in the Sunflower State!
Outliers: The Story of Success by Malcolm Gladwell – He describes the influence of High- and Low-Power Distance cultures on the rates of airline crashes.