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034: Sci-Hub and the Publication Pirates

Research budgets are tight, and many universities are canceling subscriptions to costly online science journals and publications.  But papers are the currency of science, and it’s impossible to stay at the top of your field when you can’t find out what your field is doing.

One solution sails between the rock and the hard-place, as scientists and trainees turn to ‘pirated’ articles posted online.

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029: Tenure Tracker – Choose a Mentor, Not a Lab

Choosing a lab for your graduate or postdoc research is one of the most important decisions you’ll make. Most people read papers and abstracts to find the coolest science.  Or they favor the big labs with lots of people and solid funding.

But those features can distract you from the real secret of scientific success.
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028: Making Time for Kids When Everyone Else Stays Late

If you have kids, you’ve experienced “the time shift.”

Where you used to have hobbies, you now have a drive to soccer practice.  Where you used to have dinner out, you now have dinner, dishes, bath-time, stories, and bedtime, IN.

And where you used to stay late in the lab to finish an experiment, you now rush out at 5 to avoid the late fee at daycare.

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019: How to Avoid a Toxic Lab

The research is cutting-edge. The publications are top-tier. Funding is abundant. But this lab has a toxic secret that will make your life a living hell.


Hidden in Plain Sight

Identifying the seventeen varieties of mold living in your walls before you try to remove it. #ItsAScienceThing

This week, we answered a question from a first-year grad student who found himself in a lab that felt more like the gladiator’s arena than an ivory tower.  The PI created an adversarial environment where it was every scientists for himself.

This summer (my first lab rotation) was in an HHMI lab and the PI was both non-existent and absolutely poisonous. Furthermore, their caustic attitude bled into the rest of the lab. It seemed like the rest of the staff withheld information so as to throw you under the bus during lab meeting. This experience has led me to reconsider my position as a grad student as well as a scientist. How do you handle a bad lab/mentor?

Thankfully, this was just a rotation, but it raises an important question about how to detect the subtle signs of disfunction.  We share one simple tip that helps you discover the hidden drama before you commit to joining.

And it’s not just advice for grad students on rotation – you’ll want to take the same advice if you’re choosing a postdoctoral lab because the stakes can be even higher!


Cutting on the Bias

We also took some time to answer listener mail about our recent gender bias episode.  Josh and Dan take the implicit bias test semi-live and on the air, and share their results.  If you haven’t taken it yet, go find out how biased you really are.  Jerk.

And we get the giggles about the fuggles with Ad Astra Ale from Free State Brewing in Lawrence, KS.  It was sent in by some listeners at the University of Kansas, so thank you to all of our Jayhawks friends!

016: Working Hard, or Hardly Working? How lab culture affects your productivity.

During his first week as a postdoc, James was excited.  He stayed late to set up cultures and read a stack of papers.  The second week, he was surprised to notice he was the last one in the lab at 6PM – in his undergrad lab, you could expect to see people working past 10.

Over the next few weeks, James left earlier each evening, pushing off the next experiment until tomorrow.  By the end of six months, he wasn’t making progress and had lost some of his energy and passion for the project.

Embracing the buzz

In this metaphor, the queen is the PI and the drones are postdocs who do all the work for low wages….

Is your lab buzzing with activity at all hours of the day and night, or does everyone clear out before dinner?   It should come as no surprise that the work ethic of people around you can affect YOUR productivity.  Ignoring the subtle nuances of lab culture is an all-too-common mistake.

This week, we respond to a listener question about culture and productivity:

Hi Josh + Dan,

I would love to hear a discussion about the work culture and differing work ethic at different tiers of institutes. I visited Boston over the weekend and was struck by the urgency all around, which I miss at my institute…wonder how much more productive I would be surrounded by a “hive” mentality. What do you think?

We start by exploring those powerful phrases about urgency and a hive mentality and how they can motivate you to work harder.  But in the end, we have some doubts about whether you’ll only find that work ethic at certain universities.  In reality, it can vary by department or lab, so it’s extra important for you to know what you’re looking for and choose based on your own personality profile.

Ninja Cowboy Cat Rides Again!

Also in this episode, we celebrate fall with the new Pumpkin Spice Agarose from Fisher Scientific.  Don’t be surprised when you find your e. Coli wearing Uggs and a Northface jacket!

On the beer front, we continue to enjoy some beers sent to us from a listener in Wisconsin.  We do double-duty with Spotted Cow Ale from New Glarus Brewing Co. (New Glarus, WI) and Fantasy Factory India Pale Ale from Karben4 Brewing (Madison, WI).

The label on the Fantasy Factory is nearly indescribable: