June 29, 2011
June 21, 2011
Technically, the ruling was a win for New York University (NYU) in that a petition brought by an NYU graduate student organization was dismissed. But, in rendering this judgment, Elbert F. Tellem, acting director of the NLRB regional office in Manhattan, concluded that graduate assistants have a "dual relationship" with the university that is "both academic and economic" and "does not necessarily preclude a finding of employee status." Tellem's opinion opens the way for the NLRB to revisit a 2004 decision that held, in a party-line vote, that graduate student assistants cannot unionize.
Only one NLRB member remains from that 2004 board -- chairman Wilma B. Liebman, who was first appointed by President Bill Clinton and was reappointed by President George W. Bush. Two other current members were recess appointments by President Barack Obama. Both have strong union connections. The fourth current member is a Republican appointee. The nomination of Terence F. Flynn, who was nominated by Obama but has served as general counsel to two Republican NLRB members, is pending before the Senate.
June 20, 2011
June 17, 2011
June 16, 2011
June 14, 2011
June 13, 2011
Qingshi Zhu, a prominent chemist, education reform advocate and president of South University of Science and Technology of China (SUSTC), the country's newest university, believes that the answer is yes, according to an intriguing article in Chemical & Engineering News. Keeping highly talented students and postdocs in China's academic labs would, he notes, help boost the country's overall research effort. The institution Zhu heads, which currently is seeking accreditation, is based on a different model from China's older institutions and is designed to aim for world standards.
June 8, 2011
Stearns adds that one should stay alert for and open to opportunities other than sticking it out all the way to the PhD. Some such possibilities may work out much better for you in the long run. "There are a lot of interesting things to do in life besides being a scientist," he notes, "and in some the job market is a lot better."
June 8, 2011
June 7, 2011
June 7, 2011
A penetrating analysis in chapter 12 of the independent experts' report on last year's Upper Big Branch mine disaster, in which 29 miners perished, suggests an illuminating answer: the "normalization of deviance." (I learned of this chapter, by the way, from the blog of Jillian Kemsley at Chemical & Engineering News.) This interpretation derives from research into the Challenger disaster presented by Columbia University sociologist Diane Vaughan in her 1996 book The Challenger Launch Decision: Risky Technology, Culture and Deviance at NASA.It is important because it goes beyond the usual explanations of academic laboratory safety incidents, which often blame the lack of a safety culture. Rather, it suggests something more pernicious: the presence of cultures not only indifferent but actually inimical to good safety practices.
June 6, 2011
Colin MacIlwain reports in the latest Science that 27 Wellcome Trust Investigators -- 7 in the first 5 years of their first faculty appointments -- will share £57 million. Similar (but smaller) competitions will follow. Eventually, the trust plans to support more than 300 scientists at similar levels.
June 3, 2011
Dudnik did a research stint in the Africa Rice Center in Cote d'Ivoire, in 2000, as a Fulbright scholar. During her time there she realized, she says, that the technicians at the lab -- some of whom did not have a college degree -- were just as skilled at scientific work as scientists in richer countries. But they lacked material resources to go further.
When she returned to the U.S., she spoke with colleagues about this resource crunch. She told them about African researchers who would carefully rinse out disposable pipette tips and re-use them several times.
Dudnik realized she could help, even as a student. She and her lab friends set about scouring Harvard labs for old but serviceable scientific equipment, which Harvard researchers often leave in the hallway right outside their labs. Their first shipment went to schools in South America. As word got around, other researchers began to contact them with donations. In 2007, Dudnick received the Echoing Green fellowship to launch Seeding Labs and expand its operations. In 2010, Nina became a TED Global Fellow. Today she has left the bench, pursuing a career as a full-time social entrepreneur.
Here's how Seeding Labs works: Researchers from labs in the developing world send an application listing their equipment needs. When a match is found for items on their list, they pay a small fee -- a small percentage of the equipment's original cost -- to cover shipping and handling costs. The buyer is responsible for clearing the equipment through customs. Seeding Labs also helps recipients get training to fix the equipment when it breaks. Thus far, Dudnik has worked with labs in 16 countries, in Asia, Africa, and Latin America.
Working in a lab can be a very social experience, but it isn't always. The more social part of science is limited to a small subset of people, says Dudnik who likes to be around people. "Running Seeding Labs, I get to spend time with an incredible range of people across the world and across many sectors. On any given day, I might talk to a pharmaceutical executive in Boston, a bench scientist in Ghana, a student in Cambridge or Kenya, social media marketers, lawyers, accountants, [or] warehouse managers," she says. "I learn so much every day, and get to have conversations I never imagined."
- Vijaysree Venkatraman
June 1, 2011
For more advice on choosing a postdoc, in physical science or any other scientific field, read our own take in "A Perfect Postdoc: A Primer".