Summer Reading for Science Graduate Students (and Maybe Postdocs!)

Posted in Career Advice

It is officially summer (July 4 was this past Tuesday) and things have slowed down as most people take their vacations during the summer months. Invariably, recommended summer reading lists have appeared in print, in podcasts and on radio shows.

One book that may be an interesting read for science graduate students (and possibly postdocs) is a novel entitled “Chemistry” by Weike Wang.  I heard about this novel on an NPR radio show during an interview with its author.  While I have not read the book (I’m on the downside of my  career and no longer an academic), a recent review of the novel suggests that it may be helpful for science graduate students who may be struggling with career options and future career choices.  As I mentioned above, it may be a good read for postdocs but they may be too far down the career rabbit hole to benefit from it.

The reviewer, Beryl Lieff Benderly (a professional freelance science writer), offered the following critique:

Though Wang doubtlessly does not intend her debut novel as a treatise on the ills and failings of scientific training at high-powered research universities, she poignantly highlights many of the issues that make that process so trying for so many ambitious and earnest young people. Among them is the “common knowledge … that graduate students make close to nothing and that there are more PhD scientists in this country than there are jobs for them,” Wang writes. In addition, there’s the lab member who “strongly believes that women do not belong in science because [they] lack the balls to actually do science.” And these aren’t even close to the most serious of the protagonist’s challenges.

Further she offers:

Wang clearly wrote this book as a character study, not as an academic analysis of the grad school experience. Still, I suspect that reading it could prove useful to academic officials interested in improving grad students’ often difficult lot. The protagonist appears to receive essentially no meaningful help or guidance in her travails from anyone associated with her university, and officials might do well to consider why this is so and what services could have proved useful.

I’m sure that many of you identify with the premise of the novel and may have even experienced some of the universally-recognized  ”ills” and “failings” of modern scientific training. That said, while reading the novel may bring back bad memories or make you think about your difficult current situation, it is always helpful to read about others who have shared your experiences and are intimately aware of your current plight. If nothing else, it helps to remind you that you are not alone and perhaps, more importantly you are not crazy!

Enjoy the book and your summer!

Until next time…

Good Luck and Good Job Hunting.


Looking for a Chemistry Job? This Webinar May Help

Posted in BioJobBuzz

I received a heads-up from the American Chemical Society’s (ACS) Sergio Lewis about a free webinar entitled “How to Secure and Nurture a Vibrant Chemistry Career in the 21st Century.” The webinar is scheduled for December 1, 2011 from 2:00-3:00 PM and will be led by Brian Fahie, PhD from Eli Lilly & Co. The presentation will be followed by a Q&A session.

For more information you can download the program here. To register follow this link.

Until next time…

Good Luck and Good Job Hunting!!!!!!!!!!!


How Online Courses Can Help You Secure a Job

Posted in Career Advice

The job market is rough, and many in the field of science, whether they are a chemist or a biologist, are having difficulty obtaining a position. Unless you want a low-paying tech or lab position there isn’t much currently available, especially if you don’t have an advanced degree. However, many recent college graduates are beginning to find that taking a few online courses can greatly increase their odds of being hired.

For years, online colleges carried poor reputations, but that stigma is rapidly fading. As current professionals are having to obtain additional education on limited schedules, and the internet as a source of knowledge is becoming more trusted, a degree obtained from an accredited online college is now viewed by much of the population as being just as viable as one received from a traditional university.

Employers no longer scowl at online degrees either. In fact, many are beginning to believe that those who obtain degrees online, or those who simply add to their education by taking a few courses, may actually be more valuable than traditionally educated individuals. Seeking additional education online may actually make you more enticing as a job applicant because managing your own education says multiple things about your character.

The Educational Benefit

The main reason why anyone seeks out additional education is to obtain the skill set they need to succeed. By taking online courses you will gain more knowledge of your industry which will make you a more appealing candidate for employers. You will have a more well-rounded understanding of your field, and by taking the classes may secure the additional education needed to look better than another deserving candidate.

The Personal Benefit

Struggling to find a job is no easy task, and at times it can be really rough on your self esteem. By pursuing additional education, you are able to achieve personal goals, and gain greater confidence in your knowledge and abilities. Having both of these attributes will make employers more likely to hire you. Plus, taking the additional courses will keep your mind fresh and will also keep your occupied and focus during your down time.

The Professional Benefit

From an employer’s perspective, those who are willing to manage their education on their own are self-starters. They are motivated individuals who now how to set goals and obtain them. Online classes aren’t like typical on-campus classes, and require students to remain focused on the tasks at hand. There is no one there to remind them of due dates and constant assignments. Employers know this, and know that anyone capable of getting good grades or a degree from an online university is a driven and organized person, which is what many employers are looking for.

The job market it tough, but your college degree isn’t to blame for your lack of employment. Thousands of people have lost their jobs or are struggling to find position all over the United States, and the poor economy isn’t helping. The fact of the matter is that the lacking economy has made it hard for anyone to find a job whether they are a biologist like you or a math teacher.

However, all hope is not lost. There are still plenty of well paying positions in the biological field, and you can still find one in one of the various public and private firms that are still hiring. Just keep in mind that there are hundreds of others seeking the same position you are. To get ahead you simply have to be more competitive and make yourself more enticing to employers, and increasing your knowledge by taking online college courses may be the first step in the right direction. 

Until next time…

Good Luck and Good Job Hunting!!!!!!!!!

Real Chemistry

Posted in Career Advice

I had little to do last night, so I decided to download Stumble Upon for Firefox.  While I was stumbling, I came across an outstanding video that teaches and reinforces the underlying principles of chemical reactions. If I had this type of tutorial when I was an undergraduate, I might very well have become a chemist rather than a biologist!


Until next time….

Good Luck and Good Reactions!!!!!!!



GFP Finally Gets Its Due

Posted in Career Advice

 As you may have heard, three scientists Osamu Shimomura, Martin Chalfie and Roger Tsien shared this year’s Nobel Prize in chemistry for their pioneering work on the Green Florescent Protein (GFP). GFP revolutionized the fields of molecular biology and cell biology and led to a greater understanding of the roles of proteins in cell, physiology, development and molecular trafficking.

I first became acquainted with GFP back in the mid 1990s when I was working in Bill Ward’s laboratory at Rutgers University. Bill had worked on GFP for over 25 years and I convinced him that GFP would be an ideal educational tool to teach biochemistry and molecular biology to undergraduate students. Prior to my arrival in Bill’s lab, a couple of graduate students had created so-called, “brightness” GFP mutants using molecular evolution techniques that were en vogue at the time. Because they were much brighter than wild type GFP, I used these mutants to develop laboratory exercises that showcased the principles of protein purification, polyacrylamide gel electrophoresis and molecular cloning.  Although I published a paper on my work, it was the pioneering work of Ron Mardigian at BioRad that ultimately led to the development in 1997 of GFP-based education kits. Ron’s GFP kits were a huge success and are now used to teach biochemistry and molecular biology at the high school and college levels throughout the world.

GFP is an effective educational tool because everyone including children and adults is fascinated by things that glow. This brings to mind something that happened at a global GFP conference that Bill Ward organized in 1997 at Rutgers University. There were over 300 GFP researchers from all over the world in attendance. Bill, who is something of character and has a flair for the dramatic, wanted to WOW the conference attendees. Prior to the meeting, Bill asked us to prepare 2 liters of bacteria that over expressed the GFP “brightness” mutant. During the opening session of the conference, Bill had the 2 liter flask (sitting on a UV lamp) at the podium with him. The room was very dark (on purpose) and without warning he switched on the lamp—I will never forget the collective, audible gasp from the audience upon seeing the intense green glow emitted from the flask.

Even though I don’t work much with GFP anymore, I still get very excited when I see it.  I suspect that many other people who also work with GFP or any of its color variants BFP (blue), YFP (yellow), RFP (red) etc feel the same way I do about GFP–you just can’t wait to see it!

Until next time….

Good Luck and Good Job Hunting!!!!!!!!!!!