Higher Ed: Medical Cannabis Courses Are Now Available at US Universities

Posted in Articles, BioEducation, Uncategorized

Back in the day when I was going to graduate school in Madison, WI,  there was no such thing as medical Cannabis (although there was plenty of weed to go around).  But, as the line in that old Dylan song goes “the times they are a changin”

Late last month, the University of California-Davis announced that it would be joining Humboldt State University in offering undergraduate students a course entitled Physiology of Cannabis.  FYI, Humboldt State has been offering courses in medical Cannabis since 2012 (not surprising since the school is located in prime Cannabis cultivation territory).

According to UC-Davis officials the semester-long, three credit course will be aimed at biology students and will cover the endocannabinoid system, the effects of cannabinoids on the human body and the therapeutic value of Cannabis.

Likewise, Sonoma State University announced that it will be offering a one day symposium on March 11, 2017  to members of the healthcare industry in the Bay area. The symposium is entitled Medical Cannabis: A Clinical and it is intended as a workforce development course.  Nurses, physicians and pharmacists can get continuing education credit for the course. Topics that will be covered include the history of cannabis, an introduction to cannabinoids and terpenes, dosing and administration of cannabinoids, legal implication and other medical-related issues. The university is also planning a three day course on Cannabis regulatory issues later in the month.

While these courses are available, there is currently no undergraduate degree program in Cannabis science/medicine offered by any US university or college. That said, don’t be surprised if this major becomes a reality in States where medical and recreational Cannabis are legal.

Until next time…

Good Luck, Good Job Hunting and Happy Trails

Is There Really a PhD Glut–You Betcha!

Posted in BioEducation

My colleagues over @ onlinephd.org sent me an infographic (these things are very popular these days) explaining why there is a glut of PhDs on today’s job market and how it is affecting undergraduate education in the US. 

Surprisingly, the glut is not restricted to the life sciences; it appears to be universal!  At some point, the education bubble will burst and it is certain to have a marked effect on graduate programs. While I am proud of my PhD degree, I am not sure that getting a PhD degree is a wise career path unless you truly love what you are studying and cannot see yourself doing anything else for the rest of your life. If you have any doubts, I recommend finding a job or world travel before you decide to take the PhD plunge!  

The bottom line: earning a PhD degree is a very personal decision and it does not guarantee you employment at the end of your training!!!!!!!!!!

PhD Job Crisis
Created by: Online PhD

Until next time…

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

Why American Students Have Given Up On Science

Posted in BioEducation

A fascinating article entitled “Why Science Majors Change Their Minds (It’s Just So Darn Hard)” that appeared in the NY Times this past Sunday asserts that the decline in American science, technology engineering and math (STEM) majors can be mainly attributed to the difficulty of the subject matter as compared with non-science majors. While I agree that STEM courses may be a bit more challenging their non-science counterparts and the way that they are taught can be improved, the decline in STEM majors can be directly attributed to the length of training and earning potential for STEM jobs as compared with non-STEM ones. Put simply, persons who pursue non-STEM careers generally require less training and have a much higher earning potential than those who choose STEM career paths. And, the reason why foreign students from emerging are flocking to STEM careers is that these jobs are highly regarded in their home countries and those who pursue these career paths are well compensated for their efforts.

Rather than try and enunciate my feelings on this topic, I think a Letter to the Editor from Stuart Firestein, PhD, Chairman of the department of biological sciences at Columbia University that appeared in today’s NY Times nicely capture my sentiments:

To the Editor:

Why do science majors change their mind? They wise up.

Your article makes it sound as if American science students are stupid or lazy, unlike their workaholic Chinese and Indian counterparts. This is glib and insulting.

It is in their second year that students typically join laboratories and see firsthand that their dreams of a scientific career include low-paying and highly competitive professorial jobs, that getting grants for scientific research is increasingly difficult and unpredictable, that they are facing many years of postgraduate work at ridiculously low salaries and that they would have a hard time supporting a family.

Compare this future with that of the economics major (lots of math) who goes to business school and can look forward to million-dollar yearly bonuses.

American students change their majors because they recognize that this country has stopped providing a reasonable future for scientists, with slashed budgets for the National Science Foundation, National Aeronautics and Space Administration and National Institutes of Health.

For Chinese and Indian students, science remains a way out of poverty. For American students, it’s becoming the path into it.

In addition to Dr. Firestein’s comments, it is important to note that outsourcing and consolidation in the life sciences industry that has occurred over the past decade has all but eliminated the option of industry jobs for those who were unable to secure academic positions. Put simply, there are no longer enough jobs in the US to support the numbers of sciences students that we annually train.

Although I have never taken an economic course, simple supply side economic theory suggests that training fewer scientists—thereby reducing competition for a dwindling number of jobs—may partially help to solve the STEM job problem. Further, changing the way in which we train STEM students, to provide them with the requisite skill sets for non-academic career would also help. Finally, eliminating tenure, which would force increased turnover among research faculty members and regularly infuse new ideas into extant STEM curricula would help to increase the overall number of available STEM jobs and also improve America’s global competitiveness in the sciences.

Until next time…

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


Why College "Ain't What It Used to Be!

Posted in BioEducation

There was an illuminating review today in the New York Times of a new book entitled “Higher Education? How Colleges are Wasting Our Money and Failing Our Kids-and What We Can Do About it.” Its authors are two longtime faculty members Andrew Hacker (tenured professor) and Claudia Dreifus (a freelance writer and adjunct instructor).

While I haven’t read the book, some of the problems with higher education asserted by the authors (and mentioned in the review) are consistent with my observations and experience. For example the review mentions that:

“Mr. Hacker and Ms. Dreifus list a host of crimes, or at least flaws in the system, some in the control of universities and others built into the external political, cultural or economic environment, or indeed into human nature. These include the narrow self-interestedness of academic departments; the greed of faculty members and administrators alike; the near-universal hypertrophy of “the athletics incubus”; unfunded government mandates; lifetime employment for pampered professors (thanks to the combination of tenure and Congressional abolition of mandatory retirement); and the demands of students and their parents for frivolous extras (driving what the authors call “the amenities arms race”).

The authors raise interesting questions about tenure and its alternatives. Like many critics of tenure, though, they have a keen eye for abuses of power but are remarkably sanguine about the capacity of the First Amendment to shield scholars from pressure exerted by those with the power to fire them.

The authors’ deepest scorn is reserved for the claim that good teaching depends on research, and their most extreme proposal is that universities drastically reduce the amount of research they support, by “spinning off” medical schools and research centers, discontinuing paid sabbaticals and abolishing the current system of promotion and tenure, a system that tends to reward research productivity more than effective teaching.”

While I tend agree that the emphasis on research, the pressure to publish and obtain extramural funding has had a negative impact on teaching, I disagree that teaching isn’t positively impacted by faculty members who are actively involved in scholarly research-what a conundrum!

Nevertheless, this book written by two long-time academicians provides compelling arguments for abolition of tenure and the need to improve teaching at the undergraduate and graduate levels.

Until next time…

Good Luck and Good Job Hunting (try teaching)!!!!!!!!!!


Online Biotechnology Training

Posted in BioEducation

In case you haven’t heard by now, biotechnology is no longer one of the best kept secrets of the pharmaceutical industry. Because small molecule blockbuster drugs are few and far between, every major pharmaceutical company in the world has announced plans to increase the percentage of protein-based drugs in their development pipeline. 

As strange as this may sound, most people working at pharmaceutical companies have little or no understanding of the science behind the biotechnology industry, its products and the skill sets required to compete in the industry. I learned this while working as a contract writer at a pharmaceutical company that was trying to transition from an emphasis on small molecules to biotechnology drugs. Shortly after management publicly announced its intention, signs began appearing in the building where I worked with messages like “Are you biotech to the core” or “Got biotech.” Not surprisingly, I found myself explaining the different between small molecules and biotechnology products to large numbers of colleagues during group lunches. Their lack of understanding about biotechnology was both surprising and troubling. I mean where have these people been for the past 35 years? 

While I thought that this phenomenon was unique to the company where I was working, it turns out —based on many conversations with employees at other companies—that it is pervasive in the pharmaceutical industry! Put simply, there are large numbers of pharmaceutical employees (and aspiring students for that matter) who know little about biotechnology and must quickly learn about an industry that they are being forced to work in so that they can keep their jobs! This presents time and logistical issues for many full time pharmaceutical employees—they simply don’t have the time or where-with-all to learn about biotechnology via traditional bricks and mortar training opportunities, e.g. undergraduate, graduate or certificate programs.

Recognizing a growing need, several academic institutions now offer online biotechnology courses and degree programs for undergraduate and graduate students. While these programs may not enable participants to work as bench scientists at life sciences companies (this requires hands-on wet laboratory training), they certainly provide students with the fundamental scientific and business underpinnings of the biotechnology industry.

Below you will find descriptions of a couple of online degree biotechnology programs and links to online undergraduate and graduate level biotechnology courses.

Online Biotechnology Degree Programs

The Johns Hopkins University – a prestigious brick-and-mortar research university – offers three online degree programs in advanced biotechnology: the M.S. in Bioinformatics, the M.S. in Bioscience Regulatory Affairs, and the M.S. in Biotechnology. (The M.S. in Biotech may involve a limited amount of on-campus instruction in Baltimore.) Students have up to five years to complete their degrees, but those who enroll for full-time study typically finish in two years.

The University of Maryland University College (UMUC) is among America’s largest providers of distance education. UMUC’s Biotechnology Studies Program has been designated a “Professional Science Master’s Degree Program” by the Council of Graduate Schools. The program’s three specialization areas include: bioinformatics, biotechnology management, and biosecurity/biodefense. A dual online degree option is also available: students can earn an MBA in addition to the Master’s in Biotechnology by completing just a few additional courses.

Online Biotechnology Courses

Purdue University’s Department of Continuing Education frequently features online courses in horticulture and related fields that can help students prepare for careers in biotechnology. New choices are offered every semester.

MiraCosta College, a community college in Southern California, offers a number of online courses in biotechnology. The school’s website includes a five-year projection of course offerings.

While the current list of online biotechnology offerings is short, expect the number of online courses and degree programs to continue to grow in the future. If you are aware of or participate in other online biotechnology courses and degree programs, please feel free contact me about them.

Hat tip and thanks to Chesca and her colleagues at OnlineDegreeReviews.org for research and writing of this post!

Until next time,

Good luck and Good learning!



Social Media and Career Development for Life Scientists

Posted in Social Media

Unlike others, life scientists have been slow to use social media to look for jobs or network to enhance career opportunities.  Many scientists  have  Facebook accounts but view it and other social media tools like Twitter simply as a means to stay in touch with family and friends.  However, social media can be a very powerful tool for scientists who are looking for jobs or the next big career move.

To that end, I presented a seminar at Experimental Biology this past weekend in New Orleans entitled "Social Media and Career Development for Life Sciences" that offer suggestions on how to use social media to land a job or jumpstart a career in the life sciences industry.  For those of you who may be interested, I posted the presentation below:

social media, life sciences, career development

View more presentations from cliffmz.
Until next time…
Good Luck and Good Job Hunting!!!!!