Just watch the first minute or two of James Brown's epic performance from the infamous Rumble in the Jungle fight between Ali and Foreman. Nobody beats James Brown and check out his GFOS (Godfather of Soul) logo. Just badass.
Archive for: May, 2011
I recently had a new postdoc tell me that he'd "only be here for no more than 3 years then he'd be off to start his own academic lab" somewhere great like some ivy league institution. Mind you this is the guy's first postdoc and he is working in a completely new model organism. So either dood is going to rock out and not sleep for 3 years as he publishes a crazy amount of badass papers or he has no understanding of how much he has ahead of him and how bad the TT job market is right now.
I didn't even know what to say other than, "Well good luck with that."
Watching a new PI in their first few days is awesome and a sight to behold. They look like the other PI's except they are younger and haven't been beaten down yet by committee work, the NIH grant game, or dealing with driftwood colleagues. The poor bastards also look terrified like a kid who just moved to town on the first day of school at a brand new high school. They don't know where anything is at, how to get this or that done, or how to order supplies. Someone needs to take them under their wing and give them help. Don't look at me, I don't have time for this crap. But I think I'm going to offer to sell them a pass to the pool on the roof at a discounted rate.
So lets consider that you just got your first TT job and you need to hire someone to do your bidding. Would you choose a more seasoned technician that knows some techniques (maybe not yours) and the ropes at your institution or would you go the cheap route and get a fresh noob on the cheap? I'm sure there are some trade offs, training a noob versus shelling out more money from your limited war chest for a more experienced tech and the fact that they may retire before you do if they stick around that long.
So lately there has been much talk about the fact that we are training too damn many PhD's for not enough jobs and what to do about it. I'm pretty sure this isn't the first time that this topic has surfaced, I imagine that it is even pretty cyclical in nature. The chilling fact and the tough pill to swallow as a trainee is there are too many of us. I mean it. Look around the lab and see how many of us there are, we outnumber our PI's by at least 2-3 to 1. And think of how many trainees pass through the lab over our PI's career. That's a lot. It doesn't take Big Blue to compute that the odds of one of us getting a PI's job is pretty slim.
So what are our options, to keep on keeping on or train less of us. Okay but if there are less of us, who is going to do the work? My boss isn't rolling up his sleeves and going back into the lab. Maybe hire some of us reformed trainees as technicians, but that costs too damn much. That option pretty much was the first to get jettisoned overboard, not unless the NIH chips in with some type of mechanism to help fund career bench-level scientists.
Maybe our bosses should train us for alternative careers. Yeah right, what the hell does my boss know about being a patent agent or a policy specialist (I mean he can barely stand committee work).
Some people espouse that maybe a sustainable model of consistent funding for labs would help to keep the machine running but start to cull the herd of our glutton of trainees. This is utter bullshit. We are but mere humans and fall prey to one of our basest desires: laziness. If I know I'm going to have a lifetime R01 funding for my lab, why would I work that hard, its not like I can secure more funding. Competition may knock some good people out of the game, but it also rewards the innovative and productive. Sometimes. But critics say this sustained model of funding works for Janelia Farm. That's great but you are taking one small scenario and trying to apply it to everyone. You know what we call that, trying to catch lightning in a damn bottle. Its not really going to work either.
Others suggest that we need to increase funding. You do understand that increasing research funding, in my opinion, will not make the situation better but rather exacerbate the problem. More money means more work for labs and that means more trainees, not less. So we are right back in the same situation. Cranking up the funding is acting like a ratchet that gets locked into only-forward progression each time the funding crank has tugged on.
Do I have any suggestions? Um no, I'm a dumbass grad student. Do I think we need to reform the PhD? Hell if I know. I have no real astute observations or insight that could be of benefit to anyone. I'm but a mere pawn in the game. Maybe I will find some measure of success or maybe I will be crushed under the same terrible wheel that has ground to dust those that have come before me and surely those that will come after unless this situation resolved.
The scary question that I ask myself is that if we triaged half of all trainees, "Would I make the cut?"
I gotta go get a drink
Since Genomic RepairWife is away in Abel PharmBoy land for job training, I'm taking advantage of the free time to get some shit done in the lab. So here is a Sunday morning jam for all the folks at work on this fine morning.
Now I know Jimi is the best and Stevie Ray Vaughan is a distant second with his cover of Voodoo Child, but I can't help but love it.