The lovely folks at Nature have published a comment from John Iaonnidis suggesting that maybe science funding should shift from a model of funding projects to maybe just doling out money to researchers. Ioannidis tries to justify his assertion by bringing up the amount of Nobel Prize work that was done without direct funding, the pressures of researchers to bring in grant money to keep their positions, etc. Don't know if I agree with him or not, but just want to make you aware that someone was kicking the tires on this idea. Again.
Archive for: September, 2011
So I have a buddy of mine who is a business manager for an academic department at a SLAC and he was particularly concerned with a new PI that they just hired. This kid came from BSD lab that was well funded and never wanted for anything. This guy had it all, supplies, technicians, as many expensive machines as he wanted. Now he is starting off year 2 in a not so well funded lab as he has been unsuccessful in pulling down any external funding. I know what his start up package is and lets say that it is actually very generous for a SLAC and the department even kicked in for two years of a technician and covered the stipends of more than a few undergrads.
Well a few months back when I was visiting my friend, I met with the PI who was stressing over money woes and we toured his lab. My buddy wanted me to come in and see the place and thought maybe I could come up with some ways for this guy to save some money. The business manager and I go way back to the days of me working as a TA and setting up labs, slinging reagents, and helping more than a few PI's build mini-scientific empires from the ground up. I've run more than my fair share of cat5, installed cabinets, put expensive equipment together (sometimes the wrong way, you're not supposed to have extra screws I guess), and done it on a less than modest budget.
So when I laid eyes on noob PI's lab I saw many opportunities to save money that he did not and brought them up to him. He was very receptive to my suggestions and just never saw where he was wasting money because well, he never had to worry about the bottom line.
Here are some of the ways I told him to trim the fat:
1. The noob PI had at least $1k in expired protein gels sitting away in the freezer and boxes of old Laemmli buffer that had gone bad. When I suggested pouring his own gels and making loading buffer he initially bristled but when he sat down with my buddy and they crunched the numbers he almost shit a brick with how much he could have saved.
2. Bacterial cells. Dude was spending a big chunk of change on competent cells. Once again I got look at as if I just told him the Earth was flat when I suggested making your own competent cells. Its not that hard and you can make a ton up in a single batch. That means you only order one box and never have to order it again. This may not sit well with Invitrogen but it will save you and hopefully him, a little money.
3. Homie was about to drop some money on additional thermocyclers when I suggested why not use the ones in the teaching lab that would work just fine and largely sit unused but for a few weeks out of the year. The point is to ascertain what common equipment is around you and try to take advantage of it. If you can use a shaker or a spec that is common equipment why waste your precious start up on one?
4. Buffers...Its okay to order premade buffers when you are rolling in cash and its not worth your time but when you are running a lab on a shoestring budget, you should be making a lot of them.
5. Cell culture media... Once again make it if you are pinching pennies. Its easy like a lot of the other things above and its a skill that he could teach one of his undergrad minions to do.
6. Don't buy every single summer undergrad flunkie in your lab a labcoat that is monogrammed with their and the labs name on it.
7. Beg, borrow, and steal (if you have to) old equipment. Dude passed up the opportunity to snatch up a freezers, fridges, and glassware from the lab of a retiring PI. Why you ask? Because the stuff was older or had someone else's name scrawled on it, or it wasn't new. This is just plain retarded take advantage of it. I know of a new PI at my institution that probably inherited enough stuff from a retiring PI that was worth maybe a third of his overall start up. And he got a ton of stuff. This parcel of information made me think that this noob PI's chances for success are dim if he is not capitalizing on opportunities such as these.
8. Software. Buy it if you really need it or go in with another lab on a license pack but you'd be surprised at what you can find for free. I say this because noob had very expensive software packs sitting in the box for experiments that he had neither conceived nor had the equipment to do but wanted it because that was what his old lab had.
I'm not telling you how to run a lab, in fact many PI's do it successfully by violating all the rules that I have listed above. But if you are faltering and trying to get off the ground with a less than generous war chest, then maybe some of these cost saving ideas can help you. Fuck now I sound like the Suze Orman or Clark Howard of science.
So there has been much debate about who to hire first for a new lab: a postdoctoral fellow or a technician. While everyone has a different take on this and rightfully so one of the last things that will probably be brought into the lab is a graduate student. And rightly so. But how long would you wait after starting a new lab before taking on a graduate student or rotation student (if you have that system)? A few months? A semester?
Guess who came out on top this week?
At #2 was the resurgent Jade Bio's Defending Champion. 
#3 Biochem Belle's K(eq) (K(eq)icked some ass this week) 
#4 Alyssa's Not Yo Mamma's Picks (Shooting out of the trash can and headed for the stars this week) 
#5 GertyZ's The Gert (slipping a few spots) 
#6 Tideliar's Tidy's Liars (making moves...in the right direction) 
#7 SugarScientist's Tumorators's (suffle of superiority is rising again) 
#8 PLS's Substanstowski's Seven (got "smoked" this week) 
#9 Dr. O's Boys (are grasping not to slip any further this week) 
#10 Odyssey's Sure Losers (are surely losing this week. That's alright the kids will do better next week) 
#11 Chall's Hopes (came close to being completely crushed this week) 
#12 Hermie (got pwnd this week) 
Since Arlenna and Namezia were no picks again this week, looks like Hermie is our loser.
Week 2 sees the crowning of a new champion. Coming in the top is Namnezia's Nam's Hams, narrowly edging me out on tie breakers.
Now for the rest of the lineup
2. GR's Burrested Development (Thank you Cam Newton for keeping it close enough on Sunday.) 
3. GertyZ's The Gert (brought the hurt this week. Way to go). 
4. PLS's Substanstowski's Seven (stumbled a little bit this week, but I foresee a bounce back next week.) 
5. Hermie (holding steady at 5 again this week) 
7. Chall's Hopes (making a might comeback.) 
8. Dr. O's Boys (got lucky in San Fran even though her QB took a beating.) 
9. Jade Bio's Defending Champion (are well I guess defending the #9 spot.) 
10. SugarScientist's Tumorators's (suffle of superiority just got deflated this week.) 
11. Biochem Belle's K(eq) (got K(rushe)d!) 
12. Tideliar's Tidy's Liars (are sweeping up the 12 spot.) 
13. Alyssa's Not Yo Mamma's Picks (got knocked down a few spots this week.) 
Since Arlenna failed to pick (again) this week. Alyssa claims the prize for coming in DFL.
So apparently the Westboro Baptist Church crazies set their sights on the Foo Fighters because apparently anyone in the entertainment industry can become the beacon for moral depravity and the damned. Well the Foo Fighters took it in stride and decide to give these nutter butters a little show that were protesting outside their concert. So what do Dave Grohl and the boys do? They hop on a flat bed and truck on out to the crazies and serenade them with their song Hot Buns.
I can only imagine the horrified look on the faces of the wackaloons when Dave Grohl belts out,
"Think I'm in the mood for some hot-man muffins."
I heart Foo Fighters. You guys are my heroes.
Oh yeah and click here to see my man Brandt's funny picture of Fred Phelps.
So recently I got a question from a high school biology school in a real rural background about where can he find resources to help teach basic biology to his kids. Steve and I got to talking and he wants to start introducing kids to molecular biology and slowly bring them onto evolution so as not to hit a brick wall of ignorance from the parents. So Steve's main question was where can he find resources (online modules, class demonstrations, etc.) on basic molecular biology to teach his students. And the poor guy has a shoe string budget to do it on so anything free is the best.
Here is what I came up with:
The Molecular Section of Dr. P's AP Biology Section (not the best layout but there is some good stuff there)
NCBI's Biotechnology Science Primer
NCBI also has a copy of Lodish's Molecular Biology of the Cell but you have to search topics, no browsing.
Public Broadcasting System's DNA Resources section. I recommend checking out DNA: the Secret of Life.
These are but just a few resources. If you have more let me know so we can compile some type of list that we can put up. Also if you are an educator and you need a molecular biology textbook, I've got more than a few old ones still kicking around and I can pass them onto you. My desire is to best equip those that will be front lines of getting kids into science and educating what could be the next generation of clinicians and scientists.