Category Archives: Science Careers

Internships Boost Postdocs’ Skills, Worldliness, and Marketability

20131021_LLaursenPostdocInternship_KellyAndringa_160x160When Kelly Andringa began to get calls from faculty anxious about their paperwork, she wondered whether she’d done her assignment right. As a 2-days-a-week intern on the conflict-of-interest review board at the University of Alabama, Birmingham (UAB), she had written a Web-based tutorial explaining to faculty how to properly fill out compliance forms. Her main job, however, was as a postdoc in environmental health at the same university; administration was new to her. But, as more calls came in, Andringa realized that the concerns of most of those faculty members were unwarranted: They had completed the forms correctly. “I was quite proud,” she recalls. “I felt good about communicating it well.”

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Alternative Research Metrics

Most scientific researchers know the agony of waiting to hear about the status of a submitted manuscript. They are eager to change the phrase “manuscript submitted” on a grant application or curriculum vitae to “in press” in advance of some crucial deadline. Publications in prestigious journals—not necessarily the articles themselves but the fact of their existence—are the established and universal, albeit imperfect, way of claiming credit for the scientific work you’ve done, and there’s always a delay.

But when sociologist Margarita Mooney of the University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill, recently applied for a grant, she was able to take instant credit for one aspect of her work: the readership of her blog, as documented by Google Analytics. When she told the review committee that her team blog, Black, White and Gray, had 15,000 page views in its first month, rising to 20,000 views in later months, they were impressed, she recalls. Blog readership is not a traditional measure of scholarship, but the committee, which was also evaluating public impact, rewarded her for it. She won the grant.

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Asking the Public for Money

Postdoctoral research fellow David Kipping has often seen other astronomers don smart jackets when attending meetings or giving presentations, especially when they knew that funding powers-that-be would also be there. So before heading to one of his science presentations last year, Kipping pulled on a smart jacket. His next moves, however, were less conventional. He climbed the stairs to the roof of the Perkins building at the Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics, pointed his laptop’s video camera at himself and, with the center’s 9-inch Clark telescope dome in the background, made a science sales pitch directly to the public. The video, which appears on YouTube and on the science crowd-funding Web site Petridish.org, raised $12,247. The pitch was to buy and install a small supercomputer, which he would name for the biggest donor, to speed up data processing on a search for moons in other solar systems.

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How To Avoid Retirement

When biochemist Anthony Norman earned tenure at the University of California (UC), Riverside, he thought he’d never have to apply for a job again. But that was before he retired.

Norman, a professor emeritus, continues to run the laboratory he started in 1963. But he recently became a professor of the Graduate Division, a title reserved for retirees who “are fully engaged in research and/or other departmental and campus activities,” his new appointment letter says. Norman, who will draw his pension instead of a salary, believes the new position will help his post-retirement research career. “It used to be that when you retired your title became X emeritus. That doesn’t help you when you write up a grant application,” Norman says. In contrast toprofessor emeritus, professors of the Graduate Divisionprove their value every 3 years by passing the same departmental merit review used to grant pay raises to regular faculty members. “We have to jump through the same hoops as everyone else,” he says.

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