Six years ago, would-be lawyer Kira Diaz-Tushman heard a National Public Radio program about the impending retirement of senior U.S. Geological Survey (USGS) geologists. “I thought, ‘That sounds fun. I want to do what they’re doing and play around in the field.’ ” So she double-majored in geology and political science at Bryn Mawr College in Pennsylvania and did a summer internship at USGS.
Tony Kouzarides tells the story of his early career as a comedy of errors. He started his Ph.D. at the University of Cambridge in the U.K. in 1981 studying the cancer-inducing potential of human cytomegalovirus. After a year of inserting part of the virus’s DNA into target cells, the cells showed almost no signs of cancer. He couldn’t rule out that other parts of the virus might do it, but he also couldn’t publish his early results. What he could publish by the end had more to do with genetic sequencing, an area he did not want to pursue.
After a short postdoc at Cambridge sequencing cytomegalovirus, he landed a second postdoc in a lab in New York studying oncogenes. There, he spent 2 years developing an unconfirmed and unpublishable hunch. On the strength of that record, he deadpans, he unsuccessfully applied to lead his own research group.
Originally started by physicists of various obscure stripes, job-rumor Web sites now cover more than a dozen disciplines from anthropology to zoology. Some of these Web sites have a Webmaster who (sometimes) vets and posts rumors about postdoc and faculty jobs, whereas other sites take the form of wikis, which individual users can update. The sites offer varying levels of information, but all of them make water-cooler job rumors available to the world.
Thomas Helleday was precocious long before he started supervising Ph.D. students as he finished his own doctorate. His mother, a banker, bought him his first stock at age 7. At age 16, the Swedish native volunteered in a cancer ward with his older brother and “was terrified” by the harsh side effects of radiation therapy he saw there. Vowing to do something about it, potentially in the pharmaceutical industry, Helleday studied business and molecular biology as an undergraduate.