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16-Year-Old Discovers Potential Treatment For Cystic Fibrosis

xplenumx A bit of perspective (236 comments)

It's important to note that this project was neither independent driven by the student nor was it through the student's high school - he was working as a student in a larger, well established lab. To provide some prospective, in biology it's very common for students (high school or undergraduate) to come in a work in a lab for short periods of time (particularly during the summer). We typically give them introductory projects and they're very heavily mentored (honestly, they typically slow down research more than they help - but we need to get them excited as the next generation of scientists and it's a great recruitment tool for graduate schools); the project described as the in the article is a perfect example. These articles are great because it highlights research and excites students about science. Unfortunately these summaries also hurt us as it makes it appear that discoveries like the one described (which is very premature) are easy and that 'regular scientists' are simply holding back (as evident by a few of the comments already posted here on Slashdot). Kudos to the Mr. Zhang but let's keep in mind that this isn't some student working out of his garage.

more than 3 years ago

America Losing Its Edge In Innovation

xplenumx Re:News flash (757 comments)

As someone with a PhD in Immunology, I couldn't agree with you more. While an undergraduate in the 1990s, quite a few of my classmates who were graduating with a BS in Biochemistry left for non-science professions such as banking and consulting because the pay was much better - those that 'remained in science' were mostly pre-med. Of my friends who left science, all were making over $100,000 per year before I finished my PhD. Of my friends who remained in science, all were making well under $100,000 within five years - though that's a bit unfair since the average pay for a graduate student was ~$20,000. Those who left immediately for industry were making around $50k after five years.

I attended a graduate program at a top university (the Immunology program is consistently ranked in the top 10), and of my class only 2 out of 9 (includes me) continued on for a post-doc. The rest went into scientific writing, consulting, teaching, and most into law. With the exception of Biophysics, my friends in the Biochemistry, Cell Biology, Microbiology, and Genes and Development programs report similar experiences. Some of the reason for leaving science was burn out - low pay, long hours; not to mention everyone knew that a post-doc position was worse (which is very much a sink or swim environment). Pay for a post-doc ranges anywhere from $40k - $50k, with no retirement in most places. A post-doc is about a 5 year position, though many people do two post-docs. In comparison, everyone of my graduate school classmates who went into consulting or law were making well, well over $100k per year, with better work hours, with retirement, and with vacation. FYI, as a post-doc, at a top institution, in our three lab group we had 37 post-docs, 4 staff scientists, and two graduate students - 32 of the post-docs/fellows were foreign (though several had received their green card), all 4 of the staff scientists were initially foreign (two green cards, two citizens), and one of the graduate students were foreign. Some of the post-docs/fellows stayed here in the US, some left. The Ph.D. tend to stay, the MDs tend to leave as they can't practice medicine here without a residency.

So you stick it out, worked your 80 hours per week (seriously - it's not forced, but you're competing with the world), and happen to have a Nature, Science, or Cell paper. Let's say you get hired as an assistant professor (for the record, there's nothing 'assistant' about being an 'assistant' professor - it simply means you haven't gone up for tenure review yet. An associate professor is tenured). Pay can vary wildly at top institutions, but starting pay is $90k - $110k per year. This is at a top institution who are recruiting the top post-docs, teaching colleges and second tier research institutions pay less. Industry pay tends to vary quite a bit, but the quality of the people and the positions vary quite a bit as well (the range I've seen is ~$60k - $125k per year. The work hours get better, but not by much (especially before tenure).

For science you have $20k of 5 years of graduate school (no retirement), ~$50k of 6 years of post-doc (assuming only one post-doc, not a safe assumption... oh, and usually no retirement), and you manage to get a top faculty position... $100k. Average age of first faculty position is ~40 (younger if you're foreign by the way given the differences in the educational systems), while working 60-80 hours per week. Compare with all of my peers that peeled off into consulting, law, banking or business who were making far more, far sooner, with vacation, with benefits, with bonuses, with retirement, with a better work schedule the choice is clear. With that said, I love my job (and in fairness, my peers who left science love their jobs), but I'm certainly not encouraging my children to go into science.

about 4 years ago

How and where to publish research paper

xplenumx Talk to your advisor (1 comments)

I saw your journal entry through the firehose. I have a doctorate in immunology, run a lab at the NIH, and train both doctoral candidates and post-docs; though I have no experience with the computational science field beyond bioinformatics. In my field the question you're asking is an important part of the doctoral education as students are expected to publish. If you believe you have a story, talk with your advisor - which, in my field at least, you'll need to do eventually as s/he will be listed as the senior author on the paper. As your advisor should be very heavily involved in your training and research, this shouldn't be a problem. In addition to reading the literature individually, we all regularly attend weekly journal clubs where we review a current paper. This is a critical component of doctoral training. Not only does reading educate you to new ideas within the field, but it exposes you to how papers should be written and the general theme of each journal (For example, Nature Immunology has a slightly different focus than Immunity). A PhD is not simply about working the bench, or in your case, writing code - undergraduates are highly talented. A PhD candidate should have an acute awareness of the field, how their work impacts it, and how to promote the story.

more than 4 years ago

Sentence Spacing — 1 Space or 2?

xplenumx One space for space (814 comments)

I prefer two space since I believe it looks better. However, over the past few years I've transitioned to using only one space. Many grant applications / abstracts / scientific writing have character limits. Using one space instead of two can make a significant difference when you're fighting for every word.

more than 4 years ago

Do You Provide Tech Support To Friends and Family?

xplenumx Re:And They Give Me Free Legal Help... (606 comments)

Are people really calling up doctors and asking them to perform surgery on them for free?

Yes. I have a PhD in immunology - I'm not a medical doctor, though I do teach second year medical students. If a family member gets sick (especially the children), I get called. If a family doctor suggests a treatment, I get called for a second opinion. Swine flu outbreak? I was receiving dozens of emails a day from concerned family members. So while we (and I use 'we' very loosely as I'm not an MD) aren't asked to 'perform surgery', we are asked to provide free medical services.

more than 5 years ago

Feds Ask IT Execs To Throw Away Cellphones After Visiting China

xplenumx Re:What about Chinese nationals? (382 comments)

The ethics problem is represented by an experience I had while at an American research university. A Chinese faculty member met with the Chinese students in order to tell them in America, cheating and other ethical breaches are not considered a good way to get ahead. This suggested certain cultural differences which should not be used to discriminate, but need to be recognized because of the risks involved.

While I certaily wasn't at that talk (and I suspect that neither were you), I'm willing to bet that you don't completely understand what the talk was about. I'm on the faculty of a top tier reserch insitution conducting immunological research - I've had several Chinese graduate students, have sat on the international admissions committee, and have given the talk that you describe to our new Chinese students. The problem isn't one of ethics, but one of culture. The Chinese don't regard plagiarism the same way we do - in fact, the educational system encourages it in a way as it is an honor, of sorts, to 'plagiarize' your mentor. Additionally, a lot of these students don't have confidence in their english, so whey they write they occassionally take an idea from another article and copy it verbatim thinking "that's exactly what I was thinking, and I don't have to worry about incorrect english" - in most cases, there is not an intention of deceit. The Chinese certainly have their issues (admitting mistakes and nationalism), but I wouldn't call them unethical.

more than 5 years ago

The Orange Goo That Could Save Your Laptop

xplenumx Egg drop (285 comments)

Here's an example of a similar non-newtonian fluid protecting an egg from breaking after being dropped:


The protection has less to do with absorption reduction than a distribution of force.

more than 5 years ago

Online Vigilantes, Or "Crowdsourced Justice"

xplenumx Grace Wang (339 comments)

it is not a good thing.

I'm sure Grace Wang would agree with you.

In brief, Grace Wang was an international student at Duke and dared to try an initiate a discussion between the pro-Tibet and pro-Chinese sides of a protest. After being attacked on forums such as mitbbs.com "Online Vigilantes" decided to bring these attacks to the real world by posting her personal information (her student visa application) and providing maps to her parents' house (which was defaced, causing her parents to go into hiding).

Defending kittens are one thing, but as with "think of the children", it rarely stops there.

more than 5 years ago

Obama DOJ Sides With RIAA

xplenumx Re:Third Party (785 comments)

Thank you. I think that many of the individuals who call for a third party would be unhappy no matter who that third party was, as many of the calls that I see for a third party seem to be "I want a politician who totally agrees with me on every issue". That simply isn't going to happen. Recognize the good, try to change the bad - and realize that some people believe that you're wrong, just as you believe they're wrong. That won't change with a third party.

more than 5 years ago

Sony Charges Publishers For DLC Bandwidth Usage

xplenumx Re:DLC = "Downloadable Content" (127 comments)

Thank you. When I saw DLC, I kept reading it as "Dynamin Light Chain", which I know is wrong for this site (and makes no sense for Sony). As Google is my friend, I googled DLC and saw "Democratic Leadership Council", "Digital Learning Commons", "Digital Library of the Commons", among others - but no "Downloadable Content". Google "Sony DLC", and you get a bunch of hardware. So I read the article - it took me a few seconds to realize that what DLC meant, as I wasn't thinking to look in the middle of a word for the meaning of "L". I don't mind acronyms in the title, as long as they're spelled out in the summary.

more than 5 years ago

Smart Immigrants Going Home

xplenumx Great! (770 comments)

Training foreign students served two purposes. First, so we have an opportunity to hire the best and brightest. Secondly, so we can expose them to our culture. What better way is there to bring about change in a country than to train some of their top academic leaders? This is how you bring human rights to China and reduce corruption in Mexico.

more than 5 years ago

Hacking With Synthetic Biology

xplenumx Re:Doesn't this sound like... (135 comments)

I can't say I'm terribly concerned about your proposed scenario. Unlike computer programming, bioengineering takes quite a bit more capital. Let's say you want to insert a protein into a bacteria - first you need to create the cDNA (you'll need a PCR machine or water baths (heh), expensive enzymes, the ability to pipette uL amounts, random primers, and a source of mRNA), then you'll need to isolate the protein's cDNA, next you'll have to clone out the gene (do you have access to a sequencer?), and put the gene in a plasmid that will express the protein (you'll have to buy one as you won't be able to reasonably make one). Let's see, you'll also need amp/kan, LB plates, a warm room, some media, and a shaker (unless you want to use sub-sub-optimum conditons). After this, you'll have to express your plasmid in the bacteria - did I mention that, typically, bacteria that express the protein will be at a selective disadvantage? Wait, you want to stably integrate your protein into the bacterial genome? That's a whole, more difficult, can of worms. So you want to modify a virus... where are you planning on getting the viral vector? What type of virus are you attempting to modify? Some are very difficult to work with. Making one can be a PhD thesis in and of itself. Infecting eukaryotic cells is not easy either - a lot of money is being spent on trying to increase the efficiency for anti-cancer therapy.

Unlike computer programming, these aren't projects that people are (realistically) able to do in their basement. Often we give the simplest experiments (just the cloning part), where all the reagents are present and the knowledge base is easily available, to summer students - and often times they fail. I don't worry about the rogue 'biohacker' next door (all the more power to them - maybe they'll learn something about science). I worry about rogue governments - particulary ones that believe God will protect them.

more than 5 years ago

Web of Trust For Scientific Publications

xplenumx Faculty of 1000 (125 comments)

The Web of Trust proposal sounds a lot like the website Faculty of 1000. I also would suggest looking at the website for the Web of Science. If I cite another's work, I've reviewed it and, at least on some level, agree with the findings. I'm certainly not going to cite that I think are bogus.

more than 5 years ago

Current Scientific Publishing Methods Problematic

xplenumx Re:Publishers as Middlemen? (154 comments)

I'm not convinced that this is true. The only people (besides the library) that receive print publications receive them as a part of their professional membership fees (or as part of a training grant). Most scientists, myself included, simply rely on the email TOC (which we receive much sooner than the hard copy) or go to the websites directly. I suspect that most journals 'make their cash' from institutional subscriptions, professional fees (in the case of Blood), and/or publishing fees.

more than 6 years ago


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