Video Goodness: Choosing Graduate Advisor, Lab Size vs Productivity, and Rethinking Postdocs Share this:TwitterFacebookLike this:Like Loading...
There’s something these three guys have in common, but I just can’t quite put my finger on it….
You mean other than the fact that they are in the biomedical sciences, talk about the biomedical sciences, that these talks are all in identical format and all given for iBiology.org?
Or the fact that they are all dudes? Ben Barres (the first person) is a trans man.
These people don’t seem to inhabit the same universe that I do. Ben Barres concludes with something like, “There are many great mentors at every major university. Your goal is to pick one of them.” If only! I wonder how much time he’s spent out of Stanford. Ask for someone’s trainee list? So that pretty much rules out anyone with < 10 yrs experience, since that list won’t be long enough to provide any statistically significant trends.
No doubt he meant well. But when I hear advice like that, I just think, “How out of touch are you?!”
I do, however, agree with Yamamoto that doing a postdoc doesn’t really make sense unless you’re going into Academia. Though I’m not as confident as he is that the student will “get it right,” as this presumes that they’re going to have to get a helluva lot better training than they’re getting now.
My snide comment was in fact because they are all men (a trans man is still a man, or so I’ve been told). But actually I am more disturbed by the narrow scope of what they seem to think counts as success in academic science. I am a reasonably successful biologist, but according to these guys I made all the wrong decisions as a grad student and postdoc, and no one in their right mind should ever want to join my lab. Their advice might be golden for the top students in the top programs in biomed, but that is very much a small minority even in biology.
I am also disturbed by the crotch-to-head view for all three. Who made that decision?
I am trying to decide why, with all the egregious things happening in our world today, you all took off after iBiology. I hope you all actually listened to these videos.
I do wish fewer of the “talking heads” were male but the message is also important, particularly that by Jon Lorsch. As someone in biomedical science, I think his video is a remarkably bold statement by the head of the major funding agency that funds most basic biomedical research. He is strongly challenging an elitist establishment that thinks big labs must be better, and who want to make sure that there is no challenge to their dominance. Jon’s NIGMS colleagues have collected some really cool data (yes, data–remember that) showing that bigger is not better. I have a feeling most young PIs worried about getting squeezed out of funding and looking for someone who might help them and their labs survive thought Jon’s message was important–I know that is how my junior colleagues looked at it. I also think they were more concerned about the message than what part of the anatomy was included in the shots.
Mark: I am trying to decide why, with all the egregious things happening in our world today, you all took off after iBiology. I hope you all actually listened to these videos.
I am pretty sure the commenters viewed the videos, but it is also true that most of us outside of the biomed fields lack some context (I am sure I do). For instance, I saw all three videos on YouTube (and a few others I didn’t include) after looking at some unrelated stuff. I was intrigued by the Jon Lorsch talk, although I don’t know how important he or NIGMS are within NIH; for instance — is this attitude endorsed across the NIH, or what? And I don’t know how important iBiology.org is for the community.
Furthermore, while we are all technically STEM, I am pretty sure that the biomedical sciences do not have exactly the same problems or community practices as the physical sciences (or even non-NIH biology). For instance, the giant labs (what Lorsch is discussing), graduate students used as techs, and never-ending postdocs are not routinely an issue in my neck of the woods at all. Instead, MS and PhD graduates are highly employable and most go into industry. I speak for myself, but likely for many readers as well, in that we probably do not appreciate all the ways in which these talks may be important or influential to someone from a biomedical field. Yet, people view/hear them and then respond based on their own experiences, and we don’t all have the same priorities and do not all attribute the same weight to the messages of these videos.
I wish there were a physics equivalent of iBiology, although I guarantee that would be even worse in terms of gender.
FWIW, I have seen a lot of the iBiology videos — they were very helpful to me as an intro to some topics in biology. These 3 are not their finest samples, IMHO. I have problems with some of what Lorsch is saying — he may have data but his metrics are questionable. Of course junior faculty are going to lick that stuff right up!
Thanks for the response–I now have a better picture of where you are coming from. Jon Lorsch is the Director (read boss) of NIGMS, the NIH institute that supports virtually all of the basic science funded by NIH. In other words, he is very important to people like me. He is trying to make a major change in funding, in which we’d see more labs funded–that means less money per lab. His new MIRA experiment, a potential replacement for the R01, is a major sea change, if it happens as he envisions it. He also has other NIH Institutes listening.
Most of us don’t run giant labs or have trainees in the situations he is discussing. The problem is, big labs that do have these practices get a large fraction of the dollars. It’s putting the middle generation (Associate Professors struggling to get a first R01 renewal) out of business. I worry a lot for the future of my field (I am senior, and somewhat shielded from this).
I’d also give a big shout out to iBiology. Ron Vale, who founded it, is a role model of mine–a super scientist who still has time to be President of my professional society (ASCB), advocate for scientists from India, and create an organization devoted to creating access to seminars from the best scientists in the world to anyone with an internet connection. iBiology is now branching out into creating innovative educational material. Ron’s team includes some very talented young scientists who have chosen this as a new career. For biologists, its a great resource.
I thought the answer to “what these videos all have in common” was “Dudes With Giant Foreheads And Receding Hairlines”.