- Scientific and writer DNLee of Scientific American gives a powerful account of the factors denying good STEM education to many students (namely, those of low socioeconomic status). It's a very important read, as it highlights many issues in science education (and education and science culture in general) that very often get ignored.
- At Gene Expression, Razib Khan comments on affirmative action and science. He's largely dismissive of it, saying science doesn't need cultural diversity per se (with a caveat that such diversity is valuable from a social perspective). It's a worthwhile read; only the myopic would be reluctant to admit there is a rather skewed demographic makeup in science relative to the entire population.
- Derek Lowe has a commentary on an ACS Med. Chem. Lett. opinion piece regarding the role of academia in drug discovery. It's worth thinking about, especially to those interested in science funding or science policy. The case can really strongly be made that academia can not replace pharma as a productive drug production vehicle, but the decoupling from financial risk means academic labs can push innovations that are potentially high impact but not necessarily profitable.
Scientific representation and misrepresentation
- This Sceptical Chymist guest post by PhD student Fabian Carson about presentation skills for scientists is very relevant to the current state of chemistry talks (let's face it: most chemistry talks are terrible; even big-name speakers with high impact research can give eye-glazing accounts). The points are concise and should be common knowledge, but presentation skills aren't taught very much and so I'd bet that many scientists don't know this stuff or just don't care. One caveat: Carson recommends Prezi. I heartily encourage you to never, ever, ever touch Prezi. It's garish and terrible. Don't do it.
- On a related note, Khalil Cassimally emphasizes the importance of communication to the general public and announces a very exciting-looking science communication workshop for grad students, titled "Communicating Science." The workshop will occur this June in Cambridge, MA, and registration is free!
- A couple posts here can be further sub-categorized to "responses to chemophobia":
- Professor Janet Stemwedel uses breadmaking as a vehicle to combat chemophobia. This is a good spin on chemicals and food, and it's particularly relevant given the quite explosively diarrheic chemophobia that tends to emit from the "foodie" community.
- See Arr Oh gives his thoughts on some current negative media attention on brominated vegetable oil. As with any scary-sounding chemical, BVO has received some arguably warrantless attention from people who think they're health-conscious.
- On his blog The Simple Candle, chemistry professor Stephen Prilliman encourages reclaiming the word "chemical" from its widespread negative connotations. He presents a Twitter strategy to do so.
- See Arr Oh also points out to us a very embarassing TOC graphic from MedChemComm.
- In light of recent instances of scientific fraud and plagiarism, the finding that scientific fraud may have a male bias is interesting and relevant.
Chemistry job market
- Glen Ernst comments on a 1979 article from C&EN bemoaning an impending surplus of chemistry PhDs exceeding the number of available jobs. As Glen points out, "non-traditional" here meant not being a university professor. Today, the scope of "traditional" careers has broadened, but the employment outlook seems bleaker. Still, it's an interesting insight from the late 70s.
- I found this interview of ChemDraw wizard (and recently-hired Perkin Elmer employee) Pierre Morieux by Chemjobber quite interesting. It's a neat career path, and a cool story of how social media and online networking can land you a job. At the same time, comments imply that some chemists think it is overkill (and perhaps a telltale sign of the job market) that a long PhD and a competitive postdoc do not result in a "traditional" job. (I'd caution that non-"traditional" careers aren't necessarily fallbacks and can be more rewarding than the big-name jobs; I'd also like to point out that many people in many professions change career paths many times!).
- At Chemistry World, economist Paula Stephan has some perhaps-controversial, perhaps-obvious (depending who you ask) points on the PhD glut. She likens grad school to a pyramid scheme, where the focus of grad school has shifted from producing quality scientists to producing PI-promoting research. She has a series of thoughtful recommendations for improving graduate education. Derek Lowe notes the article and comments on the proposal to increase permanent lab staff (i.e. how to fund it?).
- Chemjobber has some commentary and depressing statistics on the job market and unemployment rate for chemists (spoiler: it's worse than the average rate for bachelor's degree holders).
- Don't miss See Arr Oh and Chemjobber's podcast on amusing interview stories.
- This is a must-watch: several grad students from UC Berkeley do a eukaryotic microbe-based parody of Gotye's "Somebody I Used to Know." Be prepared to be singing it to yourself for a while.
- A lot of people have been writing about malodorous affairs this week. First, Derek Lowe compares and contrasts a massive mercaptan spill and a large-scale goat cheese fire. The Chemistry World Blog covers the matter as well. Then, Sarah Everts at C&EN's Newscripts explores the history of deodorants and the biochemical basis for their need. Finally, at The Curious Wavefunction, Ashutosh Jogalekar describes the chemistry of smell and some fascinating anecdotes--read it! This post by Breanna Draxler at Discover talks about the biochemistry of odor recognition.
- Check out these videos of rotifers and other microorganisms. Really cool stuff!
- Breanna Draxler writes about a paper published recently in Science in which researchers stored a little under a megabyte of hard drive data in DNA and retrieved it with perfect fidelity. It's been talked about for a while, and this instance happens to be faster and more accurate than previous attempts. It's a very, very cool thing---DNA is about as compact as you can get for reliable data storage! One might speculate, then, on the potential evolution of the first music-pirating bacteria.
- Keith Kloor has an important post commenting on another important post (Steven Novella). Both discuss why science is not persuasive; though data and statistics are logically compelling, we are fighting a reliance on heuristics and anecdotal evidence that is likely ingrained due to evolutionary advantage.