Sunday, January 27, 2013

Reading assignments, vol. 8

Links and interesting topical stories from the week follow below.


  • 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

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.



  1. The Goyte parody video was part of MCB Follies. I put together a quick post with the three other songs that a quick search tracked down.

  2. These must take a lot of time; they are really appreciated, even if you didn't link to me.