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The Black Hole

BY DAVID KENT | November 17 2009

In medical science, many of the protocols we use for bench work feel like recipes. To nobody’s surprise, it is often compared to baking – add component X, spin, add component Y, mix, “cook” in a gel, etc, etc – and I say fair enough. Many will argue, however, that such protocols are not the bread and butter of an academic scientist’s career which certainly relies on designing the experiments to answer novel questions about the particular system or situation being studied and interpreting an often confused picture to help make sense of that system.
This blog entry contends that we are putting less emphasis on the latter and more on the former and our nation is going to pay a hefty price if we don’t turn the boat around – the PhD is becoming less focused on learning how to think, and more focused on learning how to do. This is a trend that I am labelling the rise of the cookie cutter PhD.

BY DAVID KENT | November 15 2009

After an undergraduate and doctorate, medical science trainees need to undertake post doctoral training before being granted a faculty position. After this round of training, however, many are going on to a second and even a third round of “post-doc’ing” … this blog entry asks why we do this and encourages science trainees to stop after the first PDF and do a major evaluation…

BY DAVID KENT | November 13 2009

Peer Review and Publishing – the best of the worst?
A look at the peer review system and the idea that anonymity of reviewers is an idea of the past.

BY BETH | November 12 2009

As I mentioned in my first blog posting on this site, after finishing my PhD, I left academics.  And I know I’m not the only one – I can think of a few recent PhDs grads that I know that left academics, either voluntarily or because they couldn’t find postdoc or faculty positions. At first […]

BY BETH | November 09 2009

As Dave mentioned in his previous post, part of the job of a scientist is to create interest in, and awareness of, the sciences, as well as to promote “science literacy” (i.e., the ability to understand and use scientific information). This is beneficial for a number of reasons, including: People use science in their everyday […]

BY DAVID KENT | November 08 2009

*** First two quick hits… The Canadian Association of Postdoctoral Scholars just released a position paper that covers many issues that will be brought up on this blog in one form or another. Please read it, use it, and offer feedback to the CAPS folks (heck, maybe even join there committees!) The first annual Canadian […]

BY DAVID KENT | November 02 2009

Canary in the Coal Mine #1 This past year, I came across a set of statistics that made me cringe. They underscore a dramatic shift in the human resources in academia, specifically in the medical sciences. 2006 median length of PhD = 7.9 years Average age at which a PhD is obtained = 32.7 (31.3 […]

BY BETH | November 01 2009

Science is integral to many, many of the decisions we make every day.  But where do people get the scientific information on which they base their decisions? The current H1N1 vaccine campaign is a good illustration of this.  It seems you can’t turn on the television or read a news website (or even a Facebook […]

BY DAVID KENT | October 28 2009

Scholarships, Fellowships and Taxes – what are the rules?

BY BETH | October 16 2009

Like Dave, I spent 5+ years completing a PhD at UBC. In fact, I’m one of the “very bright and motivated people who first sat down [with Dave] at a bar about 4 years ago and posed the question “What’s wrong with the science enterprise?”“, who he mentioned in his intro posting. (So modest of […]

BY DAVID KENT | August 24 2009

I have entered the Post Doctoral Fellow Black Hole… I’ve witnessed a lot and heard about much more and, while this is the time in academic life when you’re meant to be the busiest, I have begun this blog. Just as a black hole is difficult to define, the label Post Doc is bandied about […]