The Nobel’s great, but take a look at this!
Jan10

The Nobel’s great, but take a look at this!

  As I alluded to earlier on this index page, I was fortunate to score the cover story the January 9th issue of the Research Triangle’s alternative weekly paper, INDY Week. Therein, I told the story of Robert J. Lefkowitz, MD, the biochemist and cardiologist who shared the Nobel Prize in Chemistry 2012 with his former cardiology fellow, Brian K. Kobilka, MD, of Stanford University. In this first edition of pixels that didn’t make it to the final article, I want to follow on the moments after I took this photo after interviewing Bob for the article. He was kind enough to bring in his original Nobel medal and diploma for me to see and photograph (he’s currently having a replica made of the medal so that he doesn’t have to carry around the real one.). As I was packing up my recorder, camera, and notebook, he pointed over at the sofa across his office where this framed photograph sat: On October 19th, a week or so after the Nobel announcement, Lefkowitz was invited to Duke’s legendary Cameron Indoor Stadium for the men’s basketball season kickoff/pep rally called Countdown to Craziness. Lefkowitz was called out to center court where Coach Mike Krzyzewski and the 2012-13 men’s team presented him with his own Duke basketball jersey embroidered with his name and the number 1. Lefkowitz’s lab group framed the photo and had the entire team and Coach K autograph the matte. After packing up his Nobel medal and diploma, Bob pointed over to the picture and said, “How do you like that picture? My lab gave me this framed photograph – signed by the whole team – and Coach K. Which’ll really be something if they win the championship this year. Yeah, I’ll really have something.” Uh, yeah. But you’ll still have the Nobel prize regardless.   Here’s a low-res video of the event. The commentators babbled about basketball until 1:13 when they finally told their audience what they were watching. But listen to the crowd as the team left Lefkowitz at center court. For me, the scene was reminiscent of a story I remember being told by the Southern “Grit Lit” writer and University of Florida writing professor, Harry Crews. Crews passed away last May at age 76 and had been beloved on the UF campus. But he was never as popular as the Florida Gators football team. I can’t find the precise reference right now but I recall him speaking of a dream he had where he was sitting with his typewriter at the 50-yard line of Florida Field (“The Swamp”). He then typed what he thought was...

Read More
Lefkowitz IndyWeek Outtakes
Jan10

Lefkowitz IndyWeek Outtakes

I was fortunate to be able to tell the story of Duke University biochemist and cardiologist Dr. Robert J. Lefkowitz in the 9 January 2013 issue of the Research Triangle’s award-winning alt-weekly, INDY Week. Even with editor Lisa Sorg graciously offering 3,000+ words for the story on one of the 2012 Nobel laureates in chemistry, some terrific bits of my interviews with Bob and major players in his story didn’t make it into the final version. Over the next few days, I’ll post some of these gems. This page will index the running list of those posts. The Nobel’s Great, But Take a Look at This! – Lefkowitz reveals where Duke men’s basketball sits in his list of priorities...

Read More

Thoughts on the “Doctoral Glut Dilemma” Webinar

As I wrote last Thursday, ACS Webinars featured an hour-long discussion on the perceived overabundance of PhD-level chemists and potential solutions to employment challenges. The site should have the entire discussion archived within a week. I participated in the session and ended up posting my thoughts at the new Forbes.com home of my other blog, Take As Directed. I’m hoping to get comments from a wider group of readers over there who might have impact on hiring of chemistry PhDs. One of the major points that struck me was the view by Harvard economist, Dr. Richard Freeman, that the chemistry job market might bounce back more quickly than the biosciences. But he views this comeback to occur slowly over the next three to four years. Freeman attributes chemistry’s upper hand to two factors. First, US doctoral chemistry programs have had a fairly constant PhD supply rate over the last 40 years of approximately 2,000/year. In contrast, the biosciences have exploded from about 3,000 PhDs/year in the 1970s to 15,000 during 2010. Second, Freeman states that chemistry is far less dependent on federal research funding since 50% to 75% of chemistry PhDs ultimately go on to work in industry. As such, he expects the recovering economy to help chemists far more than those in the biological and biomedical sciences. I’d love to hear your feedback now or after the webinar is posted later this week. In the meantime, check out my thoughts over at Forbes.com. Addendum: I’ve since learned that chemistry bloggers Chemjobber and See Arr Oh have posted a podcast discussing this ACS webinar....

Read More

Today: Solutions to the “Doctoral Glut Dilemma”

Don’t say ACS have their heads in the sand. A webinar this afternoon will face head-on the reality of training to be a doctoral-level chemist in today’s job market.  Is higher education producing more doctoral scientists than the market can absorb? With the attendance rates at graduate schools increasing, has the private sector’s growth been able to keep up and will there be enough options for tomorrow’s PhDs?   Join our two experts Richard Freeman and Paula Stephan as they share their viewpoints on the state of higher education, the economy and how industry and academia can better prepare current and future graduates. I’m not privy to any other advance information than what’s on the ACS Webinars™ website but others I’ve viewed have been top-quality. I obviously encourage viewing by current doctoral trainees in chemistry and postdocs. Giving yourself a competitive edge in this market is information anyone can use. But I particularly urge undergrads currently interviewing for chemistry doctoral programs to tune in. One of the four primary discussion topics will be assessing graduate programs for their ultimate employment record of their trainees. Take advantage of what your professional society is offering. Details: Doctoral Glut Dilemma: Are There Solutions? Date: Thursday November 8, 2012 (TODAY!) Time: 2:00-3:00 pm ET Fee: Free...

Read More
Well, How Did I Get Here?
Oct24

Well, How Did I Get Here?

To celebrate National Chemistry Week, the esteemed synthetic chemist blogger See Arr Oh put out a call for folks to describe to younger folks how they got where there are in the broad field of chemistry: What do you do all day? What chemistry skills do you use in your line of work? How do you move up the ladder in chemistry? What do I need to do to be in your shoes? The resulting answers from other bloggers — and any respondents, for that matter — will be compiled at his blog, Just Like Cooking, in what’s called a blog carnival. Specifically, contributors to blog carnivals are asked to respond to a theme or a series of questions. In this particular case, we are tagging our posts with the hashtag, #ChemCoach. Here’s the list and below are my responses. You may find it helpful to play this Talking Heads video while reading my answers. Your current job. What you do in a standard “work day.” What kind of schooling / training / experience helped you get there? How does chemistry inform your work? Finally, a unique, interesting, or funny anecdote about your career* The most important question to ask yourself – If I were just coming into the field, would I learn something useful from your story? My current job My official title is Director of Science Communications for the Nature Research Center (NRC) at the North Carolina Museum of Natural Sciences in Raleigh. I’ve only been in this job since January 2012. This position is jointly sponsored by the College of Humanities and Social Sciences (CHASS) at North Carolina State University (“State” for the locals) where I have an appointment as Adjunct Associate Professor of English (faculty page). There, I teach a graduate course entitled, “Science Writing for the Media,” and will be teaching an basic news and reporting class for undergraduates in the spring. I also take interns at the Museum from State’s M.S. program in Technical Communication.   What do I do in a standard “work day?” My job is to serve as a technical compliment to our Museum’s public information, public relations, and marketing team. My boss is NRC Director and well-known conservation biologist, Dr. Meg Lowman, also known simply as “Canopy Meg” for her pioneering work on the biodiversity of life in tree canopies. Typically, my position would be occupied by a card-carrying journalist experienced in science writing. However, Meg and the Museum director, Dr. Betsy Bennett, envisioned this position as a scientist communicator, requiring that the candidate have a Ph.D. in a biological or chemical science with a track record of teaching, writing, and...

Read More

Lefkowitz Nobel: “There’s a lot of love here”

How many of you could say this about your laboratory group? In the hall outside the champagne reception for Bob Lefkowitz’s lab on Wednesday at Duke University Medical Center, I had a chance to catch up with Marti Delahunty, PhD. Delahunty is a research scientist in a connecting building but worked in the Lefkowitz group from 1998 until 2006. This brief chat brings to mind Carmen Drahl’s post about one’s laboratory being your second family.     PIs, trainees, technicians, and administrators: Tell me if you’d be able to say the same about the environment of your laboratory....

Read More