In 2016, a steel-and-glass spaceship landed next to St Pancras railway station, London’s gateway to Europe. From the start, the biomedical powerhouse that is the Francis Crick Institute set out to put its stamp on a district already home to University College London, the Wellcome Trust and Nature. But how to carve out a cultural niche in an area buzzing with scientific and artistic activity?
For the first 2 years of my Ph.D. program, my primary adviser was always available when I needed help, promptly responding to emails and meeting with me when questions arose. But that abruptly changed when he went on sabbatical and left the country. My emails were rarely answered, and our scheduled meetings were often canceled. […]
One of the hardest challenges we face as scientists is describing our work to friends and family from different walks of life without completely baffling them. We all love what we do and given the opportunity we could rant about our research for days. However, when you’re trying to explain why exploring the basic biology of the cell is important for society, people may not always understand right away. It’s easier if you are researching a hot topic or can use household words such as cancer or diabetes, but trying to explain why the actin dynamics of the early Drosophila embryo is just as interesting doesn’t always go smoothly.
I wanted to get a chance to get back to the blog all weekend, but was distracted by mothering and wife-ing. Twitter was a flitter at the end of last week with discussion of what faculty look for in a personal statement. At the beginning of it all seems to be this tweet…
Why does every PhD applicant start their essay with “since I was young, I have been curious”
— Leslie Vosshall (@pollyp1) January 4, 2018
…quickly followed by another lamenting the number of personal statements a senior faculty member reads about dying grandmothers.
Now, I have to confess the dirty little secret that I have had the same feelings of “why” while reading personal statements. That said, my discomfort doesn’t come from a place of contempt for these young people’s experiences. It comes from the uncomfortable repetition that comes from reading these statements and realizing that students feel obligated or expected to convince faculty that they are promising young scientists because of early life experiences. That they have to convince us that their passion comes from the traumatic or formative experiences they’ve had from cradle. This expectation is coming from somewhere and I think we all owe it to our students (PhD and professional school candidates) to communicate that they are not obligated to tell us about these experiences.
Here’s something to seriously ponder: Research is saying that a new hire’s decision to stay with a company long-term is made within the first six months of employment. Think about that for a minute. It means your average employee hasn’t made up his or her mind about staying or leaving your company until, quite possibly, month six on the job. […]