Showing posts from February, 2013

The changing biology PhD job market

According to legend, the story of the career of a biology PhD used to go like this: 1) student joins a lab, 2) student spends 4-8 years doing research and honing specific skills in their chosen field, 3) student gets a tenure-track job at a college/university and becomes a professor after 5 more years or so, 4) with essentially a guaranteed job for life, professor gets to do interesting scientific research and live happily ever after. Somewhere along the way another step was added between steps 2 and 3 (step 2.5: the post-doctoral research position). This story, whether actually the norm or not back in the day, is clearly not the story today. And it's freaking a lot of people out.

4 Things I Wish I Knew Before Starting Grad School

Gastric bypass- a wonderful alternative to graduate school 'Tis the season of grad school acceptances and major life choices. Two years ago (!) I was an overly confident undergrad preparing to become a graduate researcher. Late night Googling of "how to prepare for grad school" further assured me I was ready. Have experience in a research lab? Check. Know I may have weird hours? Check. Secured some kind of TA/RA funding? Check. Today, reflecting upon this time of year, I wish someone would have told me about a few aspects of grad school that seem to never be highlighted on those "What to Know about Grad School" websites:

What diatomists do to diatoms

My research is on the diatom communities of the Everglades. To study how the communities respond to environmental changes, I have to identify and count each of the diatom species I encounter under the microscope. To do that though, the diatoms have to be stripped clean of any organic material and other 'junk' in the sample. The diatoms go through a harsh bath of acid and heat, until all that is left of them are their empty but beautiful cell walls. This is possible because diatom cell walls are essentially glass. Beakers of diatom samples mixed with hydrogen peroxide and nitric acid boiling away on a hot plate. Different amounts of organic matter (like peat or plants) and inorganic matter (like sand or clay) result in different colors and reactions.

From Swimming with Seagrasses to Statistics

Somewhere down the road ecology evolved from this: To something like this: