Scientists Simplifying Science

Monthly archive

October 2016

In Support of Arnab fighting Metastatic Sarcoma

in Sci-Pourri by

We would like to introduce you to Arnab Sen, a brilliant student and scientist from India who completed his doctoral thesis in Germany. Arnab is 30 years old, the only child of his parents and was pursuing a promising career in Germany.

He was diagnosed with metastatic Sarcoma merely two months before completion of his PhD and since then has been receiving cancer treatments. He and his family have been battling with the disease for more than two years now as he has undergone surgery, chemotherapy, radiotherapy and much more in a bid to get better.

Of-late, he has been of poor health and we wish to start this campaign to generate support for him and  his family during these extremely difficult times  as expenses continue to soar.  Any help will be sincerely appreciated and will be directly utilized in his care and to provide support for his family. Please donate now! The fundraising link is given below:

 

https://www.gofundme.com/support-for-arnab-and-his-family-2wd65us

 

 

A scientist’s kitchen…..

in That Makes Sense by

Seeing the recent ASBMB blog “Science and spices”, posted by Abhinav Dey in the Career Support Group (CSG) for STEM PhDs made me chuckle, reminding me of a funny exchange I had with my mother-in law (MIL). An extremely caring lady that she is, my MIL never allows me to cook whenever she is around. Although I loved the pampering, the cook and the daughter-in-law in me wanted to cook and impress her. One day, I decided to cook for my in laws and took over the kitchen from her. I cooked four different dishes simultaneously using the four burners on the stove and she was amazed by my skills. I chuckled and said, “It comes naturally to me, that’s how your scientist daughter-in-law multitasks”.

Not just then, I always likened cooking to doing an experiment. Certain dishes, you do without much thinking, just like doing mini-preps. While for some dishes, you pay much more attention and follow step by step, like doing ChIP. Most often you try new recipes and they don’t give the expected results. You know the reason why-YOU just didn’t follow the protocol (online recipe) to the T. Again that’s when I feel the scientific creativity comes in, you always want to improvise the protocol/ recipe according to your instincts. They may not always work, but when they work, you have your much-awaited EUREKA moment. Moreover, who wouldn’t want to experiment, when you have faithful guinea pigs at home?

Fun apart, cooking is a great stress buster and making a good meal for my family gives me a huge sense of accomplishment. Enjoy cooking folks!!!

Chef. Dr. Manoja Eswara.

About the author:

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Manoja is a postdoc, working on Cancer Molecular biology and Epigenetics, in LTRI, Canada. She did her PhD from University of Guelph, where she worked on unraveling nuclear cytoplasmic transport pathways for transfer RNAs (tRNAs). Personally, she is in a happy space with a very understanding husband, Ravikiran Ravulapalli and a beautiful daughter, Sahasra. When not doing experiments, Manoja loves watching movies, singing and spending time with family.

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Mid-Career Transitions Across the Oceans

in That Makes Sense by

Recently I had a discussion with a friend regarding mid-career transitions across the continents. I thought these discussions may be useful for this forum, hence this posting.

Freedom is intoxicating and dangerous. It is like spicy food. Once you get the taste, you do not like blunt foods. Same is true with freedom. Once you get the taste of freedom, you do not want to go back. Same is also true with working at places that see your value and provide an opportunity for you to grow. At times, those who spent a few years at a top-rated institution in the USA,  go back to their country either because of idealism, or family reasons, or got an opportunity that they misjudge as equivalent to what they have been used to in the USA. Some of them adjust, some resign and say “well, I can’t do much”, and very few turn the odds around to an opportunity. The first person that comes to my mind of the third category is “Satish Dhavan” and the second person is “Roddam Narasimha”. Interestingly both have worked in Aerospace and Space Sciences. There may be many more examples like Dhavan and Roddam – I’m sure.

If you do not have the tenacity that these brilliant people have and if you think you should have stayed back to have a better career future and if you have already spent close to a decade after your PhD in your career, here are some hard facts and challenges that you need to keep in mind, when you try to make a mid-career transition across the oceans.

Keep in mind that these words here are not hypothetical and each word has heavy experience of going through toughest times since I left India to USA for postdoc and USA to Germany for mid-career life – where I did Habilitation (tenure track) and started my family life with my German girlfriend (now life partner), but then left Germany at the age of 40 back to the USA to take a deep dive into the US career culture, but now with three daughters and little savings.

Number one: Healthy financial situation is critical and of utmost importance. If finances are good, many problems can be solved. If the finances are bad, many healthy relationships are screwed-up and destroyed.

Number two: Whether academia or industry that you are trying to make a transition. You need to have someone who is your advocate, who really thinks you have the “spark” that is outstanding, and who buys into your abilities to succeed and contribute. If you do not have such a colleague (not a friend, who is not in your area of expertise), you need to start from the bottom again where you left a decade ago.

Number three: If you are ambitious to establish in academia – DO NOT take up a “research faculty” position, this kills your opportunity to get into tenure-track faculty career. Research faculty is in most places a “glorified postdoc” on soft-money, though there are exceptions.

Number four: If you have a partner and children, it is a must that your partner works as well and that one of you should NOT be career oriented, as the children would have very difficult time adjusting to new culture and one of the parents must have time to cushion their fears and comfort them with confidence. But two pay-checks is critical, because if one of you loses your job, you have a temporary financial crisis that can be mitigated through the second pay-check. Keep in mind that you cannot expect friends and relatives to support you in such situations, because many work hard with “thin margins of savings”. Lending a few dollars may be easy, but taking the burden of a family is out of question. You need to start saving the day you start your first job for the college of your children, which based on where they go may cost anywhere between $100 K to $200 K (per child to complete undergraduate studies).

Number five: Irrespective of whether you start at mid-career or back to the beginning (postdoc), you are expected to deliver the worth of $10, if you are paid $1. So, only way to succeed in the US is to deliver – period.

Bottom line is – if you have the courage, health, spirit of not giving up, you are likely to succeed. But, you should be ready to take a failure as gracefully as you would enjoy the success and always have “Plan B, Plan C, Plan D, and Plan E” in the priority list – if Plan A goes South!

murthy-photo

About the Author: Murthy S. Gudipati (aka G. S. Murthy at IISc) is a Principal Scientist at the Jet Propulsion Laboratory, California Institute of Technology. His research focuses on the evolution of organic matter and ice in the Universe, particularly the outer solar system, comets, and the potential origin(s) of life on Earth. He worked at the University of Texas at Austin, at the University of Cologne, Germany, University of Maryland, College Park, and at NASA Ames before joining JPL/Caltech in 2007. Murthy obtained M.Sc. at the Central University of Hyderabad (1981), Ph.D. from the Department of Chemistry, Indian Institute of Science (1987), and Habilitation (similar to tenure) at the University of Cologne (1998). He stayed in almost all the Men’s Hostel Blocks, dined at all the three A-C Messes, ran a half-marathon, and developed life-long friendships during his 1981-1986 stay at one of the most beautiful campuses in the world – the IISc. His PhD research was recognized with “Guha Medal – Best Thesis Award”. Murthy is one of the founding members of the IIScAANA.

Born and raised in in Southern India, Murthy lived in interior villages to mega cities in three continents. He at times walked over four miles each way to attend upper primary schools from his village. This experience bonded him with nature and animals immensely. Murthy likes Nature and National Parks and he has organized several hiking and camping trips for IIScAANA. Murthy’s passion is to bring knowledge, information, and education to the next generation humans to enable the future civilizations to treat themselves and the Nature with respect. Murthy’s pursuit of Science is balanced by his interest in World Music, Nature, Vegetarian Cooking, and Philosophy.

in Face à Face by

NYC CSG Coffee Chat

Chat with Tuhin Bhowmick, PhD

Tuhin talks about his startup experience in Bangalore while pursuing his PhD at Indian Institute of Science, Bangalore. One thing you cant miss is his passion and fascination towards the technology he believes in.

Stick or twist: finding teaching experience and the postdoctoral dilemma

in That Makes Sense by

Halloween is on its way… and we are familiar with “trick or treat” during that time.

But, are you familiar with “Stick or twist” (a postdoctoral dilemma)?

This is the name of the same game where finding teaching experience during postdoctoral research draws a parallel to trick-o-treating during Halloween. Although first one is fun for kids, the latter is a dilemma. The dilemma being,

  • “Should I stick to pouring all my energy towards high-quality publications in Cell, Science, Nature and prepare for grants proposals with a hope to extend my academic career in research and eventually find tenure;” OR,
  • “Should I twist my working life instead of chasing this dream of being a successful and acclaimed scientist.”

Of course, we all try our best to chase that dream. Like, at the beginning, everybody thinks that a postdoc appointment is meant to serve as the stepping-stone to victory in academic science or a probable position in industry. But let’s be honest, every postdoctoral fellow will not able to secure a job in a top-notch University/Institute due to the current scarcity of academic positions. However, the harsh reality among postdoctoral fellows is that many of us are either realizing this too late, or waiting too long to make a plan with tangible contingency options.

Never expect your mentor to be looking after you, instead you have to look out for yourself, and you have to remember that your boss’s priority is their own career. After all everybody is trying/struggling to survive. Keeping these things in mind, we need to redirect our career goal.

Nowadays, there are a wide variety of academic options available, ranging from research scientists, scientists in industry, science teachers, science writers, science legal consultants, and science policy professionals, etc. If you observe keenly, you might notice that a vast majority of academic careers require a person to be able to teach, either in classroom or in some other format. Thus, learning some teaching skills during postdoctoral research will help you become more suitable for a job in academia.

Now, someone may argue that we don’t need any teaching experience when belonging to a top-notch research institute. But lets keep in mind that every one is not from an exceptional category. May be I’m an oddball. When I began my postdoctoral study, I knew I wanted to be a faculty member who focused on research as well as teaching. After a year, I (perhaps naively) informed my PI that I’m here because I want to be in academia and I don’t want to devote all my time to research. Instead I wanted to spend some time in class room teaching and hence, looking for an exposure. After a couple of meetings and discussions, he understood my goals and he supported me.

Nonetheless, I did face some “fear factors” commonly experienced by many other graduates/postdocs who aspire towards a career in teaching during postdoctoral research. One of them being, “Would I be marked forever as a second-rated scientist by redirecting/refocusing on teaching?”

A career in higher education can be wonderfully rewarding. However, in these uncertain economic times the better prepared you are on entering this career, the more successful you will be. After some deep breathing, I realized that teaching skills are those skills that everyone can use at workplace regardless of career choice.

A few questions/points bubbled in my mind.

#1) What type of teaching skills do we need?

• Look for effective classroom teaching meant for a variety of students in terms of pedagogy
• Ability to convey the competence in subject matter and confidence in one’s ability to teach
• Ability to help students understand the general principles and concepts underlying a particular lesson, (i.e. explain both basic and difficult concepts clearly as well as to present a specific lesson in a larger context, like clinical relevance)
• Ability to ask good questions (testing and studying case histories) and provide feedback to students
• Ability to evaluate teaching performance and adjust lesson plans based on information garnered from students’ questions
• Ability to foster an effective learning environment which includes showing respect for the student, encouraging their intellectual growth and providing them a role model for scholarship with intellectual vigor.

#2) How can we find or get the teaching exposure/experiences?

Mentors as Resources: As starters, you can ask your PI about the possible opportunities in universities or colleges in your neighborhood.

Institutional Resources: You can explore your institutional resources by checking with your office of postdoctoral education for upcoming opportunities.

Funding Resources: There are some new teaching postdoctoral fellowships available nowadays. As for example, I recently discovered a job advertisement for a “teaching postdoctoral fellow” in one of the universities. After I submitted my application, I did get an interview call. During the telephone conversation with the Chair of the search committee, I learnt that they were looking for someone just like me–someone who would use the teaching postdoctoral fellowship as a stepping-stone from postdoctoral fellow to a faculty position by devoting equal effort to teaching and research. There is a possibility to be promoted as a tenured track faculty position within the department after successful completion of another round of interview. I think this type of postdoc can provide an advanced education beyond what is typically provided in graduate school. Just like a traditional research postdoctoral appointment, the training of the teaching postdoc generally focuses on science education instead of science research. There are several programs that are available like FIRST , PERT, SPIRE, PENN-PORT, NU-START , MERIT, IRADCA.

Other Resources: There are other ways to develop and refine teaching skills during postdoctoral training, such as to utilize excellent teaching resources available both as hardcopies and online resources and attending training conferences.

#3) Tips for getting teaching experience

• Discuss your topic/s of interest in getting some kind of teaching experience with your PI/mentor. This should be done early (possibly during your interview for the postdoctoral position) so that training opportunities can be accommodated during the postdoctoral period (if available).
• If your research mentors cannot commit their time to the teaching development, find an independent teaching mentor or alternate persons who can be involved/helped in the training process.
• Try to attend classes, workshops, or seminars on teaching that are offered at your institution, particularly courses that offer in-depth preparation for teaching and professional development as a future faculty (PFF Program). I have attended some classes of graduate course work just to learn how the professors deliver their lecture in the classroom here in USA.
• Explore teaching publications and online resources to learn about teaching techniques and best practices.
• Arrange to observe a faculty-taught class session in your department and discuss with the instructor about his/her approaches to teaching. If possible, ask for a supervised teaching and feedback session with a faculty mentor.
• Teach! Give your shot to a variety of teaching experiences (leading the lab or discussion sessions, review sessions, lectures, individual tutoring or team teaching).

#4) Teaching and research is not diametrically opposite

You may hear that teaching will take an inordinate amount of time during the first few years to settle down everything. Popular opinion is that teaching “takes time away from my research”. We should remember one thing as professors/mentors we are expected to be educating students. At least in my opinion, being a “good teacher,” can have many advantages, not the least of which involves assisting in your research program. Let’s try to think in this way, if you subscribe to the philosophy that your research can benefit your teaching and your teaching can benefit your research, then I believe that teaching can have a remarkable pay-off for your research program. In other words, as a new assistant professor you may not have the luxury of having a good graduate research assistant to help you with your research. One probable solution to this is to recruit undergraduates to become involved in your research. It will be a good help for the early career independent scientist. But even this would be herculean if you are not viewed as a passionate teacher who cares about his/her subject and encouraging their mentees’ intellectual growth.

#5) Challenges associated with teaching.

Every job has their own challenges, without facing those challenges, you cannot move forward and you have to face them everywhere. In the teaching job the following are included:

1) Time management: You have to find and manage time to prepare everything (i.e. setting aside time for class preparation, reading, and grading). The course coordinator may provide the course material and in that case you have less pressure. Another important point is to be always being chained to the lectern. In other words, movement is important in teaching because it gets you closer to the students and it indicates that you are interested in teaching them. Of course, always try to be “present” in the classroom (always be enthusiastic; modulate the pitch and cadence of your voice to give the impression that this is the greatest thing imaginable that you are talking about).

Being a good teacher demands putting in time and effort. More importantly, it demands that if you want to be successful at teaching then you should not be simply seen treating it as a necessary evil. I know it’s hard but you can do it.

2) Building Blocks (promoting respect for cultural diversity in a multiethnic classroom): A teacher needs creativity, extra effort, diligence, and courage to discover the diversity. Teachers in multiethnic classrooms must be open to their students. They should put forth the effort needed to get to know their students both inside and outside of class. The students will become estranged from one another and the teacher if a teacher is hesitant about being open. In order to be open, teachers must be interested in their students and willing to adapt to avoid taking things personally, or from getting judgmental.

3) Overcoming Stereotypes: To cope up in a multiethnic context and to engage students effectively in the learning process, a teacher should know their students and their academic abilities individually. Avoid relying on racial or ethnic stereotypes as well as on any prior experience with other students of similar backgrounds. Based on their student analyses, the teacher needs to plan the course accordingly so as to make the material accessible for all students: be it the syllabi, or the course assignments. Overcoming stereotypes will also help you in understanding the potential classroom dynamics and in learning how to deal with sensitive moments/topics.

So basically the cardinal rule is: 1) Learn as much as you can about racial, ethnic, and cultural groups other than your own and be aware of their sensitivities. 2) NEVER make any assumptions about an individual based on the racial, ethnic, or cultural groups he or she belongs to. Treat each student first and foremost as an individual.

Final thought??

Finally, be willing to pursue an unusual career path if your intuition tells you that it may be suitable to your passions and interests. The “teaching postdoc” was not a position I envisioned for myself 2-3 years ago. Yet, in this position I have found an opportunity to do what I love and impact the way that a university teaches undergraduates and prepares graduate students for faculty careers that emphasize teaching and learning. In my opinion, the joint research and teaching postdoc is ideal for the greatest depth of academic jobs. This is because they are getting supervisory and multitasking experience.

So find a place that has top-notch research facilities but also cares enough about teaching and go for it. Yes, such universities along with special programs do exist.

Tuhin Das

About the author:

td-photo

Tuhin Das is currently working as a Visiting Investigator in Cell Biology program of Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center, New York City, New York. He is interested in exploring the role of tumor microenvironment in regulation and enrichment of breast cancer stem cells (CSCs) in 3D nanofibrous scaffold platform by application of evolutionary dynamics in cancer drug resistance. He is studying the mitotic delay in response to centrosome loss using CRISPR-CAS9 system.

In addition, Tuhin is serving as a consulting editor of the journal “Breast Cancer: Targets and Therapy”. He has served as an academic editor for Journal of Cancer Therapy and a reviewer of several high impact scientific peer-reviewed journals.

He is an active member of American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS) and American Society of Cell Biology (ASCB). He is also an associate member of American Association of Cancer Research (AACR).

Edited by: Abhinav Dey

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Life in the Fast lane- How to deal with complexities and ethics of Worker’s Compensation

in That Makes Sense by

 

Landing that coveted postdoc position in United States is a dream come true for most of us .The time from getting that appointment letter in your email to the moment you walk into your lab and become a part of the elite team of scientists all goes in a blur – and why not??? There is so much to do, so much to plan and prepare before the big move. And all the time that we spend in working through the piles of official paper work to get that visa approved , in our mind we are already planning the take-off of our scientific project.

But paper work does not end there – the first day at your new job goes in a whirl wind of international scholar orientations and more paper work explaining your rights, your insurance coverage – all things that will help legalize your stay in United States while we follow your passion to explore the world of complex and path breaking scientific research.

Like most of us I don’t think twice before signing the dotted lines given by my university – they are just part of the protocol that has to be followed to become an international scholar and for most of us that is the last we see of all the paperwork. We go right ahead to assimilate ourselves into our new workplace, new cultural diversity and of course our scientific project.

But for some of us, life has other plans and those signatures on the dotted lines come back to haunt us. This is especially true for medical documents since your medical care is truly been taken care of by your employer. I wonder how many of us remember signing the document that stated our rights to Worker’s Compensation.

Now wait a minute- did you just say Worker?? We hear of stories where worker’s have received compensation while being hurt on work but us researchers work in state of the art labs with failsafe safety protocols and technologically advanced equipment in place that precludes all such possibilities. And yet accidents happen, for most of us don’t think twice before dealing with radioactivity, biohazards or corrosive chemicals as part of our research requirement. And it is a hard earned personal lesson that it is good to be aware of your rights than having to deal with it through a haze of pain and shock on a hospital bed.

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It was late afternoon on a Friday -everyone was preparing for their weekend to start and I had stepped outside my building to take a phone call from a friend on East Coast. One moment I was happily chatting on the phone and the next –WHAM!! – it felt like I had been hit by a race car in my face.- it was an errant golf ball from the adjacent golf course that had made contact with my right eye.   The next 24 hours rank amongst the darkest hours of my life as I was taken to the emergency ward for a quick CT scan to check for fracture and brain bleeding with doctor’s throwing out medical terms at me trying to explain the savage nature of my trauma and the possibility that I might not regain my full eyesight. And through all these I had only one question – will I be able to see? I had never appreciated the gift of sight like in those first few days when I was threatened to be left without it. I suddenly realized given a second chance all I wanted to do was finish that book I was reading or look into my 5 month old daughter’s face and memorize every details of her smile.

But what frustrated me more were the persistent question by the hospital administration as to whether it was a work-related injury and was this hospital affiliated with the Worker’s Insurance to be able to treat me.   To be honest before that moment I had never really given a thought to what classifies as worker place injury or which hospital my institute was affiliated with. Turns out I was lucky since my regular hospital was also the one that my institute had ties to regarding such incidents and I was able to get immediate treatment that saved the loss of my eye.

More phone calls would follow, from the HR department explaining my rights to work comp medical treatment to the Work Comp Insurance Claim Adjustor assigning a medical investigator to validate my story before they could pay for my medical care.

Now, 2 months later as I come to terms with partial vision loss, a blown pupil that will never work and “ new normalcy” of my life – , I still look back to those initial days following injury when I was struggling to decipher the correct method o obtain proper medical care to save my eye in addition to dealing with the panic that comes with such life-changing events.

So when ClubSciWri approached me pen a life–changing event of my life I decided to share my two pence with all my international scholar friends out there

 

  • By Law all of us are entitled to Worker’s Compensation Insurance for injury happening at our work place. – Work Place Injury covers all injury sustained on campus even if it was not directly related to your bench work

 

  • The Worker Compensation Insurance will most probably be different from your regular insurance provided by your employer, so be aware of it and also the hospital affiliated with it to save paying more your own pocket as your regular insurance will not cover your treatment once they figure out it was a work place related injury. For a life threatening injury you can of course go the closest ER and that is covered

 

  • The compensation bargain precludes your right to sue your employer negligence or punitive damages in exchange for your employer paying for your medical care –so don’t dream of winning a lottery like they show in the movies

 

  • You are also entitled to time-off and partial payment of your wages by the Work Comp Insurance as you recover.

 

  • You are also entitled to chose your own doctor if you believe that he/she can provide the best care and you should stand firm on your decision-donot let the insurance company badger you into going with their choice of doctor if you are not satisfied.

 

  • Since the insurance company is also in a money-making business, be prepared to harassed by private investigator who will be sent in to verify the incident and in general prevent Work Comp misuse.

 

  • In case you end up with some sort of permanent disability you are entitled some form of compensation and even payment for your future treatment from the same insurance

 

  • And lastly, but most importantly keep your PI in the loop about your condition so that he can accommodate you with your restricted work requirements in case things don’t get back to normal and you don’t end up losing your visa that you worked so hard for.

 

 

So I miss enjoying the sunshine without the protection of a sunshades, miss working on the microscope or reading my favorite novel long into the night- but I am glad that I have regained back the power of eyesight enough to carry on working on my passion.

 

About the Author:

dsc_0750

I am a biochemist and molecular biophysicist by profession involved in cross-disciplinary research involving biophysical, molecular biology and genetic approaches. Currently employed as a postdoctoral fellow at Scripps Research Institute, La Jolla, California. We use high throughput functional genomics to understand the role of DNA damage repair pathway in preventing genomic instability following chronic exposure to Chromium under the mandate of the Superfund Initiative. I had started out as a chemistry student who completed her Masters (with Organic Chemistry Honors) from Indian Institute of Technology, Kanpur India in 2006. I joined IISc, Bangalore in 2006 in the Department of Molecular Biophysics under the guidance of Prof. Dipankar Chatterji. I completed my PhD in 2012 and moved to US for my postdoctoral training.

Abantika Ganguly

Image source: Pixabay

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Job rejections to a Job Offer

in That Makes Sense by

 

Once I submitted my I-485 for the adjustment of the status (to that of a permanent resident) and got the EAD/AP (Employment Authorization Document/Advanced Parole), I started looking for opportunities outside academia. I revised my CV into a one page resume with few tips and tricks that I learned from reading blogs and perusing resources online and elsewhere. I also drafted a cover letter. Initially, I started by sending the same resume and cover letter to all kinds of jobs I was applying to. I did not then consider the importance of aligning and showcasing my skills with job requirements. I would naively send my resume and cover letter and in turn, get automatic emails thanking my interest, followed by another response politely rejecting my candidature. After a while, I came to realize that I am not doing something right. I then started researching more into how to drafting a resume and cover letter. In my second phase of job applications, I got an email from HR of a company stating she would like to know more about my interest in the position. I was so happy that I scheduled the telephonic interview without really preparing for it. I never heard back from this person again.

In the third (and what ended up being the final phase) I tried to tackle this problem from all different angles. I revised my resume to add important stuff like selected publications (2-3 out of a total of 16), selected presentations (1-2) and modified most of the bullet points in a ‘problem action and result’ (PAR) format to make it two pages long. I applied for positions on the company web portals and simultaneously contacted the recruiter with my resume and cover letter, expressing my interest. I prepared for the interview by making a power-point presentation (I got this suggestion from my CSG mentor) which included questions asked by recruiters and the best personalized answers to them. I practiced for the interview by speaking out loud, and confidently delivering the answers. I also had a few follow-up questions prepared. One of the positions I had applied to, was looking for a candidate with extensive knowledge in B cells and some programming and data analyses skills. They must have found my resume and cover letter impressive; I heard back from the recruiter expressing an interest for a telephonic interview. I agreed to a suitable time and then prepared for it. I was able to impress the recruiter not only by my answers but also by the subsequent questions I asked, which then lead to an interview by hiring manager. This was my chance to talk about science and show him that I am really well aware of the methodology they are using, the pros and cons and the recent advancements in the field. My preparation, and a strong foundation in B-cell research and my experience in programming and statistics did the trick. More importantly, I could share my thoughts on the challenges faced, and my suggestions towards solving these issues. The constant support and the timely help provided by the CSG mentors immensely helped me secure this position.

 

At this juncture I would like to add some important things for aspiring postdocs who are looking to transition into industry. As a postdoc, the time spent in the lab doing the research is important. But it is equally important to develop and learn something new. For example, my interest in multidisciplinary science motivated me to learn programming languages, statistics and train on MOOCS platforms like Coursera, Edx and Udamy. Keep your learning process active, be it business, leadership, management or anything cross disciplinary. This will give you a unique value proposition, thereby raising your chance of success, a notch higher.

 

My onsite interview was scheduled two weeks after my telephonic. Meanwhile, I went on planning a few experiments in the lab. Then I got a call from The HR asking if I could manage to come a week early for onsite interview. I agreed to the new time and this in turn put everything on fast-track. I had no other option; I was doing my experiments and practicing my presentation with friends. Since I knew the importance of integrating audience perspective for a successful presentation, I asked myself several questions from the interviewer point-of-view. I modified my PowerPoint slides to reflect this; my first slide after the title was showcasing my certificates of programming, statistics and business, together with academic achievements like publication, citation, editorial board and peer reviewer experience. After my presentation, I met with various people with great enthusiasm and energy. I was told by a CSG-mentor, during preparation, that my energy while talking to people play an equally important part in determining the success, and I was quite mindful of this fact during the interview. Overall it was a success. I got to know later from the hiring manager that they would like to have my reference letters sent to them. The hiring manager also wanted to speak with a few people I have worked with, which I arranged. Lo behold! I now have my offer letter.interview-607713_1920

 

In summary, the process of job hunting is tedious, very discouraging and disappointing. Remember, don’t give up. Prepare as much as you can, and you will definitely land your DREAM JOB.

 

 

 

About the author:

satyendra_kumar

In Satyendra Kumar’s words , “I received my Ph D from University of Pune (National Institute of Virology, Pune) India in 2010. Then I came to University of Nebraska Medical center at Omaha as a Postdoctoral fellow for brief period in Department of Biochemistry and molecular biology, UNMC. Later I joined University of Illinois at Chicago, Department of Microbiology and Immunology (2010-2015), and became Visiting Research Assistant Professor in 2015. Since 2010, I have been working on understanding the molecular mechanism of B cell antibody diversification at various stages of differentiation.”

Edited by: Sitharam Ramaswami (https://www.linkedin.com/in/sitharam-ramaswami-ram-a0ab0660)

Image source: https://pixabay.com/en/interview-job-skills-employment-607713/

 

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Cooking in my Life

in Sci-Pourri/That Makes Sense by

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The earliest childhood memory I have about cooking is from when my mother would sit aside in the kitchen and pass on the responsibility to me. As per the customs in India at that time, she could not cook when she had her period, and being the eldest child in the family, I was the chosen one to bear this responsibility. This is how my cooking started. My mother would tell me what to do and I followed her direction. Light the fire (yes, we cooked on coal, firewood, and at times on kerosene stove in those days), clean the rice, cut vegetables, cook the rice, curry, and soup, etc. Before I could realize, my childhood was soon over and I proceeded to high-school, college, and university – loosing touch with cooking. I spent very little time at home and was away for long periods of time. I was busy acquiring knowledge through fire-hose, while food was provided at the hostels of the Central University of Hyderabad (we had a very good mess), and Indian Institute of Science, where the mess and food was par excellence, outstanding. No wonder that many IISc graduates do not know how to cook (no offence!).

Then came the time to venture into the brave new world of explorers and wanderers and I became a part of it in the October of 1986. I left my mother and sisters, my place of birth and education and stepping into adulthood, I took a flight to Austin, TX at the age of 26. University of Texas at Austin was my life for the next three years. My arrival was exciting and so was the warm welcome from labmates and some relatives and friends from India. But very soon, I was by myself, in my studio apartment (at a monthly rent of $125!) and the work load was pretty heavy. I worked until midnight almost every night. Understandably, my diet basically became restricted to peanut butter and jelly (PBJ) sandwich, baked potato with broccoli, pizza and Chinese veggie bowl. By the way, I was raised as a vegetarian, and chose to remain a vegetarian – a decision that I am very proud of, even today. Though the latter three compensated for my growing apathy towards PBJ, after the first 6 months I could neither see, smell, nor eat PBJ. It took me a decade to buy peanut butter again. This was the crisis that motivated me to start cooking.

I was recipe-poor, and all I had were the memories of helping my mother during my childhood. So, I conjured each of those memories and started experimenting. I didn’t have a car and used to share a ride with a friend in his old Volkswagen Bus to shop for groceries. My experiments with cooking in the early days were pretty much a disaster every single time. But I didn’t have any other choice. I couldn’t even look at pizza. The only outside food that I cherished was the Chinese veggie rice bowl from a very small Chinese fast food place across Guadalupe St. at the University. In fact, this was the only reason that I took a liking to Chinese cuisine. So, over the next two years or so, I slowly improved my cooking of Indian and Chinese vegetarian dishes.

One thing I realized fairly quickly was that cooking was not just about food, it brought a sense of freedom for me that, for the first time, I was not dependent on anyone for my basic need. I was also happy and proud to have broken the stereotype that cooking is a woman’s job and men are present to just eat and critique the food. Notable so, some of the best cooks in Indian history are men (and they are also the best critics) – Nalabheemapakam is supposed to be the best. Bhima, one of the five brothers of Pandavas is known as the best cook. Above and beyond all those, when cooking becomes a passion and a hobby that you look forward to and experiment with, it provides excellent compensation to your mind and body that engage in other intellectual/scientific/physical activities. This is how cooking became an integral part of my life.

I still remember how my grandmother used to make “guttivankai kura” (full eggplant curry). She made it so it was the best and so, I started trying. I remember avial, sweet banana chutney/curd served with fruit rice at the A-mess at IISc., and I started experimenting, sometimes more successful than others.

It was the time I met a student from Germany (total meat eater) and we started dating. We used to invite many friends and colleagues to our apartment and cooked for them. Thus,  my cooking skills began to expand.

In 1990 we moved to Germany and started our family in 1992. One of my conditions to get into serious relationship with my German girlfriend was: No meat or seafood at home – storage, eating, cooking, or bringing in. She was infatuated and agreed – a decision we hold even today. My wife eats meat outside, but we maintain veg*an lifestyle at home. This has survived the test for over 15 years in Germany as well as in the US. Since then, I am the cook at home most of the times, except for vegetarian German dishes that my wife makes. During the time in Germany and subsequent move to the US in 2000, my cooking slowly expanded from Indian, German, Italian and Chinese to Thai, Mexican and Mediterranean. I enjoy inviting friends over and cooking for them.

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One very important value that I try to uphold during cooking or eating food is to not waste food. I know how farmers work hard to produce the food we eat. I know how many humans and animals are deprived of food across the world. So, if I see someone serving food in excess and leaving their plate only half eaten, I would like to have “nothing to do with that person”. If you are a meat eater, this is even more important, because, an animal was killed for you to live. Above and beyond all these, conscious eating is critical. Be conscious about the source of your food, where it is coming from and how? Because, if you eat, it becomes a part of your body and mind. If you abuse your source of food, you abuse your body as well and your mind follows that abuse. You become physically and mentally a sick person. So, be conscious of the source of your food, respect the life that was sacrificed (plant or animal) and try to do minimal harm/damage to life for you to exist. Within this framework, you can still be an excellent cook and delight yourself and your friends and family with good food.

Murthy Gudipati

La Canada Flintridge, CA

 

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About the Author: Murthy S. Gudipati (aka G. S. Murthy at IISc) is a Principal Scientist at the Jet Propulsion Laboratory, California Institute of Technology. His research focuses on the evolution of organic matter and ice in the Universe, particularly the outer solar system, comets, and the potential origin(s) of life on Earth. He worked at the University of Texas at Austin, at the University of Cologne, Germany, University of Maryland, College Park, and at NASA Ames before joining JPL/Caltech in 2007. Murthy obtained M.Sc. at the Central University of Hyderabad (1981), Ph.D. from the Department of Chemistry, Indian Institute of Science (1987), and Habilitation (similar to tenure) at the University of Cologne (1998). He stayed in almost all the Men’s Hostel Blocks, dined at all the three A-C Messes, ran a half-marathon, and developed life-long friendships during his 1981-1986 stay at one of the most beautiful campuses in the world – the IISc. His PhD research was recognized with “Guha Medal – Best Thesis Award”. Murthy is one of the founding members of the IIScAANA.

Born and raised in in Southern India, Murthy lived in interior villages to mega cities in three continents. He at times walked over four miles each way to attend upper primary schools from his village. This experience bonded him with nature and animals immensely. Murthy likes Nature and National Parks and he has organized several hiking and camping trips for IIScAANA. Murthy’s passion is to bring knowledge, information, and education to the next generation humans to enable the future civilizations to treat themselves and the Nature with respect. Murthy’s pursuit of Science is balanced by his interest in World Music, Nature, Vegetarian Cooking, and Philosophy.

 

Edited by: Anshu Malhotra

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