Scientists Simplifying Science

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January 2017

Rethink your diet

in Reporting from the Lab by

New year is often the time to make lifestyle changes that most commonly include dietary restrictions to stay healthy and happy. It is no surprise, to most of us, that these alterations impact us as well as our gut microbiome – the microbial community associated with the human digestive tract. Several studies have underpinned the role of the gut microbiome in regulating our physiology including metabolic functions and immune response. As a consequence, variations in the gut microbiome have been associated with autoimmune disorders, cancer, obesity and cardiovascular diseases. In order to understand how the gut microbiome influences our health, a fundamental question that remained to be answered was – what dietary components influence our microbiome. Scientists (Holmes AJ et al) in a recent publicationin the journal Cell metabolism have made some insightful observations to address this question. The researchers used experimental as well as simulation models to thoroughly investigate the influence of 25 different dietary compositions on the gut microbiome of 858 mice fed over a period of 15 months. One of the key findings from this study was that the microbial diversity is dependent on the energy density as well as nutrient distribution of the food i.e. the ratio of protein to carbohydrate. The study also showed that this diversity is largely governed by the utilization of nutrients by our body and their subsequent availability to the gut microbiome. In simpler terms, the complex proteins and carbohydrates we consume is broken down into end products that are primarily made up of carbon and nitrogen. These products are reabsorbed for our metabolic activities and physiological functions. The microbiome, however, has two major sources of nutrients which include (i) endogenous secretions in our gut such as mucin and (ii) digestion-resistant or partially digested carbohydrates and proteins present in our diet. Interestingly, the researchers were able to generate ‘guilds’ that constitute bacterial species that vary in their utilization of substrates for nutrients. For instance, a high protein to carbohydrate intake led to an increased abundance of Firmicutes that utilized dietary carbon and nitrogen for their metabolism. On the other hand, Bacteroidetes were more abundant in a low protein to carbohydrate diet where host endogenous secretions was the primary source of nutrients. Further analysis revealed that nitrogen that constitutes the protein diet played a key role in governing these microbial shifts in the gut. This suggests that the ratio of protein to carbohydrate is critical in mediating the gut diversity. Previous studies by the same group indicated that low protein intake by mice is associated with better immune response and intestinal function. In addition, other studies have revealed that the abundance of Bacteroidetes to Firmicutes helps in regulating obesity. Overall, this study has tremendous implications as we usher into an era of host-gut-diet interactions to understand disease processes. It is imperative to acknowledge that such studies are difficult to recapitulate in humans where several confounding variables exist within the diet. Nevertheless, they have begun to provide an understanding of the qualitative and quantitative aspects of our diet that can predict microbiome composition and consequently our health. In a period where precision medicine is the new norm, it will not be surprising if precision diet regimens might be generated for an optimal symbiotic relationship between the us and our gut microbiome for healthy living. Ultimately, while these findings warrant further study, you might want to think twice before you completely exclude those carbs and indulge in your legumes. Remember, it’s all relative !

Journal reference:

Andrew J. Holmes, Yi Vee Chew, Feyza Colakoglu, John B. Cliff, Eline Klaassens, Mark N. Read, Samantha M. Solon-Biet, Aisling C. McMahon, Victoria C. Cogger, Kari Ruohonen, David Raubenheimer, David G. Le Couteur, Stephen J. Simpson. Diet-Microbiome Interactions in Health Are Controlled by Intestinal Nitrogen Source Constraints. Cell Metabolism, 2017 Jan 10;25(1):140-151. 1016/j.cmet.2016.10.021

Additional  newsfeed:

https://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2016/11/161123141436.htm

http://www.nutraingredients.com/Research/Nitrogen-key-for-gut-health-Study

http://www.sbs.com.au/topics/science/humans/article/2016/11/25/

nitrogen-holds-key-healthy-gut-bacteria

https://sydney.edu.au/news-opinion/news/2016/11/24/

major-finding-identifies-nitrogen-as-key-driver-for-gut-health.html

Article contributions 

Radhika Raheja and Isha Verma

Ipsa Jain (Illustration)

 

 

 

The week that it was- 8th Jan to 14th Jan, 2017

in ClubSciWri by

The weekend started with the CSG members voting for the kind of topics they would like to hear more about from us at Club SciWri. I believe the list of topics will grow as per the requirements of the group. But for this week we will focus on what and where are the different job opportunities that exist for PhD holders outside academia and how to apply for these jobs.

Choose what is to your taste as there are multiple options open for scientific writers at La Jolla, for science writers at PhiladelphiaGreater Boston and Massachusetts and a workshop on science communications at Harvard and Rockefeller Universities.

The science/scientific writing enthusiasts, learn how to make effective scientific illustrations to convey your messages clearly to a wide audience.

Early career scientist position at Takeda Pharmaceuticals, primarily for toxicologists.

P&G offers an unique setting to know its research and development settings and experience its innovation centre in Europe via its R&D European PhD Seminar. Gear up soon, for the deadlines are fast approaching for Belgium and Germany.

Choose the right locations to help you find the right opportunities in the USA.

If you are feeling you need to explore beyond academia and yet haven’t sorted how and where it should be, here is a guide to sort you.

Know yourself, explore your strengths and learn how to apply your skills in a non academic setting.

Keep yourself in shoes of the prospective employer and judge your application.

Attention, young PIs: Learn to strategize to ensure growth of your team members as you grow into a successful team leader.

Let CSG grow its wings to cover the brethren of PhD and postdocs. Let it reach newer cities, find newer members. For now, there is a possibility for the CSG members to meet altogether at Cambridge, Boston on 19th Jan.

A reminder to apply for the mentor mentee program by CSG by Jan 31st, 2017. Make most of our kind mentors to apply for your next dream job. After all, we at CSG are here to create, share and grow.

 

To Bio or Not to Bio

in That Makes Sense by
Editor’s note: The members of the Career Support Group (CSG) for STEM PhDs might have fond remembrance of their teen years when it became nerve-wracking to make that choice. I am not referring about the choice of who-to-date but the choice of taking up Science, Commerce or Arts as majors to move-up the livelihood ladder. In the Sunday Blog from ClubSciWri, Sayantan Chakraborty brings out the ways where the lights should not go out on the aspirations of a starry-eyed biology undergrad. “To Bio or not to Bio” is one of the blogs that you might like to share with your friends who are helping their kids take decisions for their future careers after a biology major.  Surely, the kids are way smarter so Sayantan does mention that “Read, learn, and update yourself with the upcoming careers paths and how to mold your present to shape the future” and we are sure they will figure out how to beat the robots in creating a new Earth on Mars. Are you listening Elon Musk?- Abhinav Dey

Our neighbor’s child is now going to study MBBS after his class 12th. You should learn something from them.” This is a common dialogue in India. Every student in high school who studied biology gets to hear it – either from his/her parents or someone else. Although this can be said in many forms, it’s almost unavoidable, and parents tend to lose sleep pondering about their child’s career. In some cases, as soon as we are born, parents tend to decide our profession, most notably – engineering or medicine.

Given the significant population growth in India over the years, the sheer number of students has dramatically increased the competition amongst them. Competition is inevitable whether in life or in profession or in nature. But, it is not surprising to learn that students tend to follow the herd. A lot of them start preparing for their medical entrance examinations while some enroll for Bachelor of Science (B.Sc.) courses (specializing in Zoology/Botany or any applied fields of biology). Those who can’t make it through the entrance exams, subsequently enroll for similar B.Sc. courses. Some of the curious and the enthusiastic minds move on to pursue a Ph.D. with a sheer will to become a Professor or a scientist in the future. Some make it, but the others move on to alternate careers. Becoming a professor or a scientist is a tedious and nerve-wracking journey and only those who tread this path would tell its tales. However, given the tight situation of academic positions, a number of PhDs switch to alternate careers even though the passion of being a scientist burns within them. Some transition out of academia in time, while others remain oblivious of alternate careers and their scope. Why is that? There are and could be many answers, but one of them is critical – the lack of proper guidance.

We, as school goers are never informed about the variety of prospects that we can explore apart from medicine or biological sciences post class 12th. Not every student is of the same intellectual level and although no one should ever under estimate themselves and stop dreaming big, they shouldn’t be kept in the dark about other career prospects. It’s better to prepare and work towards more options. Mentioned below are various career choices that a student who’s studying biology (along with other subject combinations) can prepare and decide for. As you might notice, these courses are different from the traditional biological courses (Zoology, Botany, Biotechnology, Microbiology, Genetics etc.).

  1. Law
  2. Fashion Technology/Design
  3. Journalism and Mass communication
  4. Web development/animations/graphics/multimedia
  5. Geology
  6. Event management
  7. Air hostess/pilot/aviation training
  8. Management education
  9. Bachelor of Audiology Speech Language Pathology.
  10. Forensic science
  11. Food Technology
  12. Agriculture
  13. Sports science
  14. Speech therapy
  15. Physiotherapy
  16. Nursing
  17. Pharmacy
  18. Hospital management
  19. Commerce streams (Chartered accountancy)
  20. Armed forces
  21. Civil services

While choosing a course of study, it’s very important to follow your passion and interests. Do NOT follow the herd! It’s recommended to take advice from well-wishers and peers alike, however, never let those advice dictate your path. Read, learn, and update yourself with the upcoming careers paths and how to mold your present to shape the future. Lastly, remember, nothing worth having comes easy.

 

The following websites were referred for this post:

http://www.apnaahangout.com/top11coursestodoafter12thscience/

https://www.quora.com/Whataresomeoptionsforabiologystudentafterclass12thinIndia

http://educationwalablog.blogspot.com/2013/05/top10careerafter12thsciencefor.html

 

About the author:

Sayantan Chakraborty

I am an IRTA postdoctoral visiting fellow at the National Institute on Aging – National Institutes of Health, Baltimore. Apart from science, I invest my time in networking, organizing events, and consolidating efforts to build a platform for guiding school students to their suitable career choice.

 

Featured image source: Pixabay

Creative Commons License
This work by ClubSciWri is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial 4.0 International License.

Med-Ness: At the Frontier of Medicine, Healthcare and Pharma Business

in SciBiz by

This weekly blog will bring the major pharmaceutical and healthcare highlights. We all hate to move from blog to blog, post-to-post and website-to-website. Here, at Med-Ness we understand and value our reader’s time. Along with the major highlights, I will give you my opinion and my take for the week. 

     Med-Ness is for you if you are:

  • An inquisitive scientist and want to stay abreast in all the fields
  • Money minded and want to know business aspect
  • Medical Writer
  • Healthcare consultant

We will also focus on different sections each week. For example, next week will be the post-dated (or should I say, post-week?) section discussing the most coveted healthcare conference- JP Morgan 2017 (#JPM17)! Seriously, what is the fuss about this year’s conference? Never have I ever seen such hysteria about any conference! I hope one day my blog creates such a frenzy in the pharmaceutical field.

I will also brief you about the changing healthcare stocks and other market trends.

And how can I forget about political aspects? Did anybody say Trump’s take on Pharma industry? Where there is money, there is a political agenda. That is completely my take. Finally, I will bring in forefront any new policies or regulatory aspects that might or can affect the pharmaceutical business.

 

CNNMoney ranked healthcare stocks on number 2 position on their list, “5 stocks to buy in 2017”

So lets start with the simple and most commonly seen noun, “stock”. The dictionary spells out a very straightforward definition except; there is nothing simple about stocks. Moving on, stock is the capital that can be raised by any business firm when they issue and provide subscriptions for their shares. It basically defines and provides ownership rights to a company. So let’s say, you decide to buy stocks of a pharmaceutical company. With this stock you bought or rather own that part or percentage of the company. If the company makes profit or its net worth increases, so does the value of the stock increases. A Stock market aka equity market or share market enables such buying or selling of stocks.

  • Have you ever wondered about stocks, investments and equity research?
  • Have you ever thought of investing in healthcare market shares?
  • Have you ever felt speechless in the presence of colleagues talking about market forecast?

The most important question to ask is what determines the trends in stock market? Why should or why shouldn’t you buy a particular stock. The key to this question lies in research known as “equity research”. Equity Research involves analysis and forecast of company’s financials. The whole agenda behind such an exploration is to recommend a particular stock to buy or sell.

“Money has transformed every watchdog, every independent authority. Medical doctors are increasingly gulled by the lobbying of pharmaceutical salesmen”

– Thomas Frank

If you want to follow a particular stock market yourself, you will have to observe and understand the stocks in order to predict their future worth. This might take weeks or even months. All you need to keep is patience! In addition, if you are an amateur in healthcare stocks, you might have to consider previous historical trends to determine the worth of a particular stock. To learn more about stock market, I recommend you all two insightful articles published Forbes.

www.forbes.com/sites/…/01/…/10-things-you-absolutely-need-to-know-about-stocks

www.forbes.com/…/how-to-spot-the-stock-markets-trend-before-it-is-obvious-to-all/

The variability in the stock market due to drug introduction or rejection.

A pharmaceutical company invests in the drug much before it is available to the patients. The drug stays in the pipeline stage for years. The reason- it has to pass all the safety tests before it reaches the patient. Now, the success or failure of the drug’s safety or its use will determine the worth of its stock. Sometimes, small biotech start-ups or pharmaceutical giants announce the research of a particular drug against a disease or condition. The requirement and the need for that research will determine its initial stock worth and successful launch of the drug and Phase IV post-marketing analysis will determine the rise or fall of the stock. According to “Investopedia”, orphan drugs (drugs for the treatment of rare diseases or conditions) are most expensive drugs in the USA. Such drugs will often bring more revenue and hence increased stock value.

The information on new drug launches could be obtained from company’s website or from The Wall Street Journal or from Businessweek. You can also keep a check on the drugs entering clinical trials (clinicaltrials.gov) to follow drugs from the company.

With this, we wrap up our very first post on Med-Ness. Let the medicine and business madness continue. Have a great weekend!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Imit pursued her Ph.D. from the University of Utah, and is currently pursuing her Postdoctoral fellowship at the Albert Einstein Medical College in Bronx, NY. She has an expertise in preclinical drug development and regulatory protocol development and analytical chemistry focussed on Oncology. Her current work explores the signaling pathways involved in hematopoiesis and leukemia stem cells. She is passionate about medical and science communication.

NASDAQ Image Source:

https://secure.flickr.com/photos/bfishadow/3100369536/

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This work by ClubSciWri is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial 4.0 International License.

 

Face to Face with Dr. Senthil Arumugam

in Face à Face by

As a part of SciWri’s effort to interview young academicians, scientists, PhDs beyond academia, entrepreneurs, and social scientists to understand their career paths, their interests, and their vision, we interviewed Dr. Senthil Arumugam (SA), group leader at the Single Molecule Science Node of the University of New South Wales, Australia. Senthil talks about his passion for Biology and his journey from being wanting to become an astronaut to his present obsession with single molecules. 

 AG: How do you describe yourself to others?

(Senthil) SA: I am a microscopist-biologist who enjoys learning the best techniques and applying them to real world biological questions. Throughout my formal education, I have either built or applied specialist microscopy techniques to problems ranging from neuroscience, bacterial biology or eukaryotic biology, during which, I also learned about the length and breadth of interesting biological problems.

AG: Where and how exactly your academic journey started?

SA: I think I was always interested in science. I do not remember when I started liking science, but I do remember wanting to be an astronaut. It stemmed from breaking my father’s old Russian cameras for the lenses in it, and made a telescope to explore space. That made me curious about what is out there, who we are, what is life. I think this is where I got interested in science and learning about things around me. Meanwhile, there was a physics teacher in my 11th class, Mr. Venugopal, who, on his first day at the job, picked up the text book, waved it at us, and asked one question – Why are we studying all this? That episode pretty much helped me work wilfully towards becoming a scientist. This made me take up Bachelor of Science, where I came across another special teacher, Dr. Shashi Pandya. She used to teach organic chemistry, and she started a small research lab, where we would try new chemical synthesis pathways. She encouraged me to apply for summer research fellowship at the Indian Academy of Sciences (IAS), Bangalore, India. I spent 2 months at the Indian Institute of Science (IISc), Bangalore, India, in the inorganic chemistry department, where I was exposed to how research is performed, designing experiments based on ideas explored in past literature, and the idea that text books are made out of real research (as silly as it might sound, a lot of students do not have the exposure at the undergrad level in India). The stint at IISc also exposed me to the premier research institutes in India – IISc, JNCASR, TIFR, etc. I applied to all of these places for my masters and got selected to pursue my Master at the Tata Institute of Fundamental Research. Here, I worked in the lab of Dr. Sudipta Maiti (http://www.tifr.res.in/~dcs/index.php?option=com_content&view=article&id=19&Itemid=126), where I could build a strong base in microscopy that would help me in future to explore life below few microns (the other unseen space).

AG: You went to Tata Institute of Fundamental Research (TIFR) to pursue your Masters. Why did you choose to go to TIFR?

SA: Though I was interested in continuing science, I had little idea about doing a Ph.D. abroad, I did not have any clue when I came to TIFR, about who funds your Ph.D., how can one go abroad for doing a Ph.D., what should one do to pursue Ph.D. TIFR being a very dynamic place, and being well-informed and exposed to world science, provided me with plenty of advice and help to apply for various Ph.D. positions.

I was clear I wanted to go to an optics + biology lab. I applied to plenty of universities in the USA, but was unsuccessful. Meanwhile, a colleague of mine, who had visited MPI-CBG Dresden, Germany, told me that it looked like Dresden was the place for me because of the many microscopy based labs there. I applied, got called for interviews, went there, and liked the lab of Petra Schwille (http://www.biochem.mpg.de/en/rd/schwille), whose lab was essentially based on applications of fluorescence methods to biology to understand biological phenomena. I gladly accepted it, knowing the fact that there were plenty of optics and microscopy, but truth be told I had no clue about the biological problems that I would address. I don’t think I analyzed so much in depth about institute rankings, lab rankings or whatsoever other metrics may be.

AG: Can you share with us some moments from your PhDs?

SA: I think the best moment was when one of my projects got accepted and made it across to a biology journal. Owing to its interdisciplinary approach it was a struggle to get it accepted, but I am glad it saw the light at the end of the tunnel. That was also my first lead author manuscript. I think it boosted my confidence and made me pursue more independent ideas.

The City of Dresden, Germany

AG: Tell us something about your postdoc and why and how did you chose your postdoc lab/mentor?

SA: By the end of my Ph.D., I was quite confident of my microscopy skills, and the ability to pick up new techniques. I decided to look for biological problems. At the same time, I was wary of joining a pure biology lab. I also wanted to stay on Europe as my wife was pursuing her Ph.D. in Germany. I narrowed down my search to Paris, because of the highly interdisciplinary nature of the institutes and their exciting contributions that I had followed. I joined as a joint-post doc between the labs of Patricia Bassereau and Ludger Johannes (https://science.institut-curie.org/research/multiscale-physics-biology-chemistry/chemical-biology-of-membranes-and-therapeutic-delivery/). Patricia’s lab was a more quantitative, physics oriented lab, and Ludger’s was a traditional biology lab a perfect example of an interdisciplinary collaboration. Patricia’s lab was also focused on membrane physics while Ludger’s on endocytic processes. My Ph.D. experience in Petra’s lab had acquainted me with model membrane systems, and a lot of membrane biophysics owing to expert colleagues in the lab with whom I frequently chatted in the lab and over beers. Therefore, I thought I could put together biology, optics, and membrane physics and do interesting stuff here. Being the bridge between the physics and the biology department here, I could learn a lot in good detail from both the fields. At the same time, Curie institute being in Paris made my monthly commutes to Dresden and back easier.

The mountains where I would occasionally hike

AG: What were the most memorable postdoc moment?

SA: While in Ludger’s lab, I was trying to image endosomal sorting dynamics using spinning disc microscopes. I had tried pretty hard with all possible tricks and variations. I did manage to capture some events but knew this could never be high-throughput given the time resolution, photo-bleaching and the fast dynamics of the endosomal system. This was when Eric Betzig’s invention – the lattice light-sheet microscope was published around October 2014. I desperately wanted to get my hands on this microscope. With some efforts from my side and other non-related events between the labs of Tomas Kirchhausen and Ludger, I was on a flight to Boston, to visit Tomas Kirchhausen’s lab (http://www.idi.harvard.edu/investigators_research/investigator/kirchhausen_lab/). The first time I imaged on this microscope and saw the dynamics of endocytosis and vesicles in live cells that I could only imagine before, I knew I had to get this as a weapon in my arsenal.

I think I had the same nervousness and insecurities that everyone has towards the end of post-doc when you look at the job market, and everything seems uphill. This was also the time when I felt I had to be out and independent soon. Most of my experiments were strictly dictated by Ludger, and my papers from my post-doc seemed like they would take forever to get published. I thought it was either now or never.

A single cell image generated from the lattice light sheet imaging showing clathrin coated pits, its tracking and shigatoxin (in blue). 

 

AG: How did you cope with life outside India? What were you doing beyond labs?

SA: I do not think I felt any pressure living outside India. I had a fantastic time in Dresden. It’s a very pleasant city with the right balance of architecture, open fields, and beautiful mountains to hike around. Summers were spent playing ultimate Frisbee and hiking on the Sächsische Schweiz, winters enjoying the snow, ice skating, cross country skiing. I had fantastic friends from all over Europe and other places. Being centrally located in Europe allowed us also to travel and explore EU countries.

During my stay in Paris, most of my time was spent traveling – first between Paris and Dresden, and then between Paris-Barcelona-Boston. When not traveling, beyond the lab, life mostly extended to either bars or classical Parisian riverside picnics, outings, travels.

AG: How was the academic job hunting process? When did you start planning? What were the critical factors that helped you during the job search?

SA: I had no immediate plans to search for academic jobs when I moved to Paris. I thought I might do another post-doc or see how it goes. However, the fact that I did not have the kind of independence to do what I wanted to, with my ideas – a freedom I was spoilt with in my Ph.D. lab, really made me yearn for it. At the same time, frequent traveling to different institutes during my post-doc exposed me to various researchers. I met with and discussed with a lot of researchers between Paris, Barcelona, and Boston where I was doing microscopy experiments for my post-doc projects. This exposed me to a variety of projects in detail and helped me shape ideas as well gave confidence to my ideas. At one point, I attended three conferences, ranging from developmental biology to computational biology in tandem, just because I wanted to know what interesting biological problems are out there. All the visits, conferences, and conversations expanded my knowledge base tremendously, exposed me to a variety of biological questions, technical advancements, and available resources, which proved to be a feeding ground for me to generate new ideas, think creatively using the expanded base of information to solve biological questions.

Above everything, the fact that I was desperate for conducting independent research and the confidence that I was ready for it drove me. I started applying/ looking for jobs at the end of two years into my postdoc. I considered India primarily in the beginning. I applied for Young Investigator’s meeting but did not receive a positive response. I did go around visiting and giving talks in institutes in India whenever I was on vacation, and I was repeatedly told I needed more experience or more papers. At the same time, talking to various researchers, I realized it is difficult to get the kind of funds I would like to have to bring cutting edge microscopy technologies in India. Thus, I shifted my focus to investment developed countries where I could execute the kind of work I want to do, particularly in  in Germany, Singapore, and Australia.

AG: What do you think is the most imp step you took for cracking academic job market?

SA: I think I inadvertently played on my strengths of microscopy and analysis. Along the way, I made sure I had the right balance to enrich myself with the knowledge of biology and various interesting questions in biology so that I could pick problems that interest me and use my strengths to answer it. To crack the job market, one of the essential requirements is to put forward a solid original thread of a project idea that is strongly supported by your training, research experiences, publications, etc. that are convincing a committee to trust you with carrying out the project. I started early on this, read a lot of papers, generated ideas that interested me, discussed with plenty of very good friends – old and new from TIFR to Curie, helped me shape it. Technology and science go hand in hand and developments often jump by leaps within a decade i.e., within the range of time from starting a Ph.D. to finishing a post-doc. I happened to be lucky to end up in a lab where I could convince the lab head to fund my trips and travel to various institutes to learn advanced microscopy technologies. While technology is not solely the basis on which one is recruited, it is better to be prepared for a balanced approach towards science, as well as using your strengths being part of the academic supply chain. You need to weave your path through the intertwined maze of technology requirements by your lab, the institutes, your expertise that is a commodity and your research interests that should be sharpened and developed in parallel.

AG: Now that you are a PI, what has been your experience so far?

SA: It has been amazing so far. I am enjoying the freedom to realize my ideas and the ability to reasonably fund my ideas. I have got a fantastic post-doc who is very enthusiastic and extremely easy to work with and has been very helpful in starting up the lab. I am looking forward to the first experiments from the lab once my microscope is built.

AG: As a young PI what are the challenges and what support system do you get?

SA: I think one of the biggest challenges is that most students and post-docs have little understanding of the financial and management aspect of running a lab. You suddenly see a million dollars at your disposal. Fortunately, I could talk to a lot of friends who had just established labs and got some useful inputs, project your expenses early, buy the biggest necessary equipment first, go a bit slow – don’t fall into the shopping spree trap, balance people, and equipment, etc. The senior colleagues in the institute here have been helpful in sharing their lab running costs and their strategies; that help me devise my own suited to my lab’s requirement.

Cell lines, plasmids, etc. form an important part of a biological research lab. Often when you switch projects, collecting these can be a task. While some people are really benevolent with sharing resources, some are not. Be prepared to do your homework to overcome these hurdles.

AG: Whats your idea of mentoring in today’s academia? Will you be open to people who want to transition out of bench work?

SA: I am largely inexperienced in mentoring and go really with my intuition and feeling of what is right. I do take feedbacks from my student and try to have a regular co-worker relationship like I would if I was a post-doc along with them. It’s been only three months, and I find this, as of now, comfortable.

I am certainly for people transitioning out to alternative careers. An academic position is not the final destination of doing science. In a steady state, only about 10-15% can move to a post-doctoral position and even lesser from a post-doc to a junior faculty position. It is clearly a pyramid, and it’s not going to change anytime soon. I would advise to fight it out early on in your career if you are very much passionate adamant on a faculty position. If you do not succeed, you may be better off saving yourself some time to explore plenty of options. I was prepared to look for something else if an academic position hadn’t come through after the first post-doc. The chances of getting a faculty position only drop after that unless a miracle of the high impact magazine or journal article comes out. Explore alternative career options. Build expertise on things that interest you.

There are various possibilities where your training can be put to use while excluding a faculty position – the most exciting of them in my opinions are entrepreneurial ventures, scientific animation and illustration services (Complex ideas need to be conveyed to the academic community as well as the general public. Experts in understanding scientific details and ideas as well as capabilities of portraying them using animations, illustrations will be increasingly in demand), Analysists (big-data, image processing, coders) will be in demand considering the advent of cutting edge technologies in various fields. These secondary employments that come out of novel demands are largely under-utilized. At the same time, the academic institutions also need to encourage and create these positions. One may think of a transition help system where specialized training (for e.g. creating animations) is given to students willing to transition out while being related to the academia.

AG: Finally, what will be your suggestions to PhDs who are preparing themselves for an academic position?

SA: If you are absolutely serious about an academic career, explore ideas and technologies; try to go beyond your comfort zone. Talk to a variety of people, discuss science, ideas. It broadens your mind regarding what you can understand, how much can you relate and build cross bridges that are unique. Expect to do more and beyond regular reading, experiments and writing manuscripts as you go from Ph.D. to post-doc and post-doc to an independent position. Strike early when you can leverage off your most recent papers and the younger age. Put time and effort to write a project proposal that is rich in ideas, novelty, and technology if that’s your expertise. Remember it is not a post-doctoral project proposal for a single person for the next two-three years. Put together your ideas, and put up a mature project proposal that a lab would be working on. A good estimate is a project with work and experiments requiring about three Ph.D. or post-docs for the next 2 – 3 years. You are also required to be on a variety of committees that demand a broad variety of knowledge base. Keep yourself updating about exciting discoveries, techniques, and developments.

Dr. Senthil Arumugam is a group leader at the Single Molecule Science Node of the University of New South Wales since September 2016. His lab focuses on intracellular trafficking in diseases and develops and uses cutting edge imaging and analysis techniques for cell biology. He obtained his masters from TIFR, Mumbai and PhD from Technical University of Dresden/ MPI-CBG.  He then did a post-doc at the Curie Institute in Paris where he was also a recipient of the Pierre Gilles de Gennes fellowship. More about his lab can be found on https://sms.unsw.edu.au/senthil-arumugam

 

Editor: Ananda Ghosh (AG)

I work at the NYU Office of Industrial Liaison to make sure that NYU innovations are developed beyond bench and ultimately serves society to solve unmet needs. As a co-founder of SciWri my vision is to share ideas and stories through SciWri and create awareness in innovation, entrepreneurship, alternate careers for PhDs, sustainable development, biodiversity, environment, and leadership.

 

The week that it was – 1st to 7th Jan, 2017

in ClubSciWri by

Welcome back post-holidays, guys. The last week CSG brought us discussions on science and spirituality in light of the 104th Indian Science Congress to understanding the recent trends in research and paths to tread beyond academia.

Let’s take a sneak peek into what have kept our members occupied the last week.

As the dilemma begins for the final year PhD students, check EMBO director, Maria Leptin’s suggestions to the students at IISER, Pune.

Instead of investing in newer medicines pharma companies are delving into repurposing existing drugs in the market.

As the latest trend in life sciences leans towards microbiome research, New Yorkers, do not miss an opportunity to listen Rob Knight at Mt. Sinai on the 9th Jan, 2017 at 10 am. Needless to say, time is apt to keep up with the industries invested in microbiome research.

A compilation of top job blogs of 2016, includes help for drafting cover letters, resumes and CVs to LinkedIn profiles.

Know about presenting your transferable skills on a resume for a job whose requirements do not directly align with your experience.

Read an interview with former Infosys CEO, Kris Gopalakrishnan and know his views on Indian start-up scenario and his support for growth of research based start-ups in India.

Is the Indian Science Congress (again!) missing the point of scientific research? Or is it plain politics? Or simply a part of Indian culture? The scientific community is surely seeing many stalwarts shunning the Indian Science Congress.

As we realize increasingly the need for science communication, more innovative ways to engage layman with science also are evolving, like the initiative Shoot for Science and to connect scientists with the journalists via Help a Reporter.

See you all soon!! And until then have a productive week ahead.

5 Mantras to ‘effectively complete’ THAT Online Course

in That Makes Sense by
Editor’s Note: A Brand New Year is here and everyone is abuzz in their minds with their New Year resolutions. At the Career Support Group (CSG) for STEM PhDs, a lot of members are resolving to fine tune their skills through online courses. But staying focused to complete these courses is no less harder than sustaining that gymming habit meant to lose those oodles of weight gained during the holiday season.  Well, trust Madhurima’s experience to help you in choosing those horses to cruise through those courses. ClubSciWri wishes for a successful and positive start to everyone’s 2017!- Abhinav Dey

 

Online courses have been around for a few years now. Coursera, Venture Labs and many more portals have innumerable courses ranging a wide breadth of topics. While online courses are the perfect place to go for those who want to learn new things, it is also a great way to build skills that will help you go up a few notches in your career. Some of the courses may be directly connected to your area of study or current work, while some may be diametrically opposite. Some of the learnings may be immediately visible and some may be more latent.

 

Five Mantras to effective complete that online course

  1. Choose a course that interests you 

Interest is the key word here.  Do not choose a course just because someone is doing it.  While there is a lot of flexibility, it is essential to remember that you have to figure out the best way to make the most out of them.  So, choose a course topic about which you are motivated to pick up a book or read the slides, end of a long day.

  1. Work with a study partner or a study group

They could be geographically spread out or even your close friends in the same city. It helps to have a partner in crime. Build a rapport and work together, making the most of each of your complementary skills.

  1. Plan for the course and create a time table

Plan the time commitment ahead.  Understand how much time you can invest in a six week course.  Prepare mentally for it, and then physically too. Treat it with as much seriousness as you would a regular course. Timetable for assignments and deadlines, make lists of what you have learnt, what is the next session about and your work that needs to be completed.

  1. Online courses are like a Pandora’s Box

You have to figure out how individual assignments work for you, video lessons, audio lessons and presentations.  During the course, also focus on the learning tool being used. Before you know, you have learnt a whole lot of new things.

  1. Self-motivation is the key

Remind yourself why you are doing this. Be disciplined. While you complete the suggested reading material, read anything you find on the topic. Always helps to widen your horizons, literally.

 

Speaking about my personal experience, I have done a few courses from Stanford Venture Labs on Creativity, Design Thinking and Technology Entrepreneurship. This was almost four years back. I did it with a few friends and the group study sessions were immensely helpful.  Also, the fact that we were from diverse backgrounds ensure lot of new learning, at both conceptual and practical level. I, over the years, have used the techniques/concepts learnt for my training sessions and they have been appreciated.  I guess as I write this piece, it is time I find that next online course.

 

Madhurima Das

About the author:

madhurima-das

A Human Resource Management (HRM) and Policy research consultant; passionate about psychology, poetry and people; grammar, writing and movies. Is also a HRM, Communications and Work-Life trainer. A clinical psychologist, with a doctorate degree in Human Resource Management from the Department of Management Studies, Indian Institute of Science, Bengaluru. Was the Chief Evangelist and Co-founder of Gubbi Labs’ Research Media Services and its flagship venture, the Science Media Center at Indian Institute of Science, Bengaluru. Blogs at www.madhurimadas.blogspot.com.

Edited by: Abhinav Dey

Image source: Pixabay

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This work by ClubSciWri is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial 4.0 International License.

The week that it was -Dec 24 2016-Dec 31 2016

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  • 15724509_10154834905136703_7371945714497711954_o.jpg?fit=2048%2C1360

As we start with the new year, ClubSciWri brings an added dimension. Under the scope of ‘The week that it was’ in ClubSciWri, each Sunday I will bring you a summary with the links to the most interesting/liked/discussed posts made on the CSG forum by the members each week. This is to make it easy to keep a track of the ever-increasing number of posts being made on the forum, on a variety of topics. As a compiler it makes it easy for me to track the articles if they are with #sciwri.

Below are the topics that have kept our members busy over the last one week, despite the holidays.

Participate in the poll so that CSG builds up a stronger demographic statistics of its members.

Explore the different career options that exist in life sciences.

Find an exhaustive list of Indian companies that can be your next career destination as a consultant

Know what it takes to be in project management in the biotech sector. For those who enjoyed it will find an opening at Conte lab, University of California, San Francisco.

Find a comprehensive list of what to and not to do’s while planning to apply for career development awards.

Slack, an alternative to emails. is increasingly being used for group communications even in the scientific circles.

Be inspired by unconventional career paths of Gadi Geiger.

You cannot ignore the management tips to help you grow into a successful leader.

Know how to build an impressive LinkedIn profile. Make sure you use the right keywords to help the potential employers find you.

Wish you all a fruitful week and a successful year ahead. And looking forward to your posts on SciWri!

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