Career Opportunities – Science Is Vital report on UK Science Careers

At the beginning of this month, Science is Vital published a report called ‘Careering Out Of Control’, which presented the results of a survey they performed amongst scientists about their opinions of the state of academic careers in the UK. The report was requested by David Willets, Minister for Universities and Science, and is addressed to him, but it also makes decent reading for everyone. You can read the executive summary here and the report in full here.

Science Is Vital conducted its survey amongst scientists from all backgrounds and career stages, and also asked those who responded to tell their own stories. The familiar problems that I’ve touched upon previously keep on cropping up, namely that scientists are concerned about the short-term nature of many posts, the effect that has on their families, and the worry of running to the end of the line when it comes to a lack of permanent positions. Continue reading



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ISSCR Annual Meeting, 2011

Hello, remember me?!

Well, it’s been a while, and I can only apologise for the irregularity of the updates. This is what happens when you’re a final year PhD student –  you have a lot of work to do in a very short space of time, and it consumes everything – your spare time, your mind, and even your ability to dress yourself properly. Nevertheless, you probably didn’t come here to read about me whining about my project (nor my dress sense), so onwards.

One of the things I’ve been up to since my last post has been to attend the 9th Annual Meeting of the International Society for Stem Cell Research, in Toronto. As you might guess from an international conference on what one might call a ‘hot topic’, it was huge (nearly 4,000 delegates, 1,500, and some 5 million litres of coffee, I guess), and the science presented was amazing.

I wrote a report of the ISSCR meeting for the Node, a community that is designed for and written by developmental biologists (or imposters like me), part of the Company of Biologists (publisher of Development, Journal of Cell Science, Journal of Experimental Biology, and Disease Models and Mechanisms).

Since the conference was split over four days, and there was far too much to cover in one article, I wrote four reports, one for each day. Click on the following links to read the reports for day one, day two, day three, and day four.

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The Future For PhD Students

A while ago, Nature did a feature called ‘The Future Of The PhD‘, which presented the problem that most early-career scientists know and fear all too well – that there are far too many PhD studentships, and not enough pernament jobs later on down the line.

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Reach Out (CII’ll Be There) – York Festival of Science & Technology 2011

Eagle-eyed readers of Coffee & Cake, Pizza & Beer will have noticed that in the post about Final Year Talks, I made reference to some Outreach work I took part in back in March. Well, finally, two months down the line, I can tell you about it! Hurrah!

So why the delay? Long story short, I was waiting for the publication of my write-up about it in Microbiology Today, the magazine of the Society for General Microbiology. I wrote most of the text, and it was edited and shuffled by Marjan van der Woude and Philip Kerrigan. More importantly, does this count as my first ‘first author publication’? I’m saying ‘yes’, and to hell with you naysayers. Continue reading

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Coffee & Freebies – Beyond the seminars at the UKNSCN Conference 2011

There’s a scene in that ridiculous film The Day After Tomorrow when a climatologist returns to his research lab in Scotland from a scientific meeting in India. His colleagues ask him how the conference went, and he replies “Oh, you know what these scientific gatherings are like: All dancing girls, wine and parties.”

He is, of course, joking – I’m pretty sure climate conferences are boring now Al Gore isn’t popping in as often. But in other areas of science, Conference-Land is an exciting place, and attending meetings is definitely one of the perks of the job for young researchers. They are a vitally important forum for science, where a scientific field’s top class work is presented to everyone and anyone who’s interested. They are also a brilliant place to meet new people with which to have conversations about science and other things, potentially as a means to keeping in touch in the future – an important skill which most normal people call “making friends” but is called in Conference-Land “networking” (you can even take courses in “networking”, and trust me – nothing makes you feel more like a social retard).

Anyway, this year, I attended the UK National Stem Cell Network (UKNSCN) Conference, which, as it happened, was held in York. As expected, there was some brilliant work being presented, in talks and posters alike. However, we both know that you didn’t come to Coffee & Cake, Pizza & Beer for a bone-dry meeting report – God help you if you did – so instead, here’s a run-down of what my lab colleagues (Matt & Patty) and I got up to between the talks.

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Give Me Just A Little More Time – Final Year Talks 2011

A PhD student’s lot is not a happy one. You spend your first year failing in everything you do. You spend your second struggling with a lack of motivation. Your final year is taken up rushing to get almost every figure that will feature in your thesis, cursing the days of first-year procrastination and second-year moping. Then you’re forced to take part in Final Year Talks (or what is bombastically referred to here in York as ‘Graduate Symposium’). Thanks, Science!

Past ‘Graduate Symposia’ have been splendid affairs, showcasing the department’s very best students and their excellent work. My cohort and I had a lot to live up to. Here, I’d like to give you a runthrough of my preparation and that of others. Let me take you on a journey, back in time…

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Introducing the CCPB “mini-blog”

Just a quick one today – to supplement (but not replace) the Coffee & Cake, Pizza & Beer blog, I’ve started a ‘mini blog’, which contains links to interesting things (articles, opinion pieces, news stories, and the like), which I think you might enjoy. You can find it on the right of of all the pages on this website. Look! It’s over here somewhere!! ——————>

It’ll probably be stuff that I have read and enjoyed or found interesting, but maybe not have the time to write a full blog post about. It means you’ll be able to have a read at some other stuff whilst you browse this “wonderful” website! Don’t say I don’t treat you.

Readers of Bad Science will recognise this feature – yes, it’s an absolute rip off of Ben Goldacre’s mini-blog, which features on the Bad Science homepage. So sue me.

Hope you enjoy it. If you’ve got any suggestions, let’s hear them – head on over to the “Contact” tab at the top of the page, or just click here .


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