Being a scientist isn’t just about doing experiments, so neither are we. This is where we make breakthroughs beyond the bench for scientists.

Write Grants Like Kenny Rogers?

Had Kenny Rogers been an academic, the refrain to his legendary song, The Gambler, may have turned out differently as The Grant Writer: “You’ve got to know when to write ’em, know when to spite ’em / Know when to walk away, know when to run / You never count your funding, till it’s written in your ledger / They’ll be time enough for counting, when the deadline’s done.”  Of course, that version of the song probably wouldn’t have vaulted Kenny to the wild success that ultimately gave us Kenny Rogers Roasters – and that’s a lose-lose for everyone.

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Beware of the Graduate Student

As kids, a trip to the zoo is like steroids for our imagination.  We walk around in wonder and awe of the incredible animals – Where did they come from? Do they ever sleep? Why does that one seem so cranky? What’s that smell?!

And then we become graduate students and it all makes sense…

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Mastering the Human Body: How Much Longer?

If we could jump in Michael J. Fox’s Delorian and travel back to 1950 to share the list of major scientific discoveries to come over the next 60 years, we’d sound crazier than new grad students who think they’re going to graduate within three years.  Since Watson and Crick first published their helical model for the structure of DNA in 1953, the pace of biochemical research has been astounding.  We sequence entire genomes, we clone live organisms and we have multiple drugs on the market to help old men get erections.  Ah, modern science.

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The Qualifying Exam: The Earlier the Better?

Ben Franklin famously declared that two things in life were guaranteed – death and taxes.  For scientists, Ben may have updated it to “death, taxes and the qualifying exam.”  Although graduate programs vary with regard to degree requirements, the qualifying exam seems to be one hurdle they’ve all agreed to include.

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Toaster-Oven Trail Mix Biscotti

A healthy, on-the-go breakfast is a challenge anywhere, let alone the Food Desert.  I love biscotti, and had been searching for a recipe that yielded the light, crispy cookies I like best but they eluded me.  Finally, one day, I asked the owner of a local upscale Italian bakery – she smiled and said, in her lilting accent “you know, it’s only cake!”  Of course – biscotti (Italian for twice-cooked) is really toasted cake, and the lightest cake there is is angel food cake, based on healthy, protein rich, fat-free egg whites!

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Chuck Norris, Scientist?

Chuck Norris, ScientistMany of us may recognize Chuck Norris as a late-night exercise equipment peddler.  In fact, he was the undefeated Professional Middleweight Karate champion title for six consecutive years, before retiring with a karate record of 183-10-2.  He was the only man in the western hemisphere ever to be awarded an 8th degree black belt in Tae Kwon Do.  That’s serious.

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The Lab Family: Benefit or Cause-a-fit?

The lab familyAnyone who’s ever been to a wedding or listened to an oldies radio station for more than five minutes recognizes the lyrics to the Sister Sledge classic We are Family.  “We are family / I got all my sisters with me / We are family / Get up ev’rybody and sing.”  It’s probably unlikely that we’ve ever huddled around with our labmates to sing the words “We are the ___ Lab / I got all my labmates with me / We are the ___ Lab / Get up ev’rybody and work”… but should we?

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Hurdles to the Non-Research Career

At BenchFly, we love science.  In fact, our mission is to make science a better career for current and future generations of researchers.  Within the larger profession, careers in science may fall into one of two categories, non-research or research-oriented, although the distinction between the two is not always black or white.  While those in non-research careers may not physically stand at the bench, their roles in the research process are often just as important.  Therefore, as a profession, it is to our advantage to make sure that the best and brightest scientific minds stay in the field in some capacity- whether in a non-research or research capacity.

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When Do Top-Tier Publications Lose that Lovin’ Feeling?

Publications have long been viewed as the currency of scientists.  They impact everything from job offers to funding awards to ego boosts.  However, in last weeks’ poll (How Valuable is a Top-Tier Publication) an overwhelming majority of scientists thought it was a better career move to finish a postdoc in three years with an average publication than it was to stay for six years and finally land a home-run paper.  If the data suggest “Glamour Mags” have lost their appeal by six years, then when does that transition actually takes place?

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Ombudsmen: The Best Conversation that Never Happened

Dear Dora: OmbudsmenDear Dora,

I have an issue with something going on in the lab and it could have serious consequences for my PI.  Someone recommended I speak with the ombudsman for advice, but I’m worried it will get back to my PI somehow. Are ombudsmen really safe to talk to?

-Anonymous, Grad student

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