February 12, 2009, 12:49 AM
Letting Scientists off the Hook
In the 2/10 Wild Side column in the NY Times, Stanford bioengineering professor and HHMI investigator Steve Quake writes about the economic life of a scientist at a research university, how it impacts young scientists as well as innovation and creativity in research, and if it is time to reconsider how science is funded.
It strikes me as one of the ironies of modern life that professorial faculty, who by and large lean to the left politically, accept such a brutal free-market approach to their livelihood. If they can’t raise grants to support their research every year, they won’t get paid. So not only do they have to worry about publish or perish, it’s also funding or famine, in the very real sense that without a grant there might not be food on the family dinner table!
It’s almost like a small business — each faculty member is essentially running an enterprise for which he or she must find revenue (grants), manage finances, balance the books and pay expenses like salaries, tuition, rent and even taxes to the university for the space used.
Take a look at the article, and comments. Agree? Disagree? Post your comments.
January 20, 2009, 4:58 PM
In the January 2009 issue of IEEE Spectrum: WINNERS & LOSERS 2009, The Year’s Best and Worst of Technology. The articles are available in HTML and PDF formats.
Lists are fun, but sometimes they’re just a little too easy: Bill Gates is rich, Harvard’s a fine school, and China’s economy is hot. Tell us something we don’t know.
This year’s Winners & Losers issue, our sixth, aims to do just that. We judge a range of projects so near to commercialization that we might be proved wrong in real time. That would mean eating crow, but you risk it if you hope to grow a backbone strong enough to hold up your head. Most people in our business refuse to run that risk; instead, they pontificate on what’s already happened. They find all sorts of reasons why, in retrospect, something succeeded or failed.
We use information in the public record and the insights we gather from people close to the research itself. We make sure every project has commercial ambitions, that it’s in a late stage of development, and that it faces milestones in the coming year. That way, if we turn out to be wrong, you’ll remember our mistake and call us on it. When we truly can’t decide whether a project’s a winner or loser, we put it in a category we call You Tell Us. We’ve posted it on our Web site so that you can vote on it, thumbs-up or thumbs-down.
October 29, 2008, 3:54 PM
Four undergraduate students at the University of California, San Diego have received the 2008 Undergraduate Library Research Prize for their outstanding research skills. The prize, which is co-sponsored by the UC San Diego Libraries and the Vice Chancellor of Student Affairs, includes cash awards of $1000 and $500 for upper and lower division students respectively. Two of the four students, Steven Shimizu and Jacqueline Acuna, were awarded first and second place prizes in the life and physical sciences category.
Steven Shimizu, a double major in chemistry and chemical engineering, received first prize for his research project involving the synthesis of zinc oxide, which is studied widely for its optical and semiconductor properties. Shimizu, a senior, was nominated by Joanna McKittrick, a professor in the Department of Mechanical & Aerospace Engineering.
Second prize was awarded to Jacqueline Acuna for her research on maternal behaviors related to infant emotions, stress, and shared attention. Acuna, a cognitive science major, was nominated for the prize by Gedeon Deak, a professor of Cognitive Science. Acuna, who graduated in June, is currently working in the Cognitive Development Laboratory at UCSD and is planning to apply to graduate school in her field.
All entrants must be nominated by UCSD faculty members and are judged based on: the significance of library materials used, including print, electronic, and primary resources; demonstrated expertise in mining library collections, including identifying, evaluating, and synthesizing a variety of materials in the generation of research; and evidence of significant personal learning and the development of substantive research and inquiry skills over time.
Congratulations to Steven and Jacqueline.
The full news release and any accompanying images can be accessed on the web at:
October 8, 2008, 11:00 AM
The Science & Engineering Library congratulates Dr. Roger Y. Tsien for winning this year’s Nobel Prize in Chemistry for his work with green fluorescent protein, to “the development and application of fluorescent protein probes that enable scientists to monitor cellular function.” Dr. Tsien is a professor in the UCSD Department of Chemistry and Biochemistry and the Department of Pharmacology, as well as a Howard Hughes Medical Institute Investigator. He shares the award equally with Osamu Shimomura of the Marine Biological Laboratory in Woods Hole and Boston University School of Medicine, and Martin Chalfie of Columbia University.
From the Royal Swedish Academy of Sciences press release:
Roger Y. Tsien contributed to our general understanding of how GFP fluoresces. He also extended the colour palette beyond green allowing researchers to give various proteins and cells different colours. This enables scientists to follow several different biological processes at the same time.
More links (still updating):
- UCSD Press Release, with images and video from the October 8 press conference. And another press release from the UCSD School of Medicine.
- The Tsien Lab Homepage: members, research, publications, images and movies
- From the Royal Swedish Academy of Sciences: The green fluorescent protein: discovery, expression and development (Scientific Background on the Nobel Prize in Chemistry 2008), and How the Jellyfish’s Green Light Revolutionised Bioscience (Information for the Public)
- Three Chemists Win Nobel Prize – New York Times
- UCSD’S Roger Tsien shares Nobel Prize in chemistry – San Diego Union-Tribune
- Three U.S.-based scientists share Nobel chemistry prize – Los Angeles Times
- Great glowing jellyfish! It’s the Nobel Prize in Chemistry – Nature News
- Jellyfish Protein Researchers Win Chemistry Nobel – National Public Radio
- Also on NPR, a story about Dr. Douglas Prasher, who isolated the gene for green fluorescent protein (and now works for a car dealership in Huntsville, Alabama).
- More from: BBC News, Washington Post, Science Magazine, Scientific American, Guardian, Chemical & Engineering News
September 15, 2008, 11:37 PM
Micellar Hybrid Nanoparticles for Simultaneous Magnetofluorescent Imaging and Drug Delivery
Ji-Ho Park, Geoffrey von Maltzahn, Erkki Ruoslahti, Prof., Sangeeta N. Bhatia, Prof., Michael J. Sailor, Prof.
Angewandte Chemie, International Edition 47(38):7284-7288
UCSD Materials Science & Engineering, Department of Chemistry & Biochemistry
From the UCSD press release, Researchers Develop Nano-Sized ‘Cargo Ships’ to Target and Destroy Tumors:
Scientists have developed nanometer-sized ‘cargo ships’ that can sail throughout the body via the bloodstream without immediate detection from the body’s immune radar system and ferry their cargo of anti-cancer drugs and markers into tumors that might otherwise go untreated or undetected.
“The idea involves encapsulating imaging agents and drugs into a protective ‘mother ship’ that evades the natural processes that normally would remove these payloads if they were unprotected,” said Michael Sailor, a professor of chemistry and biochemistry at UCSD who headed the team of chemists, biologists and engineers that turned the fanciful concept into reality. “These mother ships are only 50 nanometers in diameter, or 1,000 times smaller than the diameter of a human hair, and are equipped with an array of molecules on their surfaces that enable them to find and penetrate tumor cells in the body.”
There’s also a movie!
More coverage about this article:
August 25, 2008, 10:35 AM
Out in the open: Some scientists sharing results, Boston Globe, Aug 21
Barry Canton, a 28-year-old biological engineer at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, has posted raw scientific data, his thesis proposal, and original research ideas on an online website for all to see.
To young people primed for openness by the confessional existence they live online, that may not seem like a big deal.
“We’re a generation who expects all information is a Google search away,” Canton said. “Not only is it a Google search away, but it’s also released immediately. As soon as it happens, the video is up on YouTube and on all the blogs. The old model feels kind of crazy when you’re used to this instant information.”
For an example of open science at a research group level, see Jean-Claude Bradley’s UsefulChem Project.
July 29, 2008, 11:37 PM
The Nature of Glass Remains Anything but Clear – July 29th New York Times
Various theories on the nature of glass, with quotes from UCSD chemistry professor Peter G. Wolynes.
Peter G. Wolynes, a professor of chemistry at the University of California, San Diego, thinks he essentially solved the glass problem two decades ago based on ideas of what glass would look like if cooled infinitely slowly. “I think we have a very good constructive theory of that these days,” Dr. Wolynes said. “Many people tell me this is very contentious. I disagree violently with them.”
Others, like Juan P. Garrahan, professor of physics at the University of Nottingham in England, and David Chandler, professor of chemistry at the University of California, Berkeley, have taken a different approach and are as certain that they are on the right track.
“It surprises most people that we still don’t understand this,” said David R. Reichman, a professor of chemistry at Columbia, who takes yet another approach to the glass problem. “We don’t understand why glass should be a solid and how it forms.”
July 18, 2008, 11:10 AM
Electronic Publication and the Narrowing of Science and Scholarship, James A. Evans
Science 18 July 2008, Vol. 321. no. 5887, pp. 395 – 399
Online journals promise to serve more information to more dispersed audiences and are more efficiently searched and recalled. But because they are used differently than print—scientists and scholars tend to search electronically and follow hyperlinks rather than browse or peruse—electronically available journals may portend an ironic change for science. Using a database of 34 million articles, their citations (1945 to 2005), and online availability (1998 to 2005), I show that as more journal issues came online, the articles referenced tended to be more recent, fewer journals and articles were cited, and more of those citations were to fewer journals and articles. The forced browsing of print archives may have stretched scientists and scholars to anchor findings deeply into past and present scholarship. Searching online is more efficient and following hyperlinks quickly puts researchers in touch with prevailing opinion, but this may accelerate consensus and narrow the range of findings and ideas built upon.
More about this article:
1. Survey Finds Citations Growing Narrower as Journals Move Online (in the same issue of Science)
2. Access to Online Journals Reduces Breadth of Citations, Study Finds (Chronicle of Higher Education)
3. Great minds think (too much) alike (The Economist)
4. Is the Internet Bad for Science? (Wired News) – with comments
5. Research Publications Online: Too Much Of A Good Thing? (ScienceDaily)
July 7, 2008, 11:35 PM
In the July 4 issue of Science, you’ll find a series of reports based on observations from the MESSENGER spacecraft’s flyby of Mercury earlier this year. There will be another flyby in October.
June 4, 2008, 12:52 AM
Looking for some interesting reading this week, or while you’re taking a break next week during finals? Check out this month’s IEEE Spectrum feature on “The Singularity.”
This is the idea that, as a consequence of exponentially accelerating technological innovation and continuously self-improving artificial intelligence, computer power will outstrip human brainpower, leading to the end of human culture as we know it. Not a century from now, mind you, but somewhere between 2030 and 2045, depending on whom you talk to. — from Un-assuming The Singularity
You’ll find articles from science fiction author/SDSU emeritus professor Vernor Vinge (Signs of the Singularity), Caltech’s Christof Koch and Giulio Tononi (Can Machines Be Conscious?), and University of Sheffield’s Richard A. L. Jones (Rupturing the Nanotech Rapture), among others. The articles and accompanying videos are free, and UCSD affiliates can also access the entire IEEE Spectrum issue via IEEE Explore.