Thursday, July 14, 2011

The Good, The Bad, and The Ugly

First the good, Gordon Research Conferences. They are awesome. I've been going to them for a few years now and they never dissappoint. I'm going to start attending more of them. This time, I brought one of my trainees with me. This was so worth the money. It gave the new group member in a new group a view of our competition on multiple levels. They were able to have frank discussions with other trainees and PIs about everything related to lab life. Just as important, the wealth of cutting edge information that is presented at these meetings provides a better introduction to the field than any college course. I haven't been to a summer or winter school in Europe, so I can't compare against that. Anyway, go GRC!

The bad, Marcus Bachmann throwing around the PhD and calling himself doctor. This one really is getting under my skin. Everyone one calls the guy Dr. Bachmann. He got his PhD at a school that no longer exists doing who knows what kind of research. That's not even taking into account that the degree he is claiming in clinical psychology wasn't even offered while he was attending. This is sending a really bad image to public about what graduate school is about. It's bad enough we aren't paid well, at least we had some wow factor and respect in telling people that we have a Ph. D. With this guy parading around as arguably the most famous PhD in the country, people are going to point to him and say big whoop, anyone can do it.

The ugly, proposal budgets. With the rising cost of research expenses at universities, the NSF really needs to rethink how much money is awarded. I'm working on a proposal right now, and I can barely cover 1 Ph.D. student for the 3 years with the money I can ask for. After a stipend, fringe benefits, over 50% overhead, and some money for supplies there is really almost nothing left of the approximately $100k per year. And with budget cuts, I'm being told by program managers to try not to ask for the maximum! This wouldn't be so bad, if they expected the results that 1 Ph.D. can reasonably achieve. Unfortunately, that's not the case. Expectations are increasing as well. For what I'm proposing, I really should have a postdoc and two Ph.D. students, but by today's funding appropriations, I would have to be applying for an ERC grant to cover that.