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Archive for the ‘Deep Thoughts’ Category

Is It Time for American Scientists to Panic?

 :: Posted by American Biotechnologist on 02-06-2014

According to the Science and Engineering Indicators 2014 Report released recently by the National Science Board, spending on academic research decreased significantly in 2012 compared to the period between 2009-2011 (source: academic r&d section of the report). The good news for us life scientists is that the government seems to value life sciences over the physical sciences and has continued to provide the largest portion of the funding pot to researchers in our field.

Furthermore, besides the growth in academic life science funding, lab space for academic R&D has continued to expand, although it has done so at a somewhat slower pace in 2012 compared to prior years. While this may sound like a good indicator of growth, it should be noted that spending on research equipment fell by 1.4% in 2012 which may have a significant impact on scientists’ abilities to perform their work.

Another worrying trend, indicated in the report, is the disproportionate increase in non-faculty positions, such as post-doctoral fellows, in comparison to faculty positions. Furthermore, fewer researchers were tenured in the first decade of the century compared to the late 90s. If we are to believe the law of supply and demand, this lopsidedness will eventually lead to unhappy scientists who are dejected by their inability to obtain faculty positions due to the overpopulation of qualified candidates for very few faculty positions.

Nonetheless, according to the Washington Post, all is not lost. Here are a list of reasons that Washington Post journalist, Lydia DePillis, thinks we should keep our heads held high:

  • the US continues to fund its academic R&D at levels that are much higher than the rest of the world
  • there are more undergraduate and graduate degrees in science and technology in the US compared to other nations
  • America earns more patents than anywhere else in the world
  • American collects more royalties compared to other countries
  • Most importantly-Americans represent the largest group of scientific publishers which is the ultimate indicator of success among academic researcher

So despite some worrying trends indicated above, the Post seems to indicate that we should consider ourselves lucky that we are living in America where our chance to become successful scientists is much greater than anywhere else in the world.

Would you agree?

Creating an Arms Race In Elementary School

 :: Posted by American Biotechnologist on 02-03-2014

Fascinating….and scary!

How Google Glass Will Change Science

 :: Posted by American Biotechnologist on 01-23-2014

Google Glass is still in its infancy, however, the potential breakthroughs that it can offer in the fields of medicine and science are astounding.

Surgeons at the Ohio State University Medical Center are already using the device as a training and consulting tool while in the midst of surgery. Physician wearing Google Glass are able to transmit a live video feed to colleagues and medical students anywhere in the world. This is a true game changer in education as it gives students valuable exposure to live surgery in real-time from a surgeon’s point of view.

Aside from it’s communicational value, Google Glass has the potential to actually be used as an integral part of surgical practice. Physicians hope to be able to call up medical images or other important patient data during the course of surgery.

Now imagine combining Google Glass with procedures that incorporated fluorescently labeled dyes capable of differentiating cancerous tumors from benign growths or nerve from muscle. Surgeons such as Quyen Nguyen are already currently shining light onto labeled tumors and nerves to accomplish this goal (see Lighting up the operating room). With Google Glass, this procedure would become so much easier.

While medical applications sound very cool, what will be of most interest to our readers are the potential laboratory bench applications. How about using Google Glass for fluorescent imaging at the bench? Or calling up protocols while setting up an experiment? The possibilities are endless.

What applications can you imagine for Google Glass in your daily research?

How I Discovered DNA: James Watson

 :: Posted by American Biotechnologist on 01-22-2014

James Watson describes how he discovered DNA

Co-Founders of PLOS Discuss Open Access

 :: Posted by American Biotechnologist on 01-14-2014