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Concept: Doctorate


You finished your PhD, have been a postdoc for a while, and you start wondering, “What’s next?” Suppose you come to the conclusion that you want to stay in academia, and move up the ladder to become a principal investigator (PI). How does one reach this goal given that academia is one of the most competitive environments out there? And suppose you do manage to snatch your dream position, how do you make sure you hit the ground running? Here we report on the workshop “P2P - From Postdoc To Principal Investigator” that we organized at ISMB 2012 in Long Beach, California. The workshop addressed some of the challenges that many postdocs and newly appointed PIs are facing. Three experienced PIs, Florian Markowetz (Group Leader, Cambridge Research Institute, Cancer Research UK), Gary Bader (Associate Professor, The Donnelly Centre, University of Toronto), and Philip Bourne (Professor, Skaggs School of Pharmacy and Pharmaceutical Sciences, University of California San Diego), provided insight into the transition from a trainee to PI and shared advice on how to make the best out it.

Concepts: University, California, Professor, Tenure, Doctorate, Rector, Academic administration, 2006 singles


The U.S. National Institutes of Health (NIH) budget expansion from 1998 through 2003 increased demand for biomedical research, raising relative wages and total employment in the market for biomedical scientists. However, because research doctorates in biomedical sciences can often take six years or more to complete, the full labor supply response to such changes in market conditions is not immediate, but rather is observed over a period of several years. Economic rational expectations models assume that prospective students anticipate these future changes, and also that students take into account the opportunity costs of their pursuing graduate training. Prior empirical research on student enrollment and degree completions in science and engineering (S&E) fields indicates that “cobweb” expectations prevail: that is, at least in theory, prospective graduate students respond to contemporaneous changes in market wages and employment, but do not forecast further changes that will arise by the time they complete their degrees and enter the labor market. In this article, we analyze time-series data on wages and employment of biomedical scientists versus alternative careers, on completions of S&E bachelor’s degrees and biomedical sciences PhDs, and on research expenditures funded both by NIH and by biopharmaceutical firms, to examine the responsiveness of the biomedical sciences labor supply to changes in market conditions. Consistent with previous studies, we find that enrollments and completions in biomedical sciences PhD programs are responsive to market conditions at the time of students' enrollment. More striking, however, is the close correspondence between graduate student enrollments and completions, and changes in availability of NIH-funded traineeships, fellowships, and research assistantships.

Concepts: Scientific method, Economics, Science, Academic degree, Graduate school, Bachelor's degree, Doctorate, Biomedical scientist


PhD recipients acquire discipline-specific knowledge and a range of relevant skills during their training in the life sciences, physical sciences, computational sciences, social sciences, and engineering. Empirically testing the applicability of these skills to various careers held by graduates will help assess the value of current training models. This report details results of an Internet survey of science PhDs (n = 8099) who provided ratings for fifteen transferrable skills. Indeed, analyses indicated that doctoral training develops these transferrable skills, crucial to success in a wide range of careers including research-intensive (RI) and non-research-intensive (NRI) careers. Notably, the vast majority of skills were transferrable across both RI and NRI careers, with the exception of three skills that favored RI careers (creativity/innovative thinking, career planning and awareness skills, and ability to work with people outside the organization) and three skills that favored NRI careers (time management, ability to learn quickly, ability to manage a project). High overall rankings suggested that graduate training imparted transferrable skills broadly. Nonetheless, we identified gaps between career skills needed and skills developed in PhD training that suggest potential areas for improvement in graduate training. Therefore, we suggest that a two-pronged approach is crucial to maximizing existing career opportunities for PhDs and developing a career-conscious training model: 1) encouraging trainees to recognize their existing individual skill sets, and 2) increasing resources and programmatic interventions at the institutional level to address skill gaps. Lastly, comparison of job satisfaction ratings between PhD-trained employees in both career categories indicated that those in NRI career paths were just as satisfied in their work as their RI counterparts. We conclude that PhD training prepares graduates for a broad range of satisfying careers, potentially more than trainees and program leaders currently appreciate.

Concepts: Scientific method, Science, Skill, Training, Academic degree, Natural science, Doctorate, Doctor of Philosophy


Many PhD programs incorporate boot camps and summer bridge programs to accelerate the development of doctoral students' research skills and acculturation into their respective disciplines. These brief, high-intensity experiences span no more than several weeks and are typically designed to expose graduate students to data analysis techniques, to develop scientific writing skills, and to better embed incoming students into the scholarly community. However, there is no previous study that directly measures the outcomes of PhD students who participate in such programs and compares them to the outcomes of students who did not participate. Likewise, no previous study has used a longitudinal design to assess these outcomes over time. Here we show that participation in such programs is not associated with detectable benefits related to skill development, socialization into the academic community, or scholarly productivity for students in our sample. Analyzing data from 294 PhD students in the life sciences from 53 US institutions, we found no statistically significant differences in outcomes between participants and nonparticipants across 115 variables. These results stand in contrast to prior studies presenting boot camps as effective interventions based on participant satisfaction and perceived value. Many universities and government agencies (e.g., National Institutes of Health and National Science Foundation) invest substantial resources in boot camp and summer bridge activities in the hopes of better supporting scientific workforce development. Our findings do not reveal any measurable benefits to students, indicating that an allocation of limited resources to alternative strategies with stronger empirical foundations warrants consideration.

Concepts: Scientific method, Participation, Science, Data analysis, University, Academia, Postgraduate education, Doctorate


Faculty diversity is a longstanding challenge in the US. However, we lack a quantitative and systemic understanding of how the career transitions into assistant professor positions of Ph.D. scientists from underrepresented minority (URM) and well-represented (WR) racial/ethnic backgrounds compare. Between 1980 and 2013, the number of PhD graduates from URM backgrounds increased by a factor of 9.3, compared with a 2.6-fold increase in the number of PhD graduates from WR groups. However, the number of scientists from URM backgrounds hired as assistant professors in medical school basic science departments was not related to the number of potential candidates (R2=0.12, p>0.07), whereas there was a strong correlation between these two numbers for scientists from WR backgrounds (R2=0.48, p<0.0001). We built and validated a conceptual system dynamics model based on these data that explained 79% of the variance in the hiring of assistant professors and posited no hiring discrimination. Simulations show that, given current transition rates of scientists from URM backgrounds to faculty positions, faculty diversity would not increase significantly through the year 2080 even in the context of an exponential growth in the population of PhD graduates from URM backgrounds, or significant increases in the number of faculty positions. Instead, the simulations showed that diversity increased as more postdoctoral candidates from URM backgrounds transitioned onto the market and were hired.

Concepts: Professor, Doctorate, Doctor of Philosophy, Habilitation, Assistant Professor


There is a persistent shortage of underrepresented minority (URM) faculty who are involved in basic biomedical research at medical schools. We examined the entire training pathway of potential candidates to identify the points of greatest loss. Using a range of recent national data sources, including the National Science Foundation’s Survey of Earned Doctorates and Survey of Doctoral Recipients, we analyzed the demographics of the population of interest, specifically those from URM backgrounds with an interest in biomedical sciences. We examined the URM population from high school graduates through undergraduate, graduate, and postdoctoral training as well as the URM population in basic science tenure track faculty positions at medical schools. We find that URM and non-URM trainees are equally likely to transition into doctoral programs, to receive their doctoral degree, and to secure a postdoctoral position. However, the analysis reveals that the diversions from developing a faculty career are found primarily at two clearly identifiable places, specifically during undergraduate education and in transition from postdoctoral fellowship to tenure track faculty in the basic sciences at medical schools. We suggest focusing additional interventions on these two stages along the educational pathway.

Concepts: University, Academia, Academic degree, Postgraduate education, Doctorate, Doctor of Philosophy, Undergraduate education, Madrasah


An on-line collection of articles celebrating the 60th birthday of Professor Andrew D. Hamilton FRS has been published featuring contributions from students and colleagues past and present. This article hopes to provide an insight into the rise of a star in molecular recognition, ground breaking discoveries, and on a more light-hearted note, some fond reminiscences of research in Cambridge, Princeton, Pittsburgh, Yale and Oxford.

Concepts: Past, Star, Doctorate, University of Oxford, Ivy League, Hamilton, Ontario, George Washington, Alexander Hamilton


Simon van Creveld received both the MD and PhD degrees and had a multifaceted medical and scientific education at many hospitals and research institutes in the Netherlands, Germany, and the UK. He and his wife were the first to develop insulin for the Netherlands. His major interests were in hemophilia and hemorrhagic disorders, which accounted for 87 of his publications. In 1934, van Creveld demonstrated that a dispersed protein fraction obtained from serum could reduce the clotting time of hemophilic blood. His interest in glycogen storage disease resulted in van Creveld-von Gierke disease for which van Creveld contributed four published articles. The Ellis-van Creveld syndrome, also known as chondroectodermal dysplasia, was published in 1940 and became well known to medical geneticists. During the Nazi occupation of the Netherlands, van Creveld’s professorship was taken away from him because he was Jewish. His visits to hospitals of concentration camps to treat babies and give pediatric advice while wearing a Jewish Yellow Star and interacting with SS Commandants in charge, and then leaving can only be described as amazing. After the war, his professorship was returned, and in the same year as his retirement, he established a large Hemophila Treatment and Research Center now known as the Van Creveld Clinic, which celebrated its 40th anniversary in 2005. © 2014 Wiley Periodicals, Inc.

Concepts: Medicine, Blood, Hypoglycemia, Germany, Glycogen storage disease, Nazi Germany, Doctorate, Doctor of Philosophy


This department highlights emerging nursing leaders who have demonstrated great work and much potential in advancing innovation and patient care leadership in practice, policy, research, education, and theory. This interview profiles Christopher Friese, PhD, RN, AOCN, FAAN, assistant professor, University of Michigan School of Nursing.

Concepts: Management, University, Nursing, Nursing specialties, Professor, Doctorate, Doctor of Philosophy, Habilitation


To examine clinical doctoral students' demographic and training characteristics, career intentions, career preparedness and what influences them as they plan their future careers.

Concepts: Future, University, Academia, Faculty, Academic degree, Postgraduate education, Doctorate, Doctor of Philosophy