Sci & Tech

Some Virtues of Virtual Panels

Douglas Fisher, an associate professor of computer science at Vanderbilt University, started his 3-year rotation as program director at the National Science Foundation (NSF) in 2007. That fall, he convened and chaired in-person panels to decide the fate of NSF grant proposals in information sciences. But when he started planning ahead for a spring meeting, he recalls by e-mail, “I could find NO room available to hold my panels on the dates I wanted or what I regarded as reasonable alternatives.” So instead, he ran […]



Elite Male Faculty Employ Fewer Women

Elite Male Faculty Employ Fewer Women

Jason Sheltzer is a graduate student in cancer genomics at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology in Cambridge. He works in the Amon Lab, where the principal investigator (PI), half the graduate students and half the postdocs are women. Sheltzer was astonished when a friend at Princeton University told him she was the first female graduate student at her PI’s physics lab in his 20-plus years as an academic. In fact, that bit of news prompted Sheltzer to take a closer look at gender distribution in […]



Many Strikes, Never Out

Many Strikes, Never Out

In 2009, Chandrakala Puligilla, a young biomedical researcher who studies cell fate specification in mammals, won the prestigious K99 award—the postdoctoral half of the prestigious transition award from the National Institutes of Health (NIH)—on her first attempt. In 2011, she became an assistant professor at the Medical University of South Carolina and secured the award’s matching second half, an R00 research grant that provides up to 3 years of research support. Though off to an excellent start, Puligilla must now cement her gains and keep her […]



Elephant Conservation Conundrum

Elephant Conservation Conundrum

Those who grew up in southern India may fondly recall temple elephants with their tinkling neck-bells. As children, we didn’t notice the shackles on their legs. Elephants have iconic status in India, they  were used for warfare, construction and transportation, apart from pageantry. They are still used in religious celebrations: here is an excellent story about celebrity elephants. And a news item about an 1500 lb.+ golden ornament which a chosen elephant carries during Mysore’s biggest annual festival. Elephants are protected in India; their habitats […]



The Surveyor of Jungles

The Surveyor of Jungles

Priya Davidar grew up in picturesque Ooty, a town in southern India with the misty blue mountains of the Western Ghats, a biodiversity hotspot, as its backdrop. In the 1950s, the family lived in an isolated hillside bungalow, and the babysitter told the children ghost stories; Davidar mistook the hyena’s mating call for a wandering ghoul’s laughter. Today, she regrets that the four-legged monster of her childhood can no longer be heard in her hometown. As in the rest of the world, much of the […]



The College Science Teacher

The College Science Teacher

It is common to encounter Ph.D. students and recent graduates who want to focus solely on their students, on teaching and advising. They picture themselves in college faculty roles, but teaching is their first love. Unfortunately for them, tenure-track faculty posts pretty much always come with research requirements, and that goes not only for large universities but also for primarily undergraduate institutions (PUIs). So Science Careers wanted to know: Are there positions out there where science Ph.D.s can earn a good, secure living by teaching? […]



The Sari-Clad Tech at MIT

The Sari-Clad Tech at MIT

In 2004, the Ray and Maria Stata Center at MIT opened on the site of Building 20, a structure that was meant to be temporary but lasted 55 years. At the dedication, Hale Bradt, PhD ’61, emeritus professor of physics, was delighted to see a familiar image in the lobby: a black-and-white picture of a colleague from his graduate school days. The caption read, “Cosmic Ray Research lab assistant, 1959.” The photograph of the sari-clad Indian woman had appeared, off and on, in the MIT […]



The Cricket Woman

The Cricket Woman

Physical courage is generally not a requirement for studying science, but field biology seems to call for this quality. Swati Diwakar, 34, spent many a night in an evergreen forest in South India collecting data for her dissertation on crickets taking the occasional viper bite in her stride. As assistant professor in the department of environmental studies at Delhi University in India’s capital, she is now looking to recruit research students. I chat with my compatriot, mother of a toddler, about her work. Cricket, the […]



Cloudburst of Computing Power

For U.S. academics, computational resources are not hard to come by.  The National Science Foundation’s Extreme Science and Engineering Discovery Environment (XSEDE) program, for 25 years has made computation and storage platforms available, free-of-charge to academic researchers in the United States with high-performance computing (HPC) needs. “I have been shouting FREE COMPUTING TIME from the rooftops for about 5 years now,” says Jeff Gardner, who is UW’s campus ambassador for XSEDE. “By funding a dozen or so sites across the country, NSF ensured that every researcher […]



Computer Scientists Get Wet

Computer Scientists Get Wet

In the summer of 2008, when Wired magazine ran a cover story titled “The End of Science,” former Editor-in-Chief Chris Anderson wrote, “The new availability of huge amounts of data, along with the statistical tools to crunch these numbers, offers a whole new way of understanding the world. Correlation supersedes causation, and science can advance even without coherent models, unified theories, or really any mechanistic explanation at all. There’s no reason to cling to our old ways. It’s time to ask: What can science learn […]