In Search of Truth and Happiness

I recently found myself at the King’s Arms pub at Oxford, across the street from the newly opened Weston Library, where works such as the Gutenberg Bible and Dorothy Hodgkin’s drawings of the structure of penicillin are on display. I was there discussing happiness with Michael Plant, a DPhil student in philosophy studying this very subject. While my life at Oxford revolves mainly around working in a biomedical lab up the hill, it’s these moments I came to Oxford for, when the magic of the city of dreaming spires truly works its way into the mind through a pint in hand. Continue reading

Can scientists really have work/life balance?

A recent blog article in Nature raises some good points regarding the age old question of whether or not we as scientists can have a work/life balance, and just what needs to be sacrificed while balancing that equation. While some of the tips author Elisa Lazzari gives might seem like common sense, they are good to keep in mind.

It’s important to address the issue of work/life balance at the cultural level, not just at the individual. Grant agencies and individual group heads must move towards an understanding that investing in happy, well-rested and balanced individuals leads to better science as well. So what do you think: can successful scientists really have a work/life balance? And if so, what are you doing to promote these values at your institute?

Open Call for Scientists – Zine Art Project

Our friends over at Two Photon Art are working on an amazing initiative that combines art, scientists, and the type of story-telling we at Labmosphere absolutely love. But don’t take it from us. Here’s what they have to say:

“Are you a scientist part of a group that is underrepresented in the sciences? Would you like to share your story to inspire the next generation to become scientists?”

Check out their site here, and stay tuned for more news. We’ll definitely be hearing from them in the near future.

An Open Letter to the Creators of Lab Wars

Dear Caezar and Kuly,

I write you this letter because no board game with a kickstarter campaign has generated this amount of mixed feelings for me. You see, I, like you, am a huge board game nerd and also a scientist. I am a fan of Catan, Small World, and Dobble, to name a few. And, like most of our generation, I have also indulged my darker sense of humor with Cards Against Humanity and Common Decency and had a great time. Your game looks amazing. I will probably buy it and play with my friends. I’m sure we’ll enjoy it very much.

Continue reading

Mental Health Issues in Academia – a Documentary

We have become aware of an amazing initiative taking place that aims to bring light to the struggles of PhD students suffering from mental health issues during their studies through a documentary. If you or anyone you know might be interested in this, please see the advertisement below for more information. We look forward to seeing the finished piece and partaking in the much needed dialogue that it will bring to this topic.thumbnail_Mental Health Pic

The Secret to Being a Better Leader: See and Hear Others

This is an article by Dacher Keltner, one of the founders of the Greater Good Science Center and one of the leading psychologists today who studies emotions such as empathy, compassion, and awe, and the effects they have on individuals and groups.

The article correlates rise to leadership with empathy. Though perhaps it should be taken into account that in our industry, leadership is determined by grants, research, and publications; this correlation between leaders and empathy might not exist in our culture. However, this quote from the article struck me as important:

“Team members led by empathetic managers — who listen, hear, and take in what others think and feel — work in more productive, innovative, and satisfying ways.”

If this also applies to scientists, it is in the best interest of a group, institute, and funding body to promote empathetic PIs and group leaders. But there exists what Dacher calls a power paradox, in which leaders find it harder to be empathetic and can even lose their ability to do so after they’ve gained power. It is interesting to wonder if this also applies in science, and explains some of the bad mentoring stories we’ve heard. We’d love to hear your opinions on the topic in the comment section below.

CV of Failures

While not new, we thought we’d add this article to our collection so that it could be in our repository for others. The Guardian details the story of a Princeton professor who bravely published his CV on twitter with a list of his failures, including positions he didn’t get and papers that got rejected from top journals. We think it’s a refreshing view on the career path of an academic and a move towards breaking the myth that people who make it to the top do so only on a ladder of successes.

Mental Health in Academic Research – A Systematic Problem

“In recent years, a crisis has been building in academia,” says this post on Polygeia. University counseling services report increasing demand due to rising  numbers of students with serious and complex mental health problems. From what we’ve either seen or heard from colleagues, mental health problems are very common in academia, but it is surprisingly difficult to find hard data to back this claim, especially since open discussion of these topics is socially discouraged in lab environments. A recent report that came out of Berkeley last year points to 47% of PhD and 37% of masters students scoring as depressed. While these numbers are estimates and not clinical diagnoses, the few studies available in peer-review journals produced numbers of a similar scale. In an UK study, mental health issues among academics were estimated as high as 53%, while an Australian study found that mental illness among academic staff was three to four times higher than the national average. These numbers have to be handled and reported with care, but they are really concerning and point out that this issue needs to be urgently addressed. Continue reading