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Comment: Re:Awesome idea. (Score 1) 33

by Epimer (#39701963) Attached to: Print Your Own Labware, Catalysts Included

The supervisor's right - they should return them sooner.

Honestly, nothing drove me more nuts than people being inconsiderate with communal glassware. My lab was excellently equipped, with a more than sufficient supply of glassware for the people working there - if they were kept in circulation, that is. Instead they sat in fridges, freezers, in the back of fumehoods, often unlabelled and far past the point of their contents being important or, in some cases, even known.

It's bad lab practice. Keep stocks of intermediates etc. in cleaned out reagent bottles. Keep small samples in glass vials or other "disposable" glassware. Don't store your NMR tubes or marker pens in glassware (I'm not making these examples up).

Although, thinking back on it, maybe that stuff was only really bugging me because it was the last six months of my PhD and *everything* was bugging me...

Comment: Re:How can postal codes be "copyrighted" ??? (Score 1) 168

It's the database of copyrights which a copyright claim has been brought with respect to, not the postal codes themselves. Databases are protected by copyright (disclaimer: in the jurisdictions I know about, which don't include Canada), but individual postal codes would not be.

Comment: Re:If I were a lawyer in the U.S... (Score 1) 168

It isn't the postal codes per se which have been claimed to have been infringed, though, is it? It's the database of postal codes.

I don't know about US or Canadian copyright law, but under UK copyright law there are sui generis database rights which would apply in this case despite a postal code in itself not being eligible for copyright protection.

Comment: Re:Without having read the comments, (Score 1) 279

by Epimer (#39606357) Attached to: Ask Slashdot: Advice For Budding Scientist?

You should certainly be aiming to publish research in peer-reviewed journals during your PhD. Maybe not in your first year, but as you progress. And writing those papers yourself (rather than submitting your results to your supervisor to do so - which might take a while!) is a great learning experience and one of those transferable skills you should aim to pick up along the way.

I wouldn't worry so much about being on the other end of that process, though. In my experience (which I'm not claiming to be universally true), PhD students might be asked by their supervisor to look over an article as a second set of eyes rather than the primary source of an opinion. Post-docs might certainly have more responsibility in that regard, and I'm sure it varies from field to field and from group to group.

Comment: Re:I'm a recovered scientist (Score 1) 279

by Epimer (#39605891) Attached to: Ask Slashdot: Advice For Budding Scientist?

Thanks, that's an interesting read. The RSC report I was thinking of is here:

http://www.theukrc.org/files/useruploads/files/the_chemistry_phdwomensretention_tcm18-139215.pdf

But I was made aware of it during a wider presentation on the topic, which touched on more of the stuff I mentioned above.

The working practices thing is interesting to me. I was fortunate in not having a supervisor who ascribed to those beliefs personally (he always thought applying extreme pressure was an excellent way to get falsified results back...), but those expectations still creep in from elsewhere: other group members, other groups in the department, other academics at conferences.

The lack of productivity despite lengthy lab hours is something which totally matches with my experiences too. When you see people in on a Saturday morning just checking BBC news, email and Facebook... It's frustratingly ludicrous.

I didn't play that game until the last six months of my PhD necessitated it (I had a start date for a job lined up), but the amount of people who do is staggering. A friend of a labmate worked in one of the more competitive groups at my department, and worked 16 hour days for 4 months trying to get some research ready for publication. She gave up outside hobbies and even lost her long term boyfriend due to simply never seeing him. When she was making final preparations for her publication, another group independently published basically the same research in a high-profile journal. I wonder if she felt it was worth it.

I worked 9-6ish, 5 days a week, for the most part. At the end of my time I had several publications, a good reference, a good job lined up and the same letters after my name as the 12+ hour a day people. Who's made the better choices there?

Comment: I'm a recovered scientist (Score 4, Interesting) 279

by Epimer (#39605693) Attached to: Ask Slashdot: Advice For Budding Scientist?

As a disclaimer, my undergraduate degree and PhD were in chemistry, rather than physics, and in the UK, not the US.

When I started my PhD I was planning on staying in academia. By the end of it I was desperate to leave it behind forever. Organic chemistry is somewhat notorious for having some very strange ideas about what constitutes an acceptable work/life balance. It's generally accepted (and emphasised most strongly by the more successful and/or ambitious groups) that as a PhD student or a post-doc, your work is your life. Six days a week is standard, and if you're not still in the lab by at least 7 o'clock in the evening then you're a slacker. As an aside, this leads to extremely poor time management practices, since the accepted solution to any perceived problem is "throw more lab hours at it"; this is partially due to the nature of the field and organic chemistry still being a touch unpredictable and requiring large amounts of experimental work to offset this, but it's an endemic part of the working culture. It also leads to people being in the lab just to be seen to be in the lab, rather than using their time productively. It's ridiculous.

There was a study commissioned by the Royal Society of Chemistry a few years back looking at why chemistry had such a poor retention rate of women. Physics has a low proportion of female academics, too, but then it has a relatively low proportion of female undergraduate students. Chemistry, on the other hand, has roughly equal male and female intake at undergraduate level, but the further up the ladder you go the further the ratio becomes skewed in favour of men. So what's up with chemistry? The conclusion was that the field fosters tribal attitudes to adversity (your PhD is a trial by fire!) and very masculine support systems, and that long term prospects are not very conducive to family life. I remember reading a related quote from a US professor which, to paraphrase from memory, said: "I can give you a list right now of all my former [chemistry] students who had a good handle on their career prospects. They're in my 'recommendation letters to medical schools' folder."

Funding is short for post-doc places and shorter for academics. But there's always industry jobs, right? Wrong. The jobs barely exist. Where they do exist, they're poorly paid, unstable and have poor promotion prospects. Anecdotally, when I was looking for jobs at the end of my PhD the going rate for an organic chemistry industry job (post doc experience preferred) was around £22-24k. That's less than what a sociology student going for any of the generic graduate schemes at a thousand different companies can expect to get straight out of their undergraduate degree, and with less opportunities for advancement to boot.

So if you want to have a life outside of your work, pursue hobbies or outside interests, start a family, buy a house, be relatively financially comfortable - a career in chemistry (I won't generalise to "science", that would be overreaching) is a very, very poor choice. It won't change, either, because there will always be someone who will be willing to work 12 hour days 6-7 days a week for the prospect of just one more publication. Is it worth it? That's obviously up for individuals to decide, but depressingly enough the smartest thing I could have done with 9 years of scientific training at world class research institutes was to use it as a springboard to get the hell out.

I'm much happier now.

Comment: Re:Degrees of scientific freedom (Score 2) 279

by Epimer (#39605641) Attached to: Ask Slashdot: Advice For Budding Scientist?

Academics have a variety of motivations, and a common one in my field was indeed to see that work used - by other academics, principally. In which case the same scenario applies - research use does not infringe.

Basing any work on patented work is a reasonable means to obtain cross-licensing agreements if you improve upon the base invention. That's a good start for commercialising an academic venture.

Comment: Re:Degrees of scientific freedom (Score 3, Informative) 279

by Epimer (#39605533) Attached to: Ask Slashdot: Advice For Budding Scientist?

And the reason why nobody gives a second though to patent infringement in academia is because research use of patented inventions in academia is subject to an exemption from infringement. It's perfectly legal.

That said, it's probably imprudent to let mere facts get in the way of an anti-patent rant on here :)

"No, no, I don't mind being called the smartest man in the world. I just wish it wasn't this one." -- Adrian Veidt/Ozymandias, WATCHMEN

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