Experimental Error

There’s a lot we can learn from science fair projects that we can then apply to our own research.

Before going to college, I dreamed about my career options. I thought about my career options. But do you know what I didn’t do? I didn’t research my career options.

As Johns Hopkins University floats a plan to limit the number of grad students and raise their salaries, our columnist envisions an overly adjunctified world.

Here are some of this winter’s lesser-known science playthings for all ages, from the precocious little budding scientist in your family to the precocious little budding scientist who heads your department.

Unfortunately, many postdocs are treated like glorified lab techs … and it’s very sad that you felt a little good just now about the “glorified” part.

[Linked on Slashdot, 11/25/13]

We scientists need to get out there and sell, sell, sell, even though salesmanship isn’t in our marshmallows.

My old grad school lab appears to have fallen victim to the same budget cuts that are killing science around the country.

The hardest part of interdisciplinary collaborations is collaborating in an interdisciplinary way.

Is it really possible to be a student of all sciences?  No.

In his mid-30s prime, our columnist discusses the common traits of younger and older scientists.

In science, sometimes, mistakes are not merely good, they’re extraordinary.

04/26/2013

From Swag to Riches

Our columnist offers tips and strategies to help you, dear reader, walk out of any exhibit hall loaded down with free corporate goods.

Our sexy columnist ponders the importance of sexiness in science.

Our columnist continues to explore the craggy, often arbitrarily boldface landscape of the scientific resume.

01/25/2013

Regrettable Resumes

Charged with perusing applications for an open scientist job, our columnist gets testy.

Despite what grad school admissions committees seem to believe, outside interests are good.

Not all research is easily justified—but what do you do when you can’t even justify it to yourself?

The overworked grad student seems to embody the most pointless aspects of graduate school.

As the wider world celebrates science’s renewed coolness, our columnist stubbornly questions the world’s right to decide.

07/27/2012

Help Not Wanted

The United States faces a severe shortage of qualified scientists—so why are there so many unemployed scientists?

If scientists just want to make the world a better place, why do they expend so much energy clamoring for credit?

Before you pick up that next thriller novel, remember that scientists are not exactly as they are often portrayed.

Why do we require scientists to write badly?  Anyway, here’s how.

Lab work left you feeling dissatisfied? Our Experimental Error columnist feels your pain.

Looking for something really different? Consider a career in alchemy, Lysenkoism, diluvial geology — or invent your own!

If you like grant writing, writing grants, and obtaining grants via writing, you may enjoy life as an academic scientist.

[Linked on College Misery, 10/29/11]

09/23/2011

Nobel Gas

It’s time to reclaim the Nobel Prize for the common scientist, for those who have long considered the award beyond their grasp.

As we are training to become fully fledged scientists, we ourselves are the test subjects.

Walk through the corridors of many scientific institutions and you’ll see the results of decisions made by the hiring committee of 1962.

Our labs are science-based mini-societies — so why do we run them in the same arbitrary and bureaucratic way as the rest of the world?

With his daughter still in the embryonic stage, our columnist wonders if it’s too early to steer her toward a career in science.
[Linked on Slashdot, 6/1/11]
[Linked on DaddyTypes, 6/2/11]
[Linked on BoingBoing, 6/2/11]
[Linked on Mental Floss, 6/3/11]

04/22/2011

Forging a Head

Scientific hoaxes — the harmless kind — can be fun, and they can show us how easy it is to stop thinking like a scientist.

[Commented on in ThinkingProf Blog, 4/23/11]

[Linked on Slashdot, 5/1/11]

[Called a Web Pick on Sceptique, 5/7/11]

How can we ensure that future students will read our names when, many years from now, they open their science textbooks on their iPad 15s?

No talented child ever says, “I want to pipette repetitively when I grow up.”

[Commented on in Harvard Undergraduate Research Journal, 3/5/11]

For all the naive and gullible graduate students out there, here’s a handy guide to what those speakers are really saying.

[Linked on BoingBoing, 2/2/11]

Over tea, our columnist considers what the congressional elections might mean for the prospects of science and scientists.

Our Experimental Error columnist asks,“Who are the people in your fume hood?”

Why are we most fascinated by the irrelevant aspects of science?

Shouldn’t scientists blow more things up? Introducing the first humor column about being, and becoming, a scientist.

Other Writing

Princeton Alumni Weekly

People ask a certain question so often at Reunions that my friend Mike Korn ’00 had a T-shirt made to answer it. Now, when someone starts the inevitable “Which tent do you guys want to go to?” conversation, Mike simply points to his shirt, which reads: ANYWHERE BUT THE FIFTH.

CNN.com

Growing up in the ‘80s and ‘90s, I saw nerds portrayed on television all the time.  Steve Urkel on “Family Matters.”  Martin Prince on “The Simpsons.”  Minkus on “Boy Meets World.”  Sponge on “Salute Your Shorts.”  Paul Pfeiffer on “The Wonder Years.”  A whole gaggle of supporting nerd characters filled Bayside High on “Saved By the Bell.”

Patch.com

Adam Ruben ’01 explains what draws him back to campus year after year.

National Public Radio

A few weeks ago, my sister asked a simple yes-no question on her Facebook page: She wrote, “should I get the flu shot?” She might as well have posted, “should I fillet this kitten?”

National Public Radio

Graduate students need higher stipends, fewer questions from prying relatives about when they’ll graduate, and more department events with unguarded pastries. You might think the last things grad students need are more books.

[Listen to the story on All Things Considered]

31-page excerpt of the full book, available on Scribd.  But you should totally buy the book.

Princeton Alumni Weekly

I’m married. I have no kids. I live in an apartment near the National Zoo in Washington, D.C., and work at a biotech company in Rockville, Md. And later this month, for some reason, I will find it very important to share this information with people I have not seen since last May.

Knowing we would attend a wedding in St. Louis, Missouri, one weekend and a bridal shower in Chicago, Illinois, the next, the two of us decided to turn the events into an excuse for a summer road trip through Illinois and parts of neighboring states from June 28 to July 4.  [Coauthored with Marina Koestler Ruben.]

Includes my one-act plays “Out of Character” and “Shot At.”

Includes my one-act play “New Tricks.”

This essay shared Princeton University’s Gregory T. Pope ’80 Prize for Science Writing in 2001.