Tuesday, September 12, 2006

Make the right move

For a senior graduate student or a post-doc who is planning a career in academics and/or research, I usually recommend Kathy Barker's book At the helm: A laboratory navigator, which has tons of practical advice on everything you will need for running a lab. [Update: In the comments area, Tabula Rasa recommends The Chicago Guide to Your Academic Career.] Now, thanks to an e-mail alert from Pradeepkumar, I find that this book has some serious competition:

Based on presentations and discussions from a course developed by HHMI and the Burroughs Wellcome Fund, this book is a collection of practical advice, experiences, and opinions from seasoned biomedical investigators and other professionals. Also contains an overview of the course and lessons learned.

The reference to "this book" in the quote is to this wonderful resource: Making the Right Moves: A Practical Guide to Scientific Management for Postdocs and New Faculty, which is available for free download. Meant for those entering a career in academics and/or research, it has great advice on all kinds of things: getting and negotiating a faculty position, mentoring, writing grants, managing your team of post-docs, graduate and undergraduate students, and even time management!

Here's an excellent quote from Enriqueta Bond (Burroughs Wellcome Fund):

"Why do we need something like a lab management course? Biomedical research today is a complex enterprise that spans multiple biological levels, requires a variety of equipment and staff, and demands success with limited funds. Each one of you is really an entrepreneur running your own small business."

[Bold emphasis added]. If you really think about it, this description applies to research in pretty much all scientific disciplines!

The list of contributors has some of the best in the business, including a few Nobel laureates, who offered their expertise in a course on "Scientific Management for the Beginning Academic Investigator" held at the Howard Hughes Medical Institute for those who got research grants from HHMI and Burroughs Wellcome Fund.

Considering its origins, it's not at all surprising that Making the right moves has a soft focus on the biomedical research and the US academic system. However, the topics and concerns it addresses are certainly of interest and relevance to a broader academic audience in other fields and other countries.

While at the book's website, don't forget to check out the 27-minute video of a talk by Thomas Cech, a 1989 Nobel winner in chemistry. Pradeepkumar recommended it highly, and I agree heartily with him.


  1. Tabula Rasa said...

    I'd also recommend The Chicago Guide to Your Academic Career.

  2. Abi said...

    Thanks, TR, for the pointer to the Chicago Guide. I will have to look for it now ...

  3. Dean said...

    I work at the University of Chicago Press, the publisher of The Chicago Guide to Your Academic Career by John A. Goldsmith, John Komlos, and Penny Schine Gold.

    Here's the straight dope: the Goldsmith book is best for students in the humanities and social sciences. It is less appropriate for the harder sciences. In spring of 2007 we will publish The Chicago Guide to Your Academic Career in Biology which is for students in the life sciences.

    You can read some of the Goldsmith book online; we have an excerpt called "Entering Graduate School." That will give you a good sense of the focus of the book.