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Opinion: on being an advisor to today’s junior scientists

C. David Allis



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Young scientists often have the same long-term goal: use one’s smarts and drive to gain insights into a problem of interest. Typically, these scientists draw upon a long-standing and time-tested scientific process: formulate a hypothesis, design experiments to test this hypothesis, collect data, interpret the data, revisit and modify the hypothesis, and so on.
Unfortunately, the reality isn’t quite so straightforward. The hours are long and the rewards short. And the challenges for fledgling scientists seem to be growing. Attractive jobs are scarce, funding is tight at many levels, and the task of publishing a single study can be onerous.
These challenges combine to yield an intimidating set of high hurdles for the young group leader to surmount as he or she leaves the comfort of the postdoctorate (or graduate student) nest. Indeed, whereas all of these challenges existed at some level when I started a new assistant professorship, the ascent to success in science is much steeper now.
From my perch as a senior scientist, one who feels fortunate to have achieved this level of success, I see several crucial questions. Who should prepare graduate students or postdoctorates when it is time for them to move on? Whose job is it to make sure that their wings are strong enough to avoid a career crash landing? No doubt a fair percentage of this responsibility falls to the students and postdoctorates. But senior, well-established scientists must be part of a willing educational and training process that begins when we accept folks into our laboratories. Here I offer some ways advisors can assist young scientists to improve their lot, based on insights I’ve gleaned [...]


Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, Vol. 114, No. 21. (23 May 2017), pp. 5321-5323, https://doi.org/10.1073/pnas.1704511114 
Key: INRMM:14362406

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