Back to Basics - Advocating for Academic Science

Crystal Grant 22PhD, a graduate student in the GMB program, faced it while studying how people’s DNA changes with age.

Joshua Lewis 19PhD of the BCDB program saw its shadow while researching how cells stick to neighbor cells, information that could lead to understanding how cancer cells metastasize.

Both Grant and Lewis believe strongly in the importance of what they’re doing, but neither believes they’ll stay in academia when they complete their PhDs.

The situation is readily apparent to anyone who works in an academic lab. Research is a slow, steady, incremental process; funding is erratic, inconsistent, boom and bust. Principal investigators must tear themselves away from working with students to chase fewer NIH and NSF grants. Hiring new students and staff is fraught because funding for their positions is a moving target.

Meanwhile, a steady stream of graduate students—vital to every academic lab—compete for rarer faculty positions while being tempted by more lucrative private industry jobs or opportunities abroad. Postdoctoral fellowships, an important transitional step from student to professor, have become a port of call that may stretch into years of low pay and uncertainty for scientists who hoped to settle down after a decade-plus of intense schooling. But as the challenge grows steeper, the same young scientists who are most affected are also trying to solve it.

Also mentioned in this story are BCDB alumna Chelsey Ruppersburg 16PhD, BCDB and CB faculty member, Andrew Kowalczyk, PhD and 4th year BCDB graduate student, Jarred Whitlock 21PhD.

Click here to view the full story in the Emory Magazine.