Post-Doctoral Position

A post-doctoral position is available immediate in the Boehning laboratory at the University of Texas Health Science Center at Houston (UTHealth). This position is funded by the NIH and pay will be consistent with FLSA-exempt NRSA guidelines (https://grants.nih.gov/grants/guide/notice-files/NOT-OD-16-134.html). Our laboratory studies calcium signaling and cell death in several paradigms including cardiac physiology, immunology, and neurodegenerative diseases. This position will investigate novel pathways regulating signaling through the Fas death receptor, with implications for autoimmune diseases and cancer. Technical approaches include cell biology, protein biochemistry/click chemistry, live cell imaging, and animal models relevant to Fas signaling in health and disease.

In addition to a doctoral degree, the main qualifications for this position are an interest in the field of study and a willingness to learn. Previous experience with animal models is desirable but not a requirement. The Boehning laboratory is a very collaborative and close-knit group. Therefore, another expectation is that you can perform well in a team setting. The Boehning laboratory also strives to foster a diverse and inclusive work environment, and thus we expect our members to welcome and accept people from a variety of backgrounds.

Houston is one of the most diverse large cities in the United States. Houstonites enjoy a low cost of living and a warm subtropical climate. UTHealth is part of the Texas Medical Center, which is the largest medical center in the world with over 100,000 employees. The scientific environment is exceptional. Please send a cover letter detailing your future research interests and goals, a CV, and a list of 3 references electronically to Darren.F.Boehning (at) uth.tmc.edu. Review of applicants will begin immediately.

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Gluten And Dairy Free Chicken Rice Casserole

Modified from here.
This is even more delicious that the condensed soup version! Celiac and EOE friendly. Number two in what will hopefully be a larger series of recipes for my daughter.

Ingredients:
Medium yellow onion
1.5 cups rice
2.5 cups beef broth
4.5 tbsp gluten free flour
Olive oil
1 cup unsweetened coconut milk
1 package (8 oz) sliced fresh white mushrooms
Boneless chicken breasts trimmed and quartered (about 4)

Prep about 15 minutes; cook time about 1 hour
1. Preheat oven to 350
2. Chop onion into small pieces
3. Cook onion over medium heat in a skillet in a couple tablespoons of olive oil until tan
4. Add 1.5 cups of beef broth and reduce for 5 minutes
5. While broth is reducing, rub some olive oil liberally in a 9×14 (or similar) glass casserole dish.
6. Add 1.5 cups rice and 1.5 cups water to casserole dish, mix
7. Add broth/onion mixture to casserole dish and mix
8. To skillet (no need to clean), add more olive oil and slight brown mushrooms for a minute or two
9. To 1 cup (cold) beef broth, add 4.5 tbsp GF fluor and mix vigorously; add mixture to mushrooms
10. Immediately add 1 cup unsweetened coconut milk and mix thoroughly
11. Reduce until thick (probably only a minute or two); incorporate into rice mixture in casserole dish until homogenous.
12. Quarter chicken breast and lay on top of rice mixture; season with pepper and salt
13. Cover tightly with foil and cook 1 hour at 350
14. Check to make sure chicken is done by cutting through the thickest piece.

Federal Science Funding: A Call To Action

The United States House Science Subcommittee on Energy is responsible for EPA research and development programs. As many of you know, it appears that all EPA grants and contracts have been suspended (at least temporarily). This is a very scary development which tells me no federally funded science is safe. The chair of this committee is Randy Weber, who also happens to be my representative in the 14th district of Texas. I just got off the phone with his office. First, the staffer reiterated the commitment of Mr. Weber to basic science research (not sure why she needed to point this out). Then, she used a lot of words to basically say that states should be responsible for environmental regulation, not the federal government. I noted that my district has several of the largest oil refineries in the nation, and they have repeatedly and willingly polluted our water. In fact, my county has three Superfund sites. I noted that the Texas legislature has a long history of catering to the oil and gas industry, and I don’t trust the state to keep the environment in my county safe. She deflected this by saying that Mr. Weber works with the Texas state equivalent of the EPA known as TCEQ to make sure the oil and gas industry does not pollute our district. I don’t believe it.

Now to the really scary part. In a nutshell, all EPA grants and contracts, both future and present, will be subject to federal oversight before funds are distributed. In other words, government officials will be determining if your research is worthy of funding. Imagine the ramifications for people who study HIV/AIDS, drug abuse, and literally hundreds of other examples of research which may in some way be politicized. This is insanity. Fellow scientists, we have to do something. At the VERY least, call your representatives. This is literally an attack on science. However, I feel we need to do a lot more than just talking to a congressional staffer, and I welcome suggestions.

Thoughts on how to become a PI at an academic institution

 

eLife published a webinar report on how to get an independent position. On Twitter, Dr. Becca noted that one piece of advice was to apply early before you had any papers from your post-doc position.

To which the following was noted by DM

I have sat on multiple faculty recruitment committees, and I personally have interviewed for what I surmise is probably an above average number of positions. The advice I give for my trainees if they are absolutely serious about becoming a PI at a major institution (particularly medical schools) is this:

  1. Do your post-doctoral training, if possible, with someone at the top of their field. Think HHMI, National Academy, etc.
  2. We all complain about chasing Cell, Science, and Nature papers, but this is what gets you interviews. I am serious. I absolutely don’t agree with this requirement, but I can GUARANTEE there is someone on the search committee who expects this.
  3. Point number 2 is inextricably linked to point  number 1.

I am very aware that there are hundreds of people who did not have CNS or famous people on their CV and still got a position. Also, these points are usually only important for getting an interview. The qualities required for a successful interview are completely different. Anyhow, DM is right, the rules are different depending on who/where you worked. Furthermore, it also greatly influences your trajectory downstream of getting that first position.

Postscript from the Twits:

Why You Can’t Use A Google Scholar Link In Your Biosketch

I submitted a request for clarification to grantsinfo@nih.gov for the following policy:

Indicate that a URL for a publication list is optional and, if provided, must be to a government website (.gov) like My Bibliography.

This was in response to recently updated instructions for preparing the biosketch and some discussion on Twitter initiated by @crytogenomicon.

https://twitter.com/cryptogenomicon/status/730412499120566272?lang=en

After about a week, I got the following reply:

With broader rules for including links we could not protect the anonymity of our reviewers.

It took me a few minutes to process this result, and then it hit me. I could link, for example, to the publication list on my personal lab web page. I use Google Analytics, and thus I can see where traffic to my site originates from. It would be very simple to figure out who reviewed my grant in this scenario. Turns out @thatdnaguy was right!

Reproducibility

When I was a grad student, I modified an existing technique to measure the activity of an ion channel that resides on intracellular membranes. The major advance was that I extended the so-called “nuclear patch-clamp technique” from Xenopus nuclei to mammalian cells*. For several reasons that are unimportant, this was of fairly high interest to the field and immediately people tried to replicate my findings. It turns out that like many things in science, there are subtle aspects to the protocol that greatly increase the probability of success which do not translate well to words on a written protocol. I literally traveled to several labs around the country to show them with my own hands how to do this type of recording. This is now routine in the field, with a couple groups who are exceptionally good at this technique getting a lot of collaboration requests. The point is that if you can’t reproduce something, contact the group who published the work and they will likely help you in any way you can. I have certainly benefitted from this, as our most recent paper** required many email/phone calls to a couple of other groups who were much more competent in the assays we were trying to perform.  One last thing, the literature is inherently self-correcting. The notion that you cannot publish contradictory or negative results is a fallacy***.

*http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC1301497/

**http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4586849/

***http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3572306/

 

Study Sections Are Not Evil

Science twitter is a great place to meet new scientists, find new collaborators, and learn a lot about our sometimes maddening profession. It allows us to frankly discuss (among other things) career development, workplace issues, and publishing models. Sometimes I fear us older* scientists whine enough to discourage some of our younger followers from pursuing a career in science, and in particular academic science. This likely comes from our struggles to obtain grant funding from the NIH, NSF, and other agencies which have seen devastating reductions in budgets over the past decade or so. With uncertainty and failure comes blame, and study sections are easy pickings to vent our frustration. I just got off study section yesterday. All of us on the panel are in the same horrible funding environment, and we realize that the people applying are our peers or future peers. I would like to believe that yesterday we all followed the mantra “review unto others as you would have them review unto you”. The meeting was very useful to come to a consensus on the not insignificant percentage of apps in which we had a difference of opinion. In retrospect, I feel we were fair, balanced, and did the best job possible. I have always felt this way after study section, no matter the agency. So don’t blame the study section. For the most part, we are doing the best we can do.

*FTR, I do not consider myself old. I can’t believe I have been a PI over a decade now.