We are hiring!

I am currently looking to fill a postdoc position in my lab. If you are looking for a position right now or will be in the near future, please check out the announcement here. We have a lot of really exciting projects in the lab right now, so it’s a perfect time to join our growing team. If you’ve been following my blog for a while, you know I put a lot of thought into good mentoring! Please spread the word. The deadline for applying is soon (May 12th), but if you are a few days late with your application, we will still consider you.

My take on preprints

I am sure you’ve heard the buzz about preprints in biology. Preprints have been a thing for a long time now in physics and math. The idea is that you submit your paper in a more or less finished form to a server called arXiv (pronounced archive), where their manuscript only undergoes very cursory approval but no formal peer review. It is then available for anyone to read and comment on. Biology took much longer to accept preprints, but the movement has been gaining momentum in recent years. There is a biological arXiv twin called biorXiv, and it has become very popular, especially among computational biologists.There are many advantages of preprints. First, you get to get your story out quicker and people can find out about it sooner. Continue reading

Saving dead trees

As I am writing this post, my office printer is busy printing hundreds of pages in what can only be called a massive waste of paper and toner. I am in the process of obtaining what is called a “habilitation” in Poland, which is one step up from a doctorate and allows one, among other things, to mentor graduate students. The habilitation proceedings involve the setting up of a committee that will decide whether or not I deserve a habilitation. Every single one of the seven committee members must obtain a paper copy of all the paperwork, which includes, for example, a copy of a bunch of my recent papers, and letters of support from all the co-authors of said papers. In addition, the committee members receive a copy of the documents on a CD, so it’s not like they couldn’t selectively print out what they actually care about. I really think there is something deeply wrong about the process if it requires a waste of a ream of printer paper. In addition, a glitch in my PDF software caused my PhD diploma to be printed out 70 rather than 7 times… This is going to be a great day!

Edit: so yeah, this is it…habilitacja_papiery

Teaching animal welfare in research

Recently, a new bill on the protection of laboratory animals was passed in Poland. One of the regulations stipulated by the bill is the requirement for all researchers that will do animal research to take a course in laboratory animal handling and welfare. That means everyone – whether a student who hasn’t handled a mouse in their life, or an experienced technician who has been doing animal experimentation for the past 20 years. There is nothing wrong with the idea per se – it levels the playing field and ensures that everyone is on the same page when it comes to animal welfare. What I object to is the form of the training. Continue reading

The Darwinian management model – can it work?

I have just read a NYT piece on the workplace environment at the world’s largest retailer – Amazon. The picture that emerges from the article is that of an ultra-competitive winner-takes-it-all war zone where no heed is paid to personal circumstances or work-life balance. Although Jeff Bezos, Amazon’s CEO, was quick to denounce the article, I would not be surprised if it rang true to many of Amazon’s employees. It also doesn’t seem very different from what is rumored to be going on in other tech giants, such as Apple. For a while, during my postdoc in the Silicon Valley (Stanford) I co-habited with an IT professional who worked at Apple. He would spend whole nights at his computer. He didn’t have much personal life from what I could tell – all hours of the day were spent working. For a fairly “normal” person this kind of workplace seems like a total nightmare. But can some people actually thrive in it? Continue reading

I am on my own now!

Some of you may already know that from facebook, twitter, or other sources, but for those of you who don’t, I’ve got some big news! I have just landed a job as group leader at the Centre of New Technologies (CeNT) of the University of Warsaw. Ever since I started working in science it has been my dream to lead my own research program and now it has come true. I hope I am off to a good start! So far I am getting excellent support from the administrative staff here at CeNT, so things are looking bright. Hopefully once the experimental results start rolling in, we will be able to score some nice pubs. On a related note, I am looking forward to populating my somewhat empty lab, so if you know anyone interested in joining as a research assistant or PhD student, please have them apply. Also, feel free to visit my lab’s website.

On the Polish love of hierarchy

First of all, Happy New Year 2015 to all my readers! As is typical of this season of the year, I have in the past couple of weeks met with a few old friends who had left Poland, and usually only visit over the Christmas break. One question that we discussed is how they find Poland after having spent some time abroad and whether or not they would come back if they were offered good work opportunities and a decent salary. Most, to my chagrin, said no. They find it hard to readjust to the Polish way of life after having experienced more Western cultures. One of my friends pointed out that what is most annoying to her personally, is the need of the Poles to constantly compare themselves to others. There is an ingrained love of hierarchy in our nation that has withstood the political transformation from a totalitarian communist regime to a capitalist democracy. Continue reading

Beware of bogus modeling papers

I am generally strongly in favor of quantitative approaches in biological and social sciences. There is,  however, one serious problem that I’ve seen time and again appear in papers that use hard-core math to analyze data – rather than using  data to guide model building they instead force the data to conform to a preconceived model.  I’ve come across a story on Slashdot about how a team of scientists, including Alan Sokal of the Sokal affair fame, debunked a set of totally bogus papers applying differential equations describing fluid flow to the dynamics of group behavior. Continue reading

America the pragmatic

Do you ever watch people at airports? I do. It’s hilarious. One thing one notices right away is how different nations dress differently. For example the Germans with their metal-rimmed glasses, the French with their loosely tied scarfs, and then there are the Americans – ever clad in jeans/shorts, tennis shoes and sweatshirts. Whereas old world travelers try to make a fashion statement, their new world counterparts just wish to be comfy. And it’s like that with pretty much everything in the US. If you look at American car dashboards, you will soon discover that… they are all identical – same layout of buttons and dials. So if you get into a car that you’ve never driven before, you can adjust the volume of your stereo without even looking – boring but brilliant. Try that with a French car and you will spend at least 10 minutes looking for the right dial. Another thing is American road signs – it’s great how they always spell out what the sign means instead of conveying it through an unintelligible set of symbols and color codes that you forget the moment you get out of driving school. And the American love of the backpack – everyone wears them – from university professors to MBA graduates. In Europe a professor wearing a backpack over his tweed jacket is a big no-no, style-wise, but in the US nobody cares. And the list goes on and on… At first, when you come to the US it all looks tacky and style-less, but damn, does it grow on you. You feel kind of liberated – you don’t have to worry whether your white socks and sandals will go well with your jeans and your plaid shirt – you are virtually guaranteed that you will not be the worst-dressed person around. So what’s your choice? European style or American convenience?