Archive for July, 2010

A Proposal for New Investigators

It’s exciting being a new investigator.

Here is a proposal I have for other new investigators:

As a new principal investigator (PI) I encourage other new PIs to hire underprivileged youths from high school as lab assistants into their new lab.

Typically when you are a new investigator:

You are going to spend most of your time opening boxes and setting up and organizing your new lab.
You are going to spend every second in the lab, obsessing over your lab.
You are young and have less personal obligations at this point in your life.
You know you’re going to spend a lot of time mentoring your first hire anyways.
You do a lot of menial tasks, but you want them done right, your way.

So, give a kid a chance to earn it.

Hire a kid from an underprivileged background in science FTW:

Compared to a normal tech (not a super expensive one that many new PIs with a ton of startup want to get):

  1. 1. They are cheaper – Win for you
  2. 2. They are very eager – Win for you
  3. 3. They are willing to work hard and “earn it” – Win for you
  4. 4. You get a technician that you personally trained from the ground up – Win for you
  5. 5. They get a full-time job; fulfills any financial needs that may be holding the student back – Win for them
  6. 6. They get a highly trained Professor devoting his/her full attention to training and mentoring them – Ridiculous win for them
  7. 7. They get rewarding employment at a University setting simultaneously educating themselves and generating valuable real world skills – Win for them
  8. 8. They get first-hand experience in research, unequivocally the best teaching tool to learn science – Win for them
  9. 9. They will get a reference letter from you eventually, probably opening many more doors than would have previously been available before you met them – Win for them
  10. 10. You set a good example – Win for everybody
  11. 11. Science communication is a skill that you need to work on – Win for you, Win for science
  12. 12. Give back to your community, teach a local from the general public – Win for everybody
  13. 13. You are giving them a chance they normally wouldn’t have – Win for them

One thing to be clear about though, you have to be very confident that you can pick good people and you should have (reasonably) high standards, and not be afraid to interview a lot of people.

I’ve done it, and it’s definitely a win-win for everybody, and it’s a lot of fun and exciting starting a new lab with someone equally excited.

It’s very rewarding and if you do your job right, trust me, you will create an ambassador to science, especially if you can target those in rural, economically disadvantaged, and aboriginal communities.

Full disclosure: I was a high school dropout, no GED.  Pay it forward.