Friday, May 1, 2020

American Society of Microbiology: got a project? get grad students

...In 2016, the Bureau of Labor Statistics predicted we needed 12,000 new clinical laboratory professionals each year to meet rising demand. That includes clinical microbiologists, highly trained scientists with Ph.D.s or medical degrees. But just an estimated 5,000 laboratory professionals enter the work force annually. Clinical microbiology laboratories today have more than 10 percent vacancies, and the pandemic has only compounded the shortfall. (Luckily, we’re not in short supply of the kinds of microbiologists who look into the basic biology of the virus, develop drugs to kill it or are working on a vaccine.) 
To rapidly scale-up testing we propose a biomedical version of the National Guard, a rapid response force of microbiologists and other scientists who could help reinforce the health care system during pandemics. This would let hospital laboratories serve as the backbone for medical diagnoses in a pandemic. These laboratories are critical, because an estimated 70 percent of medical decisions are based on diagnostic tests....
Who does the leadership of the American Society for Microbiology think they should recruit?
...We have an overflow of graduate students and postdoctoral fellows currently training in microbiology and it would require us to recruit about 4 percent of them. That would mean roughly 300 scientists could deploy to hospitals or from remote support centers, with board-certified clinical microbiologists supervising them. Of course, we know clinical microbiologists do not appear out of thin air. They require long, expensive training. Yet many of these students and fellows would welcome the chance to join this part-time project for additional practical training and stipend support...
I find it rather appalling to take students (that there is "an overflow of") to recruit for a side project. The right thing to do is to tell these students to get the heck out of the field!

(Let's be honest, some kind of reserve for scientists makes sense, but it isn't clear to me that you need some kind of governmental program to make this happen?, i.e. it seems to be happening now anyway?) 


  1. The people that come up with these ideas are usually ones with good jobs that pay well and have great job security (tenured faculty). Of course they cant imagine what its like to be a poorly paid lab worker with no job security which this job requires, so lets get more grad students or bring people in from Chindia (!)


  3. A few of those postdocs are postdocs because they wanted to be. Most are only there because of failed job searches, and would probably jump at the chance for real employment.


looks like Blogger doesn't work with anonymous comments from Chrome browsers at the moment - works in Microsoft Edge, or from Chrome with a Blogger account - sorry! CJ 3/21/20