Pamela Silver on academic biologists

"At one time, academic biology was the province of those willing to work long, irregular hours and to wear threadbare jackets with elbow patches."

- Pamela Silver, writing in Nature

Are you a biologist in need of a job in academia? In the current competitive climate, you're going to need more than that jacket, then. More specifically, you might want to fork over $14 and get yourself a copy of The Chicago Guide to Landing a Job in Academic Biology by C. Ray Chandler, Lorne M. Wolfe & Daniel E. L. Promislow. Reviewed this week in Nature, this handy how-to guide promises to impart all of the slick tricks of career progression that other sectors have been practicing for decades: what to wear at the interview, how to craft the perfect cover letter, how many jobs to apply for simultaneously and the like. It also includes tips specific to science, such as the art of giving a good seminar.

The book sounds useful, and parts of it probably are, but Harvard Medical School biologist Silver worries that such calculated approaches might favor the selection of "careerists who are good at applying for jobs" instead of the best scientists. Wondering why the logical choice of career coach, the lab heads themselves, are seldom deployed, Silver speculates that such a dialogue might in the end be too embarrassing, like "a parent talking to a child about their mid-life crisis".

You can read the entire book review here with a subscription to Nature.