Archive for October, 2010

Perspectives, Part Two

Posted on October 18th, 2010 by Joseph Dolence

Advice and thoughts from a fourth year Mayo Graduate School student, Joseph Dolence. Joe is in Dr. Kay Medina's lab on the Rochester campus. In the lab, he works to discover the molecular mechanisms behind how early decisions within multipotent progenitors lead to the lymphoid/B cell fate. Here is some answers to some questions posed to Joe...

Joe enjoying free time in his first visit to Target Field last March

  • How did you choose your career? Was this an easy or hard process for you?  If you struggled, how did you overcome these struggles?

How did I choose science? For a long time, I wanted to go to medical school. I have always been interested in how humans fight disease, so after I got exposed to immunology during college in Anatomy/Physiology, coupled with the fact I loved helping students in my teaching assistant job, it was a rather easy choice once I had a wonderful experience in the Pease Lab during Mayo SURF 2006. I figured I would put my interest in helping patients in figuring out the precise details that go behind their afflictions rather than just prescribe medications.

  • What kind of training, both formal and informal, did you receive to prepare you for your career? If applicable, how did you select where to attend graduate school? How did you choose your postdoc? How about any additional training? How did you choose what additional training to pursue and how did you choose where to do it?

I went to a relatively small liberal arts college in northeast Minnesota called the College of Saint Scholastica in Duluth. While I was there, I double majored in biology and biochemistry.  I was also a part of the McNair Scholars program, which helps students to get undergraduate research experience and also apply to graduate school. After my junior year, I went to Mayo and worked in Larry Pease’s lab as a SURF student during the summer of 2006. This was a critical experience as it enabled me to really see first-hand what research is all about and also allowed me to see what going to Mayo for graduate school would be all about. Coming from small town Minnesota (the Iron Range, 60 miles north of Duluth) and going to college in Duluth, it wasn’t a big adjustment for me to go to Rochester. Additionally, I worked as a teaching assistant for 2 years at Scholastica. All of these experiences culminated in me wanted to do research and become a graduate student at Mayo.

  • How competitive and/or rigorous was the training for your career?

My training for my career both in undergraduate and at Mayo has been very competitive and rigorous. I work hard to get what needs to get done. I think the competitive nature at every step of my training has been very critical for pushing me to do good work. At the same time however, I have had a lot of fun. My attitude always has been to enjoy what I do. Whether that has been running a flow cytometer or out with friends at a Twins game relaxing, I think every aspect of your life is training to be a better scientist and a better person.

  • How long did it take you to train? Was it shorter or longer than anticipated? If you had any setbacks, how did you deal with them?

It took 4 years to graduate from college and so far it has been 3.5 years roughly at Mayo. I don’t like predicting stuff, but if I was to predict I would say my time to degree at Mayo would be average—a little around 5-5.5 years. I would say it was what I thought it would be—pretty much what I anticipated. I haven’t had any major setbacks so far, and I hope that continues. But I would approach them the way I approach any setbacks in life—with hard work and a smile. I believe everything happens for a reason and would approach it with an attitude of learning something.

  • What advice would you give to someone interested in following a similar career path?


Every time I get this question, as the SURF students last summer and my lab tech, Kim, can attest to, I often get very passionate in my response. But I will save the speeches today in this interview. I would simply say you have to love what you do. It is too much work to just be lukewarm to the idea of being a scientist. Yes, some days, your going to think, “Why did I do this?” But on the whole, you should love it, want to do it. This isn’t really a job you can punch a clock absent mindedly for 40 years and be successful. If you want a reenactment of my speech—talk to Kim, I’m sure she will do it for you.

  • What would you have done differently in preparing for your career?

mmm…I don’t know if I would have done anything to different. I would advise people doing this to get as much experience as possible before signing on to grad school. These experiences will either reaffirm your desire to do this, point you in the direction to what kind of science you want to do, or make you think twice about going into this.

  • How much do you like what you do? Why? Is it what you imagined it would be? If not, how have you adapted?

I love that you asked this question. I love what I do…well most days. I think its important. I’m not saying its always sunny and golden, but I honestly love what I do everyday. I like who I work with and when I wake up most days, I like going in and tackling the questions we do on a regular basis. Most of my training has been what I imagined it to be—I don’t think 100% has been what I thought it would be, but that’s the unpredictable nature of all of this. Sometimes research takes you down a path your not expecting and many times that is a wonderful thing.

  • How do you achieve career: life balance? Is this easy or hard to do? How many hours do you typically work per week?


I work around 45-50 hours/week at Mayo and depending on the week, I spend hours outside of Mayo reading articles for work, journal clubs, or whatever needs to get done. Total, on average, I spend 50-60 hours working. I achieve career:life balance through many means. I love baseball and I love the Twins, so I go to games through my family’s season tickets. I also play golf at area golf courses about once a week. I work hard to get what I need done M-F, so I have the weekends to myself. Admittedly, that always doesn’t work, but I try my best. I also use my 15 vacation days very wisely through the year for me to rest my mind. But as many a grad student knows, you never really stop thinking about the project. Although, when I’m lining up a must make 15 footer par putt, I’m pretty good at blocking out my Mayo life.

  • What strategies have you figured out over time to help you succeed?

I learned a long time ago, if I write down what I need to do, generally it gets done. It might not get done the day it gets put on the paper, but it gets done sooner then when I don’t write it down. I also learned that reading science is easier with a cup of coffee. My friends help me to succeed in my career:life balance.

  • How do you see your field changing in the next 5-10 years?

Where is Immunology going in the next 5-10 years? Great question. Even though I come at this from the prospective of studying the early stages in the development of the immune system, I will try to comment on Immunology on the whole. Or at least what I hope happens. I think we will be moving towards studying human immunology and focusing on what is relevant in human disease. There are many situations where the mouse and the human don’t match up, but we have to study the mouse because it’s the best model system to simulate and manipulate. I think we are going to continue to unlock the molecular mechanisms behind the immune system’s response to all kinds of human disease. In development, I think we are going to start putting the whole together—we all study our favorite molecules, but I think a focus on looking at how everything fits together to guide these processes will be a big part of moving forward. Immunology is an amazing field that will take many leaps and bounds in the next 5-10 years, and hopefully along the way we figure out how to quiet the immune system in situations of lupus and ramp it up to fight cancer. We are only going to get better. It’s an exciting time.

  • Anything else you would like to share?

Don’t be discouraged. Stay positive and work hard. No matter if you have a career in science or medicine or do something else, smile and realize better days are coming. Oh, also thanks for reading! It was a pleasure to share my thoughts with you today.

JJ (Blog Manager)

Increase of Women earning the majority of doctorates! and other exciting changes to enrollment and degrees….

Posted on October 11th, 2010 by Admin

The Council of Graduate Schools (CGS) has reported the enrollment and degrees report for 2008-2009. There have been major differences in enrollment and degrees in 2009 compared to 2008. Here are some of the highlights!

  1. Enrollment of new students at U.S. graduate schools grew 5.5% from 2008 to 2009, compared to 4.5% the previous year. Total enrollment grew 4.7% in 2009 after gaining 3.0% in 2008
  2. Growth in both first-time and total graduate enrollment in 2009 was higher for men than for women, reversing a long-term trend (6.7% to 4.7%)
  3. While women have long earned the majority of master’s degrees awarded in the U.S., the 2008-09 academic year was the first year ever that women earned the majority (50.4%) of doctorates as well. The one-year increase in doctorates was substantially stronger for women than for men, 6.3% vs. 1.0%. 
  4. First-time enrollment growth for U.S. minority groups ranged from 6.2% for American Indian/Alaskan Natives to 9.3% for Asian/Pacific Islanders, compared to 5.3% for White, non-Hispanic students
  5. Applications for admission to U.S. graduate schools grew 8.3% from 2008 to 2009.
  6. The representation of minority groups in U.S. graduate schools continued to increase in 2009, rising from 28.3% to 29.1% of first-time domestic enrollment
  7. The share of women students varied by citizenship and race/ethnicity: women comprised almost 71% of Black/African American first-time enrollment, compared to just over 42% of international students.

As one can see there definitely a shift in people enrolling and obtaining their doctorate degrees. Why? Well, this could be because of the competitiveness of jobs, women becoming more independent, and the acknowledgement of obtaining a great education.

As you read on my last post (see below), "The Struggle of Women in Science", you can see how we really need a change, as in 2009 it was the first year ever that women earned the majority (50.4%) of doctorates. I can already predict that there will be more women professors, researchers, and educators in many fields including science and that we (current women graduate students) are definitely apart of this group!  

What do you think??

Jess (Blog Manager)

The Struggle for Women in Science

Posted on October 4th, 2010 by Admin

As scientist we all know that life is not always handed to you and that it took a lot of hard work to get us where we are today. With this said, as a Woman in Science it may be harder than you think! The L'Oreal USA, known to many as the leading beauty company, in partnership with The American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS), the world's largest general scientific society, and publisher of the journal, Science as well as Science Translational Medicine and Science Signaling ,  recently had a Congressional Briefing on Issues Affecting Women in Science.

WHY SHOULD WE CARE?  Well look at these results from newly-released survey of 1,300 female and male scientists, conducted by AAAS and commissioned by L'Oreal USA, on the barriers women encounter in pursuit of scientific careers. They conducted a survey research on male and female scientists who hold doctoral degrees and are registered users of Science online, including members of AAAS.

  • Female scientists face unique, gender-based barriers in career advancement:
    • 61 percent of female scientists who participated in the study have personally struggled balancing life and career
    • More than half of female respondents (52 percent) have experienced gender bias
    • More than one in three female scientists who participated in the survey (37 percent) faced barriers in having/raising children  
    • Half of all female respondents (50 percent) cited challenges with child care support as a major barrier for individuals working in the science field
  • Insurmountable barriers are driving female scientists from the field:
    • Nearly all women who participated in the survey (98 percent) know a female colleague who left the science field because she encountered barriers to her professional success
    • Balancing life and career and having/raising children were cited as the top two reasons why female colleagues left their science careers
    • Female respondents cited gender biases as the reason why female colleagues left the field almost twice as frequently as male colleagues (47 percent of females vs. 24 percent of males)
  • Female scientists are making significant personal sacrifices to achieve professional goals:
    • Females respondents were less likely to be married or in a long-term relationship than men (78 percent of females vs. 91 percent of males)
    • Female respondents were much less likely to have children than their male counterparts who participated in the survey (53 percent of females vs. 77 percent of males)

WHAT DOES THIS MEAN?  There are many barriers Woman in Science must face compared to their male counterpart as shown by these results. As a young woman in science I have to say these results are quite sad and depressing.

I do have to admit that 1) this fact is well known in the science field (as well as several other fields)  and 2) these types of surveys are opening scientist eyes to the barriers women currently face. A leading step is being taken by L'Oreal USA to try and change this and help Woman in Science pursue their research goals by creating a  L'Oreal USA's For Women in Science program, which provides grants for the advancement of women in science and aims to address the issues related to the underrepresentation of women in the science fields. L'Oreal is planning on hosting a ceremony to award $300,000 in L'Oreal USA For Women in Science Fellowship grants to five postdoctoral female scientists, providing them with the resources to continue their groundbreaking research. Since 2004, L'Oreal USA does have  a nice track record and has previously awarded more than $1 million in fellowship grants to 35 Fellows. Finally, Science and the L'Oreal Foundation created a Women in Science Booklet focusing on 16 women in five different areas of biology research.

 Final Thought::::Is this what I have to look forward to???? I hope not! My question is what are WE doing to change this?

What are your thoughts on Women in Science? Are there other groups/organizations that are also helping Women in Science?

Yours truly, Jess (Blog Manager)