Category Archives: opinions

Six things I learned at FWK19

Business Cards: remember to have them printed in advance, or you have to print them on thin paper and cut them yourself.

As I just moved to Germany, I am joining the science communication scene, here. So, I went to a German science communication conference: “Forum Wissenschaftskommunikation” or “Forum Science Communication”. I could only afford one out of three days but I still found out a couple of things.

Continue reading Six things I learned at FWK19

Insecurity and Uncertainties for Early Career Academics (SfP podcast episode)

One of my pet peeves with academia is the treatment of PhD students and postdocs which I feel borders(?) on exploitation. I talked with Maria Pinto, who is from Portugal and is currently PhD student in Austria in marine microbiology for my podcast “Science for Societal Progress”. Looking forward to her final year as a PhD student she is beginning to think more and more seriously about what a career in academia would mean to her.

Science for Societal Progress Podcast Episode 19
Continue reading Insecurity and Uncertainties for Early Career Academics (SfP podcast episode)

Comment on Obama’s raise

Currently, every scientist with a salary above ca. $24k/yr is exempt from over time pay in the USA – and over time here means everything over 40hrs in a week. Obama now thinks about changing this threshold to ca $50k/yr. This is big, because postdocs make only about $43k/yr on average. So if this comes, and if postdocs become eligible for over time pay, PIs will need deep pockets, because postdocs often routinely work 60-80 hour weeks. In this scenario they probably would increase the minimum salary for postdocs above that $51k level, which would be an enormous jump for most postdocs. Now, while I am confident funding agencies and leading academics will lobby against it, and not all postdocs are officially employed, and I’m rather on the pessimistic side of things, I still think one should at least have spoken up. Otherwise I wouldn’t be eligible for wining, later, right? 😉

So, today I wrote the following comment and made it official by posting it on http://www.regulations.gov/#!docketDetail;D=WHD-2015-0001 – which I think is something every US grad student and postdoc should do, too.

Continue reading Comment on Obama’s raise

random thoughts about ‘postdocs’

There was a discussion about postdocs and if and how they would benefit from Obamas plans to increase the salary threshold below which overtime must be payed to a number considerably higher than the NIH average postdoc salary… or… fellowship. I won’t get into details why, but there were different types of postdoctoral positions thrown around for different reasons. I think I made things a bit chaotic because some assumptions about what would be a postdoc position really annoyed me.

So here are some of my opinions about what a postdoc is and should be:
Continue reading random thoughts about ‘postdocs’

Why I think neurons are computers and why it matters.

The question about whether neurons perform computations came around several times on twitter, lately and there were at least two spin-off blog posts that came from these discussions:
Is the idea that neurons perform ‘computations’ in any way meaningful? from Adam Calhoun (@neuroecology) and then
The Diversity of Computation
by @mnxmnkmnd

So far so good. It appears that basically there is little discussion about whether neurons compute things. However, a new conversation between me and @mnxmnkmnd came up as I realized that for him it appears to be close to irrelevant whether you call a neuron a computer or not and you don’t learn more from emulating the computational function of a neuron than from simulating the thing the same way you would from simulating fluid dynamics or a pendulum.

So, here is my new attempt to explain, why I think it is important and meaningful to think of neurons as computing agents rather than simply physical phenomena.

Continue reading Why I think neurons are computers and why it matters.