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DBL%20Hendrix%20small.png College chemistry, 1983

Derek Lowe The 2002 Model

Dbl%20new%20portrait%20B%26W.png After 10 years of blogging. . .

Derek Lowe, an Arkansan by birth, got his BA from Hendrix College and his PhD in organic chemistry from Duke before spending time in Germany on a Humboldt Fellowship on his post-doc. He's worked for several major pharmaceutical companies since 1989 on drug discovery projects against schizophrenia, Alzheimer's, diabetes, osteoporosis and other diseases. To contact Derek email him directly: derekb.lowe@gmail.com Twitter: Dereklowe

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July 19, 2011

Sezen / Sames: What Does it Say About Grad School?

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Posted by Derek

If you haven't seen it, Chembark has Part III of the series on the Sezen/Sames research scandal. And it's another good one, focusing this time on Prof. Sames and his responsibilities in the whole affair. Everyone who's interested should go over to Paul's blog to read what he has to say about things. He's not keeping things bottled up:

Apparently, there is a double standard when it comes to judging students and professors. I guess that shouldn’t surprise anyone. Apparently, students should be fired for failure to replicate fictitious results, but professors are to be rewarded with tenure for being so grossly negligent as to oversee the greatest case of scientific misconduct in the history of organic chemistry.

But that quote shouldn't give you the idea that his post is all invective - there's a lot to back up those statements as well. I'll add that I'm not surprised by a double standard, either - after all, tenured professors are around for years. They bring in grant money (and overhead), while students. . .well, they're transient, and there are always more of them where the last bunch came from.

And while I think it would be a good thing if some of that were to change, I'm not optimistic about that happening. Unstacking that deck would be very, very hard. What would help a bit, though, would be for graduate students (and prospective graduate students) to realize that the deck is stacked, or in some of the more extreme cases of cluelessness, to realize that the deck exists in the first place. Forewarned is forearmed. You are in a very unequal and potentially precarious position as a graduate student, which is one the reasons my standard grad-school advice is to get a PhD as quickly as is consistent with honor and propriety. Don't hang around one day longer than you have to. My own university educated me in that regard: whenever it was more advantageous for them to consider us students, well, that's what we were. Did it then, five minutes later, cost them less money and trouble with respect to some other issue to consider us staff? Then we were staff. Whatever put the university in a better relative position or allowed them to save a nickel.

That's not to say the world beyond graduate school is fair, because it isn't, of course. Wide-ranging hopes in that line will not serve you well. Fred Schwed put it well, quoting what he called "the falsest text in the language" (from Sterne), to the effect that the Lord tempereth the wind to the shorn lamb. "He doesn't, you know,, said Schwed. "Look around you". But at least in some other spheres there are usually more options, more means of redress, than are available to any graduate student. Those problems with university administration are small compared to the potential for trouble with your own professor, and in many cases there's not a damn thing you can do about it - even being in the right may help least of all. The students dismissed from the Sames group over Sezen's work appear, from this vantage point, to have been quite correct about her conduct and the quality of her work. In vain.

Comments (68) + TrackBacks (0) | Category: Graduate School | The Dark Side


COMMENTS

1. PharmaHeretic on July 19, 2011 3:27 PM writes...

A related question-

Given that university-based research today is almost exclusively repetitive, deliberately non-innovative and often fraudulent- would its disappearance be a good thing for science?

The dark ages ended when the influence of the church and clergy started declining. What are universities and professors today but modern day versions of religious institutions and clergy engaged in performing dogmatic and dishonest rituals which enrich them while hurting others?

Permalink to Comment

2. Soon To Be Grad Student on July 19, 2011 3:57 PM writes...

I'm just confused why Sames even still has a job, let alone how he attracts students. EVERYONE knows about this - and especially everybody in my shoes or who is interested the slightest bit organometallic chemistry or transition metal catalysis. There is no way in hell I would ever work for that guy, I'd got back to moving boxes around first. The best piece of advice I got from my undergrad adviser echoed your sentiment - don't worry too much about the labs with the shiniest instruments or the most toys, go to a program where you like the people, where you think you can pick an adviser who is not a jerk or a slave driver, and with whom you can work for five years.

Permalink to Comment

3. Aspirin on July 19, 2011 4:27 PM writes...

Pharmaheretic: Your assumption behind that statement seems to be that non-innovative research does not really advance science. As they say, we stand on the shoulders of legions of dwarfs; the non-innovative toilers provide the raw material that the geniuses then turn into gold. I agree with the part about fraud of course, but let's not underestimate the value of incremental work.

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4. Anonymous on July 19, 2011 5:01 PM writes...

You can always seek redress outside the law which can be a lot of fun. It's very educational for the faculty as well.

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5. Student on July 19, 2011 5:48 PM writes...

I can respect the rules in place to prevent false allegations from determining a faculty's career...but in this instance there is nothing but malicious intentions falling on these students from every direction...its mind boggling.

@ #1 Those issues listed wouldn't be as bad if university based research was meant to train students...but its not. Our jobs could be done with an army of technicians by the NIH...but technicians costs more than $21,000 a year...
I agree with Derek that we need to forewarn undergrads and are considering this type of graduate school work.

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6. PharmaHeretic on July 19, 2011 6:03 PM writes...

The real problem is that publicly funded research, especially biomedical & related stuff, has now become a spiderweb-like scam of dubious value.

Calling it by its real name, a scam, is the first step to restoring science. Getting rid of secular priests and monasteries is also necessary. I am not opposed to extra-'legal' means of achieving those ends. It is hard to feel empathy for slave-drivers, conmen and sociopaths.. I mean academics.

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7. leftscienceawhileago on July 19, 2011 6:06 PM writes...

We haven't heard from the any of the students that were allegedly affected yet; we should be careful about putting outrage in their mouths.

It would probably be too easy to identify them if they wrote something anonymous, but according to one commenter here and on Chembark, two graduated from other labs and the other apparently went to industry.

I wouldn't be surprised if all of them just are just too disinterested in Sames to really bother commenting on the whole situation. All of us suffer many smaller injustices on a day to day basis, the best way to deal with them is not give them any attention at all.

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8. Fishy Fish on July 19, 2011 6:48 PM writes...

What does it say about grad school - it is like "hell". If you want to work in your "beloved" chemistry field, you have to work like a slave, suck it up and go through it, hopefully with minimal amount of "permanent" damage. Most of schools realize that chemistry grad students probably are least likely candidates to donate a shining bldg or endow a chair. MD's, JD's and "know-it-all" MBA's probably have very different grad school experience.

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9. Terry on July 19, 2011 7:37 PM writes...

to 8
I cant agree more, the graduate school in chemistry department in US is the only leftover of slave system!

Permalink to Comment

10. not bob on July 19, 2011 7:54 PM writes...

It would be one thing if Sezen was the only one who could get the reactions to work. That is obviously suspicious. However, remember how she was originally caught out - she allegedly came in at night, read her labmate's notebook and dosed the flask with the expected product. For all we know she may have been doing that for years.

Think about what that would look like to Sames. It would seem to him that his other students were successfully repeating the work, and therefore that the chemistry was valid. The fact that the same reaction would "work" on some days and not work on other days for other students would look like bad technique by the student.

In short, given the sheer complexity of the fraud (including doctored NMR's) I'm prepared to cut Sames a little slack. Should he have caught it earlier? Maybe. Its easy to say in hindsight.

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11. John Thacker on July 19, 2011 9:46 PM writes...

"MD's, JD's and "know-it-all" MBA's probably have very different grad school experience."

Oh, but you should hear them complain about their debts. Especially the ones who didn't get that prestigious appointment or associate position that they "knew" that they'd get, just like every incoming PhD student who assumes that they'll get a tenure track position at a top school...

Permalink to Comment

12. John Thacker on July 19, 2011 9:50 PM writes...

Yes, #10, but Sames was, of course, first author on all those papers. As ChemBark put it:

Somewhere between 2005 and 2011, the beautiful work of Sames became the horrible work of Sezen. How is it that a professor can be given the lionshare of credit for a body of good work when published, yet escape the lionshare of the blame when the work is proven fraudulent?

Also note that Columbia specifically changed its misconduct policy during the investigation to remove the responsibility of supervisors.

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13. cookingwithsolvents on July 19, 2011 10:16 PM writes...

I'm not going to defend Sames specifically. There are some general observations I would like to make, though.

With respect to credit/blame...every PI has an established track record of publishing quality original research first as an undergraduate/graduate student/postdoctoral scholar, then develops an independent track record. Graduate students have no such track record and thus are the logical first place to look when something doesn't work the way it was reported, whether due to fraud or simple mistake. PP (and others) have very eloquently explained why the contributions of trainees are frequently not as much as the trainees think and even 1 year into my independent career I concur.

I also agree with comment #10. Faked NMR's? I couldn't and still can't even imagine how that is possible in the NMR software. Someone shows you a slide or printout which has the data points pulled into some other plot program, well, that's one thing, but if the acq parameters are all on the printout and the page obviously came from (e.g.) varian's software it wouldn't have occurred to me in a million years that the whole spectra was fabricated. I agree with the many comments to the effect of 'it would be easier to just do the science'! (and a hell of a lot more fun, too....)

How the f do you decide what number to use for the shifts? Ahhhh, this looks like 3.14159 ppm today...??!?!(*&*%^

The whole thing still blows my mind. I all ready dissect data with my students but I suppose we must all keep our guard up

Permalink to Comment

14. Anonymous on July 19, 2011 10:58 PM writes...

Although I suspect I will get labeled by some as a troll or a professor pretending to be a student, I wanted to give a slightly different perspective than any that I have seen above. I am in the 3rd year of my PhD program, doing natural product total synthesis at a top 10 school for a PI that many of you have probably heard of, and enjoying it. I don't work slavish hours and my PI does value my education, even when the things I am interested in studying will not help him get a publication. Are people like my PI a majority? I suspect not. Are we going to make the next wonder drug? I doubt it (although I would say the same thing if I were working in industry.) But based on my experience both here and elsewhere, I don't think that universities need to be burned to the ground, as PharmaHeretic seems to be implying. Well, at least not all universities...

Permalink to Comment

15. PharmaHeretic on July 20, 2011 12:44 AM writes...

@Anonymous

Why burn useful buildings to the grounds, when only the faculty within them is deserving of it.

Permalink to Comment

16. markus on July 20, 2011 2:40 AM writes...

Isn't it all coming down to a single Point:
If we had a real quality control of scientific publications it would be a real step forward.
Personally I've suffered a lot during my PhD thesis from my own professor who thought that everything that is published is true!
This attitude certainly ignores the fact that 'true' is very dependent of your personal opinion.

So let's talk about solutions:
Isn't it time for public research institutions to fund some kind of 'reproducibility research'?
After all, false results and wrong conclusions do not seem to be prevented as long as papers are published by professors and (mostly) reviewed by other professors. That's rather a vicious circle that leads to bloomers like the Sezen/Sames scandal!

Permalink to Comment

17. Morten G on July 20, 2011 6:07 AM writes...

So half the comments complain that academia is doing the same work that everybody else is and the other half is complaining that work isn't being checked (I'm assuming by replication in a different lab).

Maybe some of these problems would go away if grant applications in addition to publication lists also had to include references where your work was replicated or built on in a different, independent lab. Job applications too for that matter.

Permalink to Comment

18. RB Woodweird on July 20, 2011 6:43 AM writes...

@ 14. Anonymous: I believe you. I have met PIs like that. When I was a second or third- year grad student and had finally realized what a horrible trainwreck I had gotten myself into working for an atrocious PI, I had the opportunity to have lunch with Dave Hart of OSU. He was describing for us how he had a training program for his new grad students and how he went over with them all the basic techniques they would need to use in their work so they had a solid background and could be productive sooner. I just sat there like a slack-jawed idiot, amazed at the concept of a PI having an actual training program instead of tossing his students into the lab like Christians into the lion-filled Colosseum to see who might survive the learning curve.

Permalink to Comment

19. You're Pfizered on July 20, 2011 8:12 AM writes...

@Terry

Please stop comparing graduate school, or anything, to slavery. Really.

@RBW

Dave Hart is a great guy. I taught two advanced organic labs for him in graduate school and found him to be a very, very unique individual with the dedication to train, not crush, the people who worked for him. He was an outstanding teacher.

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20. Klaus Fluoride on July 20, 2011 9:03 AM writes...

I don't know Dave Hart but I really appreciate reading about a PI who does the right thing. The scandals and catastrophes draw a lot of attention, but it sure is valuable to have a positive example. The truth of the matter is that a lot of great science and training occurs in academic labs. A lot of PIs care passionately for their students. Some choose to give additional financial support to their labs rather than take the summer salary from their grant budgets. That is just the kind of daily hum-drum thing that doesn't garner a lot of blog posts. It's crucial to drag the gruesome details of the Sames/Sezen story into the light of day so we can learn from this episode. But let's also applaud Prof. Hart. I hope to learn from his example and the many others like him.

Permalink to Comment

21. Have you seen myHunsdiecker on July 20, 2011 11:27 AM writes...

Sames knew what was going on. It might not have been direct knowledge but at some point he felt it in his gut. We have all been there. You have plenty of data that looks good and you desperately want to have the compound, but you have you suspicions. You know that just that one additional test or piece of analysis will tell you that you don’t have the goods. What if you have already told your PI? It once took me two days to work up the courage to run a mixed melting point. Everyone talking about slave labor and terrible PIs should have met my boss. He was an asshole because it was his style of training. Grad school might have been hell for us but we were forged in fire and Im thankful for it. It should be noted that it took me a few years to reach this conclusion!

This Sezen woman is a monster. She will lose her PhD but she will likely provide doctorates for several psychology students who will use her as a case study. It’s only a shame that she will probably avoid criminal prosecution; otherwise she might have been forced to get some help.

Permalink to Comment

22. daen on July 20, 2011 11:58 AM writes...

I wish I knew who the students were who called out Sezen and stood up to Sames so I could contact them and put them up for a job a friend of mine has going at his company. These are, after all, exactly the kind of people you want on your side - smart enough to call BS out and principled enough to say they've called BS out.

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23. Ed on July 20, 2011 12:28 PM writes...

Daen #22 - you really going to wait around for 8 years to prove that someone else was talking BS?

I agree with you in principle, but in real life, things are different. 99.99% of rational folk would give up and move on, which is probably what Sezen was counting on.

Permalink to Comment

24. RKN on July 20, 2011 12:29 PM writes...

which is one the reasons my standard grad-school advice is to get a PhD as quickly as is consistent with honor and propriety

Good advice.

I defended my dissertation late in '09, 4.5 years after entering a program in Pharmacology. I was a non-traditional student (45 yrs old, no background in biology). I learned that finishing quickly minimally requires 1) a mentor who encourages you to publish quality work as early as possible, 2) makes editing your papers her priority, rather than letting drafts languish on her desk, and 3) the motivation to write early. Many steps in getting papers published are out of your control. Waiting until year 4 or 5 to publish one or more papers will likely delay your defense, in the case of some of my fellow students, a year or more.

Jiving with your PI's work ethic is also important, and matriculating an affluent lab doesn't hurt.

Permalink to Comment

25. GreedyCynicalSelfInterested on July 20, 2011 1:22 PM writes...

@14
Glad things are going well so far. Watch how your prof treats the students nearing the end. I was at a school once where one professor would treat his students very nicely until they got toward the end of their 4th year and really put the screws to them. He'd want multiple years worth of work in the last year of their graduate school careers. Evidently, he surmised that they could not just leave after being there 4 years, so he could treat them as he wished. There are a lot of students who have a good first three years and then they work under a different standard.

"There's a graduate student born every minute!"

Permalink to Comment

26. Terry on July 20, 2011 2:37 PM writes...

we got it, some insider already made fiction about this story, actually, one of the student being kicked out is a male Chinese.
all Chinese students in chemistry know this scandal now, and every one think that there is inappropriate relation between the student and prof.

the one being kicked out planed to sue Mr Sames due to his negligence.

发信人: littleboat (littleboat), 信区: Chemistry
标 题: 与Bengu在一起的悲惨日子(3)
发信站: BBS 未名空间站 (Tue Jul 19 22:42:46 2011, 美东)

Sames的一个研究方向就是碳氢键活化。一般的有机反应就是各个官能团之间的转换,
而碳氢键一般被认为是惰性的。(例外当然不少,象燃烧反应,笨加溴的反应等。)如
果你能随便让某一个碳氢键变成其他键,那么你就发了。便宜的天然气(甲烷)就可以
变成甲醇加到汽车里了。复杂大分子的合成也能一下省去很多步骤。指哪打哪,要的就
是这种自由。这种宏伟构想深深吸引了当时的有志青年--我。这里指哪打哪的“指”用
的是一些贵金属钯铂之类的。用英文讲叫“coordination directed C-H activation".

Sames 的push在系里是有名的,不过俺不怕,自认搞科研还是有点创新力的,在国内就
发过不少英文文章的。但是进去之后很快发现没有人带你上路还真是挺难的。做第一个
分子是个五步反应。那时我不知如何用NMR,也不知道怎么装柱子,过柱子,五步做完
后,才请一位师兄帮忙去打个NMR谱图。只看到一个宽峰,加上溶剂峰。一个月的功夫
全白费了。有一天Sames说既然我以前的背景是无机的,那就合成一些贵金属的配合物
来看看是不是催化效率更好,以及研究机理。被有机合成搞得恐惧的我就答应了下来。
这是我人生道路上最失败的一次选择。我在一个有机合成的导师下面做着物化专业的工
作。

不过这也让我和一个美国人博士后合作了一年,学到几乎所有的实验技巧。我研究他的
反应机理,自然要重复一些他的实验,他总是很耐心见解怎么做实验,怎么看图,甚至
旋蒸仪的水温都有讲究。我喜欢把水温调得高高的,他过来说:“水温不应该高于你可
以把penis放进去的程度。”那时候我还不知道这个单词,只见Bengu在旁边偷笑。几年
之后一次年度身体检查,一个实习女护士认真地向我咨询能不能一会儿医生来的时候让
她用手检查我的...我看她想老半天想不出那个单词,我就说是不是penis?她说是的,
不过应该说一个职业性的词,最后她总算想起来了,叫testicle的。

Bengu的进展就顺利多了,一年不到就发现了一个新的碳氢活化反应,很快就从需要计
量比的钯改进到只要催化计量的钯,开始产率不高,后来Sames 说要70%才能投稿,很
快她的产率提高到70%,后来Sames又说产率要80%以上才行,过几个星期她的产率又提
高到了80%多。

这个美国薄厚有个工作完成了,里面用到一个碳氢活化反应,但是需要计量比的钯,就
是说你要得到1克产物需要用掉十几克钯,这个钯是跟黄金一样贵的东西。这些方法做
出来的药谁买得起哪。Sames就叫Bengu用她的新催化方法去试一试能不能有用,结果不
行。但是Bengu的名字却出现在最后发表的文章中。

二年级期末系里要求每人写个科研报告。一般同学的东西都比较单薄,Bengu把这个薄
厚的工作全放进去了。一天她得意地说:“XXX(一个大牛,也是她的committe member)
看到我对我笑,他肯定看过我的报告了."我们在旁边只有羡慕的份。两个星期以后,报
告发回来了,其他人都过了,就Bengu被要求重写。教授们要她写清楚哪一部分工作是
真正她做的。

Permalink to Comment

27. Terry on July 20, 2011 2:47 PM writes...

How about the prof?
will they revoke his tenure?

Official: Columbia Has Revoked Bengu Sezen’s Ph.D.
July 19th, 2011

Following an inquiry from ChemBark whether Columbia has formally stripped Bengu Sezen of her Ph.D. degree, a spokesman from the university responded:

I can confirm that the University did complete the process and revoked Sezen’s degrees. The revocation was approved by the Trustees in March 2011.

It is believed that Dr. Sezen still has a Ph.D. from the University of Heidelberg.

Posted in ChemBark Investigations, Current Events, Education, Sames-Sezen, Scientific Miscond

Permalink to Comment

28. Uncle Indole on July 20, 2011 3:23 PM writes...

I am not sure what specific reaction(s) the three unfortunate colleagues of Sezen were attempting to reproduce in this case. But I would like to think that at least one of the three students attempting to reproduce the results of Sezen would have noticed that they were recovering 90% of the starting material while miraculously obtaining an 80% yield of the desired product? Noticing this detail may have saved them some grief from Sames as well as saving their own butts. Unless Sezen was was creating entirely new reaction mixtures and intentionally leaving out the starting material!

Permalink to Comment

29. CR on July 20, 2011 3:36 PM writes...

What does it say about graduate school?

Nothing. One can not extrapolate this rather extraordinary situation to all of graduate school. For the vast majority, if you go in with your eyes wide open and work hard you'll be just fine. Don't commit fraud and expect to get away with it and this will not happen to you.

As someone else posted here (or maybe another blog) - please people, stop referring to graduate school as "slavery". I worked for a very demanding professor (>90 work week), calling people out in public, etc.; but that pales in comparison to slavery. If I didn't like it, or couldn't handle it I could always just leave.

Permalink to Comment

30. bad wolf on July 20, 2011 5:53 PM writes...

Yes, 'slavery' is a misnomer. "Coolie labor" is more appropriate.

Permalink to Comment

31. Terry on July 20, 2011 8:01 PM writes...

Slavery is so popular in graduate school of US, here I listed the ass hole professors,hope you guys never met such a master!


Peter A. Jacobi
Department of Chemistry
Dartmouth College

Permalink to Comment

32. Anonymous on July 20, 2011 8:25 PM writes...

To CR
You can leave, but we Chinese students can,t escape!
There are too many concerns, now the professors have already realized chinese and india are best slaves in graduate school.

They always gave the tougher and unpromising project to these students, we called it 'tanglei'
means let a human to explore the land with full of landmines.

Permalink to Comment

33. really? on July 20, 2011 8:35 PM writes...

You can't leave? What about going back to China? I don't mean that in a bad way. How bad can it be to go back and live near your family? Plus I hear chemists are in high demand there.

Permalink to Comment

34. Anonymous on July 20, 2011 11:20 PM writes...

To 33
well, we can go back to china freely! however, it usually takes 2 years to finish TOELF GRE sub GRE,
then after 3 years slave, totally 5 years, then quit! do you think chinese student deserve that?

Permalink to Comment

35. Art on July 20, 2011 11:39 PM writes...

34 - so...why take the 2 years to finish TOELF GRE sub GRE? It always begins and ends with a choice; no one holds a gun to Chinese students to stay or come in the first place.

Permalink to Comment

36. Anonymous on July 21, 2011 12:03 AM writes...

To 35
Simple, because US profs play a trick and lie to these coolie labours,thus almost all the student think they can be a tenured prof in the future in the first year of graduate school.
Also in chinese culture, it is a shame to quit school, especially for these ''good students''.
so the prof here take advantage of this to try to slave chinese students. Nowdays we already started an action, to spread the true situation to these domestic student as more as possible. I bet prof in US cant recruit good students easily as before, and after 10years, only chinese students who are not good and dumb to the environment will come to US for PHD.
Indeed, recently ,almost all of the best students in china selected finance and commerce as their major, science is no longer the choice of students.

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37. Hap on July 21, 2011 9:33 AM writes...

29: The graduate students Sames booted for not being able to reproduce fraudulent experiments didn't do anything bad, but, as Dr. Lowe noted, it didn't matter. They were gone. Not exactly "don't commit fraud, and expect to get away with it and this will not happen to you". As noted before, honesty is no protection - see Dr. Free-Ride's post here.

Unlike slavery, we chose grad school, and got paid for it, no less. However, in the limited sense that a grad student is subject to no one's law but the advisor's, just as slaves weren't protected by anyone's law but their owners, the two are similar. Most advisors are OK, but if there is no protection from the bad ones, then that may not be much comfort.

I guess if things like this get enough publicity, though, we might solve the surplus of Ph.D's. No jobs and the opportunity to get fired for your honesty - that should make graduate school popular.

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38. MIMD on July 21, 2011 9:42 AM writes...

The same caveats apply to non-tenured junior faculty - except sometimes the latter fight back, costing professors dearly. Somewhat old story here.

In the era of more people going "postal", though, if I were a tenured professor I'd ask myself that famous question "do you feel lucky today" before abusing grad students.

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39. CR on July 21, 2011 9:55 AM writes...

#32, Anonymous and everyone else...

"You can leave, but we Chinese students can,t escape! There are too many concerns, now the professors have already realized chinese and india are best slaves in graduate school."

Just stop with the references to "slavery". That is an apples to oranges comparison. YOU have a choice whether to start graduate school, the slaves did not. YOU have a choice to leave anytime you want to (whether you feel it is convenient or not), slaves did not have a choice. Sorry, Hap, there is no similarity. If you don't like the advisor - change. Don't think slaves had that option.

Just simply stop with the reference, you make a fool of yourself each and every time.

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40. Fishy Fish on July 21, 2011 10:20 AM writes...

#40,

It is a known fact that some professors take advantage of Indian and Chinese grad students, just like some employers take advantage of illegal immigrants. Why do you think tomato only costs $0.99/lb instead of $9.99/lb? That is because the "slave migrant labor" in California/Arizona farms pick tomato for, probably, $2/hr? I bet that you can't find red-blood U.S citizens willing to work for that wage or under those conditions. Indian/Chinese grad students and illegal migrant workers are at bottom of their respective totem poles. They have few options. Until they move up on those poles, they are being treated accordingly. Sure, there are good profs, just like some of ranchers might treat the illegals better than others. You can deny the fact that this country is a country of rich and powerful. The more money and power you have, the louder your voices are.

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41. Anonymous on July 21, 2011 11:26 AM writes...

CR - you can unknot your damn panties now.

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42. Anonymous on July 21, 2011 11:52 AM writes...

To 39 master CR
yes, master ! your slave- I, will shut up! please dont kick me out ur group!

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43. CR on July 21, 2011 12:21 PM writes...

Panties never knotted. Just pointing out how ridiculous people are trying to compare grad school to slavery. Don't like grad school/can't hack grad school - leave. Simple.

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44. Hap on July 21, 2011 12:35 PM writes...

Sorry, CR, there is a similarity. If you wish to remain blind to it, then you can do so, but you cannot command the same of others.

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45. CR on July 21, 2011 12:40 PM writes...

No, Hap, sorry, there is no similarity. You may try and conger up all of the bad memories of graduate school and somehow pretend they were the worst years in memory. But it is not anywhere similar. 1. Grad students get paid, 2. can leave at any time they are dissatisfied, 3. have a choice of even going to grad school, 4. are not herded onto boats and sold to the highest bidder...

You, and others, can keep going on and on, but it will not make it true.

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46. Hap on July 21, 2011 12:57 PM writes...

You haven't really answered anything, anyway. Those students Sames kicked out could hack it - but their skills and honesty were irrelevant. As a separate issue to the slavery hyperbole, if success in grad school depends on your ability to replicate fraud and tell your advisor what he wants to hear, well, you're set up for management but not much for science (although I guess that could change).

In most jobs, there are methods to resolve differences, there is oversight of my boss, there are training programs, and if all those fail, you have legal alternatives. If I quit my job, I don't lose all the time I spent there. None of those are true in grad school (in most cases). We weren't chained to our benches, though if it didn't violate fire codes, some advisors would have.

Grad school is precisely an apprenticeship, because of the choice, rather than slavery, but masters generally pay for their students (the public does, through grants) and have an interest in making the best ones they can. When the master doesn't care, there isn't any alternative. The lack of legal protection isn't characteristic of slavery alone (military people and illegal immigrants), but it isn't exactly the kind of company I like to class my institutions with.

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47. billswift on July 21, 2011 1:07 PM writes...

CR, it's "conjure", conger is an eel.

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48. Hap on July 21, 2011 1:29 PM writes...

Again, your denials don't negate it, either. You can wish they did, but between your wishes and $1.25, I can get a soda out of the machine at work.

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49. CR on July 21, 2011 1:39 PM writes...

Sorry, billswift, will review my work better.

Again, Hap, you want to compare Graduate School and slavery go ahead. Don't think anyone outside a few on this board will agree. As soon as grad students have zero rights, receive no benefits and are taken from their homeland and sold to someone else against their will - then the similarities can begin.

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50. Fishy Fish on July 21, 2011 2:07 PM writes...

CR,

You miss a very important distinction between grad schools/profs and most work places/bosses. That distinction is the tenure system. Tenured professors can't get fired. Hap is right. In almost all jobs, nobody has the tenure. We all hear the buzz word "team work" in work places. One way to look at that word is that nobody is indispensable. That includes all the way up to CEOs. Bosses can be fired and companies can be sued. None of these legal mechanism (well almost) exist in grad school for grad students. In that sense, grad students has almost zero rights. So there, the similarities begin. The point is not about whether we can hack it or not (which I did over 20 years ago). It is about how some students are treated.

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51. Grad Student on July 21, 2011 2:41 PM writes...

Yeesh, I never thought that I'd be defending grad school, but I can't believe that people are literally equating it with slavery. We have health insurance, we get paid enough to live decently on, and we can leave any time we want. It's still a lousy situation for most, but histrionics only serve to undermine legitimate grievances.

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52. CR on July 21, 2011 2:53 PM writes...

@Fishy Fish--

I am not missing the work place differences between the tenure system and the normal work place. That is not what is being debated. The debate is whether or not graduate students are "slaves" and they just simply are not. As Grad Student puts it, it can be very lousy in some situations, can seem extremely difficult and at some point all graduate students question whether it is worth it. But guess, what? If they choose it's not worth it, they can go do something else. Could a "slave" do that? No. Even the most egregious situation is not equal to what slaves had to endure.

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53. Hap on July 21, 2011 5:56 PM writes...

I didn't say that grad school was slavery - slavery and grad school have commonalities (the lack of alternative protections being the major one) but the defining characteristic of slavery (lack of ability to choose one's path) isn't present. It's not accurate and hyperbolic to equate the two.

One of the secondary characteristics of slavery, though, is the treatment of people as disposable objects, and certainly Sames treated some of his grad students as such. The lack of protections for them amplifies the problem. If "like it or lump it" is the optimal solution to grad student problems, then most grad students in the future will be from places where the Internet is a fantasy and the opportunity to be disposable labor is an improvement. In addition, when success in grad school requires people to check their honesty and self-regard at the door, there won't be very many people knocking, and what comes out of such an institution won't be all that useful.

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54. Anonymous on July 21, 2011 8:39 PM writes...

CR - we all agree slavery is bad; quit trying to get patted on the back for pointing it out. I'm against terrorists and child molesters - I demand my share of back-patting!

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55. Terry on July 21, 2011 10:23 PM writes...

It should be said Bengu in life is a very sweet girl, I usually go at the latest in the lab, she will not call me
A person to stay too late, in case an accident is very important. This method of working the evening certainly did not efficiency, but also to be day old
I see people complaining woman. Read along with my wife over when she even made a set of cutlery. Ah, it should be called a cup. This
Sets of things are still in use. His wife needs to go to school bank statement, Bengu also generous help.

But her work had a bit too Bossy. For example, backflow devices connected pipes, I can just find a bar connected to the
On the line. She insisted that I replace the hose rigid tube, said rigid tube is used for vacuum devices. The time to do rotary evaporator
I usually do not have Clip. She will be out when it comes, I said it in a vacuum is being sucked on will not be out there. After
To look back I did the harassment from her sentimental learned a lot of experimental techniques, in particular my thesis also
Intended to do thanks to her. (Of course with my wife's words is also being sold to help the number of money)

Of course, her dissatisfaction is there. Sames once and talk, Sames said, I do not listen to Bengu's. Asked is not the
Not interested in this Project. I am back again and this time was cool because they are spoken to me in the laboratory
. But the boss also said a number of other dissatisfied.

Well, get down to business.

Sames old usually do not look at me, gave me a five-step synthesis of another task. Required to get the five grams product. Report
V. I do this five-step synthesis in the group have been repeated over the two people. Implies that you know. Of course, I finally got
5g more than the product of high purity and is crystal. On their way to write is oily. NMR is the same.
I would be passed this test.

Repeated the experiment last Bengu, Bengu prepared to use her own material in her to do inside Hood. With her were
Swiss guy to do that once I have done with a. Two experiments are a success! Yield of 60% of the look. Her
Raw material a bit yellow, I asked her to do this raw material is not purified, she thought such a simple hydrolysis reaction yield is 100%
Of. We previously used with the raw materials are purified through the columns of colorless liquid.

Every week, we have to report progress to the boss. This week is relatively simple. My turn, I say "experiment into
Gong! "He is no face to ask me why not before the line and I do not want to think out how The most
Bengu said after the material is made. He said how do you even so simple a raw material will not do! I am completely speechless
Because I know that excuse has no meaning. This simple hydrolysis reaction of personal will to do, one to one material
Temperature increase on the next line, and I are off columns, NMR is clean.

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56. CR on July 22, 2011 8:23 AM writes...

@Anon:

Great we agree slavery is bad - no back-patting needed. Now just stop comparing slavery to grad school it not in the same ballpark. What's next? Comparing Grad school to Gitmo?

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57. zDNA on July 22, 2011 8:58 AM writes...

Grad school isn't too much fun most of the time, and I also disagree with those who equate grad school with slavery. I promptly left a PhD program after a semester because I found that the department had grossly misrepresented itself on too many important issues. I cut my losses rather than choosing to stick it out.

To be fair, I entered that PhD program with a solid, research-based MS from another institution, so in many ways I was already wise to the shenanigans and insular myopia of many, if not most professors. I also had over a year's worth of real-world industrial experience from my undergrad days, so I knew first-hand what was waiting for me in the job market.

Most people entering a PhD program won't have those advantages, so I suggest a couple things to those who have ask me for advice in this area:

1. Read "The Ph.D. Process: A Student's Guide to Graduate School in the Sciences ". It's a compilation of interviews with late-stage grad students and newly-minted PhD's. It's a healthy dose of reality and gives a realistic, if gloomy, picture of what grad school in the sciences is all about.

2. Consider what the job prospects and salaries are in industry. Chances are overwhelming that you'll be working in industry and not academia, so judge for yourself if the investment of your time and effort to get that PhD (or MS) is really worth it. Don't forget about opportunity costs, too. And don't forget about tacking on a post-doc if you go for that PhD if you want a top-tier industrial job. Professors are the farthest thing from career counselors, so *don't* rely on them for good advice about anything except their specialty research area.

3. Try to be as dispassionate as possible when considering (1) and (2) above. The emotional lure of having those three letters after your name is powerful indeed. However, remember that you'll have ca 30-40 years *after* grad school in your career to either capitalize on or pay endlessly for the decisions you'll soon be making.


No doubt a PhD is absolutely the right decision for some people. For most of us, either a BS or an MS is the best choice overall. Most people with a BS or MS are perfectly *capable* of earning a PhD, but in no way does that mean you *should*, which is yet another emotional obstacle to overcome.

I think if more BS-level people contemplating grad school had their heads screwed on straight we'd have far less of the type of drama seen in the Sezen/Sames saga. Prospective grad students would cast a much more critical eye on their potential career path, and would surely avoid professors such as Sames instead of continuing to flock to him (*Eleven* new students/post-docs?).

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58. Terry Liu on July 22, 2011 6:27 PM writes...

can anyone tell me the reason why a white guy choose science as her or his major?
it is unbelievable to me! it seems the best one choose medical school or law school, only guys cant find a job at BS level will think to go to graduate school

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59. Anonymous on July 22, 2011 7:40 PM writes...

Perhaps a better description would be that of indentured servitude.

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60. pTsOH on July 23, 2011 1:26 AM writes...

anyone care to translate post 26? it looks very entertaining

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61. Anonymous on July 24, 2011 1:36 AM writes...

I am Chinese and I have read littleboat's story, section 3 of which Terry copied (without his consent, btw) on #26. Terry's comments and opinions are very different from littleboat's, to say the least. Littleboat stated he is upset Terry posted it here and added his own stuff. He was especially upset because he has no plan suing Columbia or Sames but Terry stated the opposite and put it into his mouth.
To #60: littleboat clearly stated he doesn't want it translated. Sorry. I don't understand why but I respect his choice.
At last, I would say this: Chinese are as diversified as Americans, and this Terry cannot represent all of us. :-)

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62. Anonymous on July 24, 2011 12:20 PM writes...

regard 61

A real Chinese slave appeared!
he even dare not to show to the public how he is treated! now every one knows Chinese students' situation in graduate school.

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63. Dan Spinato on July 25, 2011 8:22 AM writes...

I completely agree with this #61: "Chinese are as diversified as Americans, and this Terry cannot represent all of us. :-)"

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64. anonymous on July 25, 2011 9:14 PM writes...

It is really shame for Columbia to give Prof. Same a tenure. The credibility of Deparment of Chemistry of Columbia, even the famous Professor D is really in doubt.

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65. pTsOH on July 27, 2011 1:59 AM writes...

Nevermind... google translate did a good enough job. If you don't want something translated, don't post it on the internet, period.

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66. MEP on August 4, 2011 4:01 AM writes...

Grad school is closer to a "maquiladora" than it is to slavery. "Low wages and long hours" - Wikipedia pretty much sums it all up.

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67. littleboat on November 13, 2011 9:50 PM writes...

An English version translated by the author himself is on Kindle store now:
http://www.amazon.com/Tragic-Encounter-Scientific-Fraud-ebook/dp/B00669TUWI/ref=sr_1_2?ie=UTF8&qid=1321238873&sr=8-2

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68. LLN on April 1, 2012 1:10 PM writes...

Littleboat, I represent a publishing company and would love to talk about your book if you are interested.

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