Graduate School Money, Part I

July 18, 2007 at 6:37 pm | | grad life, stipends

Stanford Graduate Minimum Stipend (what we’re paid in Chemistry): $26,600

Average Work Hours for a U.S. science postdoc (probably similar to / less than graduate student): 49.8 U.S. citizen (Brumfiel, Geoff; “Taking a Stand,” Nature, 2005, 438, 278-279.)

Average pay/hour (50 weeks): $10.68

Average pay/hour (52 weeks): $10.27


Federal Minimum Hourly Wage: 2008 – $6.55, 2009 – $7.25


Living Wages: Encouraged in Cities/Counties by Ordinance (tax/property incentives)

San Jose Living Wage: $11.35

Santa Clara County (our county) Living Wage: $10.00

Berkely Living Wage: $12.55

Oakland Living Wage: $10.50



2004 Estimates of Retailers Bay Area (Annual Estimates for 40 hr work week, 50 weeks a year)

2004 Average Hourly Wage for Walmart Associate in Bay Area: $10.93

Walmart Annual: $21,860 (Stanford Salaray -$4740)

2004 Average Hourly Wage for All Large Retailers in Bay Area: $17.01,

Large Retailers Annual: $34,020 (Stanford Salary +$7420)

2004 Average Hourly Wage for Unionized Grocers in Bay Area: $15.31,

Unionized Grocers Annual: $30,620 (Stanford Salary +$4020)


Top Ten Lies Told by Graduate Students

June 16, 2007 at 9:19 am | | grad life

The Top Ten Lies Told by Graduate Students
(taken from the Harvard Crimson)

10. It doesn’t bother me at all that my college roommate is making
$80,000 a year on Wall Street.
9. I’d be delighted to proofread your book/chapter/article.
8. My work has a lot of practical importance.
7. I would never date an undergraduate.
6. Your latest article was so inspiring.
5. I turned down a lot of great job offers to come here.
4. I just have one more book to read and then I’ll start writing.
3. The department is giving me so much support.
2. My job prospects look really good.
1. No really, I’ll be out of here in only two more years.


impeccable flawlessness

May 25, 2007 at 8:12 am | | everyday science, nerd, wild web

As a sophomore in Honors Physics, we had to do “special projects” and have websites associated with them. A friend just sent me a link to my team’s old website…. it’s pretty funny looking back.

The Impeccable Mechanics of the Flawless Trebuchet

Caution…there’s music, and it’s loud.


May 15, 2007 at 6:23 pm | | everyday science, grad life, nerd

The folks over at have a new motivator generator – here are a few chemistry motivation posters that I came up with. Have fun. Click on any of them for the full-size image.

10 Suggestions for Becoming a More-Pretentious Graduate Student.

February 27, 2007 at 6:57 pm | | grad life, nerd

10 suggestions on becoming a more-pretentious graduate student.

1) Name drop. How are people supposed to know you’re close personal friends with a variety of Nobel laureates unless you tell them? Frequently. Remember, you don’t actually have to be friends with them to claim them as friends – casual acquaintance (meaning you shook their hands once) is enough.  If you are fortunate enough to correspond with one, carry a copy of the correspondence with you to impress your peers.  Feel free to read it/paraphrase it to friends (by friends, I mean colleagues.  If you’re truly a pretentious graduate student, you don’t have friends).  They may seem like they’re ignoring you/leaving the room, but it’s just to hide their envy.

2) Use and sometimes invent big “chemistry” words in unnecessary circumstances, especially if it ends up making absolutely no sense. In order to maximize the aural impact of the communicative spoken word, an intricate lexicon must be implemented. The principal objective of this is to confuse the listener into thinking you are some sort of genius who has quite a grasp on chemistry. Don’t be afraid to be colligative!

3) Do not be satisfied with only one language. Knowing foreign languages will make you seem travelled and cultured. The more languages you know, the more intelligent you seem (and the more women/men you can theoretically impress – bigger pool of candidates). Try to speak at least four.

4) Don’t be afraid to take credit for the work and ideas of others. Even if you didn’t think it up or work on it yourself, your mere existence probably inspired it.

5) Similarly, make sure you get credit for the work you do yourself. If someone is publishing a paper on trapping single-molecules between electrodes using magnetic fields, demand that your work on Fe-Cu protein mimics is cited. If the author can’t see how the two are related, then just remind him that he’s not a good chemist.

6) Belittle the educational background of your peers as often as possible. If you went to an Ivy-league school, refer to state-schools as “community colleges.” If you went to a state school, refer to Ivy-league graduates as “rich snobs” that have had “everything in life handed to them.” If you went to a small liberal arts college, refer to the products of all other colleges as “socially awkward” and “small-minded.”

7) Be involved in politics, but limit your commitment. Feel free to engage in political discourse and debate, but if you are losing don’t admit defeat. Instead, respond that you don’t have time to think about politics, since you’re thinking so much about science. Advise them that if they were “good chemists” and “serious scientists,” they wouldn’t be thinking so much about politics anyway. Treat sports similarly.

8) Don’t be afraid to brown-nose. If an “important” scientist asks you to warm his seat for him, jump at the opportunity. If you have more than one advisor, decide early on which one is more influential in your chosen field, and latch on to him like a tapeworm onto the lining of the small intestine. Other graduate students may ridicule you for your actions, but gently remind them that your connections are securing you an assistant professorship or prestigious postdoctoral fellowship while they will be struggling to find employment at McDonalds when they graduate. Note – you do not actually need an assistant professorship offer or prestigious postdoctoral fellowship to make this claim.

9) Come up with a few witty catchphrases, such as “have fun” or “get to work” and repeat them. Often. Perhaps use one such as “your mom” as a witty comeback to the insults of others. Example:

Person A) I don’t think your data is reasonable. I just don’t think you can have a negative turnover frequency.

Person B) Your mom thought a negative turnover frequency was reasonable last night!

Although people may stop talking to you and/or ridicule you, they are simply jealous of your unconquerable wit.

10) If you feel as though someone in your group isn’t respecting your research, or is starting a project that may be more influential then your project, then by all means don’t tell them. Instead, visit the advisor and say that you no longer wish to collaborate with your group-mate because he is “not a serious scientist” and “a bad chemist.” Then, approach the student and tell him that you talked to his advisor, and that both of you agreed that you no longer need waste “the time and materials” on the student. Alternatively, you can sabotage the student’s work (for instance, take down a critical instrument for maintenance every time the student needs to use it or hoard resources) to avoid conflict.  Remember, only you can safeguard your graduate legacy.

Rules of the Lab

February 26, 2007 at 9:55 pm | | grad life, nerd

Rules of the Lab:

If an experiment works, something has gone wrong.

When you don’t know what you’re doing, do it neatly.

Experiments must be reproducible: they should fail the same way each time.

First draw your curves, then fit your data.

Always keep a record of your data. It indicates that you have been working.

In case of doubt, make it sound convincing.

Wafting is for the weak.

Collaboration is essential—it allows you to blame someone else.

Always analyze your results before wasting the time to formulate a hypothesis.

No experiment is a complete failure. Publish it as a negative result.

Whatever you do, don’t tell someone that his/her thesis project is a “useful tool.”

Who’s on First?

January 29, 2007 at 9:27 am | | grad life, teaching

A modern day “Who’s on first,” that most lab teachers have experienced…. attributed to “Unknown” on the internet.

    TA: What went on in this lab?
    Student: What do you mean?
    TA: What did you do in this lab?
    Student: Lab 3.
    TA: And what did you do in lab 3?
    Student: We measured the result.
    TA: Assume I’ve never seen this lab before, and you’re going to explain it to me. What would you say?
    Student: (pause) Well, it was all about getting the slope.
    TA: The slope of what?
    Student: The slope of the plot.
    TA: I know that, but you have to assume I’ve never heard of this lab, ok? How would you explain what you did?
    Student: We got the wires and measured at each point.
    TA: Measured what?
    Student: What the meter said.
    TA: (pause) Look. Your report tells me nothing; this could be an experiment about baking cakes. What’s this number here?
    Student: 5.
    TA: Yes I KNOW it’s 5. What did it measure?
    Student: The slope. Of the line.
    TA: What line?
    Student: The line. On the plot. We measured the points and plotted them.
    TA: Why?
    Student: (knowing smile) Because that’s what the lab said.
    TA: If I was a total stranger, how would you explain this to me?
    Student: You just connect it up–
    TA: Connect WHAT up?
    Student: The circuit.
    TA: Why?
    Student: I’m sorry, I don’t know what you’re asking.
    TA: I’m asking: what is this lab all about?
    Student: Well, we put in the wires and got 5.
    TA: 5 what?
    Student: The slope.
    TA: WHAT was it’s slope?
    Student: 5.
    TA: I KNOW that, but what was it a measurement of?
    Student: The meter.
    TA: (sigh) One more time — consider me a total stranger. How would you explain this to me?
    Student: You just put on the wires and vary the dial until you get the readings.
    TA: What dial?
    Student: On the power supply.
    TA: Why was there a power supply?
    Student: Well, for the circuit.
    TA: And what readings are you talking about?
    Student: The readings in the plot.
    TA: They gave you a plot in the lab manual?
    Student: I’m sorry, I don’t know what you’re asking.
    TA: Where did the plot come from?
    Student: We drew it.
    TA: From what?
    Student: From the experiment.
    TA: The experiment about what?
    Student: About lab 3.

How Much is Your Website Worth

December 7, 2006 at 9:34 am | | wild web has put up a fun online calculator that supposedly calculates website worth, based upon backlinks. Source

So, let’s look at some sites:

Google: $251,427,596

Yahoo: $85,560,377 $1,824,885 $130,040

Stanford Chemistry: $1,221

Stanford Biology: $1,421

ACS pubs: $64,266

Science: $462,432

Nature: $387,828

The Onion: $1,015,143

And finally, (below)

This website is worth

What is your website worth?

Wow, that’s a lot of citations!

October 3, 2006 at 5:42 pm | | literature

I was looking for an old Chidsey paper on his SAM work in Bell labs and came accross a startling discovery:

The paper (Porter, M. D.; et al. J. Am. Chem. Soc., 1987, 109, 3559-3568 ) has been cited 2070 times and, in 2003 (about 500 citations ago), was listed as JACS 43rd most cited paper since the beginning of the journal.

His second most cited paper, a study on free energy dependence of electron transfers (Chidsey, CED; Science, 1991, 251, 919-922) has a measly 667 citations. His top 5 are rouned out with a 1991 alkane-thiol paper in JACs at 649 citations, a SAM chemical-functionality paper in Langmuir from 1990 with 602 citations, and a alkyl-monolayers on silicon from 1995 JACS cited 420 times.

So, apparently in 1998, the Institute of Scientific Information (ISI, now Thomson Scientific, and creaters of the Web of Knowledge) ranked the top 10000+ chemists between in terms of number of times their work (published between 1981 and 1997) has been cited. Chidsey was 542nd with 3049 citations for only (get this) 36 papers!!! That’s 84.69 average citations per paper! In terms of average citations/paper, Chidsey is 272nd out of 10,000+.

Some other famous Stanfordians on the list (data from 1981-1997):

Read more of this post…

future of biology

August 23, 2006 at 4:40 pm | | news, science and the public

Neal sent most of the Chidsey Lab a link to an interesting Charlie Rose interview from last night. It’s loosely about the great Biology discoveries of the past – Darwin, Watson, etc., the merging of chemistry with biology in the 20th century, and the future direction of biology. Check it out – an hour long, but definitely worth watching. Thanks go to Josh “da Man” Ratchford for forwarding it.

Charlie Rose Interview


July 14, 2006 at 12:00 pm | | cool results, crazy figure contest

Some Data I took recently with David Pearson – cool, huh?

Korean Institute of Science and Technology (KAIST) fires first President, Robert Laughlin.

April 12, 2006 at 2:51 pm | | news

A few years ago, KAIST made a bit of a stink at Stanford by hiring away Nobel Laurreatte Physicist Robert Laughlin to be their first University President (they paid him about $500,000 U.S. a year). This was part of South Korea’s new initiative to compete with Japan, China, and India in becoming the premier Asian science nation.

Laughlin immediately expressed his wish to make a variety of “radical” changes – privitazing the university and charging tuition, adding pre-medicine and pre-law departments, and focusing on undergraduate education as well as graduate education. Basically, he sought to “Westernize” the univeristy. He came under just-as-immediate attack by the faculty, who claimed he was hired not to make drastic changes, but to simply make the university more prominent in the world by just…well…being there.

Anyway, the Board of Trustees for the university voted unanimously not to renew his contract.

Laughlin claims that he wasn’t given clear expectations, and (according to rumor) has been heard commenting that the University was backwards compared to U.S. universities, and that it wanted notariety, not reform. The University claims that Laughlin alienated the professors and failed to provide a clear vision for KAIST’s future. Shortly before his removal, they also began a campaign focusing on “abuses” of funding for business trips to foreign countries.

Regardless of everything that’s happened, both sides do agree on one ting – that for KAIST to successfully undergo reform, it needs someone that’s familiar not only with science, but with South Korean culture and politics.

Sources: Science, The Korea Times, San Jose Mercury News

Global Climate and Energy Project

April 11, 2006 at 3:08 pm | | everyday science, news

The latest Global Climate and Energy Project (GCEP) brochure recently came out.  It’s a $225 million Stanford Program, funded primarily by General Electric, Toyota, ExxonMobil, and Schlumberger, whose purpose is to fund environmentally-motivated research.  This involves everything from carbon dioxide sequestration to alternative fuel synthesis to hydrogen storage to fuel cell design.  It’s also what funds my research in part.

By the way…check out page 26 (28 in the pdf).


Dance of the Black Holes

April 9, 2006 at 12:57 pm | | nerd, news

Two black holes in the Abel 400 cluster are dancing with each other right now, circling in a death spiral that, according to astronomers at the University of Virginia and NASA, will lead to a merging of the two.  The merger, expected in the next few million years, would create a super-black hole with the power consume a few billion stars.

Source –

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