Friday, November 03, 2006

The MIT hiring issue   posted by amnestic @ 11/03/2006 10:19:00 PM
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I really enjoy Susumu Tonegawa's work and writing. He runs the Picower Institute for Learning and Memory and has produced some of the most technically sophisticated transgenic manipulations to answer memory questions. It's too bad he got himself in a little hot water earlier this year. Apparently, there are major competition issues between the different institutes and departments involved in neuroscience research at MIT, and they heated up to an unhealthy level this past spring. ScienceNOW has the whole story and the ad-hoc committee's report. The report deals out the blame pretty evenhandedly across departments and department heads. I like how the McGovern Institute head basically answers to nobody.
The fracas began when a young neuroscientist named Alla Karpova declined a position at MIT's McGovern Institute for Brain Research. As her reason, she cited resistance to her appointment by Nobel laureate Susumu Tonegawa, who heads the rival Picower Institute for Learning and Memory at MIT. Karpova's supporters say Tonegawa sent e-mails to Karpova that were inappropriate and intimidating and that senior MIT officials refused to intervene. When the matter became public in July (Science, 21 July, p. 284), MIT Provost Rafael Reif set up a panel to investigate the situation across campus, including at the two institutes.
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As for Karpova, the report says MIT's effort to recruit her was "unusual and flawed in many ways." Karpova, now a postdoc at Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory in New York, is moving in June to the new Janelia Farm research campus of Howard Hughes Medical Institution outside Washington, D.C., where she will become a group leader.
In the end, Janelia Farm is a damn fine place to end up. It just looks way cooler than MIT and appears to have a similar ridiculous level of resources and star-studded faculty roster.
In response to the report, MIT will establish a neuroscience advisory panel, led by materials scientist Lorna Gibson, to tackle the broader issues troubling the program. But MIT biologist Nancy Hopkins, who has led an ongoing effort to put the issue of women faculty on the university's agenda, criticized "this indecisive response by the administration." Hopkins says that the university's response to date "perpetuates destructive behavior by senior faculty and administrators against young scientists, particularly women," while damaging neuroscience at the university.
Where've I seen that name before? Oh... Here she is.. ''I would've either blacked out or thrown up."