Like the black panther, are analytical scientists going extinct?
In a presidential election year, we are reminded of the many tough choices we face—Democrats or Republicans, plastic or paper, ketchup or mustard, soccer or football.
And as we watched the Olympic track and field events, for instance, we saw the margin between first and last become more narrow with each subsequent heat.
Bioanalysis Zone’s New Investigator’s Award is no different. With a field of 25 outstanding scholars nominated, the judges had a difficult time narrowing the pool of candidates down to six. Read about Dr. Erin Chambers’ experience with this process from a judge’s perspective.
The margin of separation at this level of performance is miniscule.
Interestingly, recent commentary has raised the possibility of an attenuation of qualified bioanalytical scientists in the field. In his blog, “Are Analytical Chemists Going Extinct?” Anthony Marcello raises questions and initiates a discussion around this observation. He points out:
“In some industries, technology is reducing the need for a highly skilled workforce. In the LC/MS world there is a strong demand for easier to use instruments. Is technology negatively influencing chemists’ development?”
In a recent panel discussion, BioanalysisZone’s The Skills Gap, Dr. Roger Hayes, senior vice president and general manager at MPI Research, commented on the deficiency in instrumentation knowledge of new scientists.
“[We tend to hire PhDs] coming out of biology programs and their awareness of what mass spectrometry is that it is just a box.”
A recent publication in Bioanalysis summarizing the 21st International Reid Bioanalytical Forum, University of Surrey, Guildford, UK, (7–10 September 2015) reported, “It was generally agreed that there is a shortage of analytical scientists in Universities, particularly in the UK. Part of the reason for this was thought to be the high levels of tuition fees, which is driving students into other courses.”
Questions were raised around the overall interest of students in the career path for bioanalytical sciences, which they perceived as having poor job prospects and pay. Thus, a contributor to the widening gap is that fewer individuals are enrolling in analytical science programs.
However, the attendees left with some concrete actions including, “Increasing awareness and visibility to younger scientists of the wide range of exciting roles that are available for bioanalytical scientists, particularly in smaller companies.”
Attendees at the Reid Forum should be invigorated to see the 25 new investigators in this year’s list of nominees. Dr. Chambers was particularly pleased with the diversity and depth of innovation:
“I was really impressed by the highly advanced level of technical competence and the penchant for innovation by all the nominees. We saw novel ways of normalizing endogenous analytes to allow for measurement of biomarkers. There were novel applications of conventional technologies like electrochemiluminescence (ECL) and synchrotron infra-red imaging, as well as new sample prep methods like automated alveolar breath sampling using micro-extraction.”
It is clear that there is a closely contested debate ongoing on whether bioanalytical scientists are going extinct. Maybe they are on the endangered species list—or maybe, like the black panther, they are just adapting to their changing environment and re-defining themselves.
Take a look at the remaining six candidates for the New Investigator’s Award. Stay tuned to find out who is this year’s winner at the European Bioanalytical Forum (EBF) in Barcelona.