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'Get Help When You Need It'

Sharon Milgram, director of the National Institutes of Health Office of Intramural Training & Education, fielded questions from participants at various stages in their scientific careers via live chat this week. When asked the importance of having co-authored a published paper when applying to grad programs, Milgram said that "papers are always a good thing, but many students get into very strong programs without a paper. Doing great science, understanding it, and being able to talk about it is equally important." Another live chat participant was curious about how to narrow interests within multidisciplinary fields — specifically in epidemiology and genomics — and how it translates to choosing a grad lab. Milgram suggested that the questioner should "work to refine a bit and pick a program that allows you to broadly experience different labs before you start" and to "think about the types of problems you might like to address" when crafting a focus topic for personal statements and interviews. Overall, Milgram says, her tips can be applied ubiquitously to researchers in various stages of their careers. Her underlying lesson? "Don't crash and burn by not being prepared and being too macho or too ashamed to get help when you need it," she advises. The full text of the chat session is available on the OITE Careers blog.

The Scan

Octopus Brain Complexity Linked to MicroRNA Expansions

Investigators saw microRNA gene expansions coinciding with complex brains when they analyzed certain cephalopod transcriptomes, as they report in Science Advances.

Study Tracks Outcomes in Children Born to Zika Virus-Infected Mothers

By following pregnancy outcomes for women with RT-PCR-confirmed Zika virus infections, researchers saw in Lancet Regional Health congenital abnormalities in roughly one-third of live-born children.

Team Presents Benchmark Study of RNA Classification Tools

With more than 135 transcriptomic datasets, researchers tested two dozen coding and non-coding RNA classification tools, establishing a set of potentially misclassified transcripts, as they report in Nucleic Acids Research.

Breast Cancer Risk Related to Pathogenic BRCA1 Mutation May Be Modified by Repeats

Several variable number tandem repeats appear to impact breast cancer risk and age at diagnosis in almost 350 individuals carrying a risky Ashkenazi Jewish BRCA1 founder mutation.