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This Week in Science: Dec 11, 2015

In Science this week, a team of researchers presents a comprehensive study of job outcomes for US doctoral students supported by funded research, finding that nearly 40 percent of them went to work for industry where they earned higher salaries than their academic counterparts. Using data from the UMTERICS project, which combines information from eight public US universities with employment and earnings data from the Census Bureau, the investigators also found that about 20 percent of graduates stayed in the state where they earned their degree. Of those who left, about 19 percent went to California. Most graduates entered academia, but 38 percent went to industry. The highest-earning fields were mathematics and/or engineering, while biology doctorates earned the least.

And in Science Translational Medicine, a group of German scientists report on the clinical use of imaging to accurately detect the spread of melanoma into lymph nodes, pointing to a diagnostic alternative to invasive lymph node biopsies. The technique, called multispectral optoacoustic tomography (MSOT), was used to visualize melanin, a pigment found in melanoma tumor cells. Combined with a fluorescent dye and a handheld detector, the MSOT approach images tissues based on the acoustic energy they emit in response to pulsed light. With it, the researchers were able to identify lymph node metastasis in vivo in 20 melanoma patients, beating radioactive imaging of biopsies with no false-negatives. The researchers suggest that MSOT may also be used to identify lymph node metastases in other cancers when used with different contrast agents.

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