Jun 302016

Recently I visited Tsinghua University in China for a seminar. It is quite amazing how fast Tsinghua has grown in their biomedical research, the buildings, the faculty, the students, and the research outcome! Meeting with faculty I also saw many faculty collaborating with each other, which is a very healthy trend. This really underlines the importance of having a critical mass. Many young scientists are now unwilling to start their faculty career in the best universities in China, because these universities don’t necessarily offer as attractive startup package, often have worse life quality (air, housing, traffic), but have very high pressure for publication and funding. While these are good considerations, there are also some advantages to being in the best universities. I have worked on transcription factor binding motif before, and know how small differences in every nucleotide could influence the overall transcription factor binding. For example, at a good institution with a critical mass, the faculty might get students that are 10% better, receive 10% more research funding, hear 10% better seminars, have 10% better equipment platforms, find a collaborator 10% more capable, get their samples sequenced 10% faster. Even though each advantage might not look big, the PI only needs to work 10% harder himself, to receive almost twice (1.1^7) the research outcome! I guess that’s why Harvard is so exciting too!