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under the threat of serious budget cuts for years. Unless something dramatic were to change, the cuts will whack many deserving projects, and curtail the careers of many bright, aspiring young scientists.
Even before the threat of this latest round of budget cuts, young scientists were finding it increasingly difficult to get ahead. The NIH says the average age of a first-time federal grant winner is now age 42. That happens to be an age when many people have mortgages, and families to feed, and they need to have a good-paying job. And the job market for highly skilled biotech workers is pretty bleak.
So when celebrities like Zuckerberg stand up in public and declare their respect for the Eric Landers and Titia de Langes of the world, it’s a nice gesture. It may help inspire a few young people to follow in their productive footsteps. It certainly helps that a few celebrities are willing to put some of their own money into biomedical research. It helps that Zuckerberg cared enough to show up at the Breakthrough Prize press conference, which guaranteed that the news would be widely reported. It helps that these billionaires are channeling their money into prizes, which are powerful motivating forces for good. But if we really want to inspire more young people to pursue greatness in the life sciences, then our whole society needs to do a lot more to truly support them and reward them, financially and otherwise.
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