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PhD pay, COVID’s health burden — the week in infographics

Poor pay for PhD students

Salaries for PhD students in the biological sciences fall well below the basic cost of living at almost every institution and department in the United States, according to crowdsourced data. Only a few universities offer a minimum salary above the cost of living, but most institutions fall well short, as this graphic shows. With economies across the world grappling with rising inflation, the data highlight that many students are struggling. Low PhD salaries could undermine US efforts to increase diversity in science, if only better-off students can afford to pursue a PhD.

The health burden of COVID-19

Researchers are trying to calculate how many years have been lost to disability and death because of COVID-19. The disease has killed an estimated 15 million people since it emerged at the end of 2019, but its total impact is much bigger because its influences include the acute effects of a SARS-CoV-2 infection and, for some, the lasting symptoms of long COVID. This graphic shows that the disease took a heavy toll across 16 European countries, although its impacts varied for different nations.

Infographic showing the number of years of life lost to death and ill health from COVID-19 for 16 European countries.

Sources: European study: M. M. Gianino et al. Eur. Rev. Med. Pharmacol. Sci. 25, 5529–5541 (2021); country-level data: S. Cuschieri et al. BMC Public Health 21, 1827 (2021)/S. Monteiro Pires/A. Rommel et al. Dtsch Arztebl Int. 118, 145–151 (2021).

Chip + smartphone = diagnostics lab

A new lab-on-a-chip system that can be 3D printed and requires only a smartphone to use was reported last week. Such systems usually require bulky equipment, such as pumps, microscopes and power supplies, meaning that, although the chips are small, they are hard to use outside the laboratory.

This microfluidic chip, published in Nature, is made up of networks of micrometre-scale channels that can be used to control the mixing of liquid reagents. The authors used this to automate a common protocol for detecting antibodies against the coronavirus SARS-CoV-2 in a human saliva sample (a). The saliva flows into the chip through an inlet and the chip is manually connected to an exit membrane containing a protein that binds to SARS-CoV-2 antibodies. All liquids in the chip are sequentially released into this membrane — sample, enzyme, substrate — with a buffer solution between reactions (b). The substrate solution triggers the creation of a brown precipitate by the enzyme; this can be seen as a band by the naked eye or quantified using a smartphone.

Figure 1



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