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(Science Magazine)   Science grad schools: "We don't want your kind around here, Mr. I-have-hobbies-and-a-life"   (sciencecareers.sciencemag.org) divider line 139
    More: Sad, graduate schools, ecology and evolutionary biology, molecular biology, mendelian, Changing the Game, Case Western Reserve University, postdocs, beakers  
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6822 clicks; posted to Geek » on 26 Dec 2012 at 4:34 PM (1 year ago)   |  Favorite    |   share:  Share on Twitter share via Email Share on Facebook   more»



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2012-12-26 09:38:39 PM  

ChubbyTiger: No Such Agency: SnakeLee: Millennium: There's a certain myth of a "pure" scientist out there: someone for whom the pursuit of scientific knowledge, not necessarily to do anything with it but simply to know, is life's highest and ultimate calling, to be pursued with quasi-monastic zeal. This myth is what institutions like the ones mentioned in TFA are pursuing.

I know people like that, but they are rare.  They also have lots of grant money, but I don't know why anyone would live that way by their own choosing.

.. and they're frequently raging, raging ASSHOLES, because things like "I can't do that experiment tomorrow, my mother is dying" are not considered valid excuses from their students. Oddly enough they're usually smart enough to be nice to people with more power than them. Their labs have all the esprit de corps of a North Koreean gulag, but they do tend to publish regularly in high-impact journals.

Or, as we in chemistry call it, the Corey Lab.


A class mate whose fiancee died got 2 days off.

My boss (department chair) stated in our lab meeting that sunday morning (8am, so we could sleep in) that he'd have booted her from the lab for that.
 
2012-12-26 09:38:53 PM  

born_yesterday: Doc Daneeka: Lot of truth to that article.

That's why I bolted for biotech as soon as possible after getting my PhD. I like being in a place where "weekend" and "vacation time" and "reasonable salary and benefits" aren't dirty words.

The mindset I mostly observed in academia as a grad student and postdoc was: "if you are a serious scientist, you should be spending every possible waking moment toiling in the lab for meager pay, at minimum 10 hours per day, 6-7 days per week. Everything else (relationships, family, hobbies, interests, being able to afford a decent living) is secondary and being overly concerned with them is a sign that you aren't a serious scientist."

Wasn't for me.

If it means anything, most of the bench donkeys have no place to go when they're done. The money just isn't there, not everyone can get funded, and LOTS of people have multiple good publications. Less than half will remain in science. If they reach the end of their training period without a set of translatable skills, networking contacts, leadership experience or volunteer work...I kinda feel sorry for them, regardless of their publishing success. [In full disclosure, I have a solid publication record, but am finding myself scrambling to work on other areas of my resume late in my training in order to get away from the bench].

To make it in science today, a lot of places are beginning to realize that universities need to start helping train for what were once called "alternative" (read: failure) careers away from the bench. I don't have it handy, but NSF just published a fantastic study that really got to the heart of the problems with academic culture. NIH is also taking steps to address the "postdoc problem", and they're usually the determiners (deciderers?) that force the rest of academia to follow suit.


Oh, I knew full-well what the future would have held had I stayed in academia. Postdoc after postdoc after postdoc, working like a dog for slave wages in pursuit of the small percentage chance of landing a tenure-track position somewhere, and then if that lucky, spending every waking hour for several years fighting to publish enough and win enough grants (a ridiculous chunk of which the university skims of the top) to gain tenure. And do all that while fulfilling the onerous teaching obligations universities like to drop on junior faculty. A life of solitude, sleep-deprivation, tunnel-vision, and paranoia. I've seen it, and it isn't a pretty picture.

I think most other grad students see it too. When I look up PhDs who went through my program, an astounding number have left research science and went into business, or consulting, or medical writing, or teaching, or something else. And I went to grad school at an excellent research university. I think people are realizing that the "traditional academic career" path is a sadistic lie. Those jobs simply aren't there in significant numbers, available to any but a vanishingly small percentage.

Not that I think that industry is a utopia either, but I like my job and my company and my work, and it certainly fits my priorities in life better.
 
2012-12-26 09:40:34 PM  

born_yesterday: To make it in science today, a lot of places are beginning to realize that universities need to start helping train for what were once called "alternative" (read: failure) careers away from the bench. I don't have it handy, but NSF just published a fantastic study that really got to the heart of the problems with academic culture. NIH is also taking steps to address the "postdoc problem", and they're usually the determiners (deciderers?) that force the rest of academia to follow suit.


I know you just said you didn't have it handy, but I'd love to read that NSF study if you could find it. I did a quick Google search but couldn't find it.

My publication record is pretty weak at the moment, and I'm worried about making the jump from postdoc to professor. I'm afraid I'm going to be one of the ones who ends up in an "alternative" career.
 
2012-12-26 10:03:24 PM  

Doc Daneeka: Oh, I knew full-well what the future would have held had I stayed in academia. Postdoc after postdoc after postdoc, working like a dog for slave wages in pursuit of the small percentage chance of landing a tenure-track position somewhere, and then if that lucky, spending every waking hour for several years fighting to publish enough and win enough grants (a ridiculous chunk of which the university skims of the top) to gain tenure. And do all that while fulfilling the onerous teaching obligations universities like to drop on junior faculty. A life of solitude, sleep-deprivation, tunnel-vision, and paranoia. I've seen it, and it isn't a pretty picture.


But it doesn't have to be that way.

I'm a postdoc and I make $80,000 a year. My full-coverage insurance with no deductible is $100 a month. I get 20 days of paid vacation per year and I'm REQUIRED to take them. My boss doesn't even care if I come in to work (I do computational chemistry so I can do 90% of it from home) so long as I'm getting results.

I'm not saying this to brag or anything. I didn't do anything special to get this job, and I didn't know it was going to be this good before I came here. I'm just saying that America could probably learn a thing or two from the rest of the world about how to do research. I can't help but wonder if more and more Americans are going to leave America for other countries where they can still do good science, but not have to work themselves to death to do it.

It's not worth it.
 
2012-12-26 10:08:02 PM  

andino: Doc Daneeka: Oh, I knew full-well what the future would have held had I stayed in academia. Postdoc after postdoc after postdoc, working like a dog for slave wages in pursuit of the small percentage chance of landing a tenure-track position somewhere, and then if that lucky, spending every waking hour for several years fighting to publish enough and win enough grants (a ridiculous chunk of which the university skims of the top) to gain tenure. And do all that while fulfilling the onerous teaching obligations universities like to drop on junior faculty. A life of solitude, sleep-deprivation, tunnel-vision, and paranoia. I've seen it, and it isn't a pretty picture.

But it doesn't have to be that way.

I'm a postdoc and I make $80,000 a year. My full-coverage insurance with no deductible is $100 a month. I get 20 days of paid vacation per year and I'm REQUIRED to take them. My boss doesn't even care if I come in to work (I do computational chemistry so I can do 90% of it from home) so long as I'm getting results.

I'm not saying this to brag or anything. I didn't do anything special to get this job, and I didn't know it was going to be this good before I came here. I'm just saying that America could probably learn a thing or two from the rest of the world about how to do research. I can't help but wonder if more and more Americans are going to leave America for other countries where they can still do good science, but not have to work themselves to death to do it.

It's not worth it.


I can't speak for Australia, but my sense is that the situation in Europe is generally even worse than America. Research funding is even more sparse, faculty positions even harder to come by. All of the European postdocs I know have resigned themselves to seeking a green card and pursuing a career in America because, as tough as it is, their job prospects are even worse back in Europe.
 
2012-12-26 10:08:23 PM  

verbaltoxin: Millennium: There's a certain myth of a "pure" scientist out there: someone for whom the pursuit of scientific knowledge, not necessarily to do anything with it but simply to know, is life's highest and ultimate calling, to be pursued with quasi-monastic zeal. This myth is what institutions like the ones mentioned in TFA are pursuing.

What do these institutions know about "pure" science? They though my methods weren't "pure" for their know-nothing, close-minded attitudes. Backwards fools, they are! But I'll show them pure....I'll show them all!!!


I'm sad you didn't detail your love of LSD or attempts to create a universe in your own image in that post.
/Dr. Walter Bishop, PhD ftw
 
2012-12-26 10:22:18 PM  

sweetmelissa31: Adam Ruben, Ph.D., is a practicing scientist and the author of Surviving Your Stupid, Stupid Decision to Go to Grad School.

The decision obviously wasn't so stupid, since he has a job as a scientist.

Anyway, Most people in grad school, like people everywhere, have outside interests. Maybe this guy's department was embarrassed of him because his stand-up comedy was bad.


Bear in mind industries change over time and we're reading his work as a writer, not any papers he's published as... a scientist (at least for this thread)
 
2012-12-26 10:29:07 PM  

andino: born_yesterday: To make it in science today, a lot of places are beginning to realize that universities need to start helping train for what were once called "alternative" (read: failure) careers away from the bench. I don't have it handy, but NSF just published a fantastic study that really got to the heart of the problems with academic culture. NIH is also taking steps to address the "postdoc problem", and they're usually the determiners (deciderers?) that force the rest of academia to follow suit.

I know you just said you didn't have it handy, but I'd love to read that NSF study if you could find it. I did a quick Google search but couldn't find it.

My publication record is pretty weak at the moment, and I'm worried about making the jump from postdoc to professor. I'm afraid I'm going to be one of the ones who ends up in an "alternative" career.


I just googled the title and it should link to the report (at pathwaysreport.org):

Pathways Through Graduate School and Into Careers

It's largely a statistically-driven report with recommendations for educators/administrators of universities, but it's a light read (compared to scientific papers). I was impressed with it largely because it holds academia accountable for their role in preparing trainees for careers in science, not just as a source of cheap labor, which I think has been a long time in coming. So it may not be quite the resource for the decision you're trying to make, but it's interesting for what it is.
 
2012-12-26 10:47:48 PM  

Mikey1969: aerojockey: Mikey1969: So , in other words, you didn't read TFA?

I did. I think he's (mostly) full of shiat.

Well, you obviously missed the part where his outside life was specifically frowned upon by the Grad School:


No I didn't.  That is what's called anecdotal evidence.  One advisor did this.  This is why I added mostly in parentheses.
 
2012-12-26 10:47:59 PM  
I can kind of see what the author is trying to say, but doesn't, modern science lacks to embrace creativity. Creative thinking is one of the most efficient means of generating new ideas and inventions both time and money wise but it's quite difficult to explain the process... the mechanism of bridging hemispheres connecting 2 existing thoughts to create one new unique idea is quite complicated on paper but simple in practice.
 
2012-12-26 10:52:03 PM  

pxlboy: NeoCortex42: Z-clipped: As someone with widely varied interests contemplating grad school for Physics while trying to knock my wife up, I am not getting a kick out of these replies.

Physics grad school, while caring for a newborn/toddler? Good luck and godspeed.

I know someone who did it. She was much of the striving, anal, overachieving type that you might expect. Smart, but not a lot of fun to be around.


Yeah I'm totally not that... but my wife is world-class awesome, so I've got that going for me.

Anyway, thanks for the insight, both of you.
 
2012-12-26 11:10:17 PM  

Doc Daneeka: I can't speak for Australia, but my sense is that the situation in Europe is generally even worse than America. Research funding is even more sparse, faculty positions even harder to come by. All of the European postdocs I know have resigned themselves to seeking a green card and pursuing a career in America because, as tough as it is, their job prospects are even worse back in Europe.


Hmmmm. I got my PhD in 2009 in England and almost all of my friends in the department were Europeans. Most of the ones I've kept in touch with have managed to find postdoc positions in Europe, but at the moment none have even applied for faculty positions. Probably too early. Still, I had no idea their outlook was that grim. That really sucks.

born_yesterday: I just googled the title and it should link to the report (at pathwaysreport.org):

Pathways Through Graduate School and Into Careers

It's largely a statistically-driven report with recommendations for educators/administrators of universities, but it's a light read (compared to scientific papers). I was impressed with it largely because it holds academia accountable for their role in preparing trainees for careers in science, not just as a source of cheap labor, which I think has been a long time in coming. So it may not be quite the resource for the decision you're trying to make, but it's interesting for what it is.


Thanks! I'll definitely have a read of it when I get the chance.
 
2012-12-26 11:12:15 PM  

Z-clipped: As someone with widely varied interests contemplating grad school for Physics while trying to knock my wife up, I am not getting a kick out of these replies.


I can understand why you chose physics, because clearly you've figured out how to be in two places at the same time.

//If you haven't, may whatever deity you believe in have mercy on your soul.
 
2012-12-26 11:19:51 PM  

Magorn:

Einstein was a straight up Pimp with  the ladies



img69.imageshack.us

Level_Of_Pimp = -(Necessary_Hottness_Threshold)
 
2012-12-26 11:40:05 PM  

italie: Z-clipped: As someone with widely varied interests contemplating grad school for Physics while trying to knock my wife up, I am not getting a kick out of these replies.

I can understand why you chose physics, because clearly you've figured out how to be in two places at the same time.

//If you haven't, may whatever deity you believe in have mercy on your soul.


That's why I reference my wife as integral. It's all about group velocity. ;)
 
2012-12-27 12:00:08 AM  
Talk I heard in 2005 from an academic who held large competitive grants for 40 yrs consecutively, first day of his PhD his supervisor told him that he would do 40hrs a week in the lab and 40hrs a week in the library. Want a career in science?

Joe Wiskich
 
2012-12-27 12:49:23 AM  
Here's a joke I heard soon after starting (mechanical engineering) grad school:

A professor, a postdoc and a grad student are walking back to their lab from the Student Union one day, when they come across an old, beat-up brass lamp. The grad student picks up the lamp, and slightly polishes it. Out pops a genie, who says "For releasing me from my prison, I will grant each of you one wish of your heart's greatest desire."

The grad student thinks for a moment, then says "I wish I was on a sailboat in the Caribbean with the world's most desirable supermodel." POOF! The grad student disappears.

The postdoc says, "I wish I were sunbathing on a beach in Tahiti with my wife." POOF! The postdoc disappears.

The genie then turns to the professor, who says "My wish is that those two are back to work in my lab in 2 minutes."
 
2012-12-27 01:12:48 AM  
CSB time:

(Full disclosure: I'm a PhD student, but not in the sciences.)

I got into a row with a teacher last year who became short with me because of a schedule conflict--his fault--that was difficult to resolve, and he attacked me because he assumed it was because of my schedule beyond the scope of my class schedule (it wasn't).

Eventually the graduate advisor was involved, because conversations with him effectively ended, and she told me in an email that she was concerned that my extra-curricular interests were impeding my education. I asked her if she had received any other complaints from my professors, or if she could point to any insufficient work in my studies or my grades. She conceded that she hadn't and couldn't.

I politely told her to fark off and until my other interests actually interfered with my studies to an observable or measurable degree, she needed to mind her own goddamned business and go DIAF.

In perhaps not so many words.

/she also got mad at me once for going to the TA's union with a problem instead of coming to her first.
//fark her.
///you don't own the time you don't pay me for, because you don't pay me enough.
 
2012-12-27 01:56:25 AM  
A lot of this depends on the quality if the scientist (e.g. the better you are as a scientist, the more impressed people will be that you can carry on extensive hobbies in addition to your work) and the type of work (e.g. some grad work requires endless hours of labor and no thought and some requires a few hours of focused problem solving each day).
 
2012-12-27 01:59:05 AM  

italie: Magorn:

Einstein was a straight up Pimp with  the ladies


[img69.imageshack.us image 681x800]

Level_Of_Pimp = -(Necessary_Hottness_Threshold)


Dear lord, you can see her nipples.
 
2012-12-27 02:20:39 AM  
Understandable - you represent the program when you leave. They want you to publish and be prolific about it as you extend their brand by doing so. If you don't want to sacrifice everything at the altar of professional success, there are ten guys behind you that are willing to lay it all down, so you pretty much have to if you want to have any success in the field. Just the way things are, and I would suggest to those that want a life, choose a different profession - lab tech, high school science teacher, or go in a completely different direction (i.e. oil field worker). Something that allows you freedom outside of work. This is the only life any of us get, don't waste a substantial chunk of it away it by doing something you consider a chore just for the sake of a slightly better job title.
 
2012-12-27 02:26:04 AM  

austerity101: and she told me in an email that she was concerned that my extra-curricular interests were impeding my education. I asked her if she had received any other complaints from my professors, or if she could point to any insufficient work in my studies or my grades. She conceded that she hadn't and couldn't.

I politely told her to fark off


And there you have the difference between science and politics.

Science demands that you have evidence before you come up with a conclusion.

Balls out method: demand that the graduate advisor prove her hypothesis, using the required number of references and appropriate logical notation.

/never a grad student
//dealt with many asshole managers who felt that their accusation was as good as a conviction, their suspicion a proof
 
2012-12-27 05:38:33 AM  

FormlessOne: Doesn't just apply to the classical sciences, either. Despite all their gum-flapping to the contrary, it's amazing how software developers are encouraged to monomaniacal focus.

If you want to be a software developer, ensure that you are unmarried, male, and without children - no need for those pesky distractions. You will be hired over married, female, or child-burdened developers, all other things being equal.


If you don't have family, it's easier to get you in for crunch times. (For those not in the know, "crunch" is six or seven day workweeks with at least 12hrs/day, more likely between 16-20 hrs per day).
 
2012-12-27 05:42:25 AM  

phlatulence: Talk I heard in 2005 from an academic who held large competitive grants for 40 yrs consecutively, first day of his PhD his supervisor told him that he would do 40hrs a week in the lab and 40hrs a week in the library. Want a career in science?

Joe Wiskich


That's why I left science. I figured I liked friends more.
 
2012-12-27 07:18:54 AM  

phlatulence: Talk I heard in 2005 from an academic who held large competitive grants for 40 yrs consecutively, first day of his PhD his supervisor told him that he would do 40hrs a week in the lab and 40hrs a week in the library. Want a career in science?

Joe Wiskich


Thanks for this, and all the other posts. I used to think a career in science was more like this.
 
2012-12-27 07:49:01 AM  
Once a group gets dominated by a particular type they can then start thinking that being of that type is necessary or really helps in learning and doing the work the group does - not being of that type is a disadvantage and can hurt the "energy" of the whole group unless maybe confined to lower positions. The type in part helps to define what it means to be a "team player" which in some part means promoting the type.

The article just focuses on the "grind" personality - one who is so dedicated he will work 80 hour weeks in part because he doesn't have any other life to interfere with it.

In academia and business groups I've been in or come across I've seen all sorts of typed groups who think their type is naturally the best. Some examples include:

Male Pigs - Women really don't have the innate ability to work in this field except in helping positions. Some Lesbians might be partially qualified but their lack of femininity and deference disqualify them as team players. Assertive men are strong while assertive women are just biatchy.

Jews - who think non-Jews are less smart or not as easy to get along with as Jews.

Mormons - who think that only Mormons truly know what purpose and dedication means. While it may make sense to employ some smart Jews in lower positions they should not be trusted with leadership. Otherwise everybody in the group should at least be Christian.

Pot Smokers - (not people who smoke while they work but those who after a long week of hard work have a weekend party). It's pretty hard to form team social bonds if you won't socialize with degenerates.

Hackers - (by this term I mean people who design computer programs by rapidly programming up successive approximations of what the final program should do) Heaven help those programmers who want a worked out specification before they start to write code.

Heavy Drinkers - see Pot Smokers.

I've witnessed the social dynamics of being included or excluded from these groups though I will generally, if asked, refrain from making specific identifications such as the Art History Department at UCLA around 1982 being heavy drinking male pigs.

The whole problem with groups assuming a type identity is that while that type may dominate the group it really is not what makes the group "good" if it is. The type identity is more about retaining members and exploiting the lesser members who don't "measure up" to advance toward leadership. If a bio-medicine lab is known as a "grind" group then it is assumed that lowest level has to put in 80 hour weeks as underpaid tab technician monkeys just to prove their dedication in the hope they can advance. It really is too bad (other than financially for the group) when they quit and can't convert their long hours into any financial reward.
 
2012-12-27 07:58:22 AM  

HairBolus: Once a group gets dominated by a particular type...


You sound like a social scientist who even works when he's not working.
 
2012-12-27 08:23:14 AM  

Millennium: There's a certain myth of a "pure" scientist out there: someone for whom the pursuit of scientific knowledge, not necessarily to do anything with it but simply to know, is life's highest and ultimate calling, to be pursued with quasi-monastic zeal. This myth is what institutions like the ones mentioned in TFA are pursuing.


sounds like catholic priesthood
 
2012-12-27 08:30:35 AM  

Ishidan: austerity101: and she told me in an email that she was concerned that my extra-curricular interests were impeding my education. I asked her if she had received any other complaints from my professors, or if she could point to any insufficient work in my studies or my grades. She conceded that she hadn't and couldn't.

I politely told her to fark off

And there you have the difference between science and politics.

Science demands that you have evidence before you come up with a conclusion.

Balls out method: demand that the graduate advisor prove her hypothesis, using the required number of references and appropriate logical notation.

/never a grad student
//dealt with many asshole managers who felt that their accusation was as good as a conviction, their suspicion a proof


The only thing that separates a PI from a postdoc is that first RO1 grant, and the contract they sign with the university. There is no training whatsoever in time or money management, or how to instruct trainees. Not a minute. To put it another way, junior tenture-track scientists begin their career with a check from the government worth hundreds of thousands of dollars to start a particular 5-year project, and no managerial training whatsoever.

Before science became the business it is today, it could afford this crappy business model. But universities have slowly begun to depend on their cut from government grants (their cut now being 50 or more). Thus, at this point in their business model, it is not in their best interest to concern themselves with whether people that are better managers or teachers, let alone verify that they're dealing with a solid scientist and not a bullshiat artist. I worked for a guy who claimed to everyone that his work would lead to a cure for Huntington's disease in "three years". Many people didn't realize that clinical trials alone would have taken longer than that (it was inexplicable).
 
2012-12-27 09:09:51 AM  
There are lots of scientists (too many) out there who confuse "long hours" with "hard work" and "productive science". That isn't the case. I've known plenty of grad students and post-docs who put in lots of time, but weren't necessarily that good, and didn't do better science than plenty of others who spent far less time in the lab. Luckily I have never worked for a PI who expected people to slave away in the lab.

It also helps when you are in Bioinformatics and can do plenty of work from anywhere, not just the lab.
 
2012-12-27 10:26:41 AM  
I didn't read the entire thread, so someone probably already mentioned this. If you're applying to a science PhD program it's really in the interest of both you and the school for you to be very devoted to the very specific subset of science on which you'll be working. If you're not really into it, you'll hate school and slowly be weeded out; you probably can't fake it for 5+ years. It's not that they don't care about your interests; I found that having something outside of work to talk about is a good way to get on your advisor's good side, it's that they're basically irrelevant when it comes to you being a successful student in their program.

As far that thing about being told he was an embarrassment because of his desire to do stand up, that will happen when you work for a curmudgeon. I've also heard that biology departments tend to have a stick pretty far up their ass (no experience, I just mentored an undergrad who work both in my chemistry lab and a molecular biology lab).
 
2012-12-27 02:29:03 PM  

KimJ: I thought it was just my field (mathematics) that was like this. I was accepted to an undergraduate summer program that rejected another girl I knew solely because she had a second major in physics, showing that she couldn't really be "serious" about math according to her rejection letter.


I think doing those two majors would make you as serious about math as humanly possible.
 
2012-12-27 03:31:20 PM  

Braindeath: I think doing those two majors would make you as serious about math as humanly possible.


Often not from the point of view of a Mathematician. Physics isn't "pure" math.
 
2012-12-27 03:39:39 PM  
I've been out of grad school for about 3 years now; man, this thread is bringing back the memories.

Alas, I come to it a day late.  Perhaps I'll catch the discussion on the next turn around.

But for those who were contemplating grad school, I'll share this bit of wisdom:  In 1995, a friend of mine published a paper looking at the path for PhD candidates in the biomedical sciences.  The average (or median, I can't recall now) time from the start of grad school to the end of post-doc work was 12 years.  That's a long time to be in training.  In addition, the math worked out that, over the course of a career, you will never make up the earnings as a PhD that you missed by being a PhD student and then a post-doc for those years.   Granted, this paper looked at the American market, so I can't speak for elsewhere.

Post-docs haven't been given a better lot since then, and salaries haven't really gotten better.  If you're looking at grad school, you'd better be damned sure you love that particular field of science before you sign over your life, because it's exactly what you're doing.  There are people who get rich off of science, but they're not frequently PhD holders, and it's not likely to be you.
 
2012-12-27 04:23:17 PM  

entropic_existence: Often not from the point of view of a Mathematician. Physics isn't "pure" math.


Very much this. (And this program had a Fluid Dynamics option, which you think would be physics-related!) The only hobby you could have that you wouldn't be made fun of was playing a musical instrument.
 
2012-12-27 04:44:27 PM  

entropic_existence: Often not from the point of view of a Mathematician. Physics isn't "pure" math.


Yeah, physicists and mathematicians often snipe at each other a bit. Physicists often look at mathematical rigor as a waste of time and make assumptions that mathematicians wouldn't dare make. Mathematicians then look at physics as if they're somehow cheating by taking shortcuts, and it's not "real" math.
 
2012-12-27 04:51:03 PM  

entropic_existence: Braindeath: I think doing those two majors would make you as serious about math as humanly possible.

Often not from the point of view of a Mathematician. Physics isn't "pure" math.


www.titaniumteddybear.net
 
2012-12-27 05:21:38 PM  

hstein3: I've been out of grad school for about 3 years now; man, this thread is bringing back the memories.

Alas, I come to it a day late.  Perhaps I'll catch the discussion on the next turn around.

But for those who were contemplating grad school, I'll share this bit of wisdom:  In 1995, a friend of mine published a paper looking at the path for PhD candidates in the biomedical sciences.  The average (or median, I can't recall now) time from the start of grad school to the end of post-doc work was 12 years.  That's a long time to be in training.  In addition, the math worked out that, over the course of a career, you will never make up the earnings as a PhD that you missed by being a PhD student and then a post-doc for those years.   Granted, this paper looked at the American market, so I can't speak for elsewhere.

Post-docs haven't been given a better lot since then, and salaries haven't really gotten better.  If you're looking at grad school, you'd better be damned sure you love that particular field of science before you sign over your life, because it's exactly what you're doing.  There are people who get rich off of science, but they're not frequently PhD holders, and it's not likely to be you.


I'm thinking a masters program may be my best bet. As someone who got involved with the greek scene and all in college, I'm not your typical science geek going into the lab for grad school anymore. I've realized I need more than the lab in my life and I think, sadly, that means I'm not the best fit for the PhD/Post-doc slog.
 
2012-12-28 04:57:20 PM  
An interesting look at the post doc mill and the general breakdown of research track scientists in the U.S. post WWII. Link.

I graduated from my undergrad (dual Marine Bio and Ecology) over a decade ago, and the job market for field biologists could be politely described as rocky. In order to get some kind of career going again, I'm looking at pulling the trigger and going back for my MS. I for one never wanted the teaching and "publish or perish" workload that comes with a Ph. D. in academia, but it's far too easy to get pushed out of your field with a mere Bachelor's. It's a bit of a Goldilocks situation; I know a lot of people happily (or not) working long grinds in labs postdocing or as a P.I., and I know tons of people who were fine ending their academic career with their B.S.. Unfortunately, the latter are generally in fields that may only be related tangentially at best to what they studied.

tl, dr: Find a career field you are interested in, and if you want to stay in it, be prepared to at least get your Masters.
 
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