Wednesday, January 12, 2005

Lies Scientists Tell Themselves

I just got back from a meeting with a collaborator. Of course, things I had previously suggested had not been done, and when another outsider made the same suggestion, everyone acted like it was on the list and they just hadn't had time yet (yeah, right). Priorities, priorities.

Meanwhile, I visited a friend who is not yet done with grad school. She, like many of my friends, seems to labor under the assumption that I am an outlier, that I am unusually frustrated with the scientific system the way it exists in this country right now. More importantly, she seemed to think that because I'm very vocal in my complaints, that it must be worse for me and I have made bad decisions that account for my bad experiences (Lie #1: It Will Be Different For Me).

We spent some time thinking about why, even as graduate students who work closely with postdocs, we were so clueless as to how bad it would be.

Here is the take-home message: most postdocs are working too hard at experiments to notice that they're not going to get jobs until it's too late.

Everyone told us, if you work hard and do well, you will get a job.

One is therefore left to conclude that if one does not have a pile of job offers, one is exhausted and burned out for some reason other than failed attempts at working hard and doing well.

I'm not someone who has been at this for many years, but I'm not sure that I like it enough to toil away with no funding, no space, and no hope of recognition or respect (ok that last one will probably last forever no matter what I do).

What's sad is, I am one of those people. Lies I didn't realize were lies at the time:

1. I don't care where I live. I will be happier in a good lab in a bad place than a bad lab in a good place.

2. I don't care if I never make any money. (This one goes away as soon as you start paying your own rent in a studio in a ghetto).

3. I like science enough that it makes up for all the bullshit.


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