Saturday, September 16, 2006

More responses to comments

ADude said...
How badly do you want to go into academia? Is science something you enjoy, or is it an all consuming passion (or close to it)? Is getting an academic position the only thing that will validate you?

I'm just asking because I have followed your blog off and on, and I'd think you would be happier in industry.


Not having been in industry, I can't say for sure.

But as I've said before, the #1 reason I want to be in academia is because I HATE having people tell me what I should be studying, scientifically. I have plenty of my own ideas. And I have no interest in working on other people's ideas. It's just never as fun as seeing the whole project go from the inception, the moment of realization, to the end. If not proof, then at least consistently supporting evidence... it's really satisfying. I like that feeling of finding out if I was right. It's not as much fun when you're testing someone else's hypothesis.

And I don't mind being wrong. That's okay in academia. I don't think it's appreciated so much in industry!?

So yeah, science is something I enjoy. When I get to do it my way, it is great fun. I love discovering new things.

It's not an all-consuming passion. It's hard to be constantly passionate about something as frustrating as science. I'm used to the 99% failure rate for experiments. It's worth it to me because I like the aspect of getting constant feedback from the universe. Try something, and at least you know, if you designed it the right way, what to do next. I'm used to taking joy from the little things that just keep the momentum going forward- the gel worked! I got colonies from my transformation! They're not all big discoveries, but you have to enjoy, as they say, the journey as much as the destination.

But I don't think it's healthy to be consumed by anything. It's good to fuel yourself off your passions... but don't let your candle burn at both ends.

Is getting an academic position going to validate me? NO WAY.

Will it give me a chance to see what I can do if I'm allowed to do things my way? HELL YEAH.

And wouldn't that be a hell of a lot of fun?!

Let's put it this way: since the day I started my first postdoc, I began my Wish List for things I would get and do when I have my own lab. Is that something the - let's call them Idunno postdocs- is that something that Idunno postdocs typically do?

Did I mention how I've had newly hired faculty ask me, on more than one occasion, what they should buy with their startup package? I mean, COME ON!!! Haven't you ever thought about this before now???

And isn't it something they should ask in the interview?? Why would you hire someone who didn't know how they would answer that question?

A friend was saying to me at dinner the other night that I'd - in his words- kick ass if I had a team of just 3 or 4 people and a little money and the freedom to do research the way I think it should be done.

Most people who know me are pretty convinced I'd be good at the job if given the chance.

Anonymous said...
Just curious ... what is your Publication Record like? Have you published in Big Journals? Are you working in a Hot Field? Worked for Famous People?


Uh, publications quite decent.

Big Journals, no. Not in the Top Three.

I have one paper that has been cited quite a few times, though. But I think my advisor likes to take credit for that one. We both know it was mostly my own, independent work, but I'm not sure if that's something that comes across in my letters of recommendation. I probably should make a point of asking that it be mentioned explicitly. You never know what people might forget to say!

Hot Field? Yes. Right now, yes. But wait five minutes, who knows what will be 'in' for next year's new crop of fresh meat faculty!

Famous People? Yes. Do I have letters from them? No. Why not, you ask? Well, life is funny. And most of the Famous People that I've worked with were ... extremely self-absorbed at best, royal f@#$-ing assholes at worst.

I have high (probably overly optimistic) hopes that the current Famous People with whom I work will be more helpful to me than the previous ones. They seem like they at least mean well, as higher-ups usually do at first, if given the benefit of the doubt. Though I'm sure that given enough time, they will disappoint me, at which point I will fail to hide my irritation, and this will piss them off, if I'm not careful. Hence my desire to get good letters and get out of there before I find out all their weaknesses and shortcomings.

Yes, I have problems with Authority.

***

I'm sitting here watching The Count of Monte Cristo on tv. It's one of my favorite movies.

I love how the turning point in the plot is when he finds a mentor.... in jail. I love how the mentor firmly believes he can teach him everything he knows, and he doesn't give him an IQ test beforehand. The message is that it's really a matter of believing that almost anyone can learn almost everything, if taught well.

Hooray for education!

And last but not least, I love the revenge plot. There's a lot to be said for the idea that living well is the best revenge. And this is such a great illustration of when revenge is warranted, and how to go about getting it.

Halelujah.

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7 Comments:

At 2:54 AM, Blogger Dr J. said...

So how long will you hold out for the dream? Maybe you´ll get it, I hope you do, but what are you going to do if you don´t? What if you´re forty years old and unemployable?

That´s meant as a serious question btw, not an insult. I asked myself it a million times.

As to the Idunno postdocs, well, I was one. And I had thought long and hard about running a group, planned my projects, my equipment, my people. Planning doesn´t prove you are cut out for it any more than anyone else. I also planned picking up my *first* nobel. Hah! Gotta love young scientists and their ego´s.

I really, really want to respond on the "I don´t like people telling me what to do" but I´m positive it won´t change or mean anything to you. I´ll just say this: I love science, I adore it, the learning, the questioning, the thousand little mysteries. Because of that I never understood how a person could decide that *this tiny little fraction of it* is the one thing that´s soooo fascinating it´ll consume them for the rest of their career. I changed fields between every one of the six research experiences I had. That is what interested me, that was constant learning, constant fascination. And that is something that industry does allow you to do, academia not.

 
At 8:06 AM, Blogger Daniel Lemire said...

>I want to be in academia is because I HATE having people tell me what I should be studying, scientifically.


Fair. But there are plenty of people who will try to tell you what to study in academia. Want a grant? Better make sure you study something fashionable.

>And I don't mind being wrong. That's okay in academia. I don't think it's appreciated so much in industry!?


Is it? Maybe in your field, but last time I spent 4 months on something only to realize I was wrong, I'm afraid it really hurted me.

No. I think that in current academia, to stay on top of things, you can't afford to be wrong often.

> I have one paper that has been cited quite a few times, though. But I think my advisor likes to take credit for that one.

That's the curse of working with big shots. Given a list of names, credit always goes first to the biggest name on the list.

Thus, make sure you are always the biggest name on the list, even if it implies you write your papers alone.

 
At 1:43 PM, Blogger yes said...

Do you really think that all Industry scientists are robots? They just do what they are told and don't think.

I have seen both sides, and they really aren't that different. People at the bottom (techs, grad students) do mostly what they are told with some creativity. PI's or scientific directors get to do a whole lot more of what they want.

As a PI in academia, you are constrained to the field you are known in. If you are working on HIV, and have always been a virologist, I don't think you will be able to get a grant working on the immune response to tapeworm. Same in Industry. If you have been told to look at HIV biology, you aren't free to just run off and stdy Fungi.

There are differences, not denying that, but I just don't think that "freedom" is one of them. I don't think academics are as "free" as they like to portray themselves, and industry certainly isn't as closed-minded and robot like as you portray it.

Lots of reasons to pick one or the other, just don't think this is one of them.

 
At 8:24 PM, Blogger Ms.PhD said...

Dr. J, your grammar is atrocious, but your points are well taken.

I think I will set an upper limit and say I'll give it two more years, unless I'm having a grand old time doing whatever I'm doing at that point. Lately things have not been that much fun, but today I got some data, so....

We'll see how tomorrow goes.

To Daniel and 'yes', unless you work on *really* obscure things, and even then, from what I have seen, the key to getting funding is figuring out why other people should care and how it might be useful to somebody other than you. It's how well you do the salespitch, and the politics of who you're working with, as much as it is what you work on. Fortunately for me, I don't think that's ever going to be an issue, since I'm interested in relatively practical things like, you know, how my work relates to disease. If all funding were suddenly cut off and we had to make our research relate to, you know, Homeland Security, I'd be in trouble for a few minutes, but I've been lucky in the sense that I've managed to get exposure to a lot of different fields. I think it's helped rather than hurt me.

But as I've said before, and I'll say again, all other things being supposedly equal- and often BETTER, in industry- I still think it's unconscionable that pharma companies waste nauseating amounts of money on fancy hotels and food and alcohol and fancy lab toys, and pass the cost on to patients. I couldn't live with myself if I had to be part of that, nice benefits and a higher salary notwithstanding.

 
At 9:48 AM, Blogger yes said...

Ms. Ph.D.,

In industry, you pitch your research the same way you describe as doing it in academia. Even use many of the same words. The pitch goes along the lines of "This is interesting becuase it will tell us this which will allow us to do X , which will help a lot of patients"

To the comment on fancy hotels and food and alcohol, I would ask if you have been to any of the conferences I went to as a grad student. Keystone conferences at ski areas? As far as uses of tax payer money, I would make the same arguement as you are making.

I hold to the fact that industry and academia, at the research level, aren't that different. The behavior of the scientists -> not that different. The focus (grants vs. internal funding) a little bit different, but not that much.

The politics you play -> different ways and to different people, but I think academia may have worse politics but only by a hair. Depends on the company I would guess. Either way you have to play them to "get ahead".

I think industry may have the lead for those that don't want to climb the ladder and just stay at the bench. You can keep doing that with decent salary for quite a long time in industry. You can also climb out and become a manager if you like, but we have a lot of people who like the bench and still work at it after 20 years.

Personally, bench work was the part of science I hated (like thinking about it, designing experiments, reading about it, everything....hate doing bench work) so I moved in to business development. I have had this conversation with a lot of friends, many of whom are still post-docs and confronting the exact same thing being discussed here.

At the end of the day - the potential to be happy and unhappy seems about equal in academia and industry. You can be both in both. Depends on who you are and where you work and what you work on and who you work for. Don't think there is any way to generalize that...

With that incredibly wishy washy ending.....

 
At 1:14 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

YFS said...
But as I've said before, and I'll say again, all other things being supposedly equal- and often BETTER, in industry- I still think it's unconscionable that pharma companies waste nauseating amounts of money on fancy hotels and food and alcohol and fancy lab toys, and pass the cost on to patients. I couldn't live with myself if I had to be part of that, nice benefits and a higher salary notwithstanding.


There is a huge amount of largesse in federal and academic research. So it doesn't go to fancy hotels or alcohol. Big deal. At least industry is driven by market forces. It is a delusion to think that academic research is somehow more 'pure' than industrial research. Since you have never been on the other side, you really don't know what you're talking about.

 
At 11:35 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

To yes: how did you go about moving into Biz Dev? I'm in R&D and thinking about getting into something more Business focused.

To Ms. PhD:

Like with many things, there are a lot of false impressions. Don't for a second think that you will be going to all kinds of fancy hotels, and living the high life, not if you're in R&D Biology. All that crap is for VP's. :)

Also in industry, you will work on lots of different things, as projects get cancelled. There is freedom in academia as long as you can get funding for what you want to study, as has been pointed out.

Anyway, I wish you the best of luck in your endeavour. The chips are stacked against you (at least for being female), but you sound like you're determined enough to make it.

ADude

 

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