Friday, May 07, 2010

Smartening up: who would ever wanna be king?

Got this Coldplay song stuck in my head. Seriously though, it's relevant.

Random tidbits from the trenches: Special Quitting Research Edition!

• Friend is leaving her postdoc, early on. I think it's very smart to get out now. I hope she can find something that pays well, but at least she likes her parents enough that she wouldn't mind living with them if she had to.

• Another friend is planning her escape from grad school, and debating what to do next. Not research, she says. I don't blame her at all, but it's really a waste. She's one of the most talented people I ever worked with.

• Another friend is graduating, and his wife is planning to leave grad school when he defends. They're both planning to look for non-science careers. The husband has been reasonably successful with a supportive advisor, but disheartened nonetheless by some of the things he witnessed going on in the lab (data faking, among other things). The wife has been struggling pretty much from the beginning, with an unsupportive advisor, in an unsupportive graduate program.

• Another friend says she's ready to try applying for industry positions again, but this time plans to go for sales rather than science. She's gotten the impression that despite her PhD and postdoctoral work experience, she can't get a position as a scientist, but she might be able to get something that capitalizes on her science background on paper while mostly utilizing her social skills to do the actual work.

• Wife of another friend is leaving her assistant professor position. Rationalizations include that her husband can make more money in his non-science career, but they'll have to move. Also, she wants to spend more time with their baby. She already took maternity leave; the husband stayed home for a year because he could work from home, but she does lab research. Seems to me that the countries with 9 months-2 years paid maternity leave (e.g. Sweden, Canada) should have a better chance of hanging onto women's careers, but I don't know if that's actually true.

• Another friend just quit a postdoc to take a higher-paying non-science job. Ironically, that same day we learned that a coworker in the same lab was making 20% more salary all along. Why? No particular reason. No fellowships of any kind involved. Just the usual nonsense: nobody checking, nobody talking to each other, nobody negotiating, and nobody getting paid what they're worth.

• Another friend quit a tenure-track position, again due to a two-body problem, and left to go back to school for something different.

Note that this list includes 5 women and 3 men, all with more or less the same number of years in grad school, plus or minus postdoctoral experience.

Anyway it's sad to me because in all of these cases, these are smart, talented people who just feel like it's a dead-end: that no matter how hard they work, achievement is not rewarded, and there's no work-life balance at all.

And this is all happening right now. In a way, it's encouraging to see that people are wising up (yay, wisdom!).

Can't wait to see what happens next month. Tune in to see if we have another edition of Smartening Up!

Or, remind me. Who knows what I'll be doing next month.

Labels: , , , , ,


At 6:38 AM, Blogger MGS said...

Some of the students in my program wonder why they're here and don't really know what to do with themselves. Others are very wrapped up in "the dream" of discovering new knowledge and doing SCIENCE. Do you find that, of the people who leave, more are likely to be of the former sort who feel like it's a dead end, or more of the latter sort, who maybe feel like it was all a big lie?

At 8:56 AM, Blogger Becca said...

Greater maternity leave would be helpful, but probably good childcare support is more helpful if the objective is keeping women in science.
At least if you're like me and think kids SUCK at the beginning (honestly, it was next to impossible to go back to work at 6 weeks in, but not because I wasn't ready to be GONE from the little guy- simply because I felt so lousy. Now, at 8 months old, he's adorable, but the first part with no sleep and all the crying and being a human milk machine... it really sucks). I think it gets harder to leave as they get older, at least to a point. On the other hand, having childcare your kid likes that you can feel good about leaving your kid at, that is affordable... THAT is incredibly valuable.

At 9:07 AM, Blogger Dr.Girlfriend said...

For many years I never questioned my belief that the only the smartest and most driven scientist got a tenure-track positions, and eventually tenure.

I believed industry and alternative careers were for those who simply did not have what it took.

Being competitive by nature, I took longer than most to realize that alternative careers were not just for losers.

In fact, I now suspect some of the best thinkers do not even enter the tenure-track competition.

At 9:14 AM, Blogger Ms.PhD said...

MGS - I think it's 50-50. I know at least as many people who came in with high hopes and prestigious fellowships, who quit in disgust, as ones who had no expectations, who found they enjoyed it and wanted to stay, who also quit.

The ones who came in intending to quit and go to industry - all quit. Eventually. But generally they all had industry experience already, or knew they wanted to have a family and hated the lifestyle, and just wanted the PhD under the (often misguided) assumption that they could get more work with the degree than without.

But many did a postdoc, even if they didn't want to. Because they couldn't find work after grad school.


I'm sure you're right. But I've always said childcare would help EVERYONE stay in science, not just women.

Childcare wouldn't help those women who actually want to be able to spend time with their children while they're little. And it wouldn't help those women who, like you said, have a longer time recovering from delivering, only to struggle with juggling breastfeeding, adjusting to the lack of sleep, etc.

I'd try to be sympathetic, but I don't know how. I can only intellectually guess what it's like. I don't want kids, mostly for the reasons you describe. I come from a long line of women who resented having children, and I don't think it was good for any of us.

And maybe I can ask you this, since you complained about it and because my friends seem to be offended when I try to ask them - I really don't get why women have babies and then complain about breastfeeding when you could use formula (can't you?)?

Based on my reading, I really think a lot of the "benefits" of breastfeeding is just mythology.

But I'm sure someone (maybe you) would be willing to lecture me on the latest round of propaganda, er, I mean, literature, on the subject.

At 11:49 AM, Anonymous g said...

About two years ago, I started to have misgivings about the whole science career. From the beginning, I didn't want to do academia. I knew that it would be tough and I'd have to do specific things and get industry-type experience. I worked in good labs, got fellowships, published papers, networked, etc. I began to worry when the industry people that I was doing informational interviews with seemed worried/over-worked/negative and some even told me this was not worth it. I'd specifically ask what I could do to make myself more marketable, and they'd ramble about working in big labs and luck. Luck?! This isn't a fucking casino. This is my career.

At the end of the day, I divorced my alcoholic and cheating wife, and now I can do whatever I want. I am getting out bench science. I don't yet what I'll do, but it sure as shit won't be a postdoc.

nice blog BTW. I like your edge and bitchiness.

At 12:04 PM, Anonymous amy said...

I am quitting too! Such liberation (although scary as hell). You know, we only get one shot at life. And if we're doing something that makes us miserable and unhappy, then it's time to move on and do something fulfilling. At least, that is what it has come down to for me. The hardest part for me is the fact that I won't be able to practice my "craft" anymore. At least writers and artists can keep doing their thing if they leave academics---if you leave science, you can't do science in your basement in your spare time. That's the part that is the worst for me.

Anyway, to address the breastfeeding issue (I know you directed this question to another commenter), but I will take a stab at it anyway---I don't think she was complaining about breastfeeding as much as mentioning that it's another part of parenthood that requires some effort. I breastfed my son for over 16 months and wouldn't change that for the world. Formula is an option and for some people it works great, but it was not what I preferred. And, although I am willing to concede that there is propaganda out there about most everything, I will also say that it is a scientifically-supported fact that breastmilk promotes the health of baby and mother.

And I um, had to pump in my postdoc advisor's office numerous times---luckily, he was supportive of me, and when the dept would not give me a private office, he gave up his own for 15 min in the middle of the day. I would have been in a bad situation without his support.

At 1:18 PM, Blogger Cloud said...

Your friend looking for sales jobs should look at product management instead, or pre-sales support. In my opinion, those use more of your science skills than a straight sales job does. But of course, the right choice depends on the person (and what is available- no job is forever, after all).

RE: maternity leave/child care/what not and keeping more women in careers. I think it is ridiculous to think that all women will want the same thing, so any system that forces that will be problematic. In some countries with long maternity leaves, there is zero availability of child care for kids under 2, so that forces a long maternity leave women to take them whether they want them or not. My personal ideal is a 6 month leave or a 3 month leave + 3 months part time re-entry. I actually took 3 months each time, with an additional month part time.

The Economist had a reasonable survey of the evidence about this, but from the viewpoint of birth rates, not keeping women in jobs. It was within the last year if you want to try to Google and find it.

On breastfeeding- the evidence of a benefit to the baby is reasonably solid, but the size of the benefit is often overstated (in my opinion). There are also health benefits to the mother. Anecdotally, having recently had to get bloodwork done for an insurance application, I was blown away by my cholesterol numbers. They're always pretty good, but right now they are stellar. The scientist in me wonders if that is because my body is pulling cholesterol to put in breastmilk.

Anyway, I breastfeed because I like it and think it is easier than dealing with formula- even with the pumping I have to do at work. But that is just me.

At 1:36 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

One more to leave! Handing in my PhD thesis in a month and it's bye bye.

I'm rejecting postdoctoral offers even though I have no job offers yet.

I used to love what I do, working 24/7, taking 2-3 days per year off because I loved it, not because I had to. Got a big scholarship in a quite well known Uni but still it's bye bye.

Now, I'm so disgusted that I just can't motivate myself to work even a little bit. Not to mention pay for postdocs is almost as bad as for high school graduates.

It's been some years down drain but I look at the positive side, these are years spent on learning how to deal with a poisonous atmosphere and people who try to use you to push their own agenda.

I don't know if my PhD taught me anything about science, I don't care as I won't be doing much of that. I sure did learn that the corporate job I quit to do it was half as bad and payed twice as good. Also, I realized the "friendly academic environment" is just a myth, I found it much worse than corporate environment.

After dealing with this shit, I have training to deal with any bully that comes my way. This is the really useful part of my training and the only reason I don't regret doing a PhD.

At 2:05 PM, Blogger prodigal academic said...

It is definitely a childcare thing--it sucks to HAVE to leave at 4:55 every night to get the kids (I'd be better off with daycare that opened later, and stayed open later for the same total hours, but that is another issue). I am lucky and have a co-parent, not an assistant. That can't always be predicted in advance.

As for why breastfeed (supposed health benefits to baby aside)?

1. Breastfeeding after pregnancy reduces reproductive cancer risk in the mother (which is higher after pregnancy).

2. It saves thousands of dollars (formula is super-expensive).

3. It is way, way easier than making a bottle in the middle of the night after 3 months or so. It is also way easier than having to travel with bottle making gear, and trying to heat up the bottle while not at home. We did both breast and bottle (and have experience with both) but YMMV.

4. Some kids won't drink from a bottle (like one of mine) no matter what you try. We had complete bottle rejection at 2 days old. Syringe feeding sucks and is really tedious to wean the kid onto another delivery system.

As for why people leave, I don't find your list terribly persuasive. I could make the same list for sib #1 (elementary school teaching), sib #2 (business/MBA stuff), sib in law #1 (law), or sib in law #3 (medicine). Not all professions match lifestyle, even if someone is interested in the subject.

I don't think science/academia/research is without its flaws, but I also don't think it is more "broken" than any other profession in our modern world overflowing with talented, educated people.

At 3:21 PM, Blogger Becca said...

Well, I can only speak for myself.

First, my little guy was partially on formula almost right from the start, and that helped a LOT when it comes to other people taking over some of the feedings. I have trouble imagining anything detrimental (with the possible exception of metabolic syndrome type issues) happening from formula supplementation. My kid is a total chubster, but he's too young to worry about that for now. We'll have to see.

That said, I'm an *immunologist*. There really *are* good reasons to think that no breastmilk wouldn't be an optimal thing before baby makes his own antibodies. Particularly when your kid is too young to get the H1N1 vaccine. Is that type of benefit going to show up statistically in a controlled study? Maybe not (such illnesses are actually quite rare, and of course there are all the confounds because you can't really randomize groups). But the scientific principle of passive immunity is sound.

More importantly, though, I *liked* breastfeeding. At the *very* beginning it REALLY sucks because everything sucks and your body hurts so much. Your breasts are going to be engorged at that phase whether you breastfeed or not; so some of the sucky isn't optional. However, mostly what sucks is that the kid doesn't know what to do through some magic- it takes a lot of practice.
That said, I viewed it as a series of short term commitments, seeing how I was feeling about it, rather than doing it out of some kind of unshakeable faith it was required. By the end of the six weeks of leave, I was enjoying it. For one thing, the oxytocin rush was pretty awesome. It's the same damn chemical in orgasm, afterall. I hope that doesn't sound too creepy, but it helps explain why anyone would bother.
For another thing, if you cosleep it actually can be more pleasant than fixing a bottle. (it's less disruptive to sleepy feel; breastfeeding is highly soporific)
Bottom line- early on, when the kid can't hold up his head, you've got to feed him for 20-40 minutes every 2-3 hours, no matter whether you breastfeed or not. It's a shitton of work with or without formula. Later on, the relative time advantage of formula does increase, but by that point it feels good.

At 4:06 PM, Blogger Kea said...

If we ALL leave, they will WIN! Of course, I have no choice but to leave, since nobody will give me a job, but I am TRYING to stay, even if it kills me.

At 6:32 PM, Blogger Ms.PhD said...

g- I totally agree about casinos. Fuck that.

and welcome! glad you like the blog.

amy - I agree re: can't do science in your basement. I feel the same way and it was part of why I stuck it out for so long, despite being miserable.

Recently I realized you can almost always do science for free, if you know people and they are interested in taking credit for your success in their lab. I'm not sure about the time management aspect of that, though. Hard to imagine how you fit it in while also working full-time at a Real Job doing something else. Weekend Science Warriors?

Cloud - yes, I was deliberately vague about what she is looking for, partly because I'm not sure exactly what the job descriptions are.

Great points re: leave/child care and having options.

Anon 1:36, great that you feel so positive about learning those skills.

I'm just terrified that I'm so used to being abused that I can't even tell a good work situation from a bad one anymore.

Very interesting to hear you say that corporate is better than academented bullying. I am curious to do the experiment myself just to see what it's like (except for the part where I'd have to get up early and wear real clothes every day, ugh).

prodigal - are you sure you don't have it backwards? Because the literature I've seen says that cancer risk is HIGHER in women who have never been pregnant.

I've also been told by a friend who studies breast cancer that if you delve into the details, the benefits of breastfeeding are negligible if your first pregnancy occurs after the age of ~30.

If you want to know why people leave, read the rest of my blog. And most of the comments.


You make a good point about short-term benefits vs. long-term. I can see the short-term benefits, especially against things like H1N1, makes a compelling case. But long-term, I really doubt it helps that much.

re: metabolic syndrome, I don't know that much about it except that it depends on the composition of the formula, and that they're not all the same.


I used to think that they win if we leave. Now I think the only way we'll win is if we leave. In droves. Then they'll have to fund studies to find out why we're leaving. Then they'll overhaul the system.

It won't happen fast enough to help people like us in general.

I do hope you can figure out a way to continue and that also keeps you for starving to death.

At 9:58 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

what bothers me is not so much that so many people feel they must leave, but that once you leave it is near impossible to get back in. It's like, once you're out, you're out for good. Game Over. No second chances. This is what makes many postdocs stay on and drag out their misery. It certainly was the case for me.

At 8:30 AM, Anonymous J said...

I'm the anonymous from 1:36, I'll just mark myself as J to ease responses.

The main reason I have found poisonous corporate environments to be much easier to deal with is that there are more people involved there. Your career doesn't depend on one person. If your director happens to be a bully, there is always the guy above him, to whom you can talk. At the end of the day, you can just switch firms if you can't take any more.

In academia, there is a tendency to cover all senior staff whatever they do, it this fact which magnifies the poisonous atmosphere and lets the bullies go loose. Also in academia "good" jobs are so scarce that switching is rarely an option.

Regarding who wins or loses, I don't see this as a strategy game, I choose what's best for me. If some people consider my career choices as their personal wins, they need to see a doctor.

Also, I don't see it as "they". I have met very good people, sadly a minority, who are on TT or have T, not all of them are pricks. The point is different, in a non TT job, what defense mechanisms are there against the pricks? almost none.

It is also a matter of the general working culture in academia. Professors know very well that there is an issue with postdoc salaries & and the years it takes to get a TT. They could do many things, instead of postdocs, promote fellowships for independent researchers or non TT jobs, which would be very good for career building, but they don't. We could also have some sort of "normal" working conditions, like technicians, I never understood why research scientists get so much less than technicians.

The point is all this happens because it suits them. They no longer have to bother about thinking their on their own, nor bother about being good, all they need to do is get more cheap working labor and more papers will come out of their labs. Papers they haven't even read in many cases, yet still have their name on them. In many cases it also suits their personal (not lab!) finances. In quite a few
cases that I am aware of, a Prof. submitted a patent for something, without actually knowing how to do it and then put postdocs together with grad students to work on it. Their labor, their ideas, his patent. Also the fact that no papers were coming out of it was fine by him, was it even ok with the postdoc & student? At the end of the day, why give up their personal slaves?

At 2:56 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

"For one thing, the oxytocin rush was pretty awesome. It's the same damn chemical in orgasm, afterall. I hope that doesn't sound too creepy, but it helps explain why anyone would bother."

Sorry, but that does sound too creepy. (Now I know one reason why so there are so many girls rush into multiple motherhood with any guys they can find...)

"I used to think that they win if we leave. Now I think the only way we'll win is if we leave. In droves. Then they'll have to fund studies to find out why we're leaving. Then they'll overhaul the system."

The studies will find that we're leaving to have babies...

At 10:40 AM, Blogger RARA AVIS said...

Wow, one the one hand it is nice to know that I am not alone in this- have been debating the "why am doing this" part for a while now- now I just need to muster up what the hell I need to quit (something has been definitely stopping me saying goodbye to science!). Well on the other hand it is sad to see the state of affairs and that nothing much is being done to improve it- I mean who cares if a bunch of post docs or grad students decide to quit-that is their problem, right?!

BTW, love your blog, have been following it for a while, especilly after starting my postdoc last year!

At 4:42 AM, Blogger JaneB said...

you wrote: "...just feel like it's a dead-end: that no matter how hard they work, achievement is not rewarded, and there's no work-life balance at all". That sums up the conversations over the last couple of weeks in the coffee room in my highly-rated research-heavy department... among the faculty.

But also, nearly all of my friends from college - whatever they are doing, academia, lawyers, entrepreneurs, accountants, 'business people' of various shades, teachers, medics - have gone through a phase of 'there is no point the system is killing me my industry chews up talent and spits it out it's unethical and unacceptable', even the ones who've hit success marks (like faculty posts or partnerships or whatever). The only ones who haven't have had long breaks with their children (longer than the legal minimum - and yes, that includes at least 2 men as well as the women). Maybe it's partly an age thing. Or maybe our society, the way things are organised here in the US-imitating UK, IS like that, it just takes time for the gloss and excitement and hope to wear off? And there's always more canoon fodder...

Maybe being in the UK we're just fed up about the election? :-)

At 12:05 PM, Blogger Ms.PhD said...

Anon 9:58 wrote what bothers me is not so much that so many people feel they must leave, but that once you leave it is near impossible to get back in.

This isn't as true as it used to be, but your project will probably be long gone and impossible to reclaim, unless it's something that can crossover to industry and back again (unlikely for most of us). Still, I've seen more and more cases of people going back to academia after stints in industry (of varying lengths).

The main reason I have found poisonous corporate environments to be much easier to deal with is that there are more people involved there. Your career doesn't depend on one person.

This is a major point!

They no longer have to bother about thinking their on their own, nor bother about being good, all they need to do is get more cheap working labor and more papers will come out of their labs.

Sadly, this is more common than anyone wants to admit. Most of the PIs I have worked with seemed to have the enviable position of being able to enjoy the science without having to do the hard part of making things work.

Anon 2:56 wrote Sorry, but that does sound too creepy.

I gotta agree.

But it's very enlightening to know that there is a reason why women don't mind breastfeeding, despite my friends constantly bitching about it. Maybe that's why they suddenly go silent when I ask why they don't switch to formula - they're embarrassed to say "Because I get off on it!" Ha.

RARA AVIS - thanks! and welcome.


But also, nearly all of my friends from college - whatever they are doing, academia, lawyers, entrepreneurs, accountants, 'business people' of various shades, teachers, medics - have gone through a phase of 'there is no point the system is killing me my industry chews up talent and spits it out it's unethical and unacceptable', even the ones who've hit success marks

Wow, I don't know whether to happy or sad or hear that. Most of my friends in other careers seem pretty happy and don't have nearly the same level of scary unethical stories that I and my colleagues have about our times on the battlefront of science.

Or maybe my friends in other careers already grew out of the idea that ethics should matter?

Food for thought.

At 2:39 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

"This isn't as true as it used to be, but your project will probably be long gone and impossible to reclaim, unless it's something that can crossover to industry and back again (unlikely for most of us). Still, I've seen more and more cases of people going back to academia after stints in industry (of varying lengths). "

I agree, I've seen people go back after stints in industry. HOWEVER, because of the above points you mention (your project is gone, you have to start over again), they come back as POSTDOCS because they do have to start all over from scratch. It's like no matter what they had achieved before in theior previous life (being a postdoc the first time round), it doesn't matter anymore, the stint in industry killed your continuity so if you go back to academia you have to start at the bottom again. At least this is what I have observed and it seems very depressing, it's like Groundhog Day.

I guess the exception is if in industry you were lucky enough to be doing R&D in a related area and rose to prominence in your company or in that industry, then you could come back into academia as a TT contender.

At 1:31 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I am fast approaching the end of my first postdoc. I always wanted to be in academia. During grad school did not mind the long hours, never ending work etc. Currently, i have an impossible + micromanager advisor. Nothing is ever good enough and rewards (eg. Reference letters) are hard to come by. The institute i work in has mostly engineers - watching them, soon enough i realized that the work that needs to get done can be done in reasonable working hours AS LONG AS properly and affectively managed. I think this was the beginning of "i should get out" process for me. My advisor disapproves of any social life, hobbies and even responsibilities (such as if your husband is asking you to drop your work to do -------(fill in the blank here w something normal people expect from their partners) than he is not supportive enough! I am not sure if you have guessed by now, my advisor is female. Often speeches such as “ I would like to hire women with children since what they are doing (motherhood + science career) is far greater than just doing science….”esp. during potential postdoc/technician interviews. Along with comments such as; “if you have a baby while postdocing - that is stabbing your lab in the back”. Additionally, there is always the “we are not in this for the money but for the love of science” on matters related to paychecks etc.

I think I started seeing a trend in academia that I am not happy with…The culture of Loooong hours, a life sacrificed etc are concepts people foster to make themselves feel superior. I think the smarter thing to do would be to have reasonable working hours while getting the job done…yes I am fully aware that we all promise unrealistic amounts of work to funding agencies to have money to do our research – not sure how this can change at this point….

Basically, people who remain in academia either have a good number of stars line up (funding, couple of good students early in the tenure track race etc.) or ones that truly can persist in this environment. In my opinion of course! The definition of success changes from person to person. I happen to think, being a well rounded individual with a healthy family life (whatever people choose that to be – children or not) with a positive social standing ( hmm perhaps having friends outside of their department??) as well as a fulfilling career is the best case scenario. I no longer look at people with admiration and respect when they tell me they have not slept for 48 hrs or not taken a weekend off last 6 months…I suspect had they taken the time to reset, their work may have taken less time perhaps with similar or higher quality ( – why do we as scientists ourselves neglect all that research about importance of sleep/rest/breaks that is out there?? ).

So will I leave academia? I used to thing being in it meant that I would be one of the lucky few who gets to do what they love for their job. Now, it looks more like working on whatever is the “hot” topic of the day so you can 1-get money 2-find people to work 3-publish high ranking journals. So, how smart am I if I continue to stay in a set up where I do not get paid a respectful amount (cannot get myself to say “paid well” here), the work hours are endless, having a family is not supported, may result in being jobless around the age of 40 (if fail to get tenure) while I do not even have a retirement plan going? Whenever I think I made my decision, I tear up thinking about all those cool projects I wanted to do once I am out of this non-ideal lab….sigh.

Sorry to have vented all this all over your blog.

At 9:11 AM, Blogger Ms.PhD said...

Anon 2:39,

Actually I was thinking of several people who came back from industry directly into faculty positions.

Anon 1:31,

Don't apologize. You're not alone in feeling this way. And it's good to hear from people who are a little further up the ladder who are willing to be honest that it's not all sunshine and roses.

At 9:40 PM, Blogger Cloud said...

OK, this is not the main point of the post at all, but I have to correct this... breastfeeding doesn't feel anything like an orgasm. It is just the same hormone involved, not the same sensation.

Sorry the biology creeps you out, but I don't really see why it should. Breastfeeding is not even remotely sexual.

When I say I do it because I like it, it is not for a physical feeling. It is for the emotional bonding with my baby. It makes me happy. Except in the middle of the night. Then it makes me tired, but I'm willing to put up with that because overall, the good outweighs the bad.

About the casino thing... pretty much all careers have a huge luck aspect these days. Maybe the difference in science is the feeling that you were promised something different than that? And the refusal of some people who have "made it" to recognize the role luck has played in their success? I don't know.

At 7:01 PM, Blogger Kriss said...

Hi all,
I'm a Social Scientist - please no egg throwing :) - but I can relate to much of what's been said and am grateful for it. I am considering leaving my PhD program before I reach candidacy for various reasons, one of which is that I no longer experience that buzz, that clickin in the brain, that excitement about what I do. Instead I just feel ...crushed. Many of my science colleagues felt the same way, and 90% of them left academia altogether or started over in a different field.

I left once after my MA and I missed academia terribly, so I came back. But none of the reasons I'd left had really changed. And I do worry that leaving screws me over in a way that sticking it out, at least leaves me some security. No to mention the practical concerns of possibly being unemployed for a year --- been there, done that, please oh please let's not repeat.

Anyway, that was a long rambly thing - apologies. Thanks for letting a non-scientist weigh in. An thanks to Anon 1:31, to said much of what I wanted to far more eloquently.

At 10:38 AM, Blogger Ms.PhD said...


Some of us are just kind of creeped out by the idea of being a cow. I just never got the maternal instinct gene. I'm really not into babies.

I think you got it right - all careers have some luck aspect, it's the hypocrisy and the false advertising that are so frustrating in academia.

Kriss -

I don't have anything against social science. At all.

I think if you don't feel the excitement, that's an important factor to consider.

But also consider that most of us get frustrated and bored sometimes with research - sometimes you can plow through that with brute force, and/or you might be able to find a way to solve your problem with a different approach.

Also, think who you can ask for help. Sometimes you just need to talk to other people in your program or department.

I've also written before about how someone gave me advice when I was in grad school: to go read about something a little bit orthogonal to my field (or a lot) and try to remember what I love about learning, and it will carry over into my excitement about my project and why I wanted to do it in the first place. I always found that trick helpful.

(Also, try chanting, I think I can and This too shall pass. )

That stuck feeling is a normal part of research, and I'm glad I can say I think I learned to come to terms with it. I think that was an important life lesson.

Little good that did me, since it's only a tiny part of what gets you a job in academia!

If it's all the other stuff that's giving you doubts- that's basically what this blog is about. I can't tell you what to do. But I definitely know what you mean when you say you feel crushed.

Feel free to ramble here - that's what we do!

At 8:24 PM, Anonymous Lou Dobbs said...



Post a Comment

Links to this post:

Create a Link

<< Home