Excerpts that resounded from the post “Goodbye academia, I get a life.

“Every scientist goes on to do science for a single reason: the love of science. Science doesn’t make you rich, it doesn’t make you famous (can you tell me the last 5 Nobel Prizes for chemistry without looking on Wikipedia? I can’t either) and doesn’t make you comfortable. The only sane reason for starting to do science is the dispassionate love of science itself.”

I’ve also read how this is a scam in the way that the system pits scientists against one another, often for less than stellar work conditions.

“The first is going for the sky: doing great science in a first-class place, make a great curriculum and look for a tenured position in the end. The problem is that a lot of clever people want to go for the sky, and there is much more people who want the sky compared to the available positions…

Top level science requires also an absolutely mind-boggling determination and, overall, confidence in yourself. To properly do science you must be absolutely sure that, whatever you have in mind, you will do it, no matter what, and that you’re doing it right, to the point of almost self-delusion… Combined with the above, this means working 24/7, basically leaving behind everything in your life, without any doubt on your skills and abilities and most importantly on your project, while fencing off a competition of equally tough, confident and skilled guys.”

Statistics say this is true. The fact that there is an overabundance of academics has been seen in engineering, by the National Science Foundation, in the UKhumanitiesglobally, etc. This has resulted in more efforts to counsel PhDs in alternate career paths, even going so far as to actively promote leaving academia. (Although I’ve never even considered science to be like class warfare.) Life sciences, and particularly my field, biology, does not have the best ratio of jobs to graduates.

“There is a second option, which is bare survival. You go from postdoc to postdoc, perhaps end up as a long-term researcher somewhere in some tiny university or irrelevant research center and basically spend your time with a low pay, working on boring projects, crippled by lack of funding and without any hope of a reasonable career (because the career path is taken over by the hawks above described), nor any hope of stability in your life.”

This is the more likely reality of the two options he presents. Neither is something that most 9-5 employees tend to face upon entering the workforce. Even highly qualified individuals will be put off by the ‘rat race’ cycle of grants-teaching-research that never ends.

I like to think that people who leave academia to do something else are almost invariably much happier than before. I’ve seen enough psychological detriment (and physical and emotional health along with that) in graduate school to believe it isn’t impossible to be happier elsewhere. Just observations. Another great article about the conflict between being a scientist and doing good science, and being a scientist vs. academic. And for some humor, BuzzFeed provides.



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