December 29, 2011

The drum beat continues....

@Brainpicker on twitter pointed me to this This piece in 'The Economist' called 'The Disposoable Ph.D.' that brings up the current statistics on why the current Ph.D. system is truly broken. I have become very aware of this lately. And I know I got into science for the love of it, not the career prospects (though that would be a nice bonus). I also know that as a smart person, it's up to me to carve out my own niche in the world. But the universities that employ Ph.D. students need to be a lot more encouraging of those of us choosing to get out of the academy (I'm on the fence: if I miraculously land an academic job, great. If not, well I'll find my way somewhere else). The apprentice model is gone. We're employees like at any other company and need to be much more free to leave- or pursue something else and not made to feel like we've failed at life for doing so. Consider me a disgruntled academic. And I will be until I can demonstrate I can get a job, I think I won't be fully satisfied. I still love science. I am just not feeling well positioned to transition into something else. Perhaps 2012 will be my year. Despite what the facts seem to say, I do feel more optimistic and looking forward to exploring what's out there. One thing that helps: spending less time in the lab and more time living my life doing things I enjoy. Gotta keep moving forward.

December 17, 2011


I wrote an email into a podcast I listen to. They read it on the air. I turned red when I heard it. I talk to people and often don't want to reveal anything. What am I reading? I read a great book recently called 'The Nerdist Way'. It's about improving my nerdy brain and nerdy life. I didn't want to tell anyone but close friends that. I just did here. I've kept this blog anonymous (somewhat) but I just transferred the profile to my Google+ profile, so my real name will be associated with it now. The Science Careers journalist, David Jensen wrote a column about inflection points in careers that made the point that it's critical to really explore the world to find new opportunities (career or personal life). To do that, you have to put yourself out there to be seen. I'm really trying hard to get comfortable with the notion of being seen and recognized. Like anyone, I like being acknowledged for good work, but I also am much more comfortable under my rock. Partly, getting out into the world makes me anxious. Partly, I don't feel all that confident (though that's changing- see above...I'm putting my name on the blog now- not a huge change since I share this on Twitter and Facebook).

This is the end of the year, so I guess I should make an aspiration for 2012. The big goal is to get out into the world and really explore. The particular goals I have, I'll keep to myself. 2012, to boldly go where no one has gone before....

November 29, 2011

Error! (it's a way of life)

I've been trying to embrace my imperfection lately and I saw this post on Lifehacker today about learning from your mistakes. The whole essay is great but this paragraph really spoke to what my mission lately has been:

"For anyone who never discovers a deeper self-identity, based not on lack of mistakes but on courage, compassionate intelligence, commitment and creativity, life is a scary place made safe only by never getting into trouble, never breaking rules and never taking the risks that their hearts tell them they need to take."

I am trying to get to that deeper self-identity and break the rules and taking the risks my heart tells me to take- rather than ignoring them like I have most of my life. Doing the transition in my 30's when my brain is more frozen in place than it was when I was a teen or in my 20's makes it more difficult I think (if you believe the neuroscience on brain development). At least I'm generating some new neurons (again, thanks neuroscience!). The message in the Lifehacker article dovetails well with the book I recently finished "Being Wrong: Adventures in the Margin of Error" by Kathryn Shculz which gets at some of the same points. Science progresses by people being wrong. So does life, or so I've come to believe now. Previously I was scared to make a mistake, ever. If I did, it said the worst about me. Now, I'm not saying it's not worth trying and doing good work, but starting often requires error until you do get it right. It's about learning. No one just knows how to do something (or they are few and far between!). So rather than feeling terrible that I don't 'just get it' right away, I'm trying to take a learning mindset. I will screw up the first several times, but I will learn and get better. It's a message I never was really exposed to (or wouldn't listen to if I was). Hopefully it's not too little, too late for me. So new perspective. Live. Learn. Laugh. (Love).  

November 21, 2011


This is another post about balance in my life that will probably reveal too much. I am an outlier. I am the 1% in one sense: I'm pretty sure of the people I know, I am in the 1% who is single (and in the 2% of people who have Ph.D.'s- which is supposedly good, though I'm still trying to figure out just why that's the case). My explanation for this has traditionally been that there's something really, really wrong with me; I'm a defective Homo sapiens. I'm the data point you just throw out it's so far out there (yes, I've considered throwing myself out in the past). The last day or two, I've tried to come up with a statistical argument for why being such an outlier isn't such a bad thing. The 'you're a human, have some compassion for yourself!' argument doesn't totally resonate with me. Though my statistical argument will come back to that. 
This may be a case where statistics aren't that informative. Although not being single anymore is something I do want, I'm really trying hard to convince myself even if I don't, it's OK. There's something I can contribute. I try to be a good friend. I donate blood when I can. I mentor and teach and basically try to be a decent person- I'm even doing my best to do good work (naturally). I know, I'm not the sunniest person ever, but if you get beyond my exterior and become a friend of mine, I will take a bullet for you- classic introvert...a few really close friends you'd do whatever you can for. So maybe the outlier statistic (which is undeniable) isn't a real measure of everything- it's not the whole story. I deviate from the mean in all sorts of ways (there are so many things I don't get about social situations where most people I know seem to be naturals). So in one sense, I'm trying to cut myself a break. I am an outlier in that one aspect of my life, but that can change (I hope!- or maybe I should just not care, not caring will make it happen faster, right?). And I guess from my outlier status, I bring my own unique view to things that some people may appreciate. So I guess I'm coming to the 'There's lies, damned lies, and statistics' idea. Stats and science may be (extremely) useful, but it's never a complete picture and really defining the questions you ask is of paramount importance. And my life statistics only give me a partial sense of things. So it may not be a mathematical argument, but a lesson that statistics need to be applied carefully. Humans aren't just numbers (or we are, but they're so complex, no one person can hold and interpret all the data at once to make a coherent picture. 

November 17, 2011

A secret.

I think I've generally been trending toward being more positive about things this last year except in one area; the depressing academic job environment- especially for current generation postdocs and grad students. And I've had a very hard time exploring other career ideas. It might be down to a lack of imagination on my part. But I was driving home today and another thought occurred to me; deep down, could it be that I love being a scientist and doing science (however incompetently) and my angst about my career has everything to do with the fact that I have trouble seeing my future in science? Maybe so. I'm not saying I won't explore other career avenues or that I couldn't be happy doing something else, it just means science is in my DNA (I know that's true of every living thing; science is all about nature!). Chances are, even if I'm not in research science, I'll maintain my AAAS membership for life and voraciously read books and articles about science and work in something science adjacent. It also doesn't mean I don't want to balance my life. I want a good life outside the lab. I think I need to do that for my own sake; I still have a hard time being kind to myself for not working most weeknights (or wasting my time blogging). So I'm doing something I love, even though it's painful in some ways and I don't know if it's sustainable or not. But I feel like I'm turning a bend where I'm willing to experiment a lot more and feel like I'm on a positive trajectory.....not sure where I'll end up. Hopefully the moon or the stars (as an old cliche goes).

November 10, 2011


Maybe it doesn't exist. Maybe it's a fantasy in 2011.  I sometimes wish I had a job where I don't feel guilty for leaving the lab to go home at a usual hour (say a 8am-6pm workday), even when I get there at 8am or even before. The science doesn't take a break- there's always more to do and not just in the abstract sense that no matter what, we as scientists will probably never know everything- always more questions- So why should I? Because I'm human? That doesn't seem sufficient; have I earned a break? I don't think so, no matter what I've gotten done. I know part of this stems from being an early career scientist needing to prove myself worthy and a sense that I need to keep up with everyone else who seems to be working those long hours too. It's sort of a passive aggressive competition to see who can leave last at the end of the day. I know another part is just not having a balanced life too...why leave work when there's nothing exciting waiting at home (I'm working on developing that thing at least)? To be a scientist requires passion for the work and an obsession with it; and it's easy to be that to an unhealthy level (I know I have). I hope it's OK to be a human and a scientist (I sometimes get the sense that it's just absolutely not allowed). Reducing my level of guilt has been a challenge, but I seem to be heading the right direction with it at least...trending downward. It seems to be enabling me to enjoy life and work more. May that continue.

October 30, 2011

Ivory Tower or black hole?

There may not be a good metaphor for academia. Ivory tower is the traditional one with a clear delineation between academia and the rest of the world. Although that may have been apt at one time, it seems today as if academe is more open than ever in some ways, particularly with ties to the private sector and collaborating departments within and between universities. From the inside, from my perspective, it feels less ivory tower and more black hole; nothing escapes, or it rarely does. I know there are people who are post-academics, I just don't know of any to talk to just now about how they got away from the tractor beam that keeps people in academia for their lives. I'm not saying I don't want to be an academic for life (I'm just still not sure I can have a full and balanced life and still be a scientist- I know other people succeed in doing just that, but I am really struggling in that area).  Exploring the alternative options out there in the universe is hard when you're a full time academic. The external pressure to stay is certainly present, but making it even harder is the inner pressure generated from my brain. I was trying to recall tonight the first time I got bitten by the science was a long time ago when I was young, for sure, but I don't remember a specific moment. Maybe I just got pulled in by the gravity of science via teachers I had. I still want to explore other things, but am still a bit stymied at the step of just how to do that. I'm fumbling about clumsily with it a bit, and maybe I'll find out it's not the ivory tower or the black hole and it's just a windowless, dark room and I just needed to grope around to find the doorknob.

October 12, 2011

The beatings will continue until morale improves.

I used to beat myself up all the time. I still do on occasion. Although it may be a viable strategy to run a business (though I doubt that too), it's not way to operate a self. It would all start innocently enough, something would go wrong and it would morph into the idea that I can't do anything and it was easy to find 'evidence' for that hypothesis. Of course, the experiment lacked rigor and didn't have a proper control and no objective measurement. This led to anxiety to trying anything new and of course depression because I didn't feel able to make progress on anything. I finally seem to be coming out of that loop and am actually steadily trying new things and pushing myself to get outside of my admittedly narrow comfort zone. I've noticed that in all areas of my life this last year, the arrows are all pointing up as I do things, often fail, but then try doing them again, but better. It's true in the lab and my work is moving in an interesting direction. My biggest anxiety is that I've broken out of the loop way too late and anything I do now is kind of pointless; like trying to come back from a 3 touch down deficit inside of two minutes in the fourth quarter (maybe I should create a new metaphor). The upside is that at least I feel more like I can be myself around others and not shut myself off from the world. I'm writing this blog, aren't I? Will confessing that depression ground my career and life to a halt for too long make me un-hirable? I don't know. But it is something I feel I'm not alone in and maybe I can serve as an example to other scientists of  to avoid ending up in a deep dark ravine. In climbing out the other side, I have a new perspective and way of thinking that seems much more productive, though I still have a ways to go before I'm enjoying the view from the top of the ledge. So now that my morale has improved, I can stop the beatings and get some real work done while not hiding myself behind the mental walls I had up in my brain.

October 5, 2011


I'm steadily working to produce content. Teaching statements, research statements, figures, manuscripts and other things scientists are supposed to produce. I'm trying to work steadily on that, though I am finding I still have a major mental block in the way. So I'm writing a blog post instead. It's my creative outlet for the evening and one of the few I feel I have generally. I know part of my block is that I don't permit myself to do things- at work or in life. I'm slowly getting to a place where I allow myself to do what I want to do and what will satisfy me, but that's still a work in progress. I'm writing this on the evening that Steve Jobs passed away. I've followed him over the years and he clearly was someone who was bold, took chances and had vision that he brought into existence in the form of Apple. He also seemed to be able to let go and fire on all cylinders. I'm trying to have some small part of that in my own life. So my creativity list: don't be afraid to fail- that's a big one...trial and error work is the way to go. Do things I love; at work and in life away from the lab. And follow my intuition and not go against every feeling I have. Even if getting in touch with that might be difficult. And with this probably incoherent and badly written post, I'm going to bed and tomorrow I continue to work on bringing Ian 2.0 fully to life.

October 3, 2011

What am I doing again?

It's Monday and I made my to-do list for things I want to get done this week and the potential problems that might arise, etc. and I'm still in this place of wondering what it is I'm doing? I know science has the potential to change the world (has before, will again), but sitting at my desk in the lab struggling to do the minute experiments that I hope will lead somewhere, feeling like I've sacrificed having a life to be here (I know it's anathema to many PIs, but someone should tell me it's illegal NOT to have a life outside the lab and I'll get arrested if I don't develop one quickly). At least research seems to be going a better; I just need to find out that there are more possibilities than just the tiny (molecular scale!) universe  I occupy in the lab. I still can't shake the feeling that there's nothing else I could possibly do in life either; despite being fairly intelligent, motivated, willing to learn, I still feel like anyone looking at my resume/CV will just say "molecular plant biologist- I think we'll pass....". Either way, I also feel like to have a shot at anything, I need to publish a paper; the only real sign that you've been productive in academia. I know this is a jumbled post. Chalk it up to being a long Monday and I'm carrying a high level of frustration. I upgraded my LinkedIn account to a "premium" membership for a month, hopefully this will help me network a bit and explore options at least (even if it is futile window shopping at this point). Hopefully that's ending on a hopeful note.

September 29, 2011


Right now I am feeling like I'm in Mirkwood. That's a reference to "The Hobbit", by the way. I feel lost in the woods of postdocdom. I'm feeling my way blindly forward and keep bumping my head and sometimes feel like I'm shouting blindly out hoping someone on a path will hear me and tell me what it's like there. I suppose this is part of feeling like a scientist as this column nicely points out- science is about being productively stupid. So that's what I'm trying to do. It still very much feels like faking it (until I somehow hopefully make it). At least in 'The Hobbit', Bilbo and the dwarves were sort of rescued by elves and made it out of the woods and went on to bigger things....the dragon Smaug. I hope I get there.

August 21, 2011

Summer's nearly gone!

Summer is nearly over and I haven't blogged much, I know. I taught a class which was a good experience that helped me get back in touch with why I got into science in the first place. The Dartmouth biology labs all moved to the new Life Sciences Center which is still being finished. And I am finally starting a job search and have a much more optimistic outlook on things. Research is going better, maybe I'm actually employable- as an academic or somewhere else. I am still struggling to get that work-life balance I want- I think it is really hard for people in creative professions to attain that, but I'm trying hard. I get to celebrate my birthday in 5 days and I'm going to a concert in a few weeks. Hopefully this will turn into some good new experiences this fall.

July 6, 2011

Getting a life as a postdoc.

I've been trying to prioritize a healthier balance between my work and life outside of it- trying to tip it more to the latter. I haven't done brilliantly at this this summer especially since I'm trying to do research, teach a class, supervise an undergrad and the lab is moving to our new building next week. I had a thought the other day, and I hope I'm wrong in this- I don't think I know of a single example of a postdoc who met their spouse while they were a postdoc. I know of plenty of grad students who got married as Ph.D. candidates or did when they became postdocs and I know of professors who've met their significant others as professors. I know it may be because I'm kind of anti-social and just don't know all that many postdocs and maybe it's that a postdoc is a short period of time and then you move on to something else (makes it hard to start/commit to anything, no?). I realize it's a choice and I shouldn't let my job dictate my life outside of the lab. I still have a hard time not feeling like the pressure is to not have a life- you're a postdoc, you should be in the lab. Have kids (I don't- but it is an example)? doesn't matter- get to lab. Need exercise- pipetting is a good enough workout, really. I'm getting better at countering that pressure and saying "NO, it's totally OK to have a life like people in other careers seem easily able to do". At least I'm enjoying the ride more, but I still have my difficult times with trying to balance out my life. Here's hoping I continue to succeed.

June 19, 2011

No guts, no glory.

I give my first college level lecture tomorrow. I'm going to try and put into practice a lot of the teaching/communication techniques and ideas (active learning, personalizing communication with the audience, etc. etc.). I spent some time on the lecture and going through the slides and hopefully I'm not going to be guilty of Powerpoint abuse. I'll do some things on the white board, I'll get participation from the students and hopefully engage them. Of course, I need to make sure I can maintain and make eye contact. I hope it'll come naturally as I just feel confident in what I'm saying and doing. Not looking people in the eye is a bad habit I've been trying to break for a very long time. While I'm going for it in class, I'm trying to do a similar thing in lab and with my career. At least I'm not as inhibited as I have been in the past. So no guts, no glory. Let's go.

June 10, 2011

I don't know.

I don't know how to program a computer. I don't know math as well as I should. I don't speak another language. I don't know a lot. I apparently lack everything needed to succeed in the 21st century in science according to several prominent scientists I've heard speak over the last few years as well as read in various articles/blogs. I suppose, like most people, I'm going to work hard and do my best to get by. It's a little discouraging to keep hearing "molecular biology is over", "only do applied science", "model organisms? Those won't be funded any more", "If you're not doing systems biology, you can't succeed" etc. I know the world's full of these challenges and I'm trying to stay positive about my prospects. At the same time, I've been delaying any sort of gratification- sacrificing a fair bit (life, for instance- what's a weekend? I am not familiar with the concept) to do science. The one good argument for keeping the tenure system around is that scientists have toiled so long and hard, dealt with rejection after rejection after rejection with few positives (when achievements come, it's like they don't matter, you're onto the next thing already and can't take a moment to appreciate them) that when tenure is achieved (seems like a virtual impossibility for me right now), we've earned a break. That doesn't mean I'd get lazy exactly, but certainly things need to get less intense at some point. I know I've said it before but I'll say it again. Science is amazing. The business of science is BRUTAL. I've stopped beating myself up so much for the times I screw up in the lab (everyone does), I am relaxing a bit more and I think it's keeping me more motivated to keep working. But I am still not sure what direction my career is going to take and that's scary to me right now. It's hard for me to see a direction or goal I'm working toward. I guess the best thing I can do is keep learning, trying and never stop exploring. But I don't know.

June 5, 2011

What they think.

One theme I read a few things about today is about what other people will think. This has been a constant struggle for me in my life. It is almost certainly an outgrowth of perfectionism, a trait I think I share with many scientists. I read Anna Quindlen's 1999 commencement speech about putting down the bag of bricks that is trying to live up to what everyone else expects of you. That is a good message for me to hear and it's a change in perspective I am trying to bring to my life. I still care, but I care less about what abstract people who I don't even know might think. So far, the world hasn't ended and I seem to be freer to pursue things that want to because they're people, issues and work I care about. I'm not perfect, but I'm doing the best I can and finally trying to be an actual human being in all my complexity.

June 1, 2011

Basic science doing good.

I saw this article from the Huffington Post posted on lifehacker today and though the content is really interesting and good; Who doesn't want to reduce stress at work? I could definitely stand to stop my stress loops in their tracks more often. I'm a lot better at it than I used to be, but it's still a challenge. Another thing that struck me was just how much basic science went into informing this story. The questions that had to be asked, and answered about human evolution, how the body responds to stress, where we feel stress, that there's a specific part of the brain in charge of the fear/anxiety response and many more. I'm sure it took years to build up that knowledge base, and yet more years to understand the detrimental effects of chronic stress on our bodies and minds- something we didn't necessarily evolve to deal with. None of these questions on their own form a complete picture, but taken together they bring a more complete picture into focus. I'm sure most of the scientists had a vague notion about how their work would help complete the picture of what it is to be human, but probably didn't have Mr. Robinson's complete argument in mind- they just knew stress seemed like it could be a problem and one with interesting biology behind it. My point is that basic (or foundational) research with seemingly no point, starting as a drop of water, can turn into a river when combined with other drops. That's why exploring seemingly arcane hypotheses that are narrowly focused is important for progress in any field. All those basic research discoveries in chemistry, physics and computer science are what's allowing me to type this post in fact. Don't get me wrong, applied research is great too, but only doing applied research is limiting, as is only doing foundational research.

May 29, 2011

The conference

I was at a small conference for the first time in my life last week after only having attended much larger plant society meetings before. Small conferences are much nicer in many ways. The talks were mostly good. The ones that weren't were because they were hard to follow mostly due to ineffective use of Powerpoint. During the poster session I actually talked to quite a few people about my poster, which was good, even though I'm not sure the story I was telling was all that great. It also drove home for me just now far I have to go to establish some sort of career in science. I'll keep working at it, of course, and keep trying to work towards alternatives as well. Onward and upward (I hope). Now it's back to the grind, and hopefully back to more regular and more interesting posts than this one.

May 17, 2011


I'm rushing to put together a poster and it's terrifying in many ways. I'll get something in the space and try to make it look good and all. I know I've been doing this for years, but I am still anxious about showing work in progress or early work...that's probably the perfectionist speaking. But it also speaks to an anxiety I have that everyone else expects me to be perfect too and anything short of that is unacceptable. When I was learning to do science (which I'm still learning), it seemed like the goal was to take the human out of the equation as much as possible. I have a hard time with that idea. Of course there's a part of science that is objective- standardized measures and assays are what we all rely on to interpret the natural world and to invent amazing things. Ideally, there's also an objective interpretation of the data too. But there always will require a critically thinking human brain to give the data meaning. And of course people are who do science...and we screw up sometimes and our experiments are almost all imperfect in some way. We forget facts, we haven't read every single paper on our subject of expertise, we're just doing the best we can (and no, I almost never feel that I ever do enough). I know there are a lot of decent people that practice science, it just seems that we often don't treat each other as humans. Most of my friends who work in the private sector actually take vacations and get things called weekends. I love science, I just hope I don't get posterified at this conference and that it's OK if I'm human.

May 10, 2011


NPR had a story on the other day about researchers who found a much higher prevalence of autism when they looked at every kid in a town in South Korea. One of the big signs was "social awkwardness", another I imagine was obsessiveness and a lack of interest in anything but a narrow band of subjects they were interested in. Hearing this story made me think of a lot of scientists. I'd wager that if the autism spectrum were extended just a little bit, it would catch a lot of Ph.D.'s of the world. I could be totally wrong too, but it does seem to take an obsessive focused mind to be in science, though that does seem to be changing. Now-a-days, Ph.D.'s seem expected to be all things at all programmers, math whizzes, experts in their fields, experts in other fields, knowing how to integrate different fields, create new ones, teach, write well, communicate to the broader public and just generally be an intellectual bad ass. I'm not a great scientist (yet?), but I'm trying to have better habits in work and in life...but the expectations of Ph.D.'s in 2011 seem outsized somehow. I've blamed myself for not measuring up for years...and I can confirm it's no way to live or have a successful career- in any field (it's very de-motivating and soul-crushing). Maybe what I think the expectations are is unrealistic. Now I'm attempting to do the best I can- and do what I can...and give myself some credit for what I DO accomplish.
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May 7, 2011

Not ready for prime time.

I was at the Northeast Section meeting of The ASPB yesterday. I am getting ready to put together a poster for the program directors meeting in Washington in a few weeks. I don't feel any of my data is ready for presentation (even in poster form). I like complete stories, but maybe those don't exist in science. After all, any tested hypothesis brings up more questions, or at least alternate ways to test that hypothesis to see if it's supported. I'm trying to get used to the idea of just putting my work and ideas out in the world (like writing posts like this), but I find it hard to let go of the idea that a complete story would be nice to have. I'm getting used to the idea of having a "building phase" where I just try to find my voice or the solid ideas to base the direction of my research. Hopefully by embracing the uncertainty/chaos of ideas, I'll find my way. Sort of like the way gene expression's noisy, but coherent transcripts pop out and form functional RNAs and proteins.

May 5, 2011


I've been thinking more about being constantly interrupted in lab. It breaks my concentration and it takes time to refocus on a task. It doesn't happen too often at the bench, but often at my desk when I'm trying to concentrate/work through something. As a solution, I think I'm going to try and make signs that let people know if it's OK to bother me or not. Plugging into my iPod hasn't worked so well. Hopefully this will be a successful experiment. I can just point to the sign if someone tries to interrupt, and I avoid feeling like a complete jerk by telling someone I can't talk to them right away, which seems like the expectation when someone is standing there looking impatient.

May 4, 2011

Back after 5 months- and postdocs still have issues.

OK, I've taken way too long off this blog. But I am now determined to do this more than ever as a writing/communication exercise. "Nature" did a whole issue (the news section, at least) and part of their web page to the value of a Ph.D and problems with the system of academia the world over. It is a hard system to be a part of. Though I can feel proud to be a Ph.D. at some level, I can't help but think I'm one of the ones who isn't "worthy" of it. The big issue is that there are too many Ph.D.'s and postdocs, so we're clogging the system and may give it a heart attack sometime soon. Although I know I might be smarter than average (I caught a pretty egregious error in the Washington Post crossword today...), but it does seem like the pressure is to be more perfect (this seems to be a pressure in society generally too). Not only do your own specialized research, but network, learn to be an economist, internet guru, expert communicator, master whole new fields in a single bound! That said, my research is going better lately- which is a welcome change. And I'm slightly more optimistic about my future too, which is also good. Let's hope I continue to feel more positive, despite what seems to be a permanently bleak outlook for a Ph.D.'s the world over. Science is amazing, the business side of it seems to continue to get worse.

Not sure how I did with this post...going to cut myself a slight break since I haven't posted for a long time and I don't write nearly enough.
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January 18, 2011

The future as a postdoc?

I read a report in "Science" the other day talking about the state of the scientific workforce. It was a bleak picture for the most part, particularly with regard to how postdocs are invisible in many ways (this may be improving a little bit). There are too many of us to all get scarce academic jobs (what the current system primarily trains us for), many private companies that might hire us are choosing to hire overseas due to the lower cost of labor. So where does that leave the current generation of postdocs who are highly educated and specialized? To fend for ourselves for the most part. To do the best we can and explore more than just research as a career. I hope the picture will improve, but for now it's stress and pressure (like in many other fields- but typically, we're not paid as much as other professionals). I know there's a drum beat in the United States to train more scientists, engineers and mathematicians. I'm all for a more educated populace and science is amazing for what it provides, but the business side of it is currently not a pretty picture from where I currently sit.