Random Ramblings about stuff I see going on in biotech, internet and the stuff I read.

Saturday, October 01, 2005

AAAS and "job' direction

So I was just reading through the "next wave" section at AAAS. Specifically this article, as I have been a little facinated by how people make the decision about what to do once they finish their Ph.D. I only decided, really, what I DIDN'T want to do. After that, I was lucky. No other real explanation as to how I got where I am other than blind luck. I certainly didn't have a plan.

SO - with several friends graduating, and the start that I put up to talk about different jobs that you can do with a Ph.D. that no one in grad school told you about, I started looking around. You would be right to point out the absurdity of the order there, and that maybe I should have looked before writing, but you obviously do not know how big my head is! While the size of my head does factor in to this, it is also worth pointing out that if you ask 10 people for the answer you are likely to get 15 answers, as at least 1/2 the people (myself included) will qualify the answer 20 different ways.

My objections to the next wave site, and to the other discussion that I see are as follows.
  • No one lists what the "job choices" are. They all presume you want to work at the bench.
  • It doesn't seem like too many of the industry people writing there have actually been in Inudstry that long.
That said, the chart below (that I borrowed from the next wave article) is an excellent summary of academic vs business lab work.

The first article emphasized that research in industry is:
  • team oriented
  • directed toward a specific market or product end
  • generally faster and less all encompassing
  • company funded
  • more patent than paper oriented

Whereas research in academia is:

  • individualistic
  • generally slower and self directed
  • enquiry-based and all encompassing
  • externally funded
  • paper oriented

In the second article, I talked about some of the more personal aspects of the choice between academia and industry, including:
  • your personal values (preferred work habits, rewards of work, forms of advancement, social values)
  • what kinds of questions you want to address with your research (nature-based or practical)
  • assessing your research skills base (what skills do you have already, and what skills do you still need to acquire?)
  • assessing people skills (yours and theirs)

And in this article, I've given you an idea of some of the important practical considerations for landing a job in either arena:
  • publishing record
  • your job network (size, strength, and appropriate focus for the career of interest)
  • the little things (communication styles, reward systems, work habits)
...and I can't get the links in the quoted text to work like the original here, so you have to go there and click on them. The point is that the summary table is really good.

My point is that there is far more to life, and the knowledge that you have from spending those years at the bench, than just doing bench work.

I hated/hate bench work, and I love thinking about science. I am free of the bench work, and knee deep in science and happy. Your milage may/will/should differ based on preference/personality. I will always say, however, that people SHOULD, be aware of the choices they have. Hating the bench shouldn't force you from science! Unfortunatly, I know it is.

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