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

Monday, December 11, 2006

Positive about your work....

Over on YoungFemaleScientist she has a post about liking what you do. A couple of points.

1. I can't imagine doing something I didn't like. I invest too much, be they hours, thought, interruption of my personal life...whatever... to not like what I am working on.

2. She points to a difference between men and woman that I don't know what I think of.

She states.
This phrase, "I don't think I can" is something I hear all the time from women, but not so often from men.

That's not to say the men don't feel the same way. But more often what I hear from men who leave academia is that they think the system sucks, not that they wouldn't be good enough, if they wanted to be a professor.
...when it comes to the discussion of men vs. woman who have come over to the dark side. She is pointing out something that she hears woman say about academia and use as a justification of why they left.

My initial response was to call BS, because I am argumentative that way... but I don't know. I know why I left, and I know why some others left, but in speaking with the folks who are on the dark side (small n, but mix of both men and woman) none of them say "I don't think I would have made it". I get a lot of "I don't know why you would try" and that comes from both men and woman. BUT => we are all saying that to each other after we have moved. Sample bias and eleborate self justification all rolled in to one.

So, I don't know. Part of me thinks I could have made it if I wanted to, but since I didn't want to I didn't even try. This is true for me -> if I am not in to it, I will be bad at it. SO, the justification is that I "wasn't in to it" and thus punted to avoid being unhappy.

3. Random note about self flaggelation, discussing one of her friends.
She misses the bench (sound familiar? I've heard this from young PIs before)
Why would these people not flee to industry where you can, if you choose, stay at the bench for a long time and make a really good living doing it? This I will never understand.

News flash: a PhD degree by itself doesn't have magical powers.

Oh yeah. Totally true. Don't know you need to add much to this. A Ph.D. should, if done properly, teach you how to analyze stuff and think for yourself. The rest is up to you.

5. LOVE the competitivness

Statements like
And part of me says, Move over sister, soon it will be my turn!

At the end of the day, I feel we should all like what we are doing. Really love it. I feel that I am worth quite a bit of money per year and that someone should pay me that because I am smart enough to make it pay off for them. I feel that I should be allowed to set priorities for a lot of reasearch groups, and that you should pay me for that. But- most of all- This is what I like doing. I think I am good at all of those things becuase that is what I like doing. I am not doing it becuase someone has set a bar out there that says "this is how you are successful" or "do this to get ahead" -> becuase I think if you are doing it becuase someone else has set a bar that you will be miserable at it and it will haul you down.

If you don't like what you are doing. Change.

sounds so simple....


Bill said...

I actually commented to her post that you are referencing, but so far she hasn't posted it. So just in case she doesn't get around to it, here's a similar version. I totally agree with you. It's not that I don't think I have what it takes to be an academic PI. I just don't want to kill myself in order to do it. The true roadblock is the process itself. To become a PI you must subjugate yourself as a postdoc for at least 5 years (and in most cases longer). Being a postdoc isn't terrible, but to be paid that poorly during a time of life (early-mid thirties) when many people are maximizing their earnings is hardly an enticing prospect. Also, as Ms PhD points out in her blog, the funding situation now for biomed sciences is pretty bad. So lots and lots of people who CAN be academic PIs, aren't, because the old white men who have been there forever are sucking up 90% of the funding.

Another point. The vast majority of people don't love their work. Think of all those people who work their asses off to support their families, at tedious, backbreaking jobs. They don't work because they love it, they work because they have to. Count yourself as one of the very lucky minority who actually loves your job.

yes said...


Totally agree that I am pretty lucky in this regard. However, I think that those of us who have made it to this level do have a bit of control of our careers and thus can be happy. We aren't forced to work on assembly lines and there are people who will pay us. I understand what you are doing now (and trying to do) and you may have to suck it up for another year...but not much longer than that I hope/expect.

I totally (and you know I voted with my feet) understand this desire to actually earn money in our 30's. I wanted a house and a car and a computer to play computer games...need money...

Totally understand about the funding situation, and that is my point. Why fight that fight? Go somewhere they will pay you! I didn't/don't understand the desire to do academic science. Probably never will now that I know better.

...and an advisor we both know sums up that old white guy look pretty well, and he is taking up a lot of grant funding....

yes said...

..and responding to myself.

The old white dudes take up a lot of money. Ms. Ph.D is totally spot on with the connections (I think...) and the NIH budget is flat (real dollars) to declining (inflation adjusted).

SO - your looking at a future of fighting for every scrap while being underpaid and not actually really controlling what you work on...

wonder why I bolted?

Bill said...

At this point the assembly line's looking pretty good.......

Just kidding. In terms of the love your work thing, I guess I'm going on my own personal experience in that the only two people I know who say they totally love their work are you and my brother. He's a CEO and you're a business development dude, hmm I sense a trend here. I certainly enjoy many aspects of what I do, and some days I can't wait to get to work. But those days are not in the majority.