Shortage of biologists?! Need YSN contact for protest.

frist at ccu.umanitoba.ca frist at ccu.umanitoba.ca
Tue May 25 12:11:12 EST 1993


In article <C7DyDM.2LE at murdoch.acc.Virginia.EDU> wrp at cyclops.micr.Virginia.EDU (Bill Pearson) writes:
>	At least at the University of Virginia, this statement is
>simply not true. Most of the bioscience graduate programs here have a
>difficult time attracting as many qualified domestic graduate students
>as they would like.  There is no shortage of foreign students.  The
>departments I am familiar with make offers to every domestic student
>that they think would successfully complete the first year course
>work.  We sometimes find that we have been over optimistic, and some
>of these students leave after the first year.
>
>	There is a severe shortage of qualified domestic graduate
>applicants.  It is my impression, although I do not have as much hard
>data, that there is also a shortage of post-doctoral candidates who
>are perceived to be good enough to be likely to be hired as an
>Assistant Professor at a research university after 4 years or so.
>Certainly I have not heard of many successful graduate students who
>have had much difficulty getting several offers for good - usually
>funded - post-doctoral positions.
>
>Bill Pearson
>

Same here in Canada. The vast majority of student applications that come
across my desk are from foreign students. I get the impression that
in the U.S. and Canada, the best students head to medical school, vet
school, dental school, law school, business school... anywhere but
basic research. If we didn't have foreign students in the applicant
pool, we'd be in big trouble.

I'm not even sure that expected income is the big issue. In molecular
biology, there are more jobs in industry, and the pay is far better,
than in academia. I think the real thing that keeps students out of
science is that it is perceived as being boring. Science, like music or
art, demands a certain amount of knowledge and understanding to really be
appreciated. Compared to music or art, science is much harder to make
'accessible'. The dumbing down of science curricula in schools has 
contributed to this problem. Rather than bringing students up to the
level needed to really appreciate science (or art or music, for that
mattera) the focus is to make things accessible and interesting. There's
nothing that says you have to be boring, but in making things interesting,
you must not eliminate substance.

At the risk of instigating a flame war, I might dub this 'Macintoshization'. 
If it isn't neatly packaged, if the answers don't just jump out at you,
if, God forbid, you have to do some work to understand it, then it's not
worth doing. I am not against efforts to make science more palatable - 
I applaud them. At the same time, it seems to me that overcomming the
aversion of students to science, ultimately, requires a learning
environment that motivates students to stick with things that are
inherently hard to do and difficult to understand. This is the most
important intellectual hurdle that we should be preparing students to
face: that knowledge is only gained at the expense of a great deal of
effort and perseverence. 

While such a statement seems to go against human nature, one need only look
to high school athletics to see endless examples of students motivated
enough to put up with a lot of pain and hard work to achieve a goal.
           
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Brian Fristensky                | 
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frist at ccu.umanitoba.ca          |  
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