Shortage of biologists?! Need YSN contact for protest.

Dave Kristofferson kristoff at NET.BIO.NET
Tue May 25 17:56:26 EST 1993

> In article <CMM. at> you write:
> >> 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.
> >
> >I'd take 5 to 1 odds on your first reason instead of the second one.
> >Even industry can't soak up everyone currently, and I still wonder to
> >what extent it is viewed as the consolation prize among up and coming
> >students.  Any professor that is still fostering such an
> >anti-commercial attitude in students is doing them a grave injustice.
> >
> >Dave
> Actually, Dave, you do yourself the injustice here. The question was,
> why are students in North America not going into science? In my answer,
> I included industry in the category 'science' (eg. molecular biology), 
> by pointing out that there were more scientific jobs, and better paying ones,
> in industrial R&D than in academia.   

Yes, but in my first response above the implication was that if one
can't get a job, then the received income (as opposed to the "expected
income") is $0.00 8-).

> To address your question about whether jobs industry are considered
> 'consolation prizes' in academia, I think the answer is no. If your
> goal is specifically to become a university professor, then yes,
> you might have to 'settle' for a job in industry, because the number
> of professorships is small and getting smaller. At the same time, 
> some of the most important work in my field (plant molecular genetics)
> is done at places like Monsanto, Ciba-Geigy, Plant Genetic Systems,
> Calgene, ARCO, Pioneer Hybrid, Agricetus ..., so I wouldn't say that
> most people in the field today consider industrial research to be second
> rate. I don't know what percentage of Ph.D. students aspire to become
> university professors as their first choice. Given the relative scarcity
> of jobs in that niche, it is probably not a realistic goal for many
> students. Scientific research is done in many settings: industry,
> government, private research foundations, and universities, each of which
> have their advangates and disadvantates. Therefore, I don't think that 
> anyone assumes that most Ph.D. students aspire, first and foremost, to that
> one particular niche. 

Everyone that I knew in grad school and postdoc days sure did (but I'm
getting to be a bit of an old fogey in this regards now).  Perhaps we
might hear from some current practitioners 8-).  How many of the
students out there decided to embark on a Ph.D. knowing ahead of time
that they wanted a position in the commercial sector?

> Given that MSc. and Ph.D programs in the sciences in North America are
> seeing declining enrollment of domestic students, and the degrees therefore
> going increasingly to foreign students, it would follow that even
> industry must be feeling some sort of pinch in domestic applicants.
> Can you or someone else in industry tell us whether this is so? If not,
> why not?

Whenever we have had a job opening here at IG (we are NOT hiring right
now, so please, everyone, don't send me resumes), there has been no
shortage of applicants.  We have a bit of a hard time finding the
right skill set because of the interdisciplinary nature of our work,
but it always depresses me a little when I see the number of obviously
skilled and intelligent people applying for jobs.  Despite declining
enrollments, all of the people that have been educated over the last
couple of decades have not rolled over and died - I suspect that many
are working in jobs that they consider suboptimal and would like to
switch.  Given the current recessionary environment, I don't think
that industry can be looked to as a saviour.


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