Graduate Programs

Alexander Berezin berezin at MCMAIL.CIS.MCMASTER.CA
Sat Aug 5 15:46:25 EST 1995

On Sat, 5 Aug 1995, Micheal McCann wrote:

> I have seen this discussion about not getting a Ph.D. because
> of an oversupply
> of Ph.D.s but I have not tossed in my $0.02 until now.  In 
> response to the student who asked about graduate programs, etc.
> I would have to say be sure 
> that science is really what you want to do. Its very 
> important that you enjoy it since it is rather a demanding
> job in terms of time and effort. If you do some becnh work 
> and find that it is really interesting then by all means,
> get into a good graduate program and have fun.
> In response to those have have said "don't do it" I would
> have to say that a person has to do what they enjoy to really
> be satisfied.  I did not enter science to get rich. I did it
> because its fun.  I've had a great deal of fun working at the
> bench and teaching in the classroom and I do not regret my
> descision at all.  If this is what a person really enjoys 
> and wants to do than
> we should not discourage them from it. On the other hand, 
> if money is the motivation than by all means look elsewhere.
> You wont get rich (except in 
> terms of personal satisfaction) doing research. Just my
> two cents.
> Michael McCann, Ph.D.
> Assistant Professor of Biology
> St. Joseph's University
There is a lot of merit in what Dr. McCann is
saying ("do it ONLY if you really love it"), but also 
in those who say "don't do it" and all the arguments
the "do nots" provide.

 The overupply of PhD by a VERY HIGH MARGIN is 
virtually undeniable in (almost) all areas of 
science. Despite that it was cummulating for the
last 20 (if not 30) years it surfaced to the
public eye anly in last 3-5 years. So, now the
problem with many those who are coming
to science from the "I love it" side is that many
of them are not just turned out to be "slightly
disappointed", but more likely will find that
that they are crudely cheated in their 

They came for the love of mysteries of the Universe,
and (usally and unfortunately ONLY AFTER MANY YEARS
[ about 10 in average ]), they realizse that they 
are in the the dirty word of grantsmanship, politiics, 
secretive (with sweetener - "anonymous") peer review
[ which by definition HAS NOTHING TO DO with mysteries
of the Universe ], etc.

Unfortunaetly, when you talk with all these
aspiring boys and girls (and I talk a lot),
there is almost pointless to say this to 
them - they are not yet prepared to absorb
all this (and messages of older people
generally heard poorely).

Therefore, the best I can tell to all of you
(and THIS probably you CAN absorb):

DO TALK to those who are (roughly) 10-12
years older than you. Young enough to 
"make it with you", but old enough to 
find that (often) money back gurantee
turned uncashable.  
Take THEIR words with higher weight. 

(Nonetheless here is 2 references on
the best of old guard):
 Erwin Chargaff "Heracletean Fire" (ca. 1980) 

 John Ziman "Promepheus bound" (1994),

 (and many other excellent books for
 those who wish to hear).

Also a sceptical word on GenEng:

For those who expect to get rich
on genetic engineering, DNA experting
a la O.J.Simpson trial, etc than
(unless YOUR dad or uncle AREADY
runs a MAJOR biotech company, so you
can count on VP package right after
M.Sci.) think of this:

most of it (almost) is going to be
highly automated in the next few years,
more and more fool-proofed, etc.
(even now almost any summer
undergrad can do PUBLISHABLE work in
molecular biology). DE-skilling
of the area (similar to many other
areas) is getting more and more 
obvious. Somewhat similar to what
is now happening in computing :
on the surface it all still booming,
but the first wave of frustrates from
computing is about to show up (some
visionaries see it already).
 GenEng is likely to follow. 

Alex Berezin
Engineering Physics (not GenEng)
McMaster Univ., Hanilton, Ontario.     

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