PhD and career (fwd)

Alexander Berezin berezin at MCMAIL.CIS.MCMASTER.CA
Fri Sep 15 13:53:57 EST 1995

--------- Forwarded message ----------
Date: 15 Sep 1995 17:31:28 GMT
From: Jim Astwood <jdastw at>
To: biocan at
Subject: Re: PhD and career

> On 11 Sep 1995, Patrick R. Jones wrote:
> > I am a undergraduate student in biology.  Some day I hope to go to
> > graduate school in biochemistry.   Please help!!!  I know that
> > somebody out there knows of something I could do.

> Alex replies:
> The first step you need to do is to trash the belief
> that the graduate degree (especially, PhD) is a good
> ticket for the future. Certainly, not at this age and time.

Alex et al,

I have followed some of this thread with interest.  Alex is essentially
correct about the exploitation of PhD students (and postdocs) in Academic
science.  In some countries, like the UK, exploitation even extends to
technical staff of Universities (see August 31 issue of 'Nature' where Ehan
Masood reports that "Lord's report criticizes underclass status of UK
contract researcers.")  Conditions are essentially the same in Canada and
the US as far as technical staff go.  It is also true that students
invariably are lead down the garden path by their supervisors so that a "3
year PhD" program is non-existant at most institutions and really tallies
out to 4, 5 and 6 years.  Of course, scholarships also run out at 3 years
causing undue financial pain on the victim (student).  I have advocated
that one of the key measuring sticks for a successful graduate program is
to measure "time" in the program.  The effect is to give "poor" ratings to
schools where the PhD takes longer than the funding supply.  I suspect most
US and Canadian Univerisity departments rate as "poor", but there are some
which are better.  It is my impression, for example, that UK schools are
much more sucessful in keeping the length-of-stay shorter, with no apparent
loss in quality.

As for the prospective graduate student, Patrick Jones, intelligent people
can make choices based on a variety of information sources, and Alex is
only providing one collection of essential facts, like them or not, and
Jones will doubtless assimilate other sources in his decision.  

As for the folks that have vocally "unsubscribed" to this newsgroup out of
embarassement or otherwise,  I suspect they all have tenure (Alex, I am
still working on some productivity and personnel retention stats in
industy-style research for our earlier discussion "Tenure blocks progress"
of a few months back).


James D. Astwood, PhD
Monsanto Company          
St. Louis. MO
E-Mail: jdastw at

More information about the Bioforum mailing list