Cont.- Are there Jobs for Biologists?

Alexander Berezin berezin at MCMAIL.CIS.MCMASTER.CA
Thu Jan 2 13:23:53 EST 1997


On Thu, 2 Jan 1997, Michael Stillman wrote:

> pohl at wrote:
> > 
> > Original post: Hi, I'm considering going to school to study biology. i would
> > like to know if there presently are jobs in this field and what is predicted
> > for years to come. Does anyone know of a good website that would be helpful?
> Hi.  One person's opinion:
> There are a decent number of jobs available for biologists at the
> bachelor's
> and master's degree levels (relocations might be in order).  However, if 
> a doctorate program is a possibility, you might consider the following.  
> There is a glut of Ph.D. scientists in many disciplines (especially
> biology 
> and physics).  

> Also, the funding situation is bad and getting worse. 

This requires a comment. Unfortunately, the
funding situation is NOT AS BAD AS IT SHOULD BE.
It should (must) get worse before it can get 
any better.

The root of the present PhD overproduction crises
is preceisly in this: TOO MUCH FREE FLOATING MONEY
for research. Too much grants, too many forms and
brands of them. The result: overfunded, well-granted 
professors have enough money to build up their
research empires, take (or rather "grab") as may
PhD students/postdoces as they can and propel
this spiral further, often to absurdity. More often
than not they don't care what will happen to their
numerous students later. A man who fathers 40 children
is normally seen as a skunk (unless he is a Sultan). 
A professor who produces 40 PhD students is normally
a hero. 

The only way to stop this - is to DRASTICALLY REDDUCE 
research funding to the level when profesors will need
to work THEMSELVES (not just be research contarctors
as they are now), but prevent them from over-building
their research latifundias. 


(There is a quickly growing literature on this

> While
> I think the circulating stories about Ph.D. cab drivers are extreme,
> there
> are many Ph.D. biologists & others who trained for research and/or
> teaching,
> but have ended up working in communications, finance, computers, etc.
> One thing a solid science education should teach you is how to analyze
> and
> solve problems; it should sharpen your thought processes (and despite
> the
> advertised Job Title, everyone hires Problem Solvers).  The ability to
> analyze 
> a situation and come up with several possible solutions will be valued
> by 
> employers across disciplines.
> Above all, do what you *enjoy* doing.  The bleak outlook/reality for
> biologists
> at certain levels can't endure forever.  

> Take that postdoctorate
> fellowship for 
> $19,000 if you really love the work.  

Fine. But those who take postodcs position
please clearly realize that you are very likely
going to be research slaves which means, 
among other things that:

(1) if YOU really hit on something (or God forbid, 
discover), it is more 
than likely than not that YOUR input will be 
downplayed (or even completely deleted) and seniors 
will take credit for YOUR discovery. You have 
very little means to defend yourself. You may not
even quite notice it before it's too late. There some
cases of this been reported recently, but what was 
reported is just a tiny tip on a huge iceberg. 

(2) You have a good chance of remain an
eternal posdtoc, perhaps even retifre 
as postdoc. I personaly know people
in their late 50s who are "still" posdocs
(no benefits, often no pension plan, 
no security, only "the joy of science".

Unless you are independently wealthy, of
course - THEN it is OK to take postdoc.
But I have yet to see a single case of this. 

And for God sake please talk to as many other 
postocs as you can find, especially those who 
are in this status for 5-10 years (NOT difficult
to find now).

> Just do yourself a favor and
> realize that
> your training as a scientist can give you skills that may be more
> broadly based
> that you've thought.

Agree with this. I know PhD in theoretical astrophysics
who recently got 100+ K$ positions in investment company. 
Seems to be working well. 


> Good luck,
> Mike
> ==========================================================================
> Michael J. Stillman, Ph.D.
> DendWrite Communications
> "Medical Writing, Editing, and Website Development Services"
> 33 Dinsmore Avenue, Suite 602
> Framingham, MA  01702
> Tel/Fax: 508.875.7782

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