CANADIAN BRAIN DRAIN (Articlel from Reuters)

rkmorto at rkmorto at
Fri Mar 27 00:41:32 EST 1998

Many years ago, I found out the key to making it good.

Everybody makes their own deal.

If you're a scientist who pines for doing basic research and
development, then you have three choices:

[1] You can make darned sure you're in one of the "growth" fields. This
is probably the most fortunate way, because you have some entity with
deep pockets (preferably governmental) to pay the bills for you to
wander off, with the starry-eyed gaze of the seeker. Considering how
much time and financial resources most of us have sunk into our
education, you better darned well be able to see into the future to see
if the field will be alive as long in your working life that you want to
work.  Not easy.  I once was here, but my perch got shot out from under
me when the world decided it didn't need anywhere as many nuclear
weapons or nuclear power plants or nuclear submarines or plutonium, and
I promptly found myself working as a butt-wiper in a nursing home at one
fifth my former salary, and was happy to get that.

[2] Make sure your field is positioned such that you can choose from a
variety of marketable positions.  This one's a little easier than [1]
above, and a helluva lot more secure!  Make yourself enough of a
generalist that you can QUICKLY adapt to the needs of a particular job. 
For instance, if you're a physicist, do networking in power industries,
weapons programs, ANYTHING that is thriving and making money and even
remotely MIGHT be able to use your talents.  Use every possible
opportunity to get and document training in any kind of marketable task
you can, especially if you can get someone else to pick up the freight
for it! It might not be a task you really love, or even like, but if it
puts food on your table, shut your mouth and get the training, even if
you feel you should be the one teaching the course.  The documentation
proves that you are teachable, and willing to apply yourself towards
tangible, real life goals. Sure, any physicist would be able to explain
scintillation detectors, and even might be able to do a masterful job of
working with and designing them, but if you have several applicants and
one of them has a 300 hour documented training class in operation and
maintenance of the WhizBang Scintellatron 3200-D model, guess which one
I'm going to hire if I'm concerned about the bucks I lay out for a
9-month project?

[3] Do something else and fund your own damned research.  If you have
any non-related marketable skill, or have the good sense to develop
some, do so.  The job may not be anything like what you want to do, but
that's why they pay you every two weeks, because they can't get someone
to do it for free. Duh. Heck, do real estate, taxes, software
development, car painting, mechanic work, sell stuff, whatever. That's
what I do. When I worked chasing the nuclear genie, I also learned a
thing or two about computers, primitive though they were. When the big
flop hit the nuclear industry, I had to scramble. I had developed a
strong interest in health care, and had, in my parallel career path, had
gone through some work in pursuit of a doctorate. I was able to
challenge a state board in a nursing discipline, and got to go work as a
butt-wiper in the nursing home. It at least let me work while I
continued my studies.  After graduation, I continued in the field,
because I no longer had the resources to set up a nice, comfortable
private practice like I wanted. So.... I continued working and doing
research.  I started a very small private consulting practice, and see a
few patients a week. Later, I was recruited and trained to do software
tech support.  I like computers, and it's a lot of fun, and provides a
steady income.  I recently completed a second doctorate, and am now
working to expand my practice.  Now, I can do tech support from my home
when I want to, wear what I want to, and see patients when I want to. I
have the best of both worlds.  I have people offering me positions doing
computer consulting.  Maybe some day I might take one of their jobs, but
right now, I get to have fun, do the research I want to, see the
patients I want to see, as well as continue my education and research,
unencumbered by the skewing influences of research grant providers.  I
do what I want to, report what I see, and if people like it, they can
contact me and we'll pursue it further. Sure I'd like to be doing
independently funded nuclear medicine research, but right now I don't
have the funding, or even the combined synergistic talents in that
field.  My nuclear experience was spent making things nowhere as
benevolent as nuclear medicine, and my healthcare background has strayed
(professionally and philosophically) far from nuclear medicine.  Maybe
some day I can manage to combine the two in my case, and at age 40, I
better start scooting if I want to make it before the game is over.

Like I said, everybody makes their own deal.

Richard Morton, N.D., D.R.

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