Decision about my career: Research or Writing?

wind_4ever tonyhocc at
Thu Apr 15 00:31:52 EST 2004

I am a undergrad student planning to go on to research in Neuroscience, but
i have doubt about the prospect of an researcher ani shared the same view
ascqueberel here. I think this clear things up a bit. Thankx.


"cqueberel" <chebych at> wrote in message
news:cb361173.0404130235.708fc8d at
> Right now I am working on my master thesis in the field of
> neuroscience here in Austria. I spent the last years studying
> neurobiology with a focus on electrophysiology, microscopy and
> analytical chemistry. My studies were mostly fueled by the desire to
> do research, in the belief that extracting and creating knowledge
> about the physical aspects of life in general and the human mind in
> particular would help me to support some kind of CHANGE. Be it a
> heightened understanding of ourselves, improving communication, or
> easing the maladies of humankind. I also grew familiar with the
> rewards scientific research has to offer: Browsing through literature,
> formulating a new hypothesis and maybe proofing it to be valid with an
> experiment definitly has its exciting sides.
> But things have changed a bit since I am working on my master thesis.
> I'm looking at my co-workers (PhD students, PhDs, the head of the
> department) and I get doubts whether I would like to be in the place
> of any of them. I look at the publications an AVERAGE SCIENTIST writes
> over his lifetime - and wonder if such a collection of texts would be
> satisfactory as a lifetime achievement. It seems that most stumble
> into a narrow niche and stay there for decades. I realize that the
> world of the life sciences is highly competitive, and that I would
> probably be not much better than this AVERAGE SCIENTIST.
> And I realize that I would probably have to run after an adequate job
> from here to there, from country to country, hunting for publications,
> or otherwise my career would suffer. That is one of the major
> deterrents: A very risky career and the feeling of being pushed around
> (commonly called 'mobility', as if that would be an end in itself).
> And so I am looking for alternatives. After some time of despair and
> considering something completely different (and quite unrealistic,
> like becoming a musician to make a living), I have found a synthesis
> of my former education and my longing to do something more creative,
> agile and rewarding than research: Being a scientific writer /
> journalist.
> With that idea in mind, the picture of my future life has regained
> colour and perspectives. Independence of expensive lab equipment, no
> need to narrow my interests on a special field or technique, gaining
> knowledge that also has some value outside academia - refreshing!
> Suddenly I realize that publishing, networking, organizing people
> could also be an adequate way of promoting CHANGE, maybe even more
> ego-caressing than anything else (and, all idealism aside, isn't that
> what we all want?).
> So I have to choose which direction I should take. Definitly I will
> try to build skills in media - production (autodidactic) and probably
> attend a postgraduate course in science journalism (on weekends,
> evenings). Those skills are advantageous, no matter which route I
> decide to take.
> Should I hold on to my career in research and pursue a PhD in
> neuroscience, doing labwork for 3 or 4 years? Maybe research IS my
> passion, and I am just biased by my recent frustrations. But somehow I
> fear that all this labwork would make me dumber instead of smarter,
> actually.
> Should I choose a more writing/philosophy - oriented PhD that probably
> would not be paid, but could yield a publishable book that appeals to
> a larger audience?
> Or should I abandon my plans on becoming a PhD altogether and try to
> find a job as fast as possible? What if a lot of scientists stuck in
> the current jobmarket-glut have the same idea?
> I need opinions, yes I do.

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