Outside the US
frest001 at MAROON.TC.UMN.EDU
Sat Feb 17 13:58:11 EST 1996
WOW, as a woman doing the molecular biology thing in the US, I find
Sarah's description of the European doctorate fascinating. Do
listeners from other countries have info about this topic (or
additions/corrections to our understanding of the situation in Britain
and the US)? Sarah mentions that the PhD is a "3 year degree after
school" - please tell me how many years have you typically been in school
when you reach the "after school" part. Here are a few things about the
US science PhD (at least things I recall from other readings and from my
experience in Minnesota):
The US PhD is awarded to less than 0.5% of the population
After 12 years of school and 4 years of college (specializing in one
field) the typical PhD in the US studies an additional 1-3 years in
coursework and classes (seminars and workshops and journal clubs)
which are specific to their field of research. Students are selected
for the college and then later PhD programs at about the top 1-50% of
applicants (depending on where you apply, etc.)
In addition to coursework, a US PhD (in the sciences) typically has a
"workload" to earn pay either as a Teaching Assistant or a Research
Assistant (at least this is true in MN).
After the coursework is completed, most programs I am familiar with (at
least in the sciences) require completion of a written exam.
Then a 1-2 year preliminary data generating stage.
Then an oral exam (often a defense of the thesis proposal).
Then 1-3 additional years of bench work with publications.
Then write up PhD thesis and defend.
The average time to completion in my program has been 3 (if you are a male
student) to 7 years.
I know the European system produces some of the best scientists in the
world and I support the idea of keeping science "less stressful" - but I
don't know about restricting access to the PhD track and being "more
selective". I think many people have lots to offer science, especially
elementary teachers. A trend I am seeing in the US is to get more PhDs
interested in supporting education at the lower levels. Maybe due to our
overproduction of PhDs or perhaps due to the selection of cheap labor (ie.
grad students and post docs) for doing science in this country. I KNOW
for a fact that more women leave science and this hostile difficult track
than men (NOTE: these are bright women and many of them do find better
situations than what they put up with in our system of science).
RE: funding, the MN PhD research assistant gets about $13500.00 a year
for a 50% appointment (meaning the other 100% of your time is devoted to
school and thesis work) and undergrads typically get NOTHING (except the
huge loans Sarah mentioned). This is particularly worse for education (ED
has already pointed this lack of funding out in his posts about students
looking for funding for women undergrads in education) and the arts.
RE: finding a job in mol. biol. I anticipate 1-3 post doctoral
appointments BEFORE I am even a serious contender for the US asst. prof.
slots and then the funding levels at the top 4-10% of all applicants
(regardless of investigator rank - well, sort of...) for government grants
ensures that 96-90% of us will not be funded to do our research. I think
you can see the stress in MY voice.
Anyway Sarah thanks for the info - I hope we can relax more and hear more
of the views from our non-US listeners and lurkers on all topics (even
males if they support _women_ in biology). Your perspective really helps
me to relax and think more about the bigger picture and how nice it must
be. I hope we can help each other with more info and more ideas about how
to fix things that are wrong (or at least survive them) in each of our
----- Forwarded message begins here -----
From: Ms. S.J. Rickard <srickard at hgmp.mrc.ac.uk>
To: womenbio at net.bio.net
Date: Fri, 16 Feb 1996 16:56:34 +0000
Subject: Re: Outside the US
Well, I don't know what the eqivalent of Grad school is here in the UK.
We do a 3 year degree after school and I think that British Universities
are far more selective than US ones, in that only a small % of people
actually get in (although the government (spit) have increased numbers in
the past few years). It used to be 2-4% of the population, now it is more
as they have expanded the system. The British degree is "harder" than a US
degree to my knowledge which is why a British Phd takes only 3 years.
British Phds don't usually have lectures or seminars as an undergraduate
degree student would, although help is provided, but less formally. A
British Phd must take a minimum of 2 years, but funding is provided for 3
years (a measly sum of around 6,000 pounds a year). Undergraduates
studying for a 3 year degree get a derisory 2,000 pounds a year and have
to take out vast loans, but that's another political story!!!!!
Hmmmmmmm....I think I have outlined the British higher education system
briefly for our American cousins. Speaking from a molecular biology point
of view it is fairly easy to get funding and a place for a Phd if you
have a 2i degree classification in Britain (our classification system
goes something like this: 1st bloody clever/genius 5%, 2i reasonably
clever 30%, 2ii average kind of cleverness 50%, 3rd dim 10%, pass very
dim 5%, Fail lobotomy/dead 5%).
Clear as mud eh!!?????
------ Forwarded message ends here ------
Joy L Frestedt, PhD candidate
Pathobiology program, Lab Med and Path
University of Minnesota Medical School
Box 86 UMHC
Minneapolis, MN 55455
frest001 at maroon.tc.umn.edu
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