Outside the US

Joy Frestedt 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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