where is everyone/PhD and education

bb02 at Lehigh.EDU bb02 at Lehigh.EDU
Sat Nov 16 08:48:09 EST 1996

In article <Pine.A32.3.95.961114162034.28404B-100000 at homer27.u.washington.edu>,
Sarah Boomer <sarai at u.washington.edu> writes:
>Hi -
>       I agree - this group has been pretty darn quiet!  I, for one, have
>been in the final month before defending my PhD!  It's been a roller
>coaster right down to the bitter end - with one committee member taking my
>thesis apart and the others loving it.  Talk about a complex over what
>"scientific style is."  My oh my.  But I've appeased everyone and am set
>to go the 27th of November (Yipee)
>       I liked one of the poster's ideas about a names and interest
>discussion but I, for one, am a floater... when I finish, I don't have a
>job.  I decided over the last year that a post-doc wouldn't do anything
>for me because what I really love the most has always been teaching.  So -
>I am going back for my masters in education!  Anyone out there with a PhD
>done that?  In my local networking, I have found three people who have
>done it but I'm always looking for more stories.
>       As for where I came from and so on:  I fell in love with science
>in junior high (had a neat woman who - unbeknownst to me at the time -
>taught all this advanced DNA stuff) and have kept with it.  I made the
>for-better-or-worse decision of attending a small liberal arts college. At
>the time, I thought I would pursue medicine but my experience there lead
>me to aspire to want to be a professor.  I worked with an excellent woman
>boss and did a really neat research project and Honors thesis on novel hot
>spring bacteria from Yellowstone National Park.  The school, though,
>wasn't up on molecular techniques, something I yearned for ever since
>hearing about DNA in junior high.  I really wanted to do phylogenetic
>analysis on my "bugs" but there just wasn't the means.
>       So - with great encouragement from my boss, I went for my PhD,
>choosing UW Microbiology, most of which is quite
>molecular-biology-dominated.  I chose to work with a new woman studying
>AIDS-like viruses.  Part of it was her evolutionary bend;  part was the
>techniques I could FINALLY learn;  part, certainly, was the chance to
>continue working for a strong woman role model.  I struggled a fair bit
>here and there but my boss and I have always had an excellent
>relationship.  It's taken me seven years, which is a little longer than
>projected but I have been mostly satisfied with the successes I have had,
>the failures I have endured, and the flexibility and freedoms I have been
>       My job searching began two years ago when I started approaching
>people for post-docs.  I had about three regulars who lead me on and on
>and on, only to finally decide there was no money.  I wrote several dozen
>letters only to have a few people write back - and then it was always no
>money, no money.  Two years of this really broke my spirit and I simply
>became tired of playing this game - the game where you never get anything
>written down and PIs hedge and hedge and hedge.  I watched a few brilliant
>colleagues get royally screwed by future bosses who promised them the
>world verbally only to back out and I came to the opinion that this wasn't
>for me.
>       I even turned down a recent post-doc from a collaborator because,
>at this point, I have become so burnt out and I have decided that I would
>do better to retrain for a defined year than to move from here to kingdom
>come for god knows how long and then face more of the same.
>       The whole last year, I applied to more than three dozen small
>schools - small four years and community colleges up and down the west
>coast.  Every single one was a rejection.  My teaching record has been
>excellent compared to most grad. students because my boss has sent me out
>to guest lecture every chance I have at local community colleges as well
>as filling in for instructors at UW.  Totalled, I have three lab assistant
>equivalent years and more than two dozen "guest lectureships." My evals
>are great and everyone knows that is what I love and am tops at.  The
>problem I have been told by all the teaching/reject jobs is (a) I don't
>have obvious experience running a whole course or a teaching
>certificate/coursework equivalent and (b)  nearly every position I applied
>for had 100-300 applicants, most PhDs.
>       Knowing this, I felt painted into a corner - faced with the
>decision to choose an academic path or not.  Given what I know I am good
>at and the fact that I have decided to remain living in the northwest, I
>am jumping off the track.  It was very satisfying to make that decision
>finally, in the face of a boss who continues to try and sway me otherwise.
>I hooked up with an advisor in education and two local highschool teachers
>and begin volunteer work and night classes in January.  One of the most
>refreshing things I was mentored by my new advisor to do was to go to a
>science teachers conference.  Wow - what a great thing.  I even met one of
>my former students who has gone on to a successful career teaching
>highschool!  I'll be going to talk to her kids about AIDS in the next
>month! I also went to a general meeting on the ed. program and was
>flabbergasted when the director said that they will only take as many
>students as the market will hold.  I was, like, gee - that's so novel
>compared to graduate programs!!!
>       I'd love to hear from others on this one.  My experience these
>last two years trying to find an academic career has been very depressing.
>I have watched friends dropping left and right, changing gears, going to
>lawschool - you name it.  Many have been post-docs for upwards of five
>years, unable to get a job in academics.
>       I hope that the training of PhDs grinds down a whole lot because,
>as an aging student, I think it is sad to face more and more and more
>education and uncertainty.  I hope that more PhD programs, at the very
>least, will incorporate better general job training into their curricula -
>whether it is more teaching experience and coursework or more industry
>partnerships or just holding job fairs that stress that there is more to
>jobs than academics.  I did some statistics in our dept. on
>job placement for PhDs and it was staggering that less than 20% really
>wind up in "traditional" tenure type positions at even small universities.
>I didn't do a gender-based breakdown but I strongly suspect women are
>still falling out faster than men.
>       Good luck to all - whatever path you find yourself walkin'!
>       Sarah
> !!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
>Sarah Boomer                           email:  sarai at u.washington.edu
>Dept. of Microbiology                  work phone:  543-3376
>Box 357242                             work FAX:  543-3376
>University of Washington
>Seattle, WA  98195
>personal homepage:
>Responding to Sarah Boomer who's doing a Masters for teaching after a long
haul for a Ph.D. - I read with interest your long posting about your career to
date in science.  I expect a lot of us who derive pleasure from studying
biology have taken for granted that continued study through the Ph.D. is the
thing to do.  If we're good students and like the excitement of the research
too, why not.  But then what do we do when faced with a zillion applicants who
are trying for all the positions that we try for.

The crazy thing is that while we have studied too much science, the members of
our society as a whole are not understanding science enough.  Supposedly,
scientific illiterates abound.

So I wish you great success.  Perhaps you can attend to the amelioration of
the problem of scientific illiteracy in general.

Barbara Benson
bb02 at lehigh.edu or bnbenson at cedarcrest.edu

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