postdoc disparity

Tue Aug 12 12:19:49 EST 1997

Where you are DOES make a difference.  I orginally come from the Boston 
area.  A 1 bedroom apartment, in a dangerous area of Boston, is going to 
cost you AT LEAST $500 a month, plus utilities.  Here in College 
Station, you can get a two bedroom apt in a gated complex, complete with 
pool, hot tub, cable TV and exercise equipment for the same moeny.  
There's a recent grad of our lab who rented a full utilities one bedroom 
apartment for the princely sum of $75 amonth.  Try finding a room in 
Boston for that!  And having payed both heat bills in Vermont and AC in 
Texas, it's much cheaper to air condition a 3 bedroom house than heat a 
1 bedroom apt (over $1000 a year cheaper) because of the exceedingly low 
electricity rates in the South.  Of course, if you want culture, I'd 
choose Boston anyday, but that's an inate bias of my upbringing.

The point is, while $17,000 a year is fine here in TX (it's nice to know 
that a PhD gets you make a few thousand more a year than the lab 
technician who graduated with a BS in June :), it's probably equivalent 
to 30K in DC.  But if you live in Boston, New York, California, to name 
a few, you'd probably need the 30K, and an NIH postdoc is going to 

Idea?  The military has a housing cost index for each base, so that 
while the housing cost allowance for being stationed at different bases 
is different, it's always the same % of the actual cost of finding a 
place to live in the area.  This makes it fair for everyone.  How about 
the same kind of thing for federal grants that fund post-docs?

It sounds very noble to say we all do science for the love of it, but 
sending two kids to college this year has brought me up against the 
harsh reality that bills have to be paid, so I don't feel I'm not a true 
scientist because I care about feeding my family.  (Many would and have 
argued that if I REALLY cared about feeding my family, I wouldn't be in 
this line of work.  Sometimes I think they have a point.

 I've never met a post-doc who lived extravegantly, or a junior 
professor at a small institution, for that matter.  If you get in bills 
over your head trying to live as a post-doc the present average of 4 
years or so, you're not going to get out with the paycheck you make on 
your first job.  Why are we afraid to say our work is worth more?  
Lawyers and doctors don't have problems asking for more money-why do 
academic scientists, especially women?  Are we so happy to be at the 
party that we don't dare stir things up by asking for a living wage?

I apologize in advance if this post is a bit inflammatory, but I'm in 
one of those moods...manybe it'll spur discussion!

Julia Frugoli
Dartmouth College

visiting grad student at
Texas A&M University
Department of Biological Sciences
College Station, TX 77843
FAX 409-847-8805

"Evil is best defined as militant ignorance."
																										Dr. M. Scott Peck

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