alternative careers for PhDs

Tue Aug 26 10:55:58 EST 1997

This thread certainly came at a good time.  As I set up a postdoc, I've 
been plagued with doubts.  On the one extreme, there are those who say 
that the truely wise will get out of science before they put too much 
into it, and on the other, there are those who say "there will always be 
good jobs for good people, just stay at your bench".  The truth is out 
there, but I don't think it's in either of these extremes.

In any case, after reading all these posts, and in some cases responding 
too hastily to those that hit "hot" buttons, I think I can define my 
thinking about this a little better now.

1) I always thought, like some child of the '60's, that the science 
world would be different when my generation got to be in power.  But 
hearing people, on this newsgroup and in coffee conversations, tell me 
that it was just as bad back in the '70's and look, they survived 
because they ignored it all and just did good science which in the end 
is rewarded (I never hear the people who drop out say "well, I did bad 
science" :)), makes me wonder if any of us will remember how difficult 
some stages of the academic track are when we've "arrived", or if we'll 
just repeat the same things.

2) Even if there was no future at all, I'd still finish this PhD (after 
all, its only a few months away!)  It long ago became a personal 
challenge, and something I'll be proud of even as I say "Do you want 
fries with that?"  :)

3) I won't stop trying for an academic position until a door shuts in my 
face and there's no way around it. That doesn't mean I won't be wary of 
slamming doors, just that I won't close the door myself!  And if I get 
to that point and the door is shut, I'll know that there are other 
things I can do besides academia, and it doesn't necessarily mean I'm 
not good if I can't get a decent academic job, only that there are a lot 
of good people out there.

4) Part of the reason for 2 and 3 has to do with how I'd feel if I 
didn't try.  I know I personally couldn't live with the 
might-have-beens, and that's a big factor in my life choices.  So while 
I may join the "post-doc has become a rotten position" chorus, I'm 
writing the grant and doing the experiments like everyone else.  In this 
lab we have a running joke about the masochistic personality traits that 
make one pursue the PhD and beyond, but as long as we can laugh about 
it, we're all right.  

Bottom line:  Blowing off steam in this newsgroup is good if it gets you 
to clarify why you do what you do and where you're going next, and I've 
always felt that this newsgroup is a great place to think through issues 
others would rather not touch, but that affect scientists in general and 
women in particular.  So thanks to everybody!

Feeling much better now that the manuscript is going out the door,
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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