Money and self-esteem

Karen Allendoerfer ravena at cco.caltech.edu
Wed Sep 24 06:12:10 EST 1997


I apologize for not quoting all the excellent and interesting things that
people have written on this thread, but I'm again reading news from afar
without my favorite newsreader, and it's for a reason related to the thread.

I just got back from Germany, where I talked at some length to a friend 
and colleague who, after his PhD in an excellent lab there, decided also
to leave academic science for many of the reasons that Sabine cites.  In
my own experience, I haven't seen this happen as often in the U.S. (yet).
He spent several months working without pay for a large pharmaceutical
company, and while there met the people who enabled him to get the lucrative
and enjoyable health care consulting job that he has now.  He said "I've
never been so happy in academic science as I am now."  His wife was
expecting a baby and they had a nice apartment in a cosmopolitan city.  It
seemed like they had "arrived," but I remember the uncertainties and problems
that he was going through a year ago when deciding to work as a volunteer.
His story seems encouraging to me, like some others on this thread--that
eventually things can and do work out, even though you may have to go through
a period of volunteer work or something else that is difficult financially
and/or emotionally.

And what's happened to me in the past year has been rather odd, too,
funding-wise.  In 96 my boss and I wrote a grant and submitted it to the NIH
(with him as PI, naturally, although it was largely about my project).
We included a couple of collaborators as well.  The grant was not funded 
last December, it was in the 22nd percentile (and they were funding only
to the 12th or so), and the comments were rather vague as to what was wrong
with the grant.  In fact, one could have looked through the comments and
found pretty much only positives.  It seemed as if they were looking for
reasons not to fund it (maybe because there just wasn't enough money).  At
any rate, we were pretty unhappy, because we worked very hard on it, it
was well-received and there was no substantive criticism of it, but it
still wasn't funded.  Our lab went on some pretty severe austerity measures.
I then went to one of the collaborators in Ann Arbor, who did have some
money to work on the project, for 6 months.  While there, I met the love of
my life (who works in New York), and decided to get married.  I arranged
a collaboration with the other collaborator, who also has a bit of money
and is (happily) in New York, and plan to start Oct. 1.  Last week I heard
from my Caltech boss that our grant was finally funded.  Now we are trying
to work something out between Caltech and Columbia.  I am really surprised
and happy that my boss resubitted the gratn a couple of times.  I probably
would have naively given up after the first review.  I had assumed it was
dead and we had to start over.  Persistence pays off . . . 

Karen





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