Yikes.... PhD advice needed

Rachelle Bienstock biensto1 at niehs.nih.gov
Fri Aug 4 09:30:21 EST 2000

It depends on what your goals are personally and professionally.  If you
really want to be a professor at a major research University or a P.I. at
a major research lab., like NIH, then you absolutely need to have a PhD.
However, there is a definite age bias in academia- witness all the grants
and awards given to "young" investigators younger than 35, ie.."Presidential
Young Investigator".
Also, I have heard from many people on search committees that age is
definitely a factor in selecting "junior" candidates..."We look at how many
productive years a candidate has before they retire" someone on a search
at a major research university said to me.  Looking at candidates recently
in two prestigious research universities near me, in fields close to your
interest (i.e.
Chemistry, Biochemistry, Biophysics),  I can tell you that they were all in
their late 20s....
Also, if you have a significant other, children, or other family (i.e. older
infirm parents)
with whom you want to spend time ( or even like to spend lots of time on
and outside interests), Graduate School is not the optimum situation to be
The expectation at major research universities is that you work day and
night and
that your sole dedication is to your thesis research.

While industry requests and requires a PhD for certain research jobs, you
frequently see that years of experience are substituted for a PhD...You will
ads like PhD or MS + x years of experience or BS +X years of experience,
so it is very possible to have an interesting rewarding research position in
without a PhD as long as you possess the needed skills to do the job.

As a side note, there is now tremendous demand for people with
backgrounds and computer and computational skills, so if you have an
interest in
this direction, you might be better served by  getting a MS in computer
or bioinformatics.  The areas of high throughtput analysis, combinatorial
LIMS (lab. information management systems), proteomics, genomics, molecular
and microarray analysis and bioinformatics are all very "hot " areas with
interesting, high paying positions available.

Vellanoweth's Lab wrote:

> I just found this board... I'm a returning student (female) and came
> back for a second BS degree in what I thought was a practical area (my
> first degree was art... now I'm looking for a job).  I'm going to
> graduate next year with a double major in biochem and biophysics and I'm
> debating whether to go on for a PhD or not (at my age - 37 - and with my
> financial needs, I'm not sure that 4 or 5 more years of school will be
> worth it.)  Now your postings about what salaries postdocs make and the
> scarcity? of women in academics have me worried.  Will it be worth it to
> get a PhD?  Do any of you regret those extra years?  What are my chances
> with a bachelors if women with PhD's are not getting hired?  I work in a
> research lab right now and I love it.  I enjoy the challenges of
> research and think I would hate being a technician that did the same
> things day after day... which is really why I'm thinking of going on for
> the PhD, since it seems all the interesting jobs are open to people with
> further schooling...
> Anyhow, do any of you have any pearls of wisdom for someone in my
> predicament?
> Thanks
> Janel W. Laidman
> Department of Chem and Biochem
> California State University, Los Angeles
> jwheele at calstatela.edu

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