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End of PhD.. and then?


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14 replies to this topic

#1 madrius1

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Posted 05 January 2010 - 08:06 AM

Hi there,

I'm running the last miles of my PhD, and while I often thought of it, I realized that I really have to seriously think about my future. I went to the ASCB meeting in San Diego, in december, and I got to hear some of the most exciting science talk ever! I could also meet with great scientists and have a chat about postdoc finding. And then... disaster.

My wife came with me at the meeting. As I realized I had to start thinking seriously about postdoc (and everything it comes with), she realized we would have to move to another town, or even another country. Since she's been working for 6 years and since we had a baby, moving is not at all a happy ending.

Some of you are probably thinking right now : Well, just go there alone, make a quick postdoc and come back later!

This solution crossed my mind, but not for long. You see, I realized that I currently have 9 years of college education. Add to this 3-4 years of postdoc. And then what? You have to fight to get an interview for an academic position. If you get invited (which would mean that you had a succesfull postdoc, which is really not guaranteed), you still have to convince the staff to hire you. Then, you still have to fight to keep your position. And we haven't talked about money yet! Do I really want to beg for money all my life to get a lab running?

Part of the problem is that I really, really love biology. I love finding new pathways, reading exciting discoveries done by others, attending huge meeting and listen to cutting-edge science, or how the first transgenic mice were made. But the huge downside of a carreer as a scientist slow my will quite a lot. So here I am, thinking about medical school. But that would mean 6 more years of hard work and getting back to undergrad classes..

Did someone encountered such questioning?

#2 casandra

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Posted 05 January 2010 - 10:29 AM

Bonne et heureuse année à toi, madrius. I am not in the same situation (but that's not to say that I also don't feel lost on bad days :P) but I've heard from people who are in the same dilemma-- they refer to themselves as the "eternal nomadic students"....with no real income until they're 40 or something like that. Unfortunately, if you really want an academic position, I guess you have no choice but to do a postdoc and this might entail moving ...I guess that's the sacrifice that you have to make. This is the reality of our kind of work.

And are you sure that med school is your only other option? And esp if you have to go back doing undergrad courses- you'd practically be the class grand-père ;).......some extremely smart and talented med students come straight from CEGEP- so they'd be what- 17 or 18 years old....and being a doctor is not a kind of "alternative" career just because you can't make it in biology or research--but I guess you know that already....you just have to look around more for other possibilities....anyways, goodluck....

casandra

Edited by casandra, 05 January 2010 - 10:30 AM.

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#3 Maddie

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Posted 05 January 2010 - 03:14 PM

What about the private sector? They pay better ;)
Theory is when we know everything and nothing is working. Practice is when everything is working and nobody knows why. Here, we combine theory and practice. Nothing is working and nobody knows why.

A. Einstein

#4 Prep!

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Posted 05 January 2010 - 09:23 PM

ACtually yes madrius.... if u not so keen and stubborn abt being in the academics.. tere are private institutions out tere who do sum amazing work too!!!! its a tough call i know...
:P
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#5 madrius1

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Posted 06 January 2010 - 09:44 AM

If I was to stay into fundamental research, I would surely aim for an academic position. I'm not that much into private kit developing technology.

Thanks for the inputs, Cassy. Bonne année à toi également!

#6 Maddie

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Posted 06 January 2010 - 02:40 PM

Oh la, si ca parle francais, j'arriiiive.

What about R&D in a private company? They do some kind of research. ...and they pay better :)
Theory is when we know everything and nothing is working. Practice is when everything is working and nobody knows why. Here, we combine theory and practice. Nothing is working and nobody knows why.

A. Einstein

#7 casandra

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Posted 06 January 2010 - 06:56 PM

...bien sûr, Maddie.....but it's pidgin French--at least mine is...the kind that Parisian cabdrivers guffaw at <_< :angry:..and with the economic meltdown, there's a hiring freeze in most of the private companies here in Canada..even post-doc positions in industry are very limited. And the pay might be better but is it all that matters? I think we've had several topics here in the forum about the pros and cons of working for industry or the academe...

@ Madrius: bienvenue, tho I really didn't have much input there....perhaps I shld also add that if you're focused on having an academic career and by a lucky chance you don't relocate now for a post-doc position, you'd still probably do it later when you go for the assistant professorship. I think that most institutions wouldn't go for "inbreeding"....they'd prefer to bring in people trained somewhere else- for newer perspectives hence this "hybrid vigour"....:P...

or you can still go to med school (attend classes, dissect cadavers and not faint from seeing blood :lol:) and have better chances of starting your own lab .... didn't the CIHR reduce fundings for fundamental research? Applied or clinical research has more potential now for getting funded....goodluck, anyways....
"Oh what a beauteousness!"
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#8 gogreen

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Posted 07 January 2010 - 01:31 AM

Hi Madrius
I understand what you'd be feeling and the pains associated with taking a family through this kind of relocation/(s) (who knows if you would not like a place and you decide to move on from there pretty soon!). But this has to happen if you want to do science with the passion you described in the first thread.
Lets look at the 3 options you have !

1. Finding a postdoc position and proving yourself there might take a good lot of time..lets say a minimum of 2-4 years. Then you have to look for an academic position (as casey said, most of the places look for people from outside with newer perspectives for seeing more than what the present point of view could see!, so relocations become a part of life) and they do encourage young scientists largely, but finding funding for yourself would be the next hurdle. To establish your lab and to do your work and to really find something interesting can take a good lot of time !!

2. The option Maddie suggested - The Private Sector -

If I was to stay into fundamental research, I would surely aim for an academic position. I'm not that much into private kit developing technology.

The private kit developing technology, IMHO, is quite a mean way of putting it. The academia spend millions of dollars to publish a Nature paper and the industries spend it to enable the academia do that in shorter time. Being in a company is as challenging or even more compared to being in academia where you have the liberty to decide your deadlines. Ina company, dead lines will follow you everywhere, but when a final product is out, you get the credit and it feels good to know that people out there are using something that you co-developed! (Of course, the product need not be an isolation kit, Can be a software, a sequencing machine/technique or a zillion other things!) 2-3 years in a company with a good track record, you are ready for the next shift to the next better place, U need not look for options, they might come finding you... no funding blues! <_<

3. Medical school- Not something I'd recommend as that would take you back to the same situation after 5-6 years and that would be the last thing you want when most of your friends are settled down in their lives and you'd still be looking for a job with no prior experience whatsoever in a company or academia... better face this now !!

Hope you figure out the best way ahead...all the best :angry:

#9 Maddie

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Posted 07 January 2010 - 09:21 AM

I have to say, I agree with gogreen. Options 1 and 2 seem like the best ones. I guess I can give you a more personnal point of view. I started in the academic world, did fundamental resarch that I really loved and found exciting (a lot of people thought it was useless though :o ). Then it became really hard for me to find a JOB (I mean a real, more or less stable job, not a postdoc) and seeing all my colleagues struggling for grants discouraged me a bit. I switched and now work for the government. I am a very lucky one though because I still do research and don't have to worry about what's next, or about finances. Of course things became harder for us as well. People tend to think that government labs have everything they want. Not true. Things have changed dramatically over the last 5 years. Still, just to explain that I managed to find an exciting jog that has the stability I was looking for.

And the pay might be better but is it all that matters? I think we've had several topics here in the forum about the pros and cons of working for industry or the academe...


Oh dear Casandra, how I love your enthusiasm. I agreed with you..a while ago, when I was young and alone. Now I have a family, a child and a mortgage so yes, the pay does make a difference. I think the importance of the salary depends on what stage of your life you're in. But at the end, only madrius can decide what matters the most.
I agree that it is a difficult situation, but not hopeless. Since my lab will soon relocate to a boring State :rolleyes: , many colleagues of mine left and they all found other jobs. There are jobs out there. Don't be discouraged.

I always compare research to a religion. You sacrifice so much for it, but if you love it, you get so much back. Just remember, if you take a job or a postdoc you don't like, you can always change.
Theory is when we know everything and nothing is working. Practice is when everything is working and nobody knows why. Here, we combine theory and practice. Nothing is working and nobody knows why.

A. Einstein

#10 casandra

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Posted 07 January 2010 - 11:45 AM

And the pay might be better but is it all that matters? I think we've had several topics here in the forum about the pros and cons of working for industry or the academe...


Oh dear Casandra, how I love your enthusiasm. I agreed with you..a while ago, when I was young and alone. Now I have a family, a child and a mortgage so yes, the pay does make a difference. I think the importance of the salary depends on what stage of your life you're in. But at the end, only madrius can decide what matters the most.
I agree that it is a difficult situation, but not hopeless. Since my lab will soon relocate to a boring State ;) , many colleagues of mine left and they all found other jobs. There are jobs out there. Don't be discouraged.

Ma chère Maddie....you have a child? Hope you didn’t give “it” a weird scientific name..like “Bones”….:o….of course I know how impt money is…I like money like the rest of our western materialistic society….what I meant was that it can’t be the only consideration that we shld have when we’re deciding what to do with our careers or life for that matter. Not all the money in the world can make up for all the stress and suffering we’d endure if we have a crappy job or a boss from hell. In the end we shld strike a balance…and you’re really quite lucky that you can get to do something which you really like, get paid for it well and to top it off, have stability as well….but how many are as lucky as you…and this is good advice:

I always compare research to a religion. You sacrifice so much for it, but if you love it, you get so much back. Just remember, if you take a job or a postdoc you don't like, you can always change.

:P

Edited by casandra, 07 January 2010 - 11:46 AM.

"Oh what a beauteousness!"
- hobglobin, personal comment about my beauteous photo......

#11 Maddie

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Posted 07 January 2010 - 12:49 PM

Ma chère Maddie....you have a child? Hope you didn’t give “it” a weird scientific name..like “Bones”….;)….


:o nahhh..he is called Booth!! Just kidding.

of course I know how impt money is…I like money like the rest of our western materialistic society….what I meant was that it can’t be the only consideration that we shld have when we’re deciding what to do with our careers or life for that matter.

Yeahh true. I am so happy to have a job I love. Took me years of fight to reach that, but Gosh, was it worth it.
Theory is when we know everything and nothing is working. Practice is when everything is working and nobody knows why. Here, we combine theory and practice. Nothing is working and nobody knows why.

A. Einstein

#12 samita

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Posted 12 January 2010 - 01:22 PM

Medical school is not a good option as it will again be very hard working and again you have to struggle for getting the job, but some other options can be useful, I will suggest you to stay in science and get education for the Law school or the enterperunership.
These two things are highy paid and very damanding now a days in the private sector as well.

#13 Maddie

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Posted 13 January 2010 - 09:29 AM

Or teach SCience?
Theory is when we know everything and nothing is working. Practice is when everything is working and nobody knows why. Here, we combine theory and practice. Nothing is working and nobody knows why.

A. Einstein

#14 StevieRay

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Posted 13 January 2010 - 09:39 AM

The OP is assuming his post-doc will go well! It could be that the OP is at a post-doc position for several years and gets no papers, because the project didn't work or some other reason. If this happens, then your possibilites for a great job are severely limited.

For most, getting a PhD is a HUGE risk, unless you are brilliant and great at the bench. If you are brilliant and get publications then good jobs are open, but if not the remaning possibilities pay less and have less prestige, which can hurt your personal life.

Now even the private sector in bioscience is collapsing, becuase of declining drug pipelines.

If I had to do it all over again, I would have gotten a Masters instead of a PhD. With a Masters, you have a better chance of gettinbg a good job than if you are a PhD (unless your absolutely brilliant).

The nice thing about Med School is if you get through, you are virtually guaranteed a high paying job with prestige, which is great for the personal life.

Good luck, OP.....

#15 madrius1

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Posted 14 January 2010 - 11:09 AM

That's what i'm considering now, StevieRay.

Efforts for a job : no problems.

Efforts (9 years of college so far) for nothing : damn crap.




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