Jump to content

Important article for PhD students to read


Recommended Posts

For once, an article not lambasting the humanities

Yes, that is definitely a relief. Unfortunately, the article itself is deeply disturbing. I didn't know that the sciences were plagued by the problems that the humanities face. This article reinforces my belief that higher education urgently needs drastic reform.

Link to post
Share on other sites

As usual, these articles fail to acknowledge opportunities for PhD-level scientists outside the academy. We get DoE national labs, DoD labs, the NIH intramural program, NASA, NOAA, the NSA, FFRDCs, government contractors, nonprofit research institutes (e.g. WHOI), Big Pharma, technology startups, the energy industry (both traditional and alternative), the research labs of large for-profit companies (Intel, IBM, Microsoft), the Public Health Service Commissioned Corps, the military. Not everybody wants or needs to be a professor. PhDs are crucial to large parts of industry and government. The fact that there are more STEM PhDs than there are assistant professorships is a feature, not a bug.

One of my projects at work - a government contractor - has four PhDs working on it. These people didn't fail to get academic jobs. A couple of them were the pick of the litter. They came here by choice. They are happy here, they get to work on cool research, they avoid the race to tenure, and they make more money than they would in academia.

This sentence is just incredible:

"Many young Americans bright enough to do the math therefore conclude that instead of gambling 12 years on the small chance of becoming an assistant professor, they can invest that time in becoming a neurosurgeon, or a quarter of it in becoming a lawyer or a sixth in earning an MBA."

Ha. Hahaha. Do these authors know what the job prospects are these days for lawyers, and how much it costs to go to law school? What kind of oblivious person these days markets law school as a path away from penury and toward job security (of course, if you combine it with a STEM PhD, you can be a patent lawyer and have a relatively easy time getting a cushy job)? Do they realize that in order to be a neurosurgeon, you have to spend four years in med school at $50k/year, completely win the residency matching process - almost nobody's a shoe-in for a surgery residency - and then spend six years working 80+ hour weeks for pay of $40k/year, and maybe a couple more in a fellowship? Have they noticed that an MBA doesn't do much for most people unless it's from a highly competitive, expensive, top school? At least in a STEM PhD program they pay you while you get your PhD, even if not very much.

Also, with all due sympathy for the biomed folks, not every field of science expects you to spend half your life bouncing around postdocs.

"A prime symptom noted by all: a growing aversion of America’s top students — especially the native-born white males who once formed the backbone of the nation’s research and technical community — to enter scientific careers."

Oh noez, not the native-born white males, whatever shall we do...oh wait, in the modern world, the US scientific talent pool includes women, people of color, and immigrants. Now, in fairness, they say that top US students in general are avoiding scientific careers. But aren't they writing this article about how US students shouldn't go into scientific PhD programs? Shouldn't they approve? If they don't, have they ever considered that articles like this one might be playing a role?

Link to post
Share on other sites

"A prime symptom noted by all: a growing aversion of America’s top students — especially the native-born white males who once formed the backbone of the nation’s research and technical community — to enter scientific careers."

Oh noez, not the native-born white males, whatever shall we do...oh wait, in the modern world, the US scientific talent pool includes women, people of color, and immigrants. Now, in fairness, they say that top US students in general are avoiding scientific careers. But aren't they writing this article about how US students shouldn't go into scientific PhD programs? Shouldn't they approve? If they don't, have they ever considered that articles like this one might be playing a role?

This reminds me of when the president of my university got lambasted for bemoaning the lack of white males enrolling in university/in certain programs:

http://www2.macleans.ca/2009/11/19/in-defence-of-white-male-students/#more-91663

And the hilarious backlash:

http://www.cbc.ca/news/canada/edmonton/story/2009/11/02/edmonton-samarasekera-white-male.html

The poor students who put up the posters almost faced disciplinary action, but were saved by media attention.

Link to post
Share on other sites

Create an account or sign in to comment

You need to be a member in order to leave a comment

Create an account

Sign up for a new account in our community. It's easy!

Register a new account

Sign in

Already have an account? Sign in here.

Sign In Now
×
×
  • Create New...

Important Information

By using this site, you agree to our Terms of Use and Privacy Policy.