Monday, February 4, 2013

Thoughts on Survival/Success in The New Era of Academia - Part 1

Considering what has transpired in my career thus far and its still a career in its early phases, I have accrued just a few nuggets of wisdom that are useless if they are not shared. Let's start with the obvious. A career in the life sciences has its bountiful share of stress, which can frequently limit passion. Im not optimistic for the future of science if passion continues to dwindle for young scientists given the current funding climate. Take this observation for instance. Students in bio (red line) lose their interest in academic research jobs as they spend more time in grad school. Wow. Are PIs that bad at training their students to enjoy the job? Are we not taking in qualified enough students who can find strength through the struggles?

Citation: Sauermann H, Roach M (2012) Science PhD Career Preferences: Levels, Changes, and Advisor Encouragement. PLoS ONE 7(5): e36307. doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0036307

As a graduate student, I wished that I had a better idea of what it took to be successful in academia; I was told not to worry - that there would be plenty of jobs because the baby boomers would be retiring. That led to some false hopes. Fortunately, few students are being told this today. Not so fortunately, the latest stats indicate that 14% of life science phd land an academic job. As a postdoc, I wondered what it took to secure an academic job in a highly competitive environment. What was I supposed to do different than grad school? As a beginning investigator, I wondered how to get funded? This happened to be right around the time federal funding percentages were plummeting to historical lows (whoops). I wrote six grants before I got my first NSF grant. The answer to all these questions is the same. DO NOT TAKE NO FOR AN ANSWER. Perseverance is what make the difference. We can persevere if we imagine what excellence is and pull our future forward to meet that excellence. Excellence is always ahead of us and can always be attained by any of us. Just dont give up.

Success, which is what we are talking about here, is a state of mind more than a thing. In this light, I started tweeting nuggets of wisdom under the Twitter hashtag #tosrb for thoughts of my initials. I have heard from some colleagues and students that these shots of insight are useful. That is my hope, that I can pass on some insight to those that are just beginning. By doing so, by coaching through accrued wisdom, we may speed up the pace of excellence in science for future trail blazers, rather than waiting for people to learn these things themselves over a long career. 

Over this coming week, I will post several of these tweets on a daily basis. Red highlights indicate ones that I think rise about the rest. As always, comments and questions are encouraged!
  1. 1/23/13: If u dont train your students to be better than u, then u are failing them and the society who benefits from future scientists #tosrb
  2. 1/23/13Most grad students transform in grad school. Fewer transcend. 14% ultimately get academic jobs. We need to talk about why. #tosrb
  3. 1/23/13Grad school is not a right of passage once students enter it, but rather the beginning of a 5 year boot camp. No guarantees at end. #torso
  4. 1/23/13Only 14% of life science PhDs in US get tenure track jobs in comparison to 55% of law students becoming lawyers. Change is needed #tosrb
  5. 1/24/13: PI's must recognize that any recognition imparted to them is because of their students. Anything else is a failure in leadership #tosrb

No comments:

Post a Comment