Thursday, March 28, 2013

An interesting paragraph on career trajectories

Via David Kroll, a very interesting set of comments about "alternative careers" from Gina Stewart, a Ph.D. organic chemist who is now an technological entrepreneur in lawn care:
I obtained my Ph.D. in chemistry at the University of Texas at Austin, and my classmates are now my lifelong friends. While most of us weren’t aiming for academic research jobs to begin with, our stories illustrate a number of intriguing, challenging, and fulfilling nontraditional paths for science Ph.D.’s. One friend runs a biomanufacturing center at an Ivy League university. Two are project managers at a nonprofit contract research organization; one of these was awarded a Fulbright fellowship to study women’s access to STEM careers in the Middle East. One worked at the bench at a major pharmaceutical company for a decade before becoming an in-house patent associate. Another earned a J.D. and became a patent attorney. And the two friends who earned M.S. degrees? One is a manufacturing plant manager, and the other is the only one of us still at the bench doing syntheses. 
Me? I’m an entrepreneur. Or as I sometimes say, I’m CEO, principal investigator, and chief bottle washer of Arctic Inc. 
I wonder how many Ph.D. chemists are still at the bench, five, ten or twenty years after they enter the workforce? You would really think that this is a question that is answered by the ACS Salary Survey. (I believe that there isn't such a section in the 2010 ChemCensus report, but I could be wrong.)

Perhaps because I hope to stay close to the bench (the "research track", as it were), Dr. Stewart's paragraph offers me little comfort. Nevertheless, it sounds like she and her friends have had interesting and successful careers. Read the whole thing.

1 comment:

  1. I was at the bench right up to the moment I was rationalised out on the street. I never gave my co-workers a reaction to do without having done it myself.
    As to the paperwork and other cow manure we had to do I arranged that around the experimental work. Quite often I left meetings to go work-up a reaction, but by the time I got back the meeting was over, happy days.

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