Thursday, June 20, 2013

Part 3 of Andre and CJ up later today

In the meantime, check out this very interesting comment from Dr. Mindbender, who has worked in biotech/pharma:
...As a BS scientist I was never once offered relocation money and moved on my own dollar when it was necessary. I was fortunate to have friends in hub areas that were able to let me stay with them until I could land a job and repay them for their kindness. I wasn't struggling for money while I was working, but I was living in hub cities and wasn't able to save a whole lot. When the layoffs came, my savings depleted quickly. That made moving with my own money rather onerous. Again, this was only possible because I had friends in areas where jobs were. I don't think it's responsible to advise people at this stage to just jump into a totally new scene for the adventure. Being young doesn't mean you can afford to be reckless just because you have more years to bounce back from it. Every person has their own preference, so the big city/small city is really a personality dependent variable. But smart planning is absolutely essential for people at that level. All of this ignores the fact that most companies won't even consider non-local candidates for BS positions due to the huge talent pool to draw from. Even during the "golden years" this was true. 
As a PhD scientist, you MUST be flexible or be prepared to work non-ideal jobs. It's frowned upon in American universities to "inbreed," which indicates that there's an expectation that you'll be moving around to different places quite a bit. Don't want to move away from your hometown for work? Fine. Don't bitch about how you have to bust your ass adjuncting with no benefits to pay the bills. Like having an affordable apartment to yourself? Great. Don't complain about all the good jobs being in expensive locales that you don't want to live in. It's true that being a scientist nowadays requires an ability to be nomadic. I'll mention that I've moved a lot and have never gotten very generous relocation packages. Unlike BS level positions, most of the best jobs are concentrated into very specific geographical areas and it can be difficult to break into them. Living in one of the hubs doesn't guarantee that you'll be immune from struggles either. But if you're flexible, then it'll make finding a job a lot easier for you. If you can keep a good attitude about it, then you're in good shape and you'll probably find your experience rewarding.
 More by 4 pm Eastern. 


  1. When I was getting my chemistry degree, I was told by the professoriate that people with a science degree could use their "transferable skills" to work in any field they wanted. This is bullshit.
    Now, a college degree is only a certificate of work eligibility for a narrow skill set. Employers no longer care if you learned how to think and solve problems. They want replaceable cogs with extremely specific skills to be up and running with no training and no expectation of long term employment or stability.
    Now all the students who got degrees in chemistry thinking that they were getting a versatile education are told to stop bitching because our expectations are in line with what we were taught. I just want all the prospective college students to realize this before they buy into the latest STEM propaganda.

    1. Just want to say I fully agree with your post, especially the last sentence. I got sold the same load of tripe that you did about how awesome life after your PhD was. To be honest, it was true at the time. But now we PhDs have to adjust to a new reality that isn't as friendly towards us.

      I can't understand how with this blog and so many other resources available online, students are still flocking to grad school hoping that the economy will improve by the time they graduate. I got news for you, even when times were good layoffs were a constant worry.

    2. Its because you think that what happened to the unfortunate one's will not happen to you. You will work hard to make sure that it will not happen to you.

      That is what I thought.

      But then projects dont work, your advisor/boss does not help you, a difficult co-worker, etc., and it happens to you.

  2. Note: DrM did respond to a response to this, and it changes the attitude of what he said:

    This sounds mostly like an adaptation to a physics Ph.D. world - you'd better like what you're doing because if you want to keep doing it, there isn't going to be anything else. It does not cohere with the "we don't have enough scientists and engineers" theory, because in that world, having only a scientific life and none other would probably not be required, since the set of people that are willing to be monks and nuns for science is probably not very high. I think few people have that expectation entering chemistry, and if the above is accurate, that is the expectation they should have.