Friday, May 20, 2016

A priceless quote from Chad Mirkin

At the bottom of a Science article about the new overtime rule, a fascinating quote from Northwestern professor Chad Mirkin:
Chemist Chad Mirkin of Northwesthern University in Evanston, Illinois, who sits on the President’s Council of Advisors on Science and Technology, worries that not only will positions dry up, but perceptions of the postdoc as an “all-out work commitment” that prepares young scientists for a faculty position will change. “When I did a postdoc, money was not my prime motivator—the experience for me (and most who I know) was priceless,” he says.
It's hard to know what to say to such a comment. "Tone-deaf" is a good start - I'll supply my own quote, which is "out of touch with the likely reality of the median postdoc."

I suspect (although I don't have a lot of data) that the median postdoc is a life scientist, who is somewhere slightly older than 30 years old, and has family commitments, or is looking to start some. Could that person use some overtime, a raise (if the PI chooses the exempt status route) or some free time? Yeah, I'm going to guess they could. 

Do I wish that the overtime, the raise or the free time came on my dime (putting my taxpayer hat on), rather than the PI's dime? Yeah, I wish that were true. One more time: I'm in very strong sympathy with PIs who have had this new federal (as of yet, unfunded) mandate foisted upon them. If I were the Emperor of the American scientific research enterprise, I would have phased this rule in over 3 or 4 years. But, I'm not. 

54 comments:

  1. The problem is that when Prof. Mirkin started, the likelihood of hard work being compensated in the long run was higher, and so people were more willing to enter research with the knowledge that they'd have to work lots. If that's not the case, then treating postdocs as a job with the expectation of actual compensation for their work doesn't seem unreasonable.

    If your livelihood depends on lots of unpaid labor for its functioning, sooner or later there is going to be a reckoning, either legal or other (people are going to want to do your work). The labor market has depended on lots of rules that insulate employers from their actual cost of labor, and the expectation that they would always be so insulated seems unreasonable, and as entitled as (at least some) employers claim others to be.

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    1. I would like to believe that professors have to tell themselves stuff like that, the reality that they need to exploit young people in order to be successful would be too much to bear and they couldn't like with themselves

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    2. I don't know...I think when lots of people started, it was a reasonable tradeoff, and being in school, they are somewhat insulated from the vagaries of the nonacademic job market (and maybe even the academic). Some, I think, always took student/PD labor as the right of kings (stories of Gilman), but not everyone.

      PD and grad school aren't inherently bad - they're useful ways to learn lots of things. It just seems like the learning they're predicated on facilitating isn't being done very much and the things being learned don't have enough places to be used so that it looks more and more like a way to get research done cheaply than a way of teaching people interesting and useful things (or teaching them enough to learn interesting and useful things).

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  2. I'm not going to comment on most of the quote, but almost with certainty the new rules will reduce the number of postdoctoral positions and make them more competitive. This is obvious given that funding amounts will likely not change, therefore fewer postdocs can be supported on grants of the same size.

    47K is a big one-year hike, but we had to see this coming. Graduate stipends are >30K in many universities now which is up from ~20K about a decade ago.

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    1. This really needs to happen at the grad student level. Continuing the to graduate the same number of PhDs while reducing the number of postdocs is only going to make things worse.

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    2. I think this has to do largely with the increase in rents across the country compared to just about any other living expense (particularly brutal in places like Boston area, the Bay Area, and NYC, and a large problem for urban campuses in general):

      http://www.wsj.com/articles/u-s-apartment-rents-rose-the-most-last-year-since-recession-survey-says-1452054600.

      There is no way to get around this--people need somewhere to live. Professors are insulated from it, because they are largely home owners, and are shocked by how much it costs to rent an apartment. In the city where I went to grad school, my advisor estimated a 1 bedroom apartment to be ~$400 dollars a month. It was actually ~$1,000.

      I'm currently a postdoc in the bay area, and the cost of housing is a serious problem for both grad students and postdocs.

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    3. At least 47k will be closer to a living wage in academically-dense states (CA, MA; see link in handle)

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    4. Postdoc here who works in the bay area. Most schools in high COL areas use the NIH payscale (or more) already; the entire UC system is required to pay the NIH rate. Stanford pays its postdocs a minimum of 51K.

      My husband and I when we were looking for postdocs looked for schools in the Boston area and the bay area (areas with a lot of opportunities for us to both find good postdocs at institutions that would open doors for our careers). The only school that did not offer at least the NIH rate was Harvard. In fact, a PI at Harvard offered a salary to my husband that was not much more than his NSF graduate fellowship (33K). This was a big factor that led us to look elsewhere.

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  3. Let's call it the underpaid instead of unpaid internship.

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  4. I'm not ready to crucify Mirkin on this yet. He seems a little too young, but it's possible that when he did a postdoc that it was a real postdoc where he got to look into his own ideas independently of his mentor. Not this glorified grad student bullshit that it's become. On the other hand, he very clearly has conflicting interests here and that MUST be taken into account with anything he says.

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  5. I work in fly over country (cheap COL), in a building where the post-docs are mostly Chinese that don't speak English well, often hired by Chinese PI's, so I presume they are largely Chinese PhD's. My expectation is that post-docs will continue to earn about 35 K a year, and PI's will pressure the post-docs not to take overtime, or be sent home.

    I think the main affect of the new law will be to drive out PI's and labs that refuse to use unofficial Chinese labor standards, which means 50 years from now scientific research could be mostly composed of Chinese nationals.

    It will work, because I'm sure most Chinese are thrilled to live in a country where they don't have to wear a respirator during the day outside, despite the low pay.

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    1. "50 years from now scientific research could be mostly composed of Chinese nationals"

      I assume in the last century people had similar comments about the Irish, Italians, Germans or which ever 'durn furreigners come here steal our jobs' by working harder for less money?

      We're gonna build a wall, and it's gonna be terrific!

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    2. IMO, if you are not going to follow the laws that you do not belong in the US. This includes economic migrants who come here illegally (often from our southern border), and sleazy, soulless PI's who refuse to pay someone for there work, as mandated by US law.

      Again, I always find it ironic when an immigrant from Canada does a 10 cent imitation of any american-born citizens. You have not walked in there shoes, when faced with cheaper competiton from abroad

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    3. Do not blame people wanting a better life if they follow the law. It's the PIs and universities exploiting them.

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    4. Economics according to biotechtoreador:
      1. ship jobs overseas
      2. import foreign workers to compete for remaining jobs
      3. profit (for investors)

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    5. "an immigrant from Canada does a 10 cent imitation of any american-born citizens"

      I think I do a pretty good imitation of 'American-born citizens' (who are presumably smarter and harder working and more deserving than us hosers, eh), though I'll admit to getting tripped up if asked to pronounce the last letter of the alphabet.

      Re my view on economics, I don't really care about 1st 2, #3 all that counts (and that needs to be done legally to be sustained).

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    6. Just wait, biotechtoreador... You WILL care about #1 and #2 when it is YOUR job shipped overseas. I'm a Ph.D. in the analytical division of what was an iconic American company. When I started 35 years ago my employer was the largest in town with 65,000 employees. Now there are 1700. I've seen divisons sold off for cash to stay in the game. I've watched manufacturing shipped to China. I've known people who had to train replacements to get a severance package. The other two large iconic companies in town went through similar downsizings. Now a big university in town with an attached hospital is the largest employer. Just where are all those students and postdocs supposed to find jobs?

      The PIs here are like our mid level managers - trying to keep a program running and stay in the game despite a really tough economic situation. Honestly, with $20T in national debt, state and local governments with debt problems, and 45% of Americans who get more federal aid than they pay in taxes, it doesn't take higher math skills to see we have a major problem.

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    7. @previous Anonymous: Yes, I worked for Kodak, like you, for many years, and lived through the demolition (literally!) of a great company. Rochester is far from unique. Other Rust Belt cities like Pittsburgh and Cleveland have experienced the exact same transition - UPMC and the Cleveland Clinic are the largest employers there, replacing heavy industry. And Detroit is quickly devolving into a third world town, economically.

      Macroeconomic shifts and technology trends create both winners and losers. It's very difficult to move against the flow in this respect. Cost, like water, seems to naturally seek the lowest level.

      The problem highlighted in the OP is that comfortable senior technologists like Merkin have been joined by industry managers, US politicians, and the ACS leadership in cheerleading for increased STEM training. From their self-centered, insulated positions, they can't imagine why everyone can't do what they did (with sufficient effort), and land a well-compensated position appropriate to their training and interests. This is a classic example of economic privilege, similar to Mitt Romney complaining about the 45% that doesn't pay federal taxes. They all are oblivious to the reality of the cruel macroeconomic trends.

      In the 20th century, manufacturing was the engine that created a prosperous middle class in Europe, Japan, and the US. As these countries allowed this base to erode, their middle class atrophied proportionally. Other governments like in China and Korea have very actively promoted their manufacturing base, and now the first world economies are falling behind them. In the US, the politicians drank the Cool-Aide of the "Information Economy," and the result is now clear.

      Without manufacturing, there will be no prosperous middle class, and no jobs for chemistry PhD's.

      I have no good suggestions for national policy to restore the manufacturing base, but it seems likely that simply cutting taxes and relaxing environmental laws cause more harm than good.

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  6. So I guess that makes Obama "Emperor" now? Interesting observation.

    Postdoc is great, for a couple of years. If we hadn't stretched grad school and postdoc tenures so far out as to be unsustainable in many cases. Sure, someone in their late 20's doesn't need money, they'll be paid when they get the real job in a couple more years.

    Mirkin: BA in 1986, PhD in 1989 from PSU (!), Postdoc 89-91 at MIT (check Cost of living for Boston now vs 1990), Assistant Prof starting 1991 (has never moved) when he's 27? Yes, that's not a typical arc for anyone from this century.

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    1. "So I guess that makes Obama "Emperor" now? Interesting observation."

      This is a misreading of my comment.

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  7. http://www.nbc.com/saturday-night-live/video/weekend-update-segment---grumpy-old-man/n9887

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  8. Second chair Kazoo is not a bankable careerMay 20, 2016 at 2:48 PM

    Too bad we can't go back in time to when Professors were appointed in their late 20s and tenured by the time most of us are wrapping up our second postdoc.

    "Money was not my prime motivator—the experience for me (and most who I know) was priceless" is the same crap you hear from your deadbeat nephew who's life plan involves playing avant-garde kazoo compositions to hipsters in some dive coffee shop. That's great if you're 23 and living off a trust fund. However, to a mid 30s PhD with bills, loans and mouths to feed, it does sound a bit "Tone-deaf" which probably also describes all kazoo-playing nephews.

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  9. See here, for example:

    http://postdocs.stanford.edu/handbook/salary.html

    The NIH minimum ain't that far below this guideline, and several name-brand institutions pay at or above it already (Stanford's just the one that always comes up first when I Google it). If you care about money, then pick your postdoc carefully.

    I'd hardly call his comments out of touch, but rather cynically astute. If money is your primary motivation for doing a postdoc, then you probably shouldn't be doing a postdoc. The primary purpose of postdoctoral research is to work your ass off to get those first-authors, get out, and get your own lab. "Too many postdocs" is a symptom of the larger problem of bachelor's degrees being worthless and too many people going to graduate school by default. "well, I went to grad school right out of college, so I guess I'll do a postdoc now". It's not supposed to be comfortable; it's not supposed to be fun. It sure as hell isn't supposed to be a career. You're supposed to want to move on to the next step.

    When you get out of your postdoc into academia, guess what? You're FLSA exempt again, and (surprise) you have to work more than 40 hours a week to distinguish yourself.

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  10. I think the new rules will make PI's more thoughtful about research projects. Where I am at, the PI has no problem wasting a postdoc's time on ideas that are really farfetched and harassing them about the ultimately bad results. The ability to cut work down to 40 hours when an idea is going badly and just spend the rest of the time finding a job without a letter of recommendation is a good compromise. Yeah, I know not every PI is like this, but it happens often from my experience. Seems postdocs are too cheap and plentiful to be treated well as it is.

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  11. Jesus, what a tone-deaf jackass...

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  12. It's people like Chad that contribute to this miserable broken system. Nothing like rationalizing paying someone garbage wages (relative to their education) in the name of "experience." I'm sure most people in their early thirties love having no 401k, lousy benefits, and no savings whatsoever.

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    1. Nothing stopping postdocs from putting their own pre-tax money in thier school's 403(b), or post-tax money in their own Roth IRA.

      Lost in this discussion is the fact that it's possible to do productive research in a 40-hour week if you don't take hour-long lunches, go to the gym in the afternoon, etc. (all the bad things I did in grad school)

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    2. @Anon 5/21 9:08AM: When I was a postdoc at a University of California school, the UC 403b specifically excluded postdoctoral fellows.

      On your other point--yes, although the inherently competitive nature of the faculty hiring process means that if someone as productive as you spends more time in the lab, they will (on average) do better than you.

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  13. Honestly, going from PhD pay to postdoc pay felt like a world of difference, but perhaps that was just due a widespread lowering of expectations about what the monetary worth of our labor is as graduate researchers. I remember having to explain to my parents why after 4 years of grad school I was willing to take a postdoc position that paid $43K, they seemed incredulous that this was the return on those years of hard work. It has turned out ok as I have been lucky enough to find an industry position, but to expect researchers to live largely on "learning experiences" for maybe 4,5 years after their PhD is obscene. the work we do is highly skilled, time-intensive, often potentially dangerous work (speaking as an organic chemist), $47.5K is the least this work deserves and perhaps its time PIs stopped pretending this isn't the case

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  14. Not all affected professors are in the Bio sciences, and not all university funding comes from NIH. I'm a fairly new chemistry professor at a decent school that was very recently a postdoc. In my field, I will never be competitive for an NIH grant. So my main funding agency is NSF.

    The average value of an NSF grant in my field is ~$105-110K/year, from which we have to pay direct and indirect costs. In my university, we typically pay non-NIH funded postdocs ~$38K salary. I think that's fair salary. My university isn't in a big city, and the rent is around ~$800/month for a 1-BR. I got paid about the same when I was postdoc in the much more-expensive CA. Postdocs here get the same benefits that faculty do (medical, dental, vision) except for retirement and the chemistry postdoc only lasts a couple years here.

    In terms of grant cost, a $38K postdoc costs me ~$80K in direct and indirect costs. That leaves me ~$25K on my NSF for every other expenditure (supplies, travel, etc).

    At the new rate of $48K, the actual cost of my postdoc will increase to ~$100K including fringe and indirect. That means only $5K for everything else, which is ridiculous! I can't put someone on a grant that has no supplies budget. Considering that NSF is much less funded than NIH, I don't see them increasing their average grant amounts any time soon or coming up with a pool of money to pay for postdocs on existing grants.

    Should postdocs be paid more? Yes. But a PI can only pay a salary based on funding levels, and a postdoc now costs an entire NSF grant with nothing left over to actually do the science. The net result is that I won't be able to afford the postdoc I have come December 1st, and at current funding levels I will not be able to afford to hire a new one in the future.

    I can't speak for the biosciences, but I don't a chemistry postdoc is so bad. Postdocs from my university tend to leave for lucrative positions after 1-3 years (usually an industry position making ~$100K+/year). A few make it academia, but I think we're pretty honest with them about their chances of that. A postdoc position in our university is essentially an entry level position that can be used as a stepping stone to more lucrative jobs. Some of the things you learn in a good postdoc (networking at conferences, how to write papers, how to give effective talks, how to write grants and proposals, etc) are really professional development and not stressed in grad school, at least not in the grad school I went to.

    I think that was what chemist Chad Mirkin was hinting at. My postdoc definitely made me a better chemist and made it possible for me to be a professor. I guess I feel sad that I won't get to pass that on to a new generation. Based on conversations with my colleagues at various schools, that's how I think many of them feel.

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    1. You can still keep your 38 K postdoc. Just have him/her work 40 hours. Meet with them often, give them direction. I think a lot of people would be quite happy with a 38K job with good hours at that level in academia. You can be VERY productive in 40 hours, especially with a bit of direction and clear expectations from a PI. Probably going to get more out the postdoc as well if they arent dog tired all the time.

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    2. Dear Anon8:15p:

      First, let me extend my sympathy to you as one of the affected PIs. It is your situation, in particular, that has me much less than 100% happy with the way this has been implemented. It's non-ideal, to say the least, and seems to have the most collateral damage.

      That said, there are many more postdocs in the life sciences (19,000 in 2014), as opposed to (7,000 in the physical sciences). They are older (median life science PhD graduate in 2014 was 31), and have spent more time in graduate school. Finally, I assert/believe that their postdocs were longer (3-6 years, as opposed to the 1-3 years that chemists are used to.)

      Professor Mirkin seems to think that because it's an "all-out" sprint to get a faculty position, these people shouldn't expect very much pay for these temporary-ish positions where they get fantastic training. That may have been true for him - I don't think that's the case for the modern postdoc.

      Thanks for contributing a great comment to the thread. Cheers, Chemjobber

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    3. Maybe it is time for some places to admit they cannot afford a decent chemistry program and get over their sense of entitlement. This may be a form of academic birth control where unfit institutions are forced to discontinue production in the face of higher prices. Prices seem like a more effective way to constrain academia then quotas. But maybe they will just hire a bunch more grad students, postdoc positions be damned.

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    4. Well put. Giving the postdocs a raise will not cost universities anything more in terms of what they actually spend on overhead.

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  15. As a postdoc at Northwestern, I can tell you that Evanston IS EXPENSIVE. If you are in your 30's, perhaps have a family, or are single income due to being foreign and having spousal visa restrictions, 47K is just enough for you to get by with some semblance of dignity (and ability to put the tiniest bit of money aside in case of emergencies). The work culture at Northwestern is much heavier than any other place I have been at or visited (not the most productive, but the most time demanding), and vacation time borders on pathetic considering the 60-70 hour work weeks.

    So I'm sorry this bothers you Chad. I will continue to work my 70 hour weeks, because I do love this job, but with 47.5 K, I wont have to think twice about going out for a meal with some friends at the end of a 70 hour work week.

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  16. NSF can also directly fund postdocs with fellowships more, in that case university will not be able to take overhead from the fellowship and the amount of money spent will be the same, but you will have to write the grant together with each interested postdoc and depending on how the new awards are structured, the postdoc might have the right to leave to a new lab if they don't like it in yours.

    I'm guessing direct fellowship funding will also be some sort of loophole around working hours too. Also, this law should result in more staff scientists. I did my postdoc in a lab with two staff scientists. You'd be surprised what they can accomplish in 40 hours (they had families so had to work efficiently) and they still published one glamour mag a year at least as first author and helped the grad students and postdocs with research besides that. The US doesn't have these positions as much anymore so you're not really aware on what you're missing out.

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  17. At least Mirkin founded some companies so he could employ the numerous postdocs he trained. But with them going bankrupt and Raphael Levy breathing down his neck about the science behind it being questionable, the point might be moot soon. Probably best to stay out of the spotlight until that problem is dealt with.

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  18. This will undoubtedly have the effect of reducing the number of postdocs. Is this a bad thing? No. A signal to leave the discipline much earlier would be helpful for the vast majority of PhDs who end up in alternative careers. Most are unaware of the many employment possibilities that do not require a postdoc and have much more favorable employment conditions. A postdoc may even be a liability. There certainly are those who have worked for 5-8 years becoming independent scientists while doing their PhDs who are also passionate about working on someone else's project yet again for many more years. However most who cannot write their own proposal and be independently funded post PhD should consider leaving academia.

    For many post PhD, the postdoc is a default. We should eliminate default postdocs. This is probably going to spawn a bunch of "teaching" postdocs to skirt the rules.

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    1. I tend to agree with this line of thinking.
      Why continue to oversupply the market with extra bodies?
      Chemistry departments, ACS, and various tech moguls are not helping the situation. Many undergraduates are naive about what might await them in the job market - communicating with them honestly about their prospects would be helpful.

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  19. http://www.simplyhired.com/salaries-k-trash-man-jobs.html

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  20. I assume it was Chemjobber's comment in small type?

    Why the hell should the taxpayer be paying for the PI's work? Aren't we anyway if it is DARPA, NIH, etc funding the grant? Words fail me...

    Yes, it should have been phased in so it could have been handled by the PI in calculating expenses but that wouldn't help with the election cycle. However, the real issue is why postdocs are needed anyway and why academia continues to grow when the job market doesn't?

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  21. I would agree with Mirkin. Problem is, it's becoming less and less certain that the post-doc will lead to an enhanced career. And the academics aren't doing anything to help the situation. I think that on top of this you have newer generations of young researchers who aren't into workaholism and think that 40 hours per week is plenty. That's meant as a neutral comment, but PIs should be aware of the values of the next generation. I came from the work 'till the lights go out ethos. I suppose we were fed a twist on "suffer now and be rewarded in Heaven later". I don't think this will fly with the next generation. And...chemists are getting their butts kicked by engineers in the job market. There is a problem for chemists. If it weren't so these threads would not exist. The question we have to ask ourselves is: If you had a bright young daughter, would you steer her towards chemistry? I like that it's a fascinating subject to study with endless intellectual terrain, but not sure the dividends will still be there 10-20 years from now. I don't really care about post-doc salaries. I want real jobs. You don't really need a post-doc unless you go into academia. I view the post-docs I did as a fun experience, but I wouldn't recommend that a sane person do that.

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    1. A postdoc is close to a 100% requirement for an industry job as well.

      I would also argue that the current generation of PhDs being churned out are very much "work til the lights go out." It's a necessity in this miserable job market.

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    2. It most certainly is not a requirement. In fact, some people at big companies look at it as a problem. A couple years ago in C&E News there was a discussion with reps from big companies. One said that doing a post-doc makes it look like you weren't competent enough to get a job after doing a PhD. Not my opinion but the opinion of some who matter.

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    3. "One said that doing a post-doc makes it look like you weren't competent enough to get a job after doing a PhD."

      One persons stupid opinion. Many of the big firms and some smaller ones tour the North Eastern universities annually interviewing post-docs, which induces huge competition between even the best post docs from the best labs... A process that excludes graduate students from contention.

      Also, post docs typically involve 60-80 hours per week, and I have never met a post doc from a chemistry lab clocking less. The only difference is now your post doc holds much less weight than it would have in the past. You have become very disconnected from reality, apparently.

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    4. Lot of anecdotal data there.....

      I'm fairly sure, pulls out anecdote, that everyone knows 1 or 2 ppl (invariably from top top labs) who go jobs in industry or academe without PDFing.

      "I have never met a post doc from a chemistry lab clocking less"

      We've, I assume, never met but for most of my PD (at a top 10 school with a PI you've heard of) I was clocking maybe 50 h/week: on occasion I may have done 60 to 65, but nowhere near 80. To be fair I did end up at a crappy btech initially (I didn't want to move and no local good company wanted to hire me, unsure if it's cuz I was too lazy to work more or just being slow witted), but I have no complaints how my career has gone.

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    5. Lots of people get industry positions without a post-doc. That's not a 1 or 2 people thing. But it's fine with me if companies decide to make it a requirement.

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    6. I largely agree with biotechreador. I am a postdoc at a school that is ranked in the top 3 in chemistry. With the exception of a few labs that have a specific culture coming from the PI, most postdocs work closer to 50 hours a week, not 60-80. Occasionally there are crunch times to finish a paper or to meet a funding milestone when extra hours are required, but those are not every week. I have also found people in academia--grad students, postdocs, and faculty--largely overexaggerate how much they work. Those people working "only" 50 hour weeks--well many of them have gone on to get great jobs in both academia and industry.

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    7. Whether or not a postdoc is required to get a job in industry depends on several factors. It depends on the field (in biological chemistry, it is a near requirement, whereas this is not true in polymer chemistry). It also depends on whether the candidate is coming from a top lab with a well connected PI, what tier graduate program they are coming from, what the economy is like the year they graduate, and what kind of pub record they have. While I know people who have gotten industry jobs without a postdoc, they are definitely in the minority. A lot of people who claim otherwise either have been off the entry level job market for a long time, or are younger graduate students who want to believe what out of touch faculty members tell them.

      Getting a job without a postdoc happens a lot more frequently at my postdoc institution (top 5) compared to my PhD institution (top 20). Also, especially in regions of the country that have a deep talent pool (but also a lot of jobs), like, say Boston, a lot of "alternative careers" prefer postdoc experience as well (including IP law, management consulting, and being a journal editor). While it's more than 1-2 people, it's definitely not the norm, especially if you got your PhD outside of a top 5 program.

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    8. I clearly picked the wrong school to post-doc at then. Not a top 3 for sure, a ways down the list and none of us here are working less than 60 hours. I feel lucky that my week is typically in the 60-70 category. It's obviously going to be anecdotal evidence in lieu of any solid data on the hours worked by all post docs, and my anecdotes are mostly from people in the building I share. So very skewed indeed. Quite dismayed to hear that not only am I missing out on working under a big name, but they're chilling out at home while I'm still at work.

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    9. Counting hours is tricky, and I think a lot of people overcount. You show up at nine and leave at nine, but that's not twelve hours, probably more like ten once you subtract out breaks.

      To honestly work 60, you more or less have to be on campus / honestly working at home about six long days each week, plus part of your Sunday as well. I tracked my hours my final year of grad school to the best of my ability, and I just barely hit 3000 in a year working a 6.5/week schedule, with two half-week vacations at Christmas and Thanksgiving and one full week vacation in the summer (the only such vacation I took in those five years, yet my PI got angry over it). On two occasions that year, I worked at least four hours on 100 consecutive days...include the time I got my wisdom teeth removed. Who'd let that keep them out of the lab?

      When I hear people claim they "worked" more than this, I strongly suspect one of the following is true

      1: They are exaggerating

      2: Their work is so simple that a brain-dead zombie could do it, because that's what you become at that level of exhaustion and frustration.

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    10. In the first year of grad school I worked 80-100 hours a week easily, second year was 60 hours a week, third was ~45-50 a week and fourth year was 30 hour weeks. In fourth year I was even still there for about 9 hours a day, but probably did work that ended up at 30. So when I say 80 hour weeks, I'm not exaggerating and that's really what happened as I'm not afraid to admit I put in 30 hour weeks in grad school eventually. That said, in postdoc it was mostly 40-50 hour weeks for me, although most of the days I stayed there after I finished working, but it was mostly playing video games, reading blogs, or shooting the shit with other postdocs.

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  22. Mandating a raise in salaries without concomitant raise in grant funding? Great plan! Hard to believe it came out of Washington DC.

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  23. "If I were the Emperor of the American scientific research enterprise, I would have phased this rule in over 3 or 4 years. But, I'm not."

    ...which raises the question, why aren't you?

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