Friday, August 19, 2016

The View from Your Hood: St Andrews, Scotland

"From the Biomolecular Sciences Building at St Andrews"
credit: Stephen Thompson
From reader Stephen Thompson:

"I was lucky for this to be the actual view from my hood. Its a view from the labs on the top floor of the Biomolecular Sciences Building at St Andrews, looking out over the fairways of the Old Course, the Hotel, The Cairngorm Mountains off to the left and the North Sea out to the right. It was amazing to be able to watch the Scottish seasons roll by over 4 wonderful years during my PhD."

(got a View from Your Hood submission? Send it in (with a caption, please) at chemjobber@gmail.com; will run every other Friday.)

14 comments:

  1. 4 years for a PhD in Scotland? That's rather long, right? I don't know how many UK PhD's I know that got a "PhD" after barely 3 years of graduate school and a flimsy paper, while in the US, its twice that long. In the end, none of it matter anyway. Chinese officials in the communist party are now reportedly going away 3 months at some universities and walking away with PhD, which is a well regarded tool to advance in the party. The PhD is the new BS, essentially.

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    1. "I don't know how many UK PhD's I know that got a "PhD" after barely 3 years of graduate school and a flimsy paper"

      Civility, please.

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    2. I'm glad doing a 3 year long PhD in synthetic chemistry wasn't wasted, as I'll be sure to rise through the ranks in the Chinese Communist Party (let's just assume I'm not going to be hired in pharma any time soon).

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  2. Brit now in the US here

    Once you remove all the TA-ing and spending time doing rotations at the start there is not a huge difference between 3-4 years in the UK and 5 in the US. The 1st year here (US) seems to be wasted.

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    1. I'd add that in the UK it is increasingly common to graduate with an MChem/MSci - which is a combined bachelors-masters degree that takes a year longer to obtain than a BSc. So basically the first year of our PhD is moved to the last year of our undergrad degree. I get the impression that British PhDs postdoc for several more years than the Americans on average. In the end I reckon the combined total number of years isn't that different.

      Anyway, there is a creeping Americanisation of the British academic system. Young faculty are now more likely to begin on temporary contracts ("junior research fellows") than as lecturers (permanent contract w. job security), akin to a tenure track. There are Doctoral Training Centres at most universities offering 5 year science PhDs, structured a lot like the American ones (an extra year at the beginning with coursework & rotations).

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  3. Well, the PhD degree used to be an academic prep exercise to become a teacher, and in that regards, TA-ing and exam reviews used to be appropriate, and not a waste of time. Nowadays, since you need a PhD for an entry level tech job in big pharma in the US, I would agree with you: all that is a grotesque waste of time for the student, and a deterrent for the best people to get into science.

    But since America's love affair with the Dr title, no matter if its an Ivy league degree or found in a box of Cracker Jacks, is unlikely to end anytime soon, we will have that kind of discrepancies for some time.

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    1. Au contraire, I think you'll find America's love affair is specifically with the Ivy League, not the degree or department or accomplishment.

      http://www.usatoday.com/story/opinion/2015/11/01/glenn-reynolds-reduce-inequality-abolish-ivy-league-elitist-discrimination-column/74998648/

      Srsly, the entire Supreme Court attended the same law school. What are the odds.

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    2. My bad; the High Druid council attended multiple schools... but all in the club. (I think O'Connor was the last oddball as a Stanford grad.)

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  4. That was my view during my graduate work too. Very hard to get things done with a view like that.

    My post doc had a lab with no windows at all, which was quite a come down.

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    1. It's funny, had exactly the same experience. Wonderful view for the PhD and in a basement and windowless lab for the postdoc!

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    2. I did my Ph. D. in a concrete monstrosity without any windows. I don't think it had much effect on my productivity. Instead of taking a minute every now and then to stare out the window and center myself, I just drank.

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  5. Undergrads benefit from having grad-student TAs because the difficulties of introductory courses are fresh in the minds of the latter.

    In addition, some TAs are whimsical. One fellow asked this non-credit question on a recitation quiz. Are you a turtle?*
    *https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ancient_and_Honorable_Order_of_Turtles

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  6. wow! that is an unbelievable view.. i do have my desk by a window in my office but the view is not quite the same.

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