Saturday, March 5, 2011

Blue label tape

A collection of small useful things (links):


  1. CJ: I don't think I agree with your theory about the R&D cycle being at a point were more innovation is needed. I really want to believe you (and hope you can sway me to your pov), but I think the opposite is actually the case. More development is needed to get products which meet the needs of several new classes of consumers (ie developing countries & low income consumers).

  2. An open question...Why is it that most American institutes refuse to offer terminal MSc degrees?

    Here in Canada virtually every University offers Master's programs, and in fact it seems to be the norm for graduate students to first apply for an MSc and then either fast-track to a PhD (having gained an extra year of guaranteed funding) or choose to stick the MS (either to head out into industry or a PhD elsewhere). The concept of a stigma associated with an MS seems somewhat foreign to me.

    The American system certainly doesn't seem friendly to those who simply wish to get an MS and move on... I'm sure many grad students spend years in getting a degree which they do not necessarily want or need out of pride (simultaneously cheapening the value of a PhD), or feeling like wash-outs if they opt out. Silly.

  3. Why is it that most American institutes refuse to offer terminal MSc degrees?

    They don't refuse, they just make sure to really try to sell the Ph.D program over and above the MS one. You're right, there's a terrible stigma about getting a Master's, and you're also right that due to this stigma many grad students force themselves into bad situations. Hopefully word is getting out and this will change soon, but I doubt it.

  4. and yet the most profitable route will always be to forgo graduate school all together. On average it is still much more profitable to end at the BS in chemistry.

    The real question is, what makes scientists so susceptable to the Ponzi scheme which is grad school? Is the pride of a bit more alphabet soup really worth the uncertainity in your career that will come after you receive a MS or PhD? Does every scientist think that they will be the one that is different, because they are the biggest overachiever out there? Or are they all just scared to enter the real world, and hiding out in the one place they feel safe: school?

  5. MS associate chemist here.

    Getting a MS versus a PhD is a matter of choice - and I would say the most of the "stigma" comes from academics whose job it is to produce as many PhDs as possible. I was very unhappy with my advisor and projects, so I decided that sticking it out for the PhD wouldn't make me a better chemist or more marketable. A friend of mine (with 2 kids and a wife) left with a MS because he knew he couldn't pull 60-70 hour work weeks and have a happy family life. Two of my friends left because they knew the environment was too stressful and were generally unhappy. There are many reasons to want to leave grad school - I honestly feel it is better to leave with a MS than stick around for a mediocre PhD. One can always come back for the PhD if they really, really want it.

    The debate of outsourcing is a separate one, but out of the 5 folks (including myself) who left with a MS during 2006-2008 we all found employment (BMS, Merck, Abbott, Roche and Novartis). If you're a 'good' MS person who is technically competent and knows their stuff industry was generally happy to have you.

    If you get a MS, folks may treat you a little differently, but you're more marketable. In fact, many companies prefer to hire experienced MS folks over BS folks for associate jobs since they have a bit more breadth and depth of knowledge and skill set.

    So, I feel it's a personal decision. You'll find many MS folks who are employed and happy. I'm much happier than I ever was in grad school, and I know I made the right choice. I still enjoy benchwork and live a much more "normal" life. At my company, associates are treated with respect.

    Good luck.

  6. A10:44a: As I said, it's a half-baked theory. Hard to say whether there are any really productive innovations to be made, in certain fields...

    A2:07p: Thanks for your contribution -- it makes me so happy when people with direct experience contribute.

  7. Thanks for the lively discussion everyone! (I apologize that the comment settings on my site might have prevented this discussion from taking place there; they have been corrected!)

    @A2:10p - It may be a bit too cynical but I think one reason schools in the U.S. undervalue the Masters is that once they have you in the door PIs want to keep you for cheap, trained labor for as long as they can. I think if it were more acceptable to stop at the MS then more students would surely do it.

    @A1:29p - As someone in and (almost) out of graduate school I think one reason we fall for the Ponzi scheme is a lack of career advising. All of my chemistry professors at my undergrad only knew the academic route, so they encouraged me to follow in their footsteps. Plus the idea of getting paid to earn an education is appealing to undergrads who have already amassed debt from student loans.

  8. @Ms. MSmind

    anon1:29pm back. I think you are right about the lack of career advising and draw of being paid to continue school. That's how I got my MS. :-) You will find that when you enter the work place, a BS with 1-2 years experience will sometimes be able to get the same positions and pay as you.

  9. Another@Ms. MSmid:

    Recently these two opposing articles about the economic value of the chemistry PhD were cited on a CJ post:

    Meloan, C. E. J. Chem. Ed. 1993, 70(3), 469.

    Dietz, M. L. J. Chem . Ed. 1995, 72(1), 41-42.

    Meloan paints the PhD as a "gravy train" ticket, while Dietz uses comparative salary data from the JD and MD tracks to challenge Meloan's assumptions. Both articles present data that is kind of obsolete because of inflation and globalization. However, it's disturbing to infer that some academics are still in denial about the job opportunities in chemitry and even perpetuate those same misconceptions.

    Law and med schools have no reservations about rejecting applicants; after all, they need to maintain the perceived value of the JD or MD, especially in this crappy economy. Universities and autonomous research institutes, on the other hand, seem to insatiably consume grad students and postdocs. Furthermore, JD's and MD's can market themselves to a wider continuum of customers/employers more easily than PhD chemists. Can a chemist really expect employment from trashy advertising on late-night cable TV or bus stop benches?

    Overall, I have no regrets about getting a PhD. However, it's disheartening that I'm trained to be a flexible problem solver in a world that mostly wants specialized paper-pushers. If you decide to leave with the Masters and enter industry, try to decorate your CV/résumé with important acronyms related to instrumentation and regulated manufacturing/clinical research.


looks like Blogger doesn't work with anonymous comments from Chrome browsers at the moment - works in Microsoft Edge, or from Chrome with a Blogger account - sorry! CJ 3/21/20