Category Archives: leaving academia

Why it annoys me if people say academics should work hard

I am annoyed and I think it is not because I can’t figure out how to hang our curtains that I just picked up from the store. It’s also not because our internet is very slow because the cable that goes into our apartment hasn’t been put in place correctly. (Sorry to my husband who I just called being annoyed with the things mentioned above, I found out I’m not annoyed because of that). I’m actually annoyed because of this blog post I read this morning. It’s about how you need to be the best post-doc in order to become an academic PI.  (it does actually have a bunch of good points about how to write efficiently and don’t waste too much time trying to get things to be perfect).

Sure, it should be possible for someone to work 37.5 hours per week and still get senior positions in academic science;  it should be the case.  However, I fear it is not.  And what incentive does the academic science have to change?  What universities have are a workforce who happily work their 37.5 hours per week and then stick an extra 10-20 hours per week on top voluntarily.  A workforce who don’t take their entire annual leave allowance.  A workforce who work when they are sick and rarely take time off.

So yeah, you need to work hard. I don’t think this is unique to academia. As I tweeted in response to this, I think academics aren’t special snowflakes who work for love instead of money. They are people too. And I think in every profession, the best people are at the top. The best soccer players probably are the ones who practice while others sit in front of the TV. The best garbage men are those who walk those extra two steps to get the garbage that people put a bit further away from the street. And the best academics are perhaps the ones that work 80 hours a week and never take vacation. But does it help anyone to keep repeating that? To keep saying that if you don’t work hard you won’t succeed? As someone who just took a month off in order to make sure our new place gets organized and our kids are supported while moving to another continent, I can so: No, this is not helpful at all. It just makes me feel like everyone is passing me left and right while I am busy being a mom and a wife and a very proficient IKEA-furniture-builder. I think we need to hear more of that: of how to be more than just a scientist and be very successful at it too.

So I’d much rather read things like this: You don’t need to work 80 hours a week to succeed in academia!

Advertisements

4 Comments

Filed under absurd, academia, disgruntled postdoc, efficiency, leaving academia, life in the lab, parenting, postdoc, role models, science, women in science, work-life balance

My thoughts on (yet another) rejection

This morning I found out that I didn’t make it to the interview round of the homecountry fellowship I applied for. This was the second time I applied for this fellowship and the tenth time I applied for anything. This fellowship would make sure I could stay for another 3 years and have some time to apply for other things to try to establish my own group. You can only apply twice and this was my second try. For your reading pleasure I have organized these thoughts in two categories.

1. Pessimistic thoughts

Crap, now I only have 1 year and 3 months of postdoc time left if I don’t get another grant or fellowship. And with zero out of ten so far, why on earth would number 11 be more successful. Why would I even bother trying. If I didn’t get this one, why would I be more successful with a more senior fellowship? And why am I trying to get my poor little baby who is having quite some trouble sleeping at daycare used to this place if I’m going to then do something that a couple of reviewers and a committee think I suck at? Why have I spend the past four years as a post-doc instead of invest in trying to find another job? Because so far it seems the only skill I got from this is that I am remotely capable of dealing with a whole bunch of rejections. Is that useful anywhere?

2. Optimistic thoughts

Okay so I didn’t get this grant, but a lot of the review comments were actually pretty positive. It sucks that this one guy (yes I know who you are if you ask me to only cite papers from your own group) was very negative and said my CV was poor, but other than that they liked my ideas. The new lab that I will work in is headed by this professor who is really good at writing grants and might be able to help me improve. Also, I appear to be the only one who can do what I do in this group so they might want to try to keep me beyond the 1 year and 3 months that I have signed for now. And that would give me some time to try for the next things. Because I just found out that getting an ERC starting grant or the homecountry equivalent gets you a tenure track position at this university. Maybe if I get around this corner I can see the top of the mountain?

For the past two years I have told myself that if I got to ten unfunded grants I would stop and find a job outside of academia. But I think I’m going to try again. Because I tend to be optimistic most days.

7 Comments

Filed under academia, decisions, disgruntled postdoc, finding a job, funding, grant writing, leaving academia, life in the lab, postdoc, review, science, women in science, worrying

The idea-for-an-experiment generator

Yesterday, Scicurious wrote a very honest post about how she thought that she didn’t have enough ideas to write grants and stay in academic science. This is something that I hear around me every now and then (mostly from women). I have given this some thought before: how brilliant do your ideas have to be? Because I think that is what people mean when they say they don’t have enough ideas: that they don’t have enough brilliant ideas. But honestly, I think that the percentage of brilliant ideas in science is maybe 1-2% of all the science that is done. I think that the bulk of science is to repeat something with a slight modification to come up with something ‘new’. For example instead of looking at the dopamine system in behavior A, you now study the opioid system and you have another grant proposal. Of course nobody admits that this is how they come up with new experiments, but I have a sneaking suspicion that most PIs will have a variation of the machine below in their office somewhere. 
The optogenetics experiment generator: pick your opsin, roll the bingo wheel for brain region A, spin the wheel of fortune for brain region B and roll the dice for your behavior of choice. This generator can be modified for experiments in any field of life science and beyond.

1 Comment

Filed under academia, experiments, grant writing, ideas, imposter syndrome, leaving academia, life in the lab

On delusional academics

The other day, I was talking to transitioning out of academia with a couple people in my lab. One of the grad students had just had a conversation with a senior PI (but not our PI) about that. The senior PI had said that ze didn’t understand that people would leave academia. Ze understood that times were rough now, with the economy being bad and funding being low, but if everyone would just wait it out, things would turn for the better and we could all stay in academia. Yeah right. Sadly, the grad student didn’t ask what we were all supposed to do while waiting for the economy to get better, so I don’t know the answer to that. And I wonder if said senior PI would know the answer.

2 Comments

Filed under academia, finding a job, grant writing, leaving academia, life in the lab