I’ll open this post by making three obvious statements, which might appear to be unrelated:
1. I haven’t posted on this blog much. I can see from my history I made three posts in July of 2010, and that it’s been largely dormant since then. This is, I believe, because my blog really lacks a purpose, and has drifted from the purpose I originally intended it to serve.
2. The job market for Ph.D.s right now, especially those who want to continue in academia, is simply terrible.
3. The inevitable change that comes with new parenthood is simply a change of perspective. No matter how many times you are told that it will happen to you, you never quite believe it.
|The prison-like Rosenstiel Center where I work|
But in many ways I’ve known this is coming for a long time, perhaps before I even started in graduate school. I have a different perspective from most scientists. Most scientists are obsessive about the problems they work on, and that obsession is what generates their brilliant work. I can be obsessive, too, but it doesn’t last, at least not for years or decades. When I’ve spent time on a problem, when I’ve “mastered” a particular skill, it’s time to move on.
The obvious thing to do is to start looking for a job. I’m doing that. What has become clear to me in the course of my search is that to be competitive today, I need a hook – an extra bit – that will make me stand out from other Ph.D.s. In part, this is because of my background in yeast; I lack some “hard skills” that biotech and pharma really need and that many, many other Ph.D.s have. But mostly, it because a lifetime as a bench scientist is not for me – even if I can find such a job now, I don’t want to do it forever. As I said, I’m different from other scientists, for whom lab-work is heart and soul of that they do.
|Darryl Cunningham's Science Tales, available|
soon from Amazon.com
You might rightly ask what purpose this will serve in the job market. I don’t fully know yet, but university departments and companies hire marketers and communicators who have these skills. Every academic lab has their own webpage, and professors are beginning to realize that affects their graduate student and post-doc applicants as well as their grant applications. The world of academic publishing is moving online with graphical abstracts and visual journals. As undergraduate textbooks become electronic, the possibilities for animation (and movies) to illustrate difficult concepts will open up. The world needs this. I don’t know exactly what job I’ll be able to get … and that’s a good thing, because any job that is in obvious demand now likely won’t exist by the time I’ve gained the skills I’m setting out to.
|Not even crawling, yet, but thinking about it|