Dr. Mom, My Adventures as a Mommy-Scientist

Discussion of my journey from grad school to postdoc to tenure with two kids, a husband, (and a bit of breast cancer) in tow.

Wednesday, July 02, 2008

We are so lucky...

For all the whining and complaining that I may do about this job, I never lose sight of how lucky I am to be in this profession. Yesterday I was meeting with some of my undergraduate students who plan to apply for grad school next year. We were talking about how funding is down and how many people are shrinking their labs to address the problem. They were worried that they wouldn't get into grad school and maybe we should consider industry. We began to talk about the advantages of academia (and a research job) vs. industry.

I worked in industry before I went back to graduate school and found it very frustrating (both in co-ops and a fulltime position). The companies that I worked with were generally pretty good so no issues there, but I found the work boring. Process engineering is basically sitting around waiting for something to break and then frantically fixing it. Its *supposed* to be about preventing things breaking too, but any good company won't have very many things breaking. Many of the people that I worked with didn't really care about their jobs, they worked to live.

I love being in academics. I love doing research. I actually co-oped in research, and at the time was frustrated by the slow pace of things (and lack of success). As I got older and gained experience in industry I realized that only when doing research was I truly challenged. It is a frustrating job, with little immediate rewards, but it is infinitely challenging, allows me to surround myself with brilliant colleagues, and to set my own schedule.

I admit I find it difficult to go on vacation. I really enjoy what I am doing and don't want to miss a thing. I am turning into one of my thesis advisors, the one who could never leave. I didn't understand it at the time, but I do now. When you do something that you really love, it isn't work anymore.


At 10:50 AM , Blogger Dr. MCR said...

You said it!! We are *so* fortunate! How cool is it to find an interesting question, devise a strategy for trying to getn an answer to it, and then making that happen (on a good day)? I think of all the folks who are stuck in jobs they hate, and who have no choice in the matter at a certain point in their lives. Remembering this helps me grit my teeth and get through the icky parts of academia (grant triages, paper rejections, lower pay than I'd like) and appreciate my relative freedom. Thanks for a thoughtful post!

At 1:00 AM , Blogger stepwise girl said...

This is so true! When I'm going through a tough time in work I ask myself what else I would like to do and can never think of anything. THanks for the post.

At 4:04 PM , Anonymous Tom said...

Some people like academia, others just aren't up to finding solutions to minute questions. I'm a grad student with no view on becoming prof (nobody looking like they'll quit in a few years, so no position in my domain). What can i do but industry?

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