Friday, June 12, 2009

I don't have a parachute

Remember that book 'What color is your parachute'? Yeah, that one. The post title refers to that. What do I mean. Well, I decided I am leaving academia as of July 11th or so. My fellowship is up June 30, I have a meeting and a talk scheduled in early July, and by the 11th they will be done. So it seems a logical point. I'm not interested in continuing in this lab, or in this project, or in academic research altogether. I think for those that enjoy it, great for them. But for most of us, its a long, frustrating, grueling process. Right now I'm just exhausted try to get these manuscripts out. I predict one will be accepted for publication and the other will never see the light of day. So be it.

The issue is that my boss continually wants me 100% on his work, even though 100% of my salary is from a different project (the one I am trying to finish up). Then I realized that in order to submit the project to a journal, it needs biological replicates. However, my boss disagrees, and in fact knows very little about the field he is a supposed expert in. This is all very disappointing to me, but it's irrelevent. What is relevent is that I am not productive in academic science, I have no idea how you could be, running 3 project by yourself side by side, with constant demands on your time and effort elsewhere.

If I were to stay, it would be very difficult to get these current projects out because at that point I would be funded by him with the rightful expectation that my work should be in the areas he cares about. I agree with that aproach, but a) there is no point doing so because these projects will not lead to a publication quickly, it will be at least 6 months, probably 1 or two years before that happens, and b) I am pretty sure nobody cares about manuscripts outside of academia. Yes, they are a useful measure of productivity, but is my best friend, who maybe has one first author paper to his name, a loser? Hardly, he has a good job and is becoming well established in his area. I have 3 right now, and probably another one or maybe two by the time this is over. So what. Nobody cares, end of story. Academic priorities are vastly different from the real world.

What will I do?

Well that is the question. I'd like to go into analytic chemistry/mass spectrometry, since I have some small expertese in that area. Failing that, I will probably get out of science altogether. If that means sales, marketing, IT, or something I'm not sure. I thought about it alot. Through my life I've had many different jobs, most of them meaningless and menial. Yet I was vastly happier than I am now. My health is failing, my mental facilities are just about shot, and I am so depressed and anxious I don't know who I am any longer.

I am pretty confident I will get a job. The unemployment rate among PhDs is much less than the population average (1-2% according to statistics). The misemployment is 10%, which is a measure of the people who are in field that are not directly related to their schooling. The amount of PhDs in academic science, by the way, is about 40% of work force, meaning the majority are not in academia. So don't feel like a loser if you 'can't make it' in academia. I know what the work world is like. Its easier and harder at the same time, but at the end of the day, it's just a job and your life/career is not hanging by a thread every single moment (which is a nice change from the current state here). So, anyway, I have statistics to back me up, and I know the economy will get better, and in some cases some industries are doing just fine and hiring. You just have to know where to look and who to talk to.


azgma said...

Geez!!! Sounds horrible! I agree with you. Get out now, and find something you can feel passionate about. I love my field, but hate the politics. My solution is that I moved several years ago to a work environment that I like. There is no $ nor prestige, but I feel excited abt what I do. And BTW, my physical and emotional health has greatly improved!

Leaving Academia said...

It's really, really great to hear someone say, "I'm leaving academia, and I know I'm going to be all right." For a lot of people who leave, the feeling of being simultaneously overqualified and underqualified is terrifying. But I just think it's fantastic that you've got a solid sense of what you have to offer employers and that, hell, you're not happy in academia and can be happier elsewhere. Kudos to you.