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Deciding for/against a Ph.D.

Thu Dec 17 14:50:03 EST 1992

Hi -

I have my Ph.D. for a year and a half.  I really look at it as one of
the greatest accomplishments I've made.  There were many times when 
my graduate advisor and I never saw eye-to-eye, I didn't feel I was
making any progress and I just wanted to punt it all.  I stayed and
finished my Ph.D. and learned a great deal.  I really enjoyed what I
was doing (molecular modelling on proteins), but decided to try and
learn X-ray crystallography in order to solve protein structures.  My 
post-doc has taught me a great deal.  For one thing, I've gained a 
great deal of training in experimental techniques.  Another thing it's
taught me is to watch my back.  I find this very disheartening especially
after going through my Ph.D.  My options now are to a) find another
post-doc or b) try to find an job in industry (which is what I would like).

I have another post-doc lined up and it seems like a good position.  I think
it would be very rewarding - problem - the location.  It's 220 miles
away from my husband and home.  Industry jobs are few and far between.
It's amazing to me that when I first went to graduate school the norm
was maybe having 2 years post-doctoral experience.  Now, people have
2 to 3 postdocs and still can't make it.

I'm very discouraged at this point, as you can tell.  Science isn't fun
anymore because you have to work 20 hours a day to keep up with the
other people in your field in order to get funding !!! I won't even
go into the politics that I have been involved in !!! There is a network of
young discouraged scientists called the younger scientists network.  Most
of the people on the network have Ph.D.'s and many of them are unemployed
or underemployed.  

I'm probably not the best person to encourage you to continue your Ph.D. 
research.  I found getting my Ph.D. extremely self-fulfilling.  I guess
you have to find it in yourself and do what's right for you.  

My husband works in a pharmaceutical company.  If you were to ask him, the
job prospects for people with master's degrees are infinitely better than
for Ph.D.'s right now.  However, you WILL NOT get the same opportunities
with an M.S. as you will have with a Ph.D.  

Don't let your current situation discourage you either.  I've known people
who have switched fields and are currently quite happy with their new
advisors and research projects.  

Another myth - you have to work hard, but I prescribe to the adage:
"Work smarter, not harder".  Many times I would be stuck writing some
code and not knowing why I was getting a number of errors.  I would
drive home and on the way home it would hit me.  Being at Rockefeller, 
I've seen people plod along working 18 hours a day on research projects.
I made a suggestion on one project in Nov. 91.  Well, in April '92 they
finally took my suggestion and guess what, it worked.  Sometimes a few
hours of thinking is worth hundreds in the lab.  Don't let anyone tell you
that you must give up everything to be a scientist.  It's simply NOT TRUE.

Good luck,
Dorothea Kominos

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