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postdocs -- ask your mentor

Bharathi Jagadeesh bjag at ln.nimh.nih.gov
Thu Aug 14 09:58:41 EST 1997

aloisia schmid (a-schmi at uiuc.edu) wrote
>:    I don't think any of us see our post-docs as low-paid entry 
>: level jobs.  Far from it.  It is all too clear these are jobs with NO

I have a question for Alice, and the others who are posting; how is your
current situation (post-doc, perception of the future in science) different
from what you expected? If it's not what you expected, how is it different?

This information might be useful to young graduate students listening
to these posts. 

Science is a high pressure profession, and I was aware
of that, certainly from the period when I was in graduate school (if
not before). I knew that scientists were not well paid, and that post-docs
were not well paid. I knew that there was no guarantee of an academic
tenure track position, and that even those in tenure track positions
had to fight hard for funding, and continuing their research.

But, I am also in a field where I _do_ get to chase butterflies, where
my advisors get to chase butterflies. If the powers that be stop letting
me chase butterflies [Alice, thanks for the allusion to chasing butterflies;
I recently went to a garden, and watched hundreds of butterflies flitting,
and realize it is a very apt analogy for what I enjoy about doing
science], I hope that I can find another paying job that I don't hate.
But I don't think I'll regret the years I spent getting to do this. And,
lest something think that I am a naive graduate student who has only
invested a year of my life, I am a post-doc, and have many years invested
in doing science, but I have _enjoyed_ what I've done, not seen it as dues
to pay for the future. 

I have learned a few new things as I've "grown up", including one that
Julia Frugoli mentioned -- that is that you probably need to be in the
top 1% these days, rather than in the top 10% to get a tenure track
position, especially if you have any limits on your flexibility
imposed by family, other requirements. Another is the surprising number of
institutions that require that "professors" fund a large part of their
salary through outside research grants. These are things I think I was
unaware of, but most of the rest has been what I expected. I mentioned
to one of my advisors that many institutions require 50% of your salary
support to come from outside sources these days, and he was surprised!

Bharathi Jagadeesh/bjag at ln.nimh.nih.gov
Lab of Neuropsychology, NIMH
Building 49, Room 1b80
Bethesda, Maryland 20892

(312) 496-5625 x270

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