In which my heart goes out to Postdoc B

What a difference a few words make.

Compare this:

With this:

A modest difference, you might think. But your average postdoctoral stint in the life sciences is probably something like 3-4 years. So the difference between 8 and 12+ years is significant. Realistically speaking, you wouldn’t expect to do three postdocs in under eight years. Still a modest difference, perhaps, but it’s enough to make me ineligible for the Royal Society University Research Fellowship (URF) scheme – even though under last year’s wordings, I was still within this limit.

But I don’t want this post to be about me. Most people look at my age and career path and assume I’m not a player: would a real player have done a stint in industry, or surrender to a career break in publishing due to personal circumstances, or have outside interests in science communication? This is, of course, debatable. Yet I want to make this post more general, as the new wording has ruled out a number of my colleagues (far younger colleagues with excellent track records) who took a much more traditional path – but still weren’t traditional enough.

I don’t want to invade their privacy, so let’s compare two hypothetical postdocs, A and B, both of whom published two decent first-author papers in their PhDs and were otherwise equivalent in talent and experience at the start.

Postdoc A does his first postdoc in a high-powered lab, stepping neatly into a project, initiated by a departing PhD student, that is just starting to bear fruit. He doesn’t have a family, so is able to work 12-hour days and throughout the weekend. He ends up with two top-tier papers in four years, and is able to secure another high-profile postdoc in an allied field, consolidating his reputation as an up-and-coming star with two more decent papers. Adding those to his 2 publications from his PhD, he has 6 first-author papers after 7 postdoctoral years. Moreover, his boss is happy for his protégé to take the line of research with him, so he’s in a great place to apply and succeed at a fellowship like the URF.

Not so Postdoc B. She does her first postdoc in a small but respected lab, but gives birth to her second child in year 2. The project is disrupted by her one-year break, so by the end of four years, she has only one co-first author paper (shared with the postdoc who took over her project while she was on maternity leave) and one small first-author paper. She has had to leave the lab every day at 5 PM to pick up her kids from daycare, and can’t work weekends. Most funding bodies would disqualify her break, so she’s effectively done a 3-year stint. From this, she secures a second postdoc in another decent lab, but the boss wants her to develop an entirely new system, which takes her three years to perfect: it’s a highly intricate technological advance, clearly innovative and incredibly powerful. In her third year she manages to publish one first-author paper about the system, but her boss doesn’t want her to take the bulk of this desirable prize as seed-corn for an independent fellowship; she attempts arbitration, but the head of department sides with the lab head. So instead she leaves it all behind and does a third postdoc in a high-powered lab on a project that’s quick off the mark: four years later, she has two top-tier papers, one decent one, and a portable line of research. Her track record is now the same as A’s – except that she’s been in the postdoctoral system for 10 years (not counting the break), so is not eligible for the URF.

Incidentally, this is not about gender. The above scenario could easily have been swapped: the hot-shot with no family ties could have been a woman; the maternity scenario could be swapped for that of a man who’s a full-time carer to his kids or his ailing parents, or for that of a spouse who has to follow a higher-paid, non-scientist spouse to a geographical location with no decent labs for several years. But these sorts of problems probably will fall disproportionately on women, because they’re more likely, on average, to be affected by having a family. It’s also not age discrimination per se, although such restrictions will, by their very nature, work against older researchers.

When I wrote to one of the funding bodies about their policies, they replied that “quality was paramount” – then reiterated the eligibility guidelines. Quite frankly, I don’t understand why postdoc A is of higher “quality” than postdoc B. If anything, the fact that B has triumphed over adversity and still come up on top is testimony to the tenacity of her character, which will stand her in good stead against the vicissitudes of an academic career. Who knows how A would react to a prolonged string of bad luck? What does timing have to do with quality? As long as one is between a PhD and an independent position, and is still obviously producing high-quality results, what difference do a few years make? Couldn’t these decisions be made solely on the excellence of the track record and of the proposed project?

I don’t want to pick on the Royal Society specifically – they are not alone; indeed, it seems to be the norm to impose such restrictions. Hats off, therefore, to the MRC which, with its Non-Clinical Fellowship is, to my knowledge, the only funding body available to a biomedical researcher in the UK that does not put an expiry date on postdocs.

Another thing I learned from my URF email enquiry, which wasn’t in the fine print, is that industry research doesn’t count as a career break: in other words, I have seven years of academic research under my belt (which would qualify me), but four years in industry (which scuppers it; under the old rules, it would have been considered as the third postdoc, so I would have squeaked through). This rule is in place despite the fact that it’s very difficult to publish anything decent, if at all, in industry, and impossible to take any research with you. In not letting applicants disqualify this time, it looks to me as if the RS does not want people to explore industry – which is odd, considering the emphasis on translational research, impact and intellectual property to which more and more funders give lip service, and the fact that most university departments find industry savvy desirable.

I’m interested to hear people’s views on these issues. But before I sign off, I should leave you with this thought: some might wonder how my criticism of sell-by dates fits with my views on science careers in general, and on the problem of the postdoctoral glut in particular. On the surface, imposing these restrictions might seem an easy way to shave off aging researchers who haven’t made the cut quickly enough, leaving more jobs and opportunities for the massive legion of younger postdocs coming up. But I don’t like this solution: it doesn’t account for non-traditional paths, for hidden talent, for delayed potential, nor recognize the value of experience. It favors the lucky and the unencumbered, the well-connected and the glib. Besides, making the system fairer now may lead to a bit more healthy competition in the short term, but when those younger postdocs turn into older postdocs, it will work in their favor too.

Because, despite our best intentions, we’ll never know at the start if we’re going to turn into postdoc A or postdoc B.

About Jennifer Rohn

Scientist, novelist, rock chick
This entry was posted in Careers, Staring into the abyss, The profession of science, Women in science. Bookmark the permalink.

42 Responses to In which my heart goes out to Postdoc B

  1. cromercrox says:

    HR. I rest my case.

  2. rpg says:

    Why, is it heavy?

  3. Jenny I agree with your sentiments. The bodies who claim that quality is paramount and then regurgitate the guidelines are missing the point. They are missing quality science people, unfortunately the people are also missing out on the quality opportunity. It is sad that in science when we need the ability and tenacity to do the quality science, the reward is for the conventional, from both institutions and funding bodies. Great point to raise and publicise.

  4. Grant says:

    is that industry research doesn’t count as a career break […] in place despite the fact that it’s very difficult to publish anything decent, if at all, in industry, and impossible to take any research with you

    I have faced *exactly* this here in NZ. A grant I applied for a couple of years ago now nominally allowed for career breaks and offered what could be viewed as a “re-entry” award. I wrote to confirm if I could apply for this shorter-term award with it’s shorter review period. They wrote back to rule that my working as a consultant did not constitute a break from academia. It was a real shame as I had an excellent project (IMHO) and one well suited to a shorter grant aimed at getting things off the ground quickly. (In a sense the value of this work has just been confirmed yesterday by publication of pretty much exactly the work I had hoped to do by another group in an excellent journal; impact factor 13+. It’s very frustrating to be reading the paper. [I’ve nothing personal against the authors!])

    To do *my own* academic research as a solo consultant I’d have to work unpaid in parallel with my consultancy work, which is not really easy as I have to pay the bills, pay the loan for the house, etc. I did seriously consider trying this as the project was well suited to a solo or small group effort, but in the end I let it go as the financial gamble made me too nervous! (Part of me—probably the wistful romantic part!—is now wishing I had tried to but I had to make some sort of call at the time.)

    I do get the very odd paper authorship, but only because I occasionally work with an academic group who lets me be an author. They’re not “my” papers as such and not really representative of my ability IMHO. (It’s possible this confused the assessment of my status.)

    Well written by the way.

  5. CLR says:

    Aside from the total career annihilation at a personal level, reducing diversity in research can only have a negative impact on quality overall. I just don’t buy it. An ill-conceived attempt to reduce applicant numbers and increase success rates, perhaps?

  6. Jenny Koenig says:

    Thank you for putting it so elegantly. It is, in effect, something of a lottery and those who are successful in this system really do not like to admit they were lucky. (They were also probably very good scientists but there are plenty of very good scientists who were just unlucky).

    However what I find really disturbing is the power of the lab head, compare:

    Moreover, his boss is happy for his protégé to take the line of research with him, so he’s in a great place to apply and succeed at a fellowship like the URF.

    and

    boss doesn’t want her to take the bulk of this desirable prize as seed-corn for an independent fellowship; she attempts arbitration, but the head of department sides with the lab head. So instead she leaves it all behind

    This makes the system so open to bias, nepotism etc and surely this is at least part of the reason for the lack of diversity (ethnicity and gender) amongst tenured scientists compared to PhD students and post-docs.

  7. cromercrox says:

    Phew. Glad I put that down. Must be full of gold bars.

    What I meant was HR as in Human Resources, or what we used to call Personnel before they started taking over the world. I have a theory that people in HR are trying to bring the rest of the world down to their own level. It’s a kind of revenge. People in HR never had the brains or talent or gumption of the rest of us, who always wanted to be scientists, writers, or both, and made it happen. So it’s the people in HR who call the shots about who gets recruited, even how the job adverts are drafted. Look at it this way – which child ever said to its parents ‘when I grow up, I want to work in HR’?

  8. Tom says:

    The pedant in me wants (OK, I want) to ask whether ‘are expected to’ actually means ‘must’, or just ‘should preferably’, for some unspecified amount of ‘preferably’, but I assume you’ve already thought of that.

    ‘Years of experience’ is a hopeless measure of amount of experience of course, because a year of intense and varied work can give you more experience than eight years of doing the same old stuff. But I guess an upper limit on ‘years of experience’ is always a proxy for something else anyway, whether that’s ‘expected salary’, ‘willingness to take orders’ or ‘time left until retirement/death’.

  9. Thanks for the interesting insights, folks. Keep ’em coming!

    Tom, I’ve already made an inquiry, and it’s been confirmed I can’t apply. I hadn’t thought of the high salary issue – which is a bit naive of me. As I consider my next steps (since the fellowship route is a long shot and the decisions don’t happen until beyond my current contract), I’ve done some soul searching to decide whether I’d be willing to take a 10K pay cut to stay in research – if, for example, i found another place to do a normal postdoc but they weren’t willing or able to cover what I’m worth. The uncomfortable answer at the moment is, yes, I would take that salary cut, and make ends meet somehow. We’ll see how it pans out.

  10. This comment, via email, is from someone who wants to remain anonymous:
    —————————————————————————————-
    Great post. And the above quote applies to many other non-scientific fields,
    including writing. I write as a 40-something three-times published author with a
    track record in journalism, and some copywriting experience. (Not to mention all the
    other things I’ve done.)

    I’m looking for freelance copywriting/business writing gigs to fund training for a
    new career, but the bemused pats on the head are becoming deafening. ‘We’re *always*
    looking for writers! Send us your CV!’ they say on my first approach. Then, silence.
    If I’m lucky, I’ll get ‘Ooh, you’ve got an interesting background,’ then more
    silence.

    There may well be something that I’m not seeing here, of course…

  11. Ian the EM Guy says:

    I’ve never been the finest forward planner of my career, but it would never even occur to me that working in industry etc would be of detriment to any chances of forwarding your career. It makes me wonder what my own current position would count as, considering I work collaboratively with a number of groups on the EM projects but don’t have a project of my own so to speak. As my work is collaborative I’m getting a massively wide range of project experience, and this together with my EM specialism could be considered a bit of a unique selling point rather than a millstone around my neck if I wanted to pursue a fellowship.

    I understand that there have to be rules to things, but science needs people that go about things a different way. A whole cohort of researchers with the same experiences and career paths can’t be as good, or as fari a way to do things as allowing leeway for those who think or do things differently.

  12. Matt Cliff says:

    Great thoughts on something close to my heart. I think that there are other factors in this other than career breaks. Post-docs who sacrifice some of their research time to assisting PhD students or running pieces of equipment are less likely to get their two A type first author papers in 3 yrs. Such a post-doc has a much more suitable skill set for running a lab, but is unlikely to compete well in the fellowship application process against someone who has a faster publication rate. I have seen a number of fellows who haven’t had these skills really flounder. Another side effect of this is producing fellows who have a narrow research outlook, and can’t adapt when funding priorities change.

  13. Indeed, Matt – I myself committed myself to a second-authorship in this stint that turned out to be a lot more involved than originally advertised. If I could do it all again, I would have said no. (BTW, the PhD student I was helping out is now a group leader back in his home country! Entirely well-deserved – he’s brilliant – but I can’t helping thinking…well, you can imagine what I’m thinking.)

  14. Steve Caplan says:

    A couple of comments:

    1) Tangential to the issue at hand, but very important is to note (for those students who are considering to do a graduate degree in the sciences) that the laboratory/mentor career choice at this early stage may well make or break your career. Do your research, and don’t be fooled by the first friendly face–choose wisely.

    2) The system is clearly unfair. My own career is atypical in the global sense of having taken 4 years off science between high school and Ph.D.–albeit 3 for military service and 1 for travel. But that did put me out of commission for various post-doctoral fellowships, and I found that unfair. Fortunately, I was supported by a Human Frontiers fellowship which had no such restrictions (at least back then).

    3) What to do about it? Certainly awareness is key. I am finding, though, that one of the benefits of moving a little bit up the science ladder (although some would say it’s moving away from science) is that there ARE possibilities to institute to change from within. So by slowly becoming enmeshed within a variety of intra-university as well as national organizations (everything from committees to grant review, and I am being purposefully vague about which ones), I am finding that it is possible to institute changes and make a mark for changing rules and regulations–and even unwritten codes–from within.

    So a combination of continued awareness where these anomalies exist, coupled with the more subtle battles from within, and I venture that there is some hope.

  15. Amy Charles says:

    What strikes me, as I read this, is that this is essentially mass circular stupidity that certainly is about gender and age. Lookit:

    1. Make big brouhaha about recruiting women to life sciences.
    2. Fill undergraduate (and, to a lesser extent) grad programs in life sciences with women (and lots more men). Grow these programs like topsy.
    3. Produce PhD glut.
    4. Winnow PhD glut in a way certain to keep a large chunk of candidates, highly disproportionately women, from the jobs.

    I don’t think there’s any need to be apologetic about saying that the rules are sexist. The test of discrimination in rules is whether, in practice, they disproportionately disqualify particular sexes, races, religions, etc. “We’re concerned with quality” was the same line used in the 1970s to keep women out of professions; later, it was “well, it’s a personal choice, whether or not to have a family,” even though it was demonstrable that having a family did lovely things for a man’s career, and terrible things to a woman’s career, and that the “personal choice” line was tantamount to saying “it’s fine for men in professions to have families, but not for women to do the same” — particularly while justifying higher pay for men by explaining that they had families to support.

    I say call it what it is, and keep writing about it.

  16. ricardipus says:

    I am not convinced that those “rules” are as hard and fast as you think they are. I’d apply anyway. But I’m known as a sh*t-disturbing system-dissing rebel, of course.

  17. Those of us affected have emailed the administrator in charge and have been specifically told not to apply. (The one that broke my heart was the incredibly talented woman who is a mere two months over the limit). Considering that applying for a fellowship in the UK involves not only months of work by the applicant, but also a fair bit of work by the admin folks in the department where the fellowship would be carried out, it’s not feasible to “apply anyway” if you’ve been specifically told you can’t.

  18. François says:

    >>>”As long as one is between a PhD and an independent position, and is still obviously producing high-quality results, what difference do a few years make? “<<<

    Because there are not enough secured independent positions in academia (or elsewhere) for everybody .So you have to set arbitrary rules : I agree it's unfair, but the system is like that : highly competitive.

    That's why I took a radical decision last year by ending my career in academia (and in Research) after my first postdoc. My opinion is that putting your scientific career forward has become too speculative, regardless of your efforts, involvement and individual talent.

  19. Thanks for your comment, Francois.

    I don’t buy the logic of your argument. Allowing more people to apply for the same number of fellowships doesn’t use up more permanent positions; it only makes the process more competitive. Say with an arbitrary cutoff of 8 years, with our example above, you get 500 applicants, whereas with freeing it up to anyone between a postdoc and an independent position, you get 1000 applicants. Most fellowships operate by a quick triage system in the first instance anyway, and it might take slightly more time to winnow out the losers, but by focusing on track record (productivity) or other more sensible criteria, you would not discriminate against people in situations described for our hypothetical postdoc B – and hundreds of other possible scenarios.

    Especially when the criteria you choose disadvantages a particular group (those with primary responsibility for children, for example), I cannot agree that this criteria is the best one. If you really see the need to reduce the number of applicants, it would actually be fairer to do something truly random, like only allow people to apply if their surname starts with the letter A through to M.

  20. Hang on – make that N through to Z. 😉

  21. cromercrox says:

    The girrafe elephant in the room here is not gender – despite Amy’s cogent comments above – but the fact that the focus of all such things is on youth.

    Whether the rubric says that you might have between one and three postdocs, or be three to eight years from your PhD, the advertisements discriminate on the basis of age. The HR people will say that they don’t, because they don’t say things like ‘people over 40 needn’t apply’, but the outcome is the same.

    It worries me that in a generally aging population, people with lots of experience, institutional memory and general smarts – but who might not be inclined towards management or leadership – are being forced out of the system.

    Once upon a time when the world was young I headed up the distant ancestor of what is now Nature’s online news/features team and had the chance to employ a BA Media Fellow – a short-term position in which a scientist could spend a few weeks in the summer working in the media. I felt that young people had plenty of opportunities, whereas it was the scientists in mid-career who might benefit as much, or more, from such things, and yet would in normal circumstances be pushed out by the bright and shiny young things.

    Therefore I made the conscious decision – which would nowadays probably be illegal – to only consider applicants who were older than I was (I think I was about 37 at the time). That cut the list of applicants down from 19 to two. The person I employed was different from the usual run-of-the-mill, and I’d like to think I learned as much from him as he did from the experience.

  22. The funding bodies will hotly deny age discrimination. In fact one (not the RS, as it happens) did just that, in a follow-up email to me:

    “I can assure you that [redacted funding body] places no restrictions on the age of applicants for [the fellowship in question], the quality of a candidate is paramount. … Applicants who undertake PhD training later in life and are therefore older than the majority of eligible candidates are welcome to apply.”

    Technically, they’re right that this isn’t age discrimination. I agree with your point, Henry, but as they’re within the law, it’s probably not a useful argument to leverage. I think the discrimination-against-carers tack is the one with the most legs – if we were actually thinking of starting a revolution, that is.

    Not that I am…

  23. ricardipus says:

    Those of us affected have emailed the administrator in charge and have been specifically told not to apply.

    I wonder if perhaps not doing this would have been strategic in this case? After all, the language you quote is “applicants are expected to be at an early to mid stage of their career (between three to eight years…” [emphasis mine]

    That word, “expected” is exceptionally vague, and unless it’s explicitly stated elsewhere in the guidelines that this is a hard and fast time range, I would not interpret this as meaning you were disqualified. But, as you mention, you asked the question and got the answer.

  24. I don’t see the point of even attempting this. It’s clear if we hadn’t asked, they still would have rejected our applications – after two months of hard work by the applicant and two weeks of hard work by the grants administrators at the host institution. A friend of mine applied for a similar fellowship last year without checking the guidelines carefully and got rejected because she was one month over the 6-year deadline. So there is demonstrably no flexibility built into the system.

    I mean, after submitting without asking and getting rejected, what would you suggest? Taking them to court over the interpretation of the wording? I can’t see that ending well. The time would be better spent pursuing other options, or focusing on getting another paper together.

  25. ricardipus says:

    I see. It wasn’t clear from your post just how defined the wording is (or isn’t), nor how rigid the interpretation of the deadlines is (or isn’t). As written, it is simply suggestive of a certain time range and the only thing it definitely says is that they will not accept applicants who have just submitted their PhD.

    Since you asked for opinions, here’s mine: this agency (and others like it) need to use much more clear language in their guidelines, to avoid people like me from wasting everybody’s time with their own interpretations.

  26. I wonder if it’s a measure of my own pessimism that I don’t even read that statement as anything other than a definite limit between 3 and 8 years? Maybe I’m just overly familiar with the genre.

    But all that could be cured if I ever get a real job already. Blah.

  27. Steve Caplan says:

    Lawyers/barristers and funding agencies speak in parseltongue

  28. Lawyers/barristers and funding agencies speak in parseltongue

    No doubt.

    HR, of course, speak a yet more mangled version – lostparseltongue?

  29. ricardipus says:

    My experience with HR at Certain Institutions is that they rarely speak at all, particularly when you need them to venture an opinion on something tricky related to hiring and/or firing, and when they do it’s on the phone so that there’s no written (typed) record.

    Not saying how I know this, no resemblance to living persons and/or real institutions either living, dead, or undead is implied, E&OE, batteries not included, the above statements being not warranted fit for any purpose whatsoever, etc. etc. etc.

  30. Laurence Cox says:

    I completely agree with both you and Jenny Koenig. In fact, thinking of scientists who have spent any significant length of time out of academia and then gone on to reach the highest level (Nobel Prize), I can only think of one, Albert Einstein. That, of course, was at a time when far less was being spent on science, so the community was much smaller, and I wonder whether anyone like him would be able to succeed today.

  31. Amy Charles says:

    Jenny, re: age discrimination, while they may be technically inside the law now, that may change if such rules have been in effect for several years and it can be demonstrated that it’s essentially useless for older new-PhDs to apply.

    The problem (if we’re talking sexism) is that however you do it, unless you’re going to tell women to stay home and have children first, then do their adorable PhDs (where they’re taking up space that some young person with a chance at a real career might’ve had), none of these timespan rules work. The nature of raising children is whatchacall, slow, piecemeal, inefficient, and it goes on about oh 15-20 years. Unless you’ve taken the old daddy role, or you’ve turned your children over to nannies to raise, you aren’t going to be working 60-90 hour weeks while those children live in your house. You can’t responsibly. They don’t in fact raise themselves. Nor can you predict what’ll suddenly eat two hours.

    I recognize, btw, that this still doesn’t reach your “what about people who just want to do more than one damn thing all their lives” point, but this is the way to get in, I think. Demonstrate that mothers can do it; no reason others can’t.

    I think Henry’s right in general, and over here too, about the attitude towards oldish farts who’re quit good at whatever they do but don’t want to be management, thanks. I see most such people survive by aging along with some piece of machinery, or process, that no one else knows how to handle, and by maintaining exceptionally good networks and being friendly relaxed types. Even so, when they lose their jobs, they’re in serious trouble. I’m talking about this as if it’s other people, but of course I’m in there, too. But it strikes me that the motive here is fear, not sexism, which is rooted in contempt. Fear that a non-management-ambitious older person is a walking reproach, also a threat: others might see that level as potentially OK for the likes of people accustomed to better. Fear that if they don’t lard the place with the young they’ll die. Youth have secret magical promise and may *know things*. Among the youth might be some genius. Youth are also malleable. So that actually strikes me as a harder one to get at.

  32. cromercrox says:

    But it strikes me that the motive here is fear, not sexism, which is rooted in contempt. Fear that a non-management-ambitious older person is a walking reproach, also a threat: others might see that level as potentially OK for the likes of people accustomed to better.

    I can only speak from personal experience as a longtime employee who’s had almost no management responsibilities. The idea that one progress upwards and into management is so ingrained that those of us who aren’t so inclined are viewed, if they are viewed at all, with a degree of indulgence (at best). The reason I can get away with murder is that I’m not taken entirely seriously by the powers that be.

  33. @Henry

    “The idea that one progress upwards and into management is so ingrained that those of us who aren’t so inclined are viewed, if they are viewed at all, with a degree of indulgence (at best). The reason I can get away with murder is that I’m not taken entirely seriously by the powers that be.”

    Heh. Henry, I wish I’d written that, as it applies to me as well. Though, were it me, you would have sort of seen my eyebrow arching skyward at “(at best)”

  34. Vanessa says:

    The situation is even worse in the humanities. Many postdoctoral positions allow for a maximum of one previous post-doc position (3-5 years post-PhD) or are aimed squarely at the current batch of graduates with no previous positions. Our major funding body, the AHRC, does not allow non-tenured people to lead applciations, so after you’ve successfully gained your JRF, and/or a Leverhulme or ESRC or Royal Historical Society or Wellcome grant your options are a. get a faculty post b. take fixed-term teaching posts or c. give up.
    There were 3 tenured jobs, globally, in my specific discipline last year, and hundreds of applicants for many positions in associated disciplines. Consequently the post-doc restrictions in our field are *guaranteeing* that hundreds of excellent, experienced academics are forced to drop out of academia; promoting ‘new talent’ (who have just as little chance of getting a permanent job) at the expense of ‘old talent’ does not seem to be a viable solution to the problem of funding excellent research and promoting promising academics.

  35. Thanks for this interesting perspective from a field I know little about.

  36. Ryan Brinkman says:

    I tell all my students to be very, very careful about taking a position in industry if they should ever, ever, ever have the remotest chance of coming back to academia in the future. Its pretty much going to make a big gaping black hole in the CV that is very difficult to escape from. Personal experience, I just happened to get very, very lucky.

  37. You know, despite everything I don’t regret doing it. I learned a hell of a lot about translational research, I got some great patents and invented something I’m still proud of, I got great group leader experience running a large team of PhD students, postdocs and technicians for a few years, didn’t publish too badly – it was a rush from start to bitter bankrupt end.

  38. Kaleberg says:

    Ah yes, the Captain Brierly problem in Conrad’s Lord Jim.

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