Thursday, March 28, 2013

When talking to students and post-docs

Dear senior investigators,

When you are invited to give a talk somewhere, and are thus scheduled to have lunch with students and post-docs, PLEASE don’t talk about the following topics:

  •          The bad state of the economy
  •           The recent sequester
  •           How those two things lead to a sad state of funding
  •           How that leads to very little job opportunities for students and post-docs that want to stay in academia
  •           Oh wait, industry is not much better at the moment
Because really, we have heard that before and to talk about this a couple times a month with different people really doesn’t add to our morale. Please just talk about other stuff, like science, or your hobbies.


  1. I kind of like it when they talk about this. I at least like to have it acknowledged. That may be partly because I feel like some of my classmates are oblivious or in denial.

  2. Those lunches are always so awkward. I always find myself famished, so it's doubly hard to sound engaging and uppity when you are trying to stuff as much food as possible into your mouth. It's particularly bad when you have a group of quiet students because everyone is sitting there waiting for you to enlighten them and all they get is bits of pita bread and diet coke flying out of your mouth. Talking about sequestration at least gets everyone quiet and gloomy so you can eat your lunch in peace.

  3. I think it's OK to talk about it, but everyone online is talking about it SO MUCH that it is starting to wear on me. You know, maybe it would be nice if people acknowledged the fact that the jobless rate for people with PhDs is STILL half of what it is for people with MS degrees, 1/4 of what it is for people who graduated from high school, and 1/7 what it is for people with no degree whatsoever. Maybe you won't get a golden tenure job, but your likelihood of getting SOMETHING is better than most people (and the "golden tenure" job isn't what everyone wants anyway).

  4. So instead of hearing about the real life situation as a researcher you prefer to keep living in your bubble? Maybe it means something if a senior investigator is talking about this issue at lunch time, maybe it means that it is really a major struggle and we should all prepare ourselves for at least accpepting it. How we deal with this seems more difficult and to find a strategy it might help to talk about it. Talking about hobbies might make us happily enjoy our lunch but it won't change anything. Of course, we cann just keep praying to be one of the few lucky one's to get sufficient funding for our great science. Yet, I wonder whether whether this is our best bet.