Monday, July 16, 2007

The Academic Life

As my post-doc comes to an end in just a few months, I've been spending a lot of time lately thinking about my future and what I'm going to do with it. I decided long ago that the tenure-track lifestyle was not for me, but every time I get to one of these decision points in my career, I find myself questioning everything.

Today I stumbled upon this blog entry from someone who chose the academic life and is now leaving. Here is my favorite part:
I know a lot of people think the "utter pressure, sink or swim in the whirlpool" method is a great way to motivate pre-tenure people to extreme productivity, but in my case the primary result was an extreme crushing of my soul, the suppression of my ability to really function well as a scientist, and ultimately my decision that there are other exciting things in the world that I could be doing...

So now I'm done pondering that question. No tenure track for me. I prefer my soul uncrushed, thank you very much. I have a hard time understanding why anyone would put themselves through that and yet, there is certainly no shortage of people trying.

Of course the soft-money route is hardly any easier these days, particularly in planetary geology with NASA funding so hard to come by and absolutely no safety net to fall back on. I talk to too many people that are spending all of their time writing grant proposals and have no time left to actually do any science, not to mention the constant stress of not knowing if you are going to have a paycheck next week. That is not exactly what I signed up for when I decided to become a scientist.

I can always do another post-doc of course, the low pay and lack of respect are almost worth it to get to do the science (though this postdoc/blogger might argue that with me). In the end though, one cannot be a post-doc forever (well, one probably can, but it is definitely not recommended), at some point I will have to get a "real job" (or so my Dad keeps telling me). Is it any wonder I'm thinking about leaving academia, as so many of my friends and colleagues already have?

How sad is that? I really fear for the future of science in this country.

Rainy days and Mondays always get me down.

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