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Advice request: love experimental life sciences, but done with pursuing a PhD

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Advice request: love experimental life sciences, but done with pursuing a PhD

Postby R.M. Allen » Fri Sep 25, 2015 3:16 pm

Dear all,

I would like to ask for your advice, especifically to people from the field of life sciences (molecular biology, medicine, physiology).

My background: BSc in Biology from Uruguay, needed three more years than the usual to graduate (due to familiar problems, economic crisis, me being only son and incredibly insecure, having to work part time in some occassions, among other things). Finished in february 2009 with a very average GPA (7 out of 10).

Had a lot of issues finding a studentship in my home country (went from a lab without funding, to a lab where is suffered bullying and mobbing and got expelled to a great lab in heart ischemia but without funding for a scohlarship).

Worked during 2012 in the private sector (cardiac drugs Pharmacovigilance) just to save money for moving abroad. Crappy job, crappy company, but hey... it was a salary.

In the end of 2012 I moved to Spain to pursue a MSc in Biotechnology and Biomedicine using my money savings of the year. Topic of my MSc Thesis was related to brain ischemia. Great environment, lot of help, enjoyed work and my stay. The downside is that they had little funding. Began my PhD there but it was hard due to VERY limited funding (I had no scholarship and the lab had no grant) I worked a second job to cover my life expenses: for about 6 months I slept 5-6 hours per day.

In the beginning of 2015, after doing CV carpetbombing over all Europe got admitted for a PhD in a Pharma company in Brussels where funding is only renewed for 1 year after evaluation. Detail: the position was intended originally for a postdoc, but as they saw my motivation they offered me the position. It was a position in one of the top pharma companies of the world, doing research in cardiac ischemia. Entered and began my training in surgery (which was hard, took me a lot of time but I loved it). In the last two months I have been doing extensive training and working 9-10 hours a day at full capacity.

Long story short, a few weeks ago my supervisors and the chief of the department had a meeting with me and told me honestly that it would be very likely (99.9% probability) that I don't get funding for the next year. They think I am clever, enthusiastic, optimistic and hard-working; however my learning curve is taking longer than they thought. It was a warm meeting, in the sense that it was an open conversation and sincere. They told me also that they don't see me as "laboratory science material" in the sense that I don't have the talents to plan and perform experiments with the high standards they have. They said that instead of cutting my salary now they will leave until the completion of the year so that I can find out what to do next.

Truth be told, I didn't feel bad nor depressed, nor angry. I thanked them for the opportunity to work here and train myself and asked them what I could do for them. They encouraged me to write a review on my topic of research and a project report (challenge accepted).
After 15 years of struggling in science (I will be 35 in november and began my BSc studies in 2000) I am tired of the PhD race. I am tired of not having a girlfriend (never had, I was too busy and poor studying or doing internships), I am tired of not doing anything just to keep all my energy for my PhD, I am tired of the lack of funding everywhere, I am tired of keep pushing for the sake of keep pushing because I am not a quitter, I am tired of tiredlessly applying for positions all over the world. I see that the academic career (especially since the beginning of the global economic crisis in 2009) is not as nice as I thought (limited salaries, excessive duties, lack of stability, relocation every 3 years for a postdoc or tenure, ecc) and I don't want to live the rest of my life for my job. I want to have a life, get a girlfriend, marry and kids. My job is not my EXCLUSIVE priority as it used to be.

As academia is not my cup of coffee anymore, I think of a different career. However, I love working with my hands (animals, and laboratory techniques), I love being creative and I love challenges. I am afraid that I will not be able to do that all together outside the laboratory (academic or pharma).

Have you ever been through this? Could you please give me same advice? Thanks for reading me!
R.M. Allen
 
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Re: Advice request: love experimental life sciences, but done with pursuing a PhD

Postby Dave Jensen » Sat Sep 26, 2015 8:41 pm

RM,

I'd like to suggest that you keep your posts shorter. Short posts get answered, long ones do not. I don't know why that is.

Also, just between you and me there's one line missing on your post from your original. Please, don't put it back in. I eliminated it so that you wouldn't lose half of your audience. I'd like to see you get some serious advice here,

Dave Jensen, Moderator
"Failure is a bruise -- not a tattoo." -- Jon Sinclair
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Re: Advice request: love experimental life sciences, but done with pursuing a PhD

Postby MAP » Sun Sep 27, 2015 4:08 am

Dear RM,
you have spent a long time in the lab and I think you know many different techniques. How about applying for positions in industry or academia that require MSc only? You would still work in the lab and wouldn't need to do a PhD.
You say, you're working at a top pharma at the moment. Maybe try getting a position there? Or with that industrial experience apply to other companies.
Good luck
MAP
 
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Re: Advice request: love experimental life sciences, but done with pursuing a PhD

Postby Yandorio » Sun Sep 27, 2015 10:13 am

"I want to have a life, get a girlfriend, marry and kids."

I sometimes wonder if the grad school-PhD-postdoc trajectory is made
for people with these traditional goals. However, grad
students in NYC are making $32000 or something (students!!) and postdocs
make from 35-58 K these days so if you feel the situation is dire
now think about how bad it used to be. If you want to go another route--
do it, balls out and without reservation. That 15 year old from TX who made a clock is now hobnobbing with world leaders.
Zuckerberg, Jobs and Gates all left academia to change the world...
So if you're creative the sky's the limit. Make a decision and
never look back.
BTW "Entered and began my training in surgery" Huh? PhD training in surgery?
Yandorio
 
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Re: Advice request: love experimental life sciences, but done with pursuing a PhD

Postby R.M. Allen » Sun Sep 27, 2015 1:10 pm

MAP wrote:Dear RM,
you have spent a long time in the lab and I think you know many different techniques. How about applying for positions in industry or academia that require MSc only? You would still work in the lab and wouldn't need to do a PhD.
You say, you're working at a top pharma at the moment. Maybe try getting a position there? Or with that industrial experience apply to other companies.
Good luck


Dear MAP,

Thank you for your comment.

I have thought of that, it is my idea and interest. The thing is that in the meeting my supervisor told me that he does not see me as laboratory worker due to my limited planning skills.

Thank you all for reading.

David, will edit the thread in these days.

Yandorio, until a couple of months my life was the laboratory and nothing else, however my priorities shifted.
R.M. Allen
 
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Joined: Fri Sep 25, 2015 3:07 pm

Re: Advice request: love experimental life sciences, but done with pursuing a PhD

Postby PG » Mon Sep 28, 2015 12:50 pm

First that one supervisor tells you that your planning abilities are limited doesnt necessarily mean that it is true. As always when receiving any type of feedback think it through carefully and determine whcih parts that are correct and potentially can be improved, which parts are correct but that you have to accept and what parts that may be incorrect.

Having said this even if it is true there are laboratory positions that doesnt require a lot of planning etc. I can give a couple of examples from the company I am working for now. Quality control, we do both in process testing ie testing while the manufacturing instrumentation is running as well as kit releases. These are by definition identical between runs and doesnt require any particular experimental planning (depending on skill set there might be other planning etc involved). Also in R&D having operators that are capable and willing to do sometimes repetitive laboratory work is useful an there are usually plenty of more senior scientists around that are very interested in doing more planning/reporting and less laborative work.

From your post I dont see anything that would prevent you from findind a laboratory position if that is what you want.
PG
 
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