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Which Grad Students Are the Most Miserable?

timothy posted more than 3 years ago | from the law-students-get-the-best-free-food dept.

Education 332

Hugh Pickens writes writes "Jessica Palmer has an interesting post about the miseries of STEM [science, technology, engineering, and math] graduate students and makes the case that of all grad programs, those in biology are particularly miserable. One basic problem stems from too many biology Ph.D.s and not enough funding, leading to an immensely cutthroat environment that is psychologically damaging to boot. But the main problem is that most of the skills you learn in biology, especially biomedical sciences are only useful in the biomedical sciences and that most grad students don't learn enough 'generalist' skills, such as high level math or serious programming skills, to have other career alternatives if academia doesn't work out. 'A decade ago, sequencing was a Ph.D. activity, or at least, an activity supervised very closely by a Ph.D.,' writes Mike the Mad Biologist."

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332 comments

Short answer (0, Offtopic)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#35731474)

All of them. Get a real job.

Re:Short answer (1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#35731532)

All of them. Get a real job.

That saddens me. They're no artists, street performers, or entrepreneurs with really hair brained ideas.

In America, we're taught that the more education you get the better. We're taught that we should follow our passions and ever thing will be great.

Sadly, that's not true for 99% of us.

Re:Short answer (2)

mjeffers (61490) | more than 3 years ago | (#35731742)

That saddens me. They're no artists, street performers, or entrepreneurs with really hair brained ideas.

You're correct here in that while artists, street performers, and people getting advanced degrees in specialities without high demand are taking a risk doing things they love regardless of potential reward, only the grad students (and the crazier entrepreneurs) are paying tens of thousands of dollars to do it.

In America, we're taught that the more education you get the better. We're taught that we should follow our passions and ever thing will be great.

Sadly, that's not true for 99% of us.

Nor has it ever been. Pursuing your intellectual passions whether or not anyone wants to keep you in food and shelter while doing it has forever been the domain of the idle rich. For most people you'll need to balance what you want to do with what you need to do to support yourself. This might involve turning your passion into a hobby intead of a career, living a frugal life to pursue your dream or (as many who wanted to grow up to be rocks stars or pro-atheletes have found) giving up on your dreams.

If you've been taught that just following your passions will lead to everything being great then I'm sorry you were mislead. People trying to be nice spared you from the reality that, even in America, the choice to follow your dreams without consideration of how you'll stay alive while doing it has historically always been funded by daddy's deep pockets.

Re:Short answer (4, Informative)

paiute (550198) | more than 3 years ago | (#35732346)

only the grad students (and the crazier entrepreneurs) are paying tens of thousands of dollars to do it.

Graduate students in most sciences are paid while they are in school. Some to teach, some to do research. Their tuition is also paid by the school if teaching or by grant if researching.

Re:Short answer (1)

berwiki (989827) | more than 3 years ago | (#35731784)

99% is a bit extreme. You make it sound like you have to search for drinkable water every damn day.

Crawl out of your mothers basement already.

Education itself is just a tool, you still have to go out and take risks. The more tools you have available, the better your chances that you will be successful.

Get a grip.

Re:Short answer (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#35731822)

NO! Never take risks. You make a mistake in this society with all the databases, credit bureaus, and every other goddamn company collecting data on people, you're forever fucked!

Re:Short answer (1)

meowris (1988866) | more than 3 years ago | (#35731910)

I simply don't buy it. Find something you enjoy doing. [X] Find something you enjoy doing that which will also get you some income. [O]

If you don't value education your country is stuck (4, Insightful)

fantomas (94850) | more than 3 years ago | (#35731958)

If you believe that people should get a real job instead of an education then you've got a country of predominantly labourers and factory line workers. A dangerous route to take in a time when low skilled jobs can get outsourced to somewhere cheaper very easily. I don't think it's a simple binary get a job/or/get an education. You really want all your graduate students to leave education? you want no graduate level education in your country? Who are your entrepreneurs going to turn to when they need somebody to do the research to develop their new product? (Maybe the French, who came up with the word 'entrepreneur'?)

I am assuming you like the idea of *some* education for your nation's people as you are posting in words and can read.

Re:Short answer (1)

robthebloke (1308483) | more than 3 years ago | (#35732232)

Not true. Students who graduate, are all happier than the ones who flunk their finals.....

So say the biologists (1)

sixthousand (676886) | more than 3 years ago | (#35731498)

Given that the article is written by a biologist (Jessica Palmer), and referencing another biologist (Mike the Mad), I can't help but feel like this is a "whoa is me" take on the subject. Aren't most graduate programs cutthroat and demanding? More importantly, shouldn't they be?

Re:So say the biologists (3, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#35731552)

Just to be pedantic, "woe is me" [phrases.org.uk] .

Re:So say the biologists (4, Funny)

wed128 (722152) | more than 3 years ago | (#35731560)

It's probably more like "Woe is me", unless the article is written by Keanu Reeves...

Re:So say the biologists (0)

sixthousand (676886) | more than 3 years ago | (#35731574)

hahah, or joey lawrence. i stand corrected.

Re:So say the biologists (-1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#35731562)

*WOE* is to me!

Re:So say the biologists (1)

eggoeater (704775) | more than 3 years ago | (#35731666)

My wife has a PhD in Entomology. I have friends with advanced degrees in technology. She suffered WAY more than they did. She had to take and extra year (total of five for the PhD) to complete her research and dissertation.


While I think the OP is correct, the real story here isn't getting the degree, it's the lack of funds to do anything with that degree. If you're a tenure-track researcher, you typically spend most of your time writing grant applications begging for money as opposed to doing real research. BTW, my wife is now a writer; she no longer does any research.

Re:So say the biologists (1)

Missing.Matter (1845576) | more than 3 years ago | (#35731852)

5 years was considered extra? Did she have a master's first? The minimum at my school is 5 years for a Computer Engineering Ph.D. without a master's.

Re:So say the biologists (1)

eggoeater (704775) | more than 3 years ago | (#35732172)

Yes, she already had a masters in the same subject.

Re:So say the biologists (3, Interesting)

rolfwind (528248) | more than 3 years ago | (#35731916)

I think the real story is how the advanced education system is utterly failing America. It's a giant, expensive colossus that suck young people into debt and then, when they do get out, many of them don't even go into the profession they trained for. This all smacks to me of a racket. Now, after 12+ (add kindergarten) of education, the college industry sold this country into the premise that you aren't good enough to work a decent job. That you need at least 4+ years at an expensive school that may or may not even tangentially train you for your eventual profession, to even break into the workforce. It reminds me of the DeBeers diamond racket and how they attack the (American) consumer with psychological ads until the general public builds up an emotional and mental picture, wholly inaccurate, of the meaning, rarity, and value of diamonds wholly self-serving to that industry.

The college industry is the same. It's fine for some professions, and liberal arts may be grand for some people to pursue. But now it's branching everywhere. They even convinced cooks in some places to take forms of college and for a ton of money and with mostly theory and a lot less practical experience. Truthfully, I like the German system much better. For many hands on jobs there, you get an apprenticeship, you take a few weeks of classes (theory) each "semester" and then more weeks of practical on-the-job training. You don't pay, you get paid (a small amount, maybe room and board).

I think it would be way better for most people to get some work after high school and find out what they like doing, and be offered by their employers training courses that can eventually be credited towards a degree (if we really stay addicted to this paper fetish).

But with Khan Academy showing education doesn't need to be exclusive, labor intensive on part of the teacher, or expensive, why do I have a feeling that we'll keep throwing kids into college right after high school, at ever increasing prices, for a dubious return when they get an iota of real-world experience and decide they'd much rather do something else?

Re:So say the biologists (2)

haystor (102186) | more than 3 years ago | (#35731982)

I think the complaint is that PhD's in biology are getting trained for the specific task of a not just their field, but whatever their advisors happen to be working with. So upon completion they are only prepared to work in a very narrow subsection of academic biology. They've been encouraged to avoid such skills as writing, math and programming in favor of cranking out data. Skills which would help them win jobs where they could then do the research they've trained for.

On what would seem like the extreme other end from their experience, I'm working on a graduate degree in statistics. I feel like everything is opening up to me. While it is certainly math heavy, it is all about using math to communicate effectively. Skills that transfer to any number of areas.

If I have one regret from education it would be neglecting writing as I pursued math/sciences. In college I viewed it as something to be endured. Ever since going to work though, I value writing more and more.

Re:So say the biologists (1)

paiute (550198) | more than 3 years ago | (#35732368)

I think the complaint is that PhD's in biology are getting trained for the specific task of a not just their field, but whatever their advisors happen to be working with.

As I remarked to my advisor a couple of years into graduate school: "You wouldn't train a medical doctor this way."

Re:So say the biologists (1)

Antisyzygy (1495469) | more than 3 years ago | (#35732426)

They should only be cut-throat within reason. Come on, just because someone doesn't walk all over someone else or schmooze for funding doesn't mean they don't have valuable contributions to make to science. Its sort of like high school or the finance industry, the most socially adept and willing to stab people in the back get the most favorable treatment. Frankly, its kind of BS but such is human nature.

Correlation, causation (-1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#35731504)

Just remember, guys... correlation ain't causation. ;)

everyone knows (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#35731524)

that bio majors are just failed pre-med or chemistry majors.

How about learning some statistics? (4, Interesting)

Jack Malmostoso (899729) | more than 3 years ago | (#35731530)

I feel very strongly about this.
Throughout my career (I have a PhD in Chemistry) I found the preparation in maths of Biology majors absolutely abysmal.
Fact is, the way I understand it, biology (and medicine, for that matter), is not an exact science and individuating a direct cause effect is close to impossible.
It all relies on statistics, and showing that a certain treatment has a higher probability of causing a certain beneficial effect (or reducing a side effect).
Then why in the world don't medical doctors and biology majors receive a STRONG education in math and statistics? Is it because the large majority of them are women, thus the whole "ooohh math is hard, there Barbie, go back to the kitchen" comes into play?
I find this a shame, it makes me dispute every finding in medical and biology science.

For further information, see Ben Goldacre's work.

DON'T YOU CRY NO MORE !! (-1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#35731566)

Funny. I think you smell very strongly. All balances out then.

Carry on my wayward son
There'll be peace when you are done
Lay your weary head to rest
Don't you cry no more

Once I rose above the noise and confusion
Just to get a glimpse beyond this illusion
I was soaring ever higher
But I flew too high

Though my eyes could see I still was a blind man
Though my mind could think I still was a mad man
I hear the voices when I'm dreaming
I can hear them say

Masquerading as a man with a reason
My charade is the event of the season
And if I claim to be a wise man, well
It surely means that I don't know

On a stormy sea of moving emotion
Tossed about I'm like a ship on the ocean
I set a course for winds of fortune
But I hear the voices say

NO !!

Carry on, you will always remember
Carry on, nothing equals the splendor
The center lights around your vanity
But surely heaven waits for you

Carry on my wayward son
There'll be peace when you are done
Lay your weary head to rest
Don't you cry (don't you cry no more)

And software development? (3, Insightful)

mangu (126918) | more than 3 years ago | (#35731652)

Throughout my career (I have a PhD in Chemistry) I found the preparation in maths of Biology majors absolutely abysmal.

To make it worse, it seems to me that *every* college course today is very weak in computer programming. The college graduates I meet seem to rely entirely on excel spreadsheets, with a very few "hard" sciences majors knowing a little bit of matlab.

Computers have become the universal tool, but no one is able to explore their capabilities, recent graduates are like illiterate peasants in a library.

A good analogy is to compare software development with leadership. A leader is someone who gets people to do what cannot be done by a person alone. A programmer is someone who gets computers to do what cannot be done by humans. In an age when automation replaces workers, software developers are the leaders. Too bad university students cannot see this simple analogy.

Re:And software development? (3, Insightful)

bberens (965711) | more than 3 years ago | (#35732066)

While I agree that people from other walks of life should get a good introduction to mathematical programming I don't think it's very important that they get good at it so much as they get a basic understanding of what types of things are possible. The defense contractors (I only use them because I'm familiar with them) seem to have found a nice balance. They hire mechanical, aeronautical, etc. engineers who know just enough about programming to *get by* and then hire some pure computer scientist types to really help them make sure their code is good quality and to help tighten up their algorithms and such.

Re:And software development? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#35732154)

(I've just completed a PhD and now work in HPC support.)

There appears to be a fundamental belief amongst scientists who use computers for simulation/stats that understanding how the tools (that they are basing their research on) work is beneath them, in a way that as far as I am aware does not apply to their experimental counterparts.

This reaches absurd levels where not only are they incapable of programming, but they are completely incapable of (for example) installing the application code they are using, or understanding the algorithm. It's not their job (in their view) to understand how things work, even things like... say floating point math which in many cases may have a significant impact on the results they get if they do not consider it. For others, the majority of their computation is done in MATLAB, R and for those who are half-competent Python (with Numpy/Scipy). Explaining to them that this is a complete waste of HPC resources and that they should learn a proper language (Fortran/C + MPI) is met with blank, glazed stares and condescension. There are days when I despair.

If experimental scientists had the same grasp of their tools that "computational" scientists have, Universities would blow up a lot more often.

Re:And software development? (1)

Overunderrated (1518503) | more than 3 years ago | (#35732198)

I'm a present PhD student in Aerospace Engineering (miserable at times, ecstatic in others,) and I can attest to the weakness of other courses in computer programming. Most notably is that of the computer scientists. Taking software-production oriented courses with them, it's hard not to notice just how abysmal they can be.

I'll take issue with your generalization of university students though. As someone in an area dominated by numerical simulations, I know the value of writing high quality software and automation extremely well. Properly structured, I can automate my research for a week at a time and check the results later, while my miserable friends in biology tend to be forced into long hours in labs with microscopes.

Good software to me is the difference between spending 100 hours a week in a lab to spending 40 hours a week in a lab, and the rest of the time being human.

Re:And software development? (1)

cashman73 (855518) | more than 3 years ago | (#35732332)

The other nice part about computational research is the ability to pretty much do your work anywhere, as long as you have an Internet connection. No need to be physically present in the lab. Plus, you can have some interesting conversations with people when you've got your laptop propped open in a bar, your mouse in one hand and a beer in the other,. . .

Re:And software development? (1)

Overunderrated (1518503) | more than 3 years ago | (#35732438)

The other nice part about computational research is the ability to pretty much do your work anywhere, as long as you have an Internet connection.

Absolutely. And the simple fact that properly implemented, I can conduct more research simply by increasing my computational resources, i.e. submitting more/larger jobs to the clusters. Biologists, and experimentalists in general, have no such capability to accelerate their research.

Re:And software development? (4, Interesting)

ShakaUVM (157947) | more than 3 years ago | (#35732388)

>>Computers have become the universal tool, but no one is able to explore their capabilities, recent graduates are like illiterate peasants in a library.

To be fair, betting on ignorance is always a safe bet, no matter what subject or area of our society you're talking about. Nobody** knows history, math, computer programming, religion, physics, etc. at a very good level these days.

That said, there's a lot of smart people in every field. Some of the best math people I met were bioengineering professors at UCSD, at least or especially in their areas of expertise. I was fortunate enough to be partnered on my master's thesis project with an AMES guy who was a pretty decent programmer and had a good knowledge of math, but unfortunately the AMES program at the time (early 2000s) was still using FORTRAN. So we had fun getting our code to interoperate, but at least he was competent enough that if I told him how I was formatting my output, he'd have it all read in and analyzed by the next day.

By contrast, two of the stupidest people I've ever had to work with were at the San Diego Supercomputer Center. It was at the time of the internet boom, so they were having trouble finding competent programmers, so they hired these biology PhDs instead. Their sum output of work in the two years I spent there was half-constructing a web page (that didn't work) and a lot of snarky emails to my professor about how I should be using whatever trendy thing they'd read about somewhere. Because I wasn't using XML or whatever internally in our project, you know, that was the only reason they couldn't get any work done.

(**Approximately.)

Re:And software development? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#35732492)

Not universally true - I'm a grad student helping with labs that teaches first year Bio/premed majors Matlab programming. This is a new initiative but hopefully a fruitful one.

Re:And software development? (1)

internerdj (1319281) | more than 3 years ago | (#35732508)

In my CS undergrad we had a single math course that used Maple and a single math course that used Matlab. While they gave me exposure to the packages, I spent more times with the quirks of the packages than learning the actual contents of the course. This has caused me some pain in my PhD courses because I'm expected to apply some of these concepts that I probably could "work out" in a math package, but I wasn't able to focus on the theory enough to make application now. It would have been nice to have a computer aided math course offered but that may be an accrediation risk for the program. The other option would be to teach a package as part of a lower level course and stick with it through later courses.

Re:How about learning some statistics? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#35731722)

As a math Ph.D. student, I couldn't agree more. Very rarely do they understand what they are doing, they just throw some numbers into SPSS and hope the right answer comes out.

Today's xkcd seems appropriate: http://xkcd.com/882/

Re:How about learning some statistics? (3, Interesting)

Skuto (171945) | more than 3 years ago | (#35732418)

Very rarely do they understand what they are doing, they just throw some numbers into SPSS and hope the right answer comes out. Today's xkcd seems appropriate: http://xkcd.com/882/ [xkcd.com]

They probably do know what they're doing: getting publishable results. They're just optimizing their situation. Who cares if it's just wrong (because of lack of multiple-test adjustment)? They're encouraged to publish (i.e. get past peer review), not to be right.

The conclusions are worthless? Well, I never had the impression much people in academia cared. In the fields I'm familiar with, most of the published improvements are good for the trashcan. There ain't a good enough feedback loop between publishing useful results and getting funding, I guess.

Re:How about learning some statistics? (1)

HungryHobo (1314109) | more than 3 years ago | (#35731740)

I'm a computer science grad currently doing a taught postgrad in bioinformatics and I can only agree.

Even in the course specifically about stats, coding and math the programmings, stats and math is pretty weak.

we cover basic regression in stats which is probably the most solid bit of the course.
the math I mostly covered in first year computer science.

  The only thing I can say about the coding is that it's even more basic than first year coding in comp sci.

There's no actual computer science covered though, even the basics like estimating time complexity at a glance or basic datastructures.

I'm the only comp sci, everyone else in the course is biology and with 2 exceptions have never coded before in their lives.

Re:How about learning some statistics? (1)

captainpanic (1173915) | more than 3 years ago | (#35731794)

Completely agree. Teaching biologists some proper statistics means they can do so much more. They suddenly can go out of the laboratory, and interpret their own results. Their publications would make more sense. They can plan their own experiments (yes, you need statistics to see what you can measure best to reduce uncertainty the quickest)... They may eventually even be taken serious by other scientists and engineers.

But please do not translate 'generalist' into 'management' or 'economics' or something. They can remain nerds...

Re:How about learning some statistics? (1)

stewbee (1019450) | more than 3 years ago | (#35731838)

Wow, generalize much?

My wife is hoping to finish with her PhD from Northwestern (in Chicago and Evanston) this summer in microbiology. While she admits that she tolerates math, she is competent with it (if not a little rusty). However, I did find this interesting with the program that she is in, and how it differed from my own experience in grad school. Her university's curriculum was done in a way such that there was little flexibility on what courses she could take. I do not recall any course of higher math/statistics being offered or required. Additionally, they are only in class for the first two years. Everything after that is lab work. I am not sure she could take another class after this period if she wanted. The question I think here is whether the university is catering to the students (I hope not) by not making them take it, or if it was offered as an elective would they even be able to fill the class.

I am not arguing that statistics wouldn't be helpful. In fact I agree that there should be more. I think I have even heard of my wife complaining about the validity of some papers' statistical analysis. I just took point that generalizing scientists, and then females as being bad at math, which is just wrong.

Re:How about learning some statistics? (1)

Cryect (603197) | more than 3 years ago | (#35731950)

I will say Bioengineering programs are much better as a result for R&D into biology. There is still push back as the changing of the guard is occurring with research guided by engineering methodology slowly gaining ground over almost random testing of traditional biology. Check out systems biology, where you need a strong background in math and computer science to create complex models to use your research results and guide your further research. Note, I was a PhD student in a MolBio program till I dropped out (classes were somewhat depressing how it was really the same stuff as undergrad but slightly more detailed) and eventually moved into programming for the game industry. Anyways need all the basic headway of traditional biology to have the rich amount of data that allows system biology to work.

Re:How about learning some statistics? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#35731954)

Ken, go back to the Stone Age.

Re:How about learning some statistics? (3, Insightful)

Edge00 (880722) | more than 3 years ago | (#35732042)

I have my B.A in biology and my M.S. in microbiology. I see a lot of people here saying biology majors don't understand enough math, but from my perspective I can't figure out where it would fit into the curriculum. For my bachelor's I had a semester of calculus and a semester of statistics. What many people don't realize is a biology major is typically 1 or 2 courses away from a minor in chemistry, I personally had 5 semesters of chemistry. A couple of semesters of physics are typically required also. This is all before you even start to add in general studies courses and then core course work which covers everything from ecology, evolution, microbiology, cell biology, molecular biology, anatomy and physiology, and biochemistry just to name a few. From my experience many biologists are weak in microbiology and ecology because those course are often skipped. How can you argue for more math when the breadth of the biological disciplines aren't even covered.

Re:How about learning some statistics? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#35732224)

I have my B.A in biology and my M.S. in microbiology. I see a lot of people here saying biology majors don't understand enough math, but from my perspective I can't figure out where it would fit into the curriculum. For my bachelor's I had a semester of calculus and a semester of statistics. What many people don't realize is a biology major is typically 1 or 2 courses away from a minor in chemistry, I personally had 5 semesters of chemistry. A couple of semesters of physics are typically required also. This is all before you even start to add in general studies courses and then core course work which covers everything from ecology, evolution, microbiology, cell biology, molecular biology, anatomy and physiology, and biochemistry just to name a few. From my experience many biologists are weak in microbiology and ecology because those course are often skipped. How can you argue for more math when the breadth of the biological disciplines aren't even covered.

The key point here is that you are talking about the curriculum for a BA degree. You can't expect it to be particularly comprehensive or even all that useful. We require a minimum of a BS before we even let someone wash the glassware.

How about even more general? (public presenting..) (1)

fantomas (94850) | more than 3 years ago | (#35732048)

I'd say, reading the F* article, the even more general skills will be useful: public presentation, speaking, teaching, communicating ideas. As the writer says, you have to communicate your great ideas if you want a job / funding / etc. Start with those generalist skills and work outwards. Though I accept it's not in the interest of the PhD system to necessarily spend time teaching students these skills, getting research results, getting the thesis written, and getting published are the key indicators of success. But learning a few networking skills might help the students get jobs afterwards...

Re:How about even more general? (public presenting (1)

georgesdev (1987622) | more than 3 years ago | (#35732484)

totally agree. I would add language skills to it.
Basic language skills such as the difference between "there" and "their", "our" and "are" is very often missing.
Too bad, because without this, engineers, any engineer, can only go for the technical jobs, and not the marketing, sales, management jobs that pay far more ...
If you find an English mistake in my post, i have an excuse, English is not my native language ;)

Re:How about learning some statistics? (1)

Jeppe Salvesen (101622) | more than 3 years ago | (#35732064)

Why do we are about these things? We'll just outsource to the fine peoples of India and China!

Re:How about learning some statistics? (5, Interesting)

raddan (519638) | more than 3 years ago | (#35732152)

I second this, but I am not a biology grad-- I'm a CompSci grad. My undergraduate statistics courses were laughably easy, and in both cases, the profs mysteriously liked to do powerpoints in the DARK. The first class was at 7:30AM. The second at 6:00PM. Not good for retention.

When I came to grad school, I was suddenly thrown into very advanced mathematics. It was assumed that I knew things like graphical models, differential equations, and mathematical logic. I did not. I am now spending my evenings correcting these deficits.

If I had any advice for future grad students, in any science or technology field, it is this: spend a year after your undergrad time just preparing for graduate school. Study advanced math. Take the time to focus on doing well on the GRE. Get some lab experience if you can. Get some practical experience if you can. I put myself through my undergrad while working full time, and my schedule needed to be coordinated with my wife's career, so I did not have the luxury of doing this. But you should. You really should.

That said, even the most prepared grad student will feel unprepared when they get here. I don't know a single person who feels they have adequate knowledge. My friends who were mathematics majors bemoan the fact that their programming skills are so poor (and tell me that I am fortunate to have been a lifelong programmer), but I envy their exposure to things like abstract algebra, advanced statistics, and formal proofs. Having to devise and stick to a plan of self-education is the name of the game. I'm glad that I realized this from the start, but grad school is not easy, and only you can educate yourself.

Re:How about learning some statistics? (2)

ShakaUVM (157947) | more than 3 years ago | (#35732494)

>>Study advanced math. Take the time to focus on doing well on the GRE.

These two things don't really go well together.

The GRE goes up to, what, algebra?

I didn't even bother looking at the GRE before I took it and got a perfect score on the math section. Literally, the first question was: "x + 7 = 13. Solve for x." ...and it didn't get any harder after that. A perfect score was only something like 95th percentile for computer science majors. That's how ridiculously easy it is - 5% of people get perfect scores on it.

The logic problem section was also pretty easy. I missed one question from misclicking an answer, but the stupid computerized test systems won't let you go back to change an answer.

Re:How about learning some statistics? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#35732278)

I don't think any of you know what you are talking about.

I am a professor in a biology department. ALL of my students have a strong background in applied math, and most have decent skills in computer science.

Getting a Ph.D. is hard - it is supposed to be hard! I can tolerate my own graduate students whining about it because I whined about it when I was a graduate student, but people who are whining just because they know someone who happens to be a graduate student is just silly.

Re:How about learning some statistics? (1)

dogmatixpsych (786818) | more than 3 years ago | (#35732336)

Medical doctors don't receive a background in math and statistics because most MDs do not do research. An MD is a clinical (professional) degree, unlike a PhD. A math and statistics would help but frankly, most would never use it.

Re:How about learning some statistics? (1)

Antisyzygy (1495469) | more than 3 years ago | (#35732486)

I don't think it has anything to do with women. However, I do think that biology majors need to have at least two full years of statistics and math education above trigonometry to even be allowed to get a bachelor of science degree. Linear algebra, probability, statistics and regressions come into mind as useful topics. They also should be forced to take at least a three course sequence in programming topics, such as one course of matlab/R and two courses in CS like Intro to CS and Data Structures. Nowadays you get mathematicians and statisticians getting into mathematical or statistical biology because biology majors are so ill prepared for the math they need to do their research.

abused, religious issues, fear, conscience (-1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#35731542)

those are the top 10 in any order. it's best not to take everything so personally sometimes?

good intentions (even for yourself) also help. we all have somethings to give/receive. it's 'new'?

the unproven holycost ending abruptly will also help, for sure.

And the winners are.... (2)

macraig (621737) | more than 3 years ago | (#35731558)

Q:

Which Grad Students Are the Most Miserable?

A: Probably the ones who post questions to Ask Slashdot?

Re:And the winners are.... (1)

mwvdlee (775178) | more than 3 years ago | (#35731646)

So that would be IT students then?

Re:And the winners are.... (1)

captainpanic (1173915) | more than 3 years ago | (#35731806)

So that would be IT students then?

Specific: IT students who are stuck in their basement.

Re:And the winners are.... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#35731686)

Engineering Students?

http://ieeexplore.ieee.org/xpl/freeabs_all.jsp?arnumber=4607924 (Requires Subscription)
http://spectrum.ieee.org/telecom/security/extremist-engineers (Follow Up)

Re:And the winners are.... (3, Interesting)

macraig (621737) | more than 3 years ago | (#35731956)

Seriously, though, Jessica seems to be living in a well-insulated bubble and doesn't seem to realize that competition is burgeoning everywhere, in every occupation; even janitors are miserable. This small planet is now crowded with SEVEN BILLION self-serving mouths with attached gonads... and thanks to said gonads this dynamic will only get worse (until the agriculture system implodes). Of course those who aren't at the pinnacle of the economic food chain would be less miserable if those at the top weren't quite so effective at concentrating natural resources and wealth. Part of the misery is because we're overdue for another revolt to kick the money-changers outta the temples and topple those dancing with their flags at the top of the hill. From a strictly Darwinian point of view, though, the competition serves a valuable purpose, thinning the herd and favoring those with the best sets of mutations.

So, do we choose to compete with each other in the best Darwinian tradition, and be miserable doing it, or do we cooperate Borg-like to benefit the whole species? We seem to be evolving slowly toward the latter, but not fast enough to stem the misery.

Re:And the winners are.... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#35732280)

That's easy. The fat ones get eaten first. There goes 40% of the 2040 population.

Sounds like liberal arts grad students (5, Informative)

antifoidulus (807088) | more than 3 years ago | (#35731576)

I would have to say out of all the different fields of study, liberal arts are probably the most miserable(though of course for pretty much everyone grad school is a choice....)

Like, in TFA's view, biological sciences grad students, Liberal Arts grad students are incredibly cut throat. There is very little funding, I would argue significantly less per student than in any of the sciences(many don't get stipends), and literally dozens of PhD candidates for every one professorship. And the grads have an even more difficult time finding employment outside academia. If you think only knowing biological sciences is unmarketable, try knowing a ton about modern German literary theory and not much else of note.

Re:Sounds like liberal arts grad students (1)

mangu (126918) | more than 3 years ago | (#35731758)

And the grads have an even more difficult time finding employment outside academia

Why? Where do you think all those managers, salespeople, business consultants, etc come from? A liberal arts degree is the easiest first step to an MBA.

Of course, a PhD in liberal arts may be overkill, but a masters is great in your resume. It shows you have a flexible mind, can think outside the box, have appreciation for diversity, or whatever is the current trend in positive qualifications for a manager.

The only way a liberal arts graduate could feel miserable is if he actually enjoys his field of study...

Re:Sounds like liberal arts grad students (1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#35731812)

I am sorry Mangu but you have no clue what you're talking about. I'm at a top 10 law school and that is known for placing 100% of its grads by graduation. We still have 35 (out of class of 170) unemployed students and they've spent the past 6 months applying for nonlegal jobs. MBAs/JDs/and LA Masters are useless.

Re:Sounds like liberal arts grad students (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#35731800)

As a Biology Grad Student myself I have to agree with the commenter. The hours are long bent over a bench and trying to get funding can be difficult but at least at my university Biology Grad Students get some of the highest stipends. Additionally, I've never felt the environment is particularly cutthroat for graduate students. At least among the biology graduate students there is more a sense of camaraderie than anything else, any competition is with labs at other schools. While those competitions can make or break a students career I've never really gotten the sense that it affect most students on a day to day basis.

I do agree with the articles assessment that biologists need to learn more math. I moved into biology from math and computer science and have always been amazed at how little comprehension of either field there is among biologists.

Re:Sounds like liberal arts grad students (1)

arb phd slp (1144717) | more than 3 years ago | (#35731872)

Speaking of "hunched over a desk." I have a friend who did get a job outside of academia doing biomed research. She left that job and went on disability from the abysmal ergonomics at her lab. I think she's a manager of the print shop at Staples now.

No, sounds like only in America (1)

Chicken_Kickers (1062164) | more than 3 years ago | (#35732112)

I have a degree in Microbiology, a Masters in Biochemistry and Ph.D in Biotechnology. I am also in Malaysia and a University academic staff. Here in Malaysia, the hard sciences and engineering faculties get the lion share of government funding, fairly or not. Those of us in the life sciences feel that we are a privileged lot compared to the social sciences and are grateful for it. Our graduates generally get good jobs and a significant percentage secure research-related jobs in the many semi-government research bodies or universities. Many also become school teachers or lecturers or join the industry. Regarding maths and stats, remember, that to us, it is just another tool in the toolbox. We are not interested in the nitty gritty of the maths, only on the usability and validity of it for our purposes. There are of course situations where the maths become supremely important like in bioinformatics but we are content with collaborating with the maths and stats Professors. So, this bleak picture painted in the article might be true in the US, but not necessarily in the rest of the world.

Re:No, sounds like only in America (1)

mantis2009 (1557343) | more than 3 years ago | (#35732316)

This is an important distinction -- why does the wealthiest country in the history of the world (today's US) have "miserable" scholars? Public funding is crucial in determining what (and even whether) scientific research is undertaken. The current political environment in the United States, which sees the debate between Democrats and Republicans reduced to how much public spending to cut, is generally hostile to research funding. This will inevitably lead to a decrease in the number of people who pursue Ph.D.'s in the US.

Navel-gazing (1)

paiute (550198) | more than 3 years ago | (#35731594)

Oh no. A former biology graduate student applies her scientific training to conclude that - surprise - biology graduate students have it worser than anyone.

You want worse? See the link in my sig. Those poor bastards had to deal with the usual academic incompetence as well as malevolent ghosts and the occasional fatal explosion.

current environment in biology causes bad science (5, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#35731628)

I did mine in physics, the wife in Biochem. The real issue I saw with the biology program is that you were unable to publish or graduate with a null result. You do a valid experiment, which could have shown something, but it turns out biology simply doesn't work that way, and so your experiment simply confirms what is currently known and shows nothing particularly new (but done in a new way, so it could have.) Sorry, you don't graduate. So people seem to either fake it (here is a 2 sigma result, might be valid, will need more study, yay I graduate) or they flush out, and in either way nowhere does the result get published so the same experiment will get done 10 more times other places. There seems to be not as much respect for the scientific process, only respect for novel results, which results in bad science and bad scientists.

Re:current environment in biology causes bad scien (1)

arb phd slp (1144717) | more than 3 years ago | (#35731700)

... The real issue I saw with the biology program is that you were unable to publish or graduate with a null result. You do a valid experiment, which could have shown something, but it turns out biology simply doesn't work that way, and so your experiment simply confirms what is currently known and shows nothing particularly new (but done in a new way, so it could have.) Sorry, you don't graduate...

Wow! That's awful. Bad for the students and bad for the field in general. How much wasted effort happens in disparate labs with people retrying things that someone else already learned isn't right, but left the data in the bottom drawer of a file cabinet?
My advisor actually had me go looking for "bottom drawer" experiments when I did my first lit review (fortunately, my specialty is narrow enough that I can pretty much call everyone who is likely to have ever done that work in an afternoon). And she explicitly told me I didn't need a positive finding on my dissertation to defend it successfully.

Re:current environment in biology causes bad scien (1)

The_Wilschon (782534) | more than 3 years ago | (#35731796)

I can imagine that that could become a difficult cycle to break out of. A dissertation is required to be original research, of course, and if everyone knows that tons and tons of things have been tried, gotten a null result, and ignored, then any null result is always going to be suspected of not being original...

Sad state of affairs (1)

L4t3r4lu5 (1216702) | more than 3 years ago | (#35731632)

I knew a girl at college called Sophie, top-end-of-genius smart and attractive to boot, very shy, got a PhD in Biochemistry if I recall correctly.

I spotted her about a fortnight ago pricing up merchandise in a local sweet shop. Maybe she chose that, I don't know, but either way it's a terrible, terrible waste of a brilliant mind.

Re:Sad state of affairs (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#35731656)

There might be "more than meets the eye". Perhaps it's as simple as being burned out, or not wanting to go into Industry. Given the continuing gender imbalance there, good candidates with max-levels of X-chromosomes are big wins.

Re:Sad state of affairs (5, Insightful)

dkleinsc (563838) | more than 3 years ago | (#35731744)

The trouble is, right now there's a surplus of top-end-of-genius smart people with PhDs.

I know you wouldn't think so walking down the street, but the simple fact is that for every tenure-track position there are about 12 PhDs with useful published work capable of doing the job and doing it well, and even more for adjunct and other non-tenure track positions. The same sort of imbalance exists for research positions. The effect of this is that a lot of younger would-be scientists are working as part-time lab techs, or going into other fields, or trying to survive as part-time adjunct faculty, and the wages of those sorts of positions are steadily dropping. Also, many universities have been trying to save cash by avoiding giving anybody any sort of chance at tenure, leaving would-be academics basically no chance of making it.

And yes, that's a terrible waste of a lot of brilliant minds, but it's totally consistent with what's been going on in the US for the last 30 years.

Small Minded (1)

moss1956 (246946) | more than 3 years ago | (#35731704)

The foibles that the author points out as evidence that the graduate students in biology are most miserable, are in fact the characteristics of weak graduate
students in almost any field.

Apparently... (1)

bmacs27 (1314285) | more than 3 years ago | (#35731730)

You all don't realize just how miserable I am.

Re:Apparently... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#35732024)

/hug

Not just biology? (1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#35731736)

Isn't this the universal problem with Ph.D. education now? You go to school for years to learn as much as you can about a very narrow corner of a specialist field, hoping to get a job when you're done. Ideally, that job would be non-postdoc research or teaching in that particular small area. It's not a shocker that you are incredibly well trained for your field but poorly equipped for the world of work.

If we're faced with fewer and fewer professor slots, but keep putting grad students into the system, we'll have the same supply-and-demand problem the legal profession is now having. Google it -- new lawyers are having serious trouble paying back huge student loans with crap jobs simply because a lot of the legal jobs don't exist anymore or are done in India.

Re:Not just biology? (1)

jellomizer (103300) | more than 3 years ago | (#35731892)

I agree. As well the schools often exasperated the problem with their marketing to new undergrads (College will give you the skills you need for a good career). Then when they get you in it is This is Education not a Job Training facility. And will only give you training for a career path of becoming a professor.
While a lot of the work should be on the student to choose their major and take classes that will direct them where they want to go in life, colleges environment makes often makes their students path very unclear.

Majors such as Education, Computer Science, Engineering, and Business do help get people ready for work outside school. But many of the other major fail in their course material to help guide people to further careers.

The ex grad students (1)

smallmj (69620) | more than 3 years ago | (#35731782)

I'd say that the most miserable grad students are the former grad students. The real world is a much more miserable place than grad school.

Re:The ex grad students (1)

arb phd slp (1144717) | more than 3 years ago | (#35732060)

Are you nuts? Have you ever been to grad school? I worked in my field before going back to get a PhD and I found my normal job to be way better.
Research and academia may be insular, but it's plenty "real."

Re:The ex grad students (1)

smallmj (69620) | more than 3 years ago | (#35732212)

Yes actually, I got my MSc (Physics) in 1997. I still look back fondly on the grad school days. It may have been lots of work, but life was much more fun back then.

Some people call grad school the snooze bar of life.

miserable grad student != miserable career (2)

damn_registrars (1103043) | more than 3 years ago | (#35731814)

At least, that is what I tell myself as I am looking at starting the 7th year of my PhD.

Although really, anyone who finishes a biological PhD and can't find a job outside of academia either made a very questionable decision on what exactly to study, or isn't trying very hard. When the US economy was overall tanking, many bioscience companies were - and still are - doing quite well. A former colleague of mine (PhD from the lab I am currently in) had no trouble getting the job he wanted in industry when he finished here, and that is not the least bit unusual in the area I am in.

The reason 25 years ago was... (1)

KeithH (15061) | more than 3 years ago | (#35731816)

The accepted wisdom when I was in school was that the biology students were less collegial because they were all competing against each other to get into medicine. I don't know if there is any truth to this but, if they weren't working cooperatively with their peers (as we did in Engineeering & Computer Science), then I can imagine that this would lead to a more miserable school experience.

Re:The reason 25 years ago was... (1)

cptdondo (59460) | more than 3 years ago | (#35731924)

25 years ago "working together" was cheating, and would be cause for expulsion. It's only now that those in my generation that were brought up that way are in positions of power that we see how stupid that was.

I am not kidding - if you were to so much as ask advice from a fellow student on a critical assignment you could be expelled. Cooperation, unless strictly supervised, was not allowed. The sort of informal peer review that goes on today was unheard of.

Is it any wonder that those who got PhDs then now foster a "cut throat" environment?

College is slow to be like the real work place (1)

Joe The Dragon (967727) | more than 3 years ago | (#35732396)

I think it's time to get rid of the closed book tests and move to a group or by your self project so you don't have some who knows what they are doing but is bad at tests can fail and so you don't some one who has no idea but can cram for a test can pass.

Also in real world you don't do busy work just to do but in college that leads to people buying essays (for papers in class that are not part of there major) just so they have the time to do some real class work.

selling it as a soft-values field.. (1)

gl4ss (559668) | more than 3 years ago | (#35731882)

when it actually isn't one, at all. you need to have a hardy maths head and logic to do any good in it, this was obvious about a century ago but now because everyone has to get to go to university to study what they want it's no longer so and it's increasingly sold as non-technical field, with soft values, caring and all that. like with doctors it used to be that they got to be doctors because they had high level of knowledge in chemistry and biology, good maths heads and good social skills, in other words some uber-men.

not everyone can be a staff member for the bbc sitting in africa watching some gorillas. there's not enough gorillas you see..

many of them would probably have been more happy as nurses or midwifes. but in some places it's actually harder to get to study those than biology(because nurses and midwifes directly work with people who need help).

BIO IT (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#35731886)

I work in the bio department at a major Texas university, and in my experience, Biologist are by far one of the most narrow minded groups in academia. They always overshoot. PhD Comics 8/15/2008 is my life!

"Generalism" is why I like experimental physics (1)

dlenmn (145080) | more than 3 years ago | (#35731894)

Although it has its problems, it's about as "generalist" as you can get. I get to program (for simulation, equipment control, and data analysis), do math, make electronics, layout parts in CAD, work in a machine shop, do nano-fabrication in a clean room, etc. Heck, I've done most of those things in the past week alone. I like that for the same reason I liked the project based engineering classes available as an undergrad. However, I'm guessing that many of the engineers who took those classes are now sitting in front of a computer doing just one thing...

Re:"Generalism" is why I like experimental physics (1)

nurdmann (1953466) | more than 3 years ago | (#35732244)

That's why I studied physics as well. I also found that the skills of a physicist as problem solver and reductionist are applicable to a number of fields outside of academic research as well. I worked as an in-house consultant for a law firm specializing in reverse-engineering devices in product liability cases, and it was a blast. I made a lot of money for ten years, and then bailed out when working for attorneys got to be too annoying. While I teach at a four year college now, I still do some consulting work, and find my training and education as a physicist in general have served me well in my career. Even though I was a computational theoretical physicist, I always kept one foot in a lab, just to keep my hands dirty, and to satisfy my inner tinkerer. Leaving grad school never stopped my learning, in fact I found that graduate study taught me that my education will never be a static thing. I think the misery the author of the article found arises from students' expectation that an advanced degree translates into financial success. If someone told you getting an advanced degree will somehow fulfill you personally, or because you're going to make a lot more money because of it, you will be sorely disappointed.

The Student is not the only Failure... (1)

damn_registrars (1103043) | more than 3 years ago | (#35731896)

... If they can't find work after finishing a PhD.

A PhD project should be - at the least - based on funded research of a PI. It should also be vetted by a committee to ensure it is of adequate caliber for the degree. The results should be tracked and reviewed along the way, and presented in a relevant framework.

If the student finishes and cannot place their work in a relevant context, or has work that has no relevant context, then the people who were supposed to have advised that student have failed. There are plenty of post-doc opportunities available right now for qualified PhDs.

On the other hand, going from post-doc to junior faculty (if that is what the individual wants) is a different challenge.

Transferable Skillzzzz (1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#35732014)

First of all, grad school is hard, no matter what. It's supposed to be. Secondly, it's unpredictable. At least in experimental science there is an element of luck. While you make an (hopefully) educated and intelligent hypothesis and you test it, being right or wrong doesn't necessarily reflect your brilliance. I think that's where a lot of the misery comes from for STEM graduate students. You can work incredibly hard and get nowhere, and it may well have nothing to do with your abilities as a scientist.

As for job prospects, news flash: It's not easy for anyone to get a job right now. Having a PhD can be a huge advantage, no matter what field it's in, it's just time to think outside the box. As a biologist I do not have a plethora of computer or maths skills, but so what? I have been taught to think critically. I know that my strengths lie in writing and editing, things that I have learned to do well IN GRAD SCHOOL. I am doing everything I can when not in lab to work on these skills, and get as much experience as possible to make myself employable when I graduate. Unless you want a tenure-track position, and really REALLY want it, then figure out where your strengths lie, work on them, and then find a way to combine them with your graduate work.

(I just previewed this comment and as I don't have an account it says posted by "anonymous coward". This website is kinda vicious...I'm happy to ID myself: www.katiephd.com)

Really?! (2)

JamesP (688957) | more than 3 years ago | (#35732016)

1 - Started grad School (MSc)
2 - Dropped out (or better, was 'invited' to drop out by my supervisor)
3 - Never looked back

This: http://xkcd.com/664/ [xkcd.com] doesn't exist

In reality Academia will go: "this isn't in my research area so I don't care", "you didn't prove the linearity of the solution", "not enough citations in your paper"

Corporate will go somewhere like the comic, but they may also be happy with you cause you solved a problem that was delaying the schedule,
no one could solve or it had a bad impact on the product (happened to me, and it got me 'karma points'

Academia: Too much work, not enough pay. And as the article mentions, it's problems and solutions that don't apply somewhere else (even though mine was in Wireless communication)

Most of the people that kept going are earning less than me and/or at a previous stage at their careers.

Granted, my supervisor was 'inexperienced' to say the least.

Really, I'm glad I got a job instead of pursuing an academic career. Where I can work with what interests me,
people can use your work, there's less sucking up, less BS and at least I get payed.

Also this: http://www.phdcomics.com/ [phdcomics.com]

PhD biologists replies (5, Insightful)

cinnamon colbert (732724) | more than 3 years ago | (#35732036)

As it is currently practiced, biology science at the phd level is a ponzi scheme.
Research is $, and mostly - almost entirely- paid for by the Fed Gov't either directly thru the NIH/NSF/DARPA, or indirectly via tax welfare for the wealthy (aka tax code, such as the koch brothers giving MIT 100 million for a cancer center.
Most funding is via the "principal investigator" route: the funding agency identifies an *individual* who gets the money and is responsible for it; normally this is a faculty member at a university
Biology is also labor intensive; experiments take a lot of hands on time.
the way it works, professors have slave labor - graduate students, who , relative to their hours and training, are paid peanuts (they are also totally dependent on their professors letter of recomendation for a job)
The carrot is that after you graduate, you get your own faculty position.
anyone on /. should easily see this is an exponential growth type of situation: you start with x professors, they graduate y students/year, who in turn become professors.....like most exp growth situations, the crash comes suddenly.
the clearest evidence of this is that every 20 years or so, the leading PhD nobel laureates go to congress and say, OMG, we have a crisis in funding: there are more PhDs then grant money. And congress, not wanting to see re elections ads with "voted against funding for cancer", obligingly ponies up more money. the last cycle was under clinton; the budget for the NIH, which is the bulk of funding, was doubled
when this happens, all of the Universitys go out and build huge new research buildings, and hire lots of new profs, cause NIH funding is a profit center for the university (or at least the CEO of the university, since university presidents are now paid like ceos, their salary is tied to total university budgets, so simply to hike their own salary, a univ pres will get a huge new RnD building built to increase unive revenues by 100 MM a year....)
call me cynical, but that is life
for those of you who have some familiarity with the system, the postdoc was invented in the 60s, to deal with the 1st glut of phds, and it was for 2 years.... think about that

Re:PhD biologists replies (3, Interesting)

sandytaru (1158959) | more than 3 years ago | (#35732204)

The glut of new buildings on the local campus always bothers me. It's a boom and bust cycle. "We have money lets invest it in new facilities." Three years later, the state budget panics and strips funding for schools by 60 million. School cannot afford to operated, so hikes tuition. Suddenly, that 15 million new research facility is looked upon by the students with a great deal of resentment, and the school cannot actually afford any faculty members to put into it. Probably the most embarassing thing I've seen was at the UC Berkeley campus, in a 4 story math building. A sign on the elevator said, "Elevator repairs have been delayed due to budget restrictions." When one of the top research universities in the entire planet can't afford to fix an elevator, we've got serious problems with our priorities.

Re:PhD biologists replies (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#35732338)

So you're saying we're about due for another increase in funding? I hope so!!! After years of toiling as a software engineer I've decided to go back to school in a biology related field and hope there will be some decent money for when I start grad school.

The nature of the beast (4, Informative)

Fractal Dice (696349) | more than 3 years ago | (#35732040)

Biology is one of the few disciplines in which you can apply an existing procedure and earn an advanced degree. Pick a species, pick a fashionable question, apply that question to that species, gather your data, publish and graduate. I think that tends to insulate some of them from "the real world" a little longer than most fields.

Also, the study of a discipline tends to be a walk through it's history. The core of biology is still observational and descriptive - statistical analysis and mathematical modeling only came along later, so it's a field where some students feel blindsided by a bit of a bait-and-switch. A student in biology is absorbing enormous quantities of factual data and context and then, fairly late in their education, there is a switch to a more mathematical framework.

At least this was my qualitative analysis of biologists in the wild - I admit I didn't do any catch-and-release banding or a proper t-test on my hypothesis in the preparation of this post.

Now if you want to talk about students not prepared to deal with the real world, biologists have nothing on mathematicians. Biologists are at least are encouraged to talk to each other. In mathematics you quickly learn that it is likely only five people in the world will understand your idea. Three of them will be borderline autistic and a fourth carries live grenades in his jacket.

That's easy (1)

Dcnjoe60 (682885) | more than 3 years ago | (#35732076)

"Which grads students are the most miserable?"

That's easy. Unemployed ones.

PhD in Biochemistry = no job (3, Interesting)

mhackarbie (593426) | more than 3 years ago | (#35732136)

I got a PhD in biochemistry 7 years ago. I'm now back in IT working as a sysadmin. If I didn't have that previous computer experience, I would be doing day labor right now. I am not kidding.

Biochem *the* most marketable right now (1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#35732282)

I got a PhD in biochemistry 7 years ago. I'm now back in IT working as a sysadmin. If I didn't have that previous computer experience, I would be doing day labor right now. I am not kidding.

I don't really understand how you can't get a job as a biochemist. I recently got a PhD in physics, and the academia career doesn't look like it's happening for me--not a problem, I thought, industry is always an option. The thing is, science industry these days means either a) semiconductor physics or b) biochemistry....these are basically the only R&D/laboratory type jobs that are hiring.

If I were doing it all over again, and I knew my academic career issues would happen in this field (due to choice of advisor, not actual field of study), I would have thought long and hard about going into chemistry/biochemistry or engineering instead of physics.

The ones who don't belong (2)

Slippery_Hank (2035136) | more than 3 years ago | (#35732176)

The most miserable grad students are the ones who do their PhD expecting to learn 'generalized skills' to prepare them for industry jobs.

PhD Biochem Engineer - Now in IT (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#35732326)

I did a MSc & PhD in Biochemical Engineering about 15 years ago and now very happily work in IT. I do occasionally have to dip into my Bio skills for specific clients, but your qualifications don't define what you can do. Qualifications certainly act as evidence and examples of what you are capable of, but sometimes you just need to think abit broader about what you want to do and build a case as to why you can do it, if it is outside of your academic history.

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