Monday, 28 May 2012

The Boisterous Truth About Science PhDs - Part I of V

If you are one of those who easily faint when going through a long text with plenty of ideas, opinions and facts, please quit now; leave this post and come back some other time for practical science as for now it is about to start the practicality of life and what determines its outcome, for most of us PhD students or PhD candidates. There are numerous forums out there but only a few provide you with opinions collected in the wilderness of one's days, i.e., from people who are not put into a scenery where they are prepared to elaborate too much and don't even know that such elaboration is about to be studied. 

My opinions, the ones I will leave for all the readers to digest and comment if willing be, are my own and I defend them with the grounds of my socialist principles and my personal philosophies that are not to be expected to lay far from the common philanthropist with a hint of revolutionary. But revolution was the mother word I was definitely trying to avoid the hardest, because it always throws people to a context of moral ideologists who have nothing to offer to the real world. Well, that's why I am bringing to you the opinion of others, collected and quoted with no intervention whatsoever from my part. Accept them as original from the minds and mouths of those responsible for them. But I will obviously protect their identity, nonetheless, you can always read this text as an x-ray to a large group of people who might been experiencing the same difficulties, pleasures, tasks, necessities, and so on and so forth, as you. 

I am to bring to you The Boisterous Truth About Science PhDs, not to demoralise you but because when taking a decision that will definitely change your life, you should do it with full understanding of what you're going into. The ins and outs of the professional jungle you're about to enter. To learn how to move and act, react and operate in an environment that is alien for most of us when we join. And the best way to know about any world is to ask and hear the opinions of those who've been dwelling and enjoying of this world under scrutiny. If you are still uninterested about it, then please leave knowing that you are more than welcome to join the forum at any time or just read any article in the The Toxicologist Today's catalogue. If you feel you have something to add, by all means, help us understand what is your opinion, leave your opinion, make your voice heard and read so we can make this topic strong solid together. Well, so Welcome all to The Boisterous Truth Abouth Science PhDs.

Before we start and applying the first-things-first style of thinking, I provide you with opinions from PhD students I've met. Neutral ones, positive ones and negative ones. This will most likely help fight the biased assessment. And for all of those in the States please bare in mind that all the opinions were collected from students and staff presently working in European Universities.


When asked "Why are you doing a PhD?"

Two male European PhD Students, under 30 years of age, nearly finishing their PhDs answered:

"I don't know!"

Female European PhD student, under 30 years of age, mid-way to finish her PhD answered:

"Because I did Engineering and I wanted to do ********* Engineering but I couldn't afford to do the Masters because I did not have the funding."

When asked "Why do you want to do a PhD?"

Female Asian PhD Student, under 25 years of age, candidate for a PhD answered:

"For the money; there are no jobs out there"

When asked "What do you think of PhDs?"

Male European Post-Doc, over 35 years of age, answered:

"PhDs are an exploitation of young talented people".

When asked "What do you think about your PhD?"

Male European Post-Doc, over 30 years of age answered:

"If it was today I wouldn't have done my PhD. I never worked that much in my lifetime."


First of all focus on one thing, in my opinion you should immediately remove the word student from the equation. As one of the interviewed so well said, "A student has time to learn, a student has got to be corrected, read, interact and in due course learn more to apply. All we see these days in the lab is people being offered PhDs to gain more and more experience and not more and more knowledge." It is actually true that nowadays the clock ticks way too fast for any of us to do a proper weighted balanced learning. We move to a PhD having in mind numerous things, from a natural progression in our science careers to the desperate need for money, but the student status should be definitely deleted as it is a falacy. We are staff, working for objectives as in any other private company. We have deadlines we need to meet and we are constantly assessed regarding the outcome of our efforts, and our efforts are constantly optimized to get the most (not the best!!!), but the most out of our endeavors. A PhD student pays no taxes in the UK, but is seen as staff in the Netherlands, and I personally'd rather pay taxes and invest in my retirement days than just smiling because I have exemption of schedule. Many people say "it is beautiful not to have a time to come in", but you still have to fully deliver your results in time, no matter what!!! When doing a PhD most of the time you will work weekends, most of the time you will work out of hours, very rarely you will get the appreciation of your Supervisors and Colleagues, the competition between these two sectors is fierce, however, you will make numerous friends and live life experiences that will blow your mind away.

Some say the prize when you finish your PhD is very rewarding. In what sense? Money wise, maybe to a few but nowadays nailing that dream job is ever more difficult. A friend of mine, also a PhD student, said to me recently "In New Zealand there are many PhD students who cannot find jobs and have found their way as lab technicians". Is that what you burn your brains for? And not everyone is going to be a gold seated Professor; take a look at this article recently shared in one of the groups I am in LinkedIn and understand that if your objective is Academia be ready to suffer as only 1 in 222 PhD graduates will achieve that status.

You very rarely get appreciation for your peers, supervisors or bosses. The modern slavery is up for grabs and most of the time you will have to postpone your decision to start a family. Also the fact that whatever you deliver is never enough, when you do not deliver you can count on the fact that you will be replaced asap by someone else from that pile of 500 old applications where names of more desperate people are ready to become science utilities. An experimental officer (female , around 40 years of age) I know recently told me "Appreciation is what you rarely get in this place, and often people talk to you like you are nothing... and for what to be an intellectual slave?". Considering all these facts, and that life is only one to live then you can assume that before you even think of doing a PhD or joining science as your main future career, think about it and consider all your life projects and personal intentions as IT IS NOT EASY. And when people say you gain more than you lose, they're lying. Most of the people I know who've joined PhDs have done it so in order to avoid unemployment. 

Since the open global market started it is not only about competing with yourself or doing better than you did yesterday. It's about who sells their human rights cheaper. Socialism cannot protect you anymore. A wise programming of your life can.

This text today was a mere introduction for what I expect to be a good x-ray to this thing called PhD. In order to help you with real opinions from real people, and not the jeebajaba nonsense that you read everywhere nowadays. If you are a candidate, if you're passionate about your studies, if you love research then this is for you to read and leave your opinion. I hope you join this train of consequences and do the best choice for yourself as the desert of one man does not need to be the desert of all, and where some people see rain others see rainbows.

Next week we are going to talk about this in more depth... this and Supervision. How good or bad is the supervision you're getting or expect to get? Please visit us and comment whenever. Kind regards.

The Toxicologist Today

******* - are there to protect people's identity.

Image taken from GeekoSystem, [], last accessed on the 24th of May 2012.