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Goodbye academia: The aftermath.

Given the overwhelming response to my previous post (thanks redditors!) I think I owe people a follow-up. I pinned my blog post on reddit just as a random experiment, only because I felt “well, I’d like some opinions on this”. I expected a few heads up and some “lol you’re a loser” comment. It was amazing to see it skyrocket on top of its section for more than 24 hours, re-twittered, re-facebooked etc. all over the world -I had a quite successful blog in Italian once, but nothing like that ever happened to me. I received a mails from people all over. With more than 60.000 hits, that post is by far and large the most read thing I’ve ever published [1]. There are several reflections on what happened in the comments etc. that deserve a bit of discussion.

We are not alone.

Not this time, so cheer up!

This is the first obvious consideration: the large majority of comments were “me too” stories, either of graduate students/scientists with serious doubts on academia, or of people who left academia to do something else (almost invariably much happier than before). A few ones were stating that academia worked perfectly for them, or even that they went to academia from a non-academic work and were happy to do so.

I am sure that academia works for a lot of people. In fact, I thought it worked for much more people than I expected. But to see bad experiences similar to mine shared by so many was eye-opening and somehow frightening. There is really something wrong with the ways of academic work out there.

I am thinking of ways on how to pursue/help this further. I am still not sure of how, but some kind of hub should be made specifically for this kind of problems; a place where people can find support, or that keeps people updated on this kind of problems. There are places for generic science career help, or generic forums for graduate students etc., but I haven’t seen something tackling the pressure, unfair competition etc. of academia and trying to push things to change, or at least to be better countered. Hints welcome.[2]

Also: Are there studies on the (cultural, psychological, life style) impact of science work on scientists themselves -that is, what does science to scientists? For sure there will be some, but I am not aware of it, and I’d like to dig it. Again, hints welcome.

What science should do for itself?

Yes, perhaps.

The incredible response makes me also think again what about a friend of mine said a few weeks ago, that often it’s not the strictly scientific endeavours that influence science more. This has important implications. Scientists are good at science, and somehow at securing their funding, but it seems a constant, in the variety of opinions, that the system is seriously broken at many levels [3]. Almost every blog by a scientist has something to say about what’s wrong with the science career pyramid or its funding processes, and articles like the Economist infamous one, or this from Times Education seem to confirm there are lots of alarm bells ringing.

This brings us to the reflection that scientists seem to have little way of influencing, here and now, how science should be done. It seems they are passive Darwinian subjects evolving within internal and external constraints on which they are powerless. The politics of what governmental or private funding want to fund, or the editorial policies of top journals are only some of these factors. Scientists adapt to this environment, but there is extreme general inertia in the community about standing up and changing it -or even to bring themselves to a table and begin working on it.

Notice that I am not advocating an utopia in which scientists decide everything from themselves in an ivory tower -which would be impossible, after all, and also not healthy- but it seems to me there is no way for them to consistently, formally have a voice in their own work structure -especially for youngest workers like graduate students or postdoctoral researchers.

I talked with people.
Reactions from people I have close were mixed, but most of them were supportive. A lot of persons asked me to reconsider, on grounds that Cambridge is a very infamous place from the workplace health point of view, but that there are lots of other places with much nicer enviroments.

I agree with them: there are lots of places where one can do science and live in a probably relatively healthy and happy professional environment. However the stress induced by the pressure of securing funding, securing publications for publications’ sake etc. are too much for me now. I’m broken, and I need to heal. Perhaps in 6 months, or 1 year, I will come back to research full time, but now I cannot. Also I want to see what’s out there. Perhaps what’s out there is not for me as well, but how can I know without trying? I have to get a life and see how life works.

My (ex)principal investigator also talked to me today: he invited me to a cafe and we talked a lot. He seemed genuinely human and supportive and he said me he was very happy of my work so far and sad I interrupt it, but that he respects my choice if it doesn’t make me feel well. He even offered to let me wait a few months and then let me come back later, with funding, and he asked me not to cut contacts completely. Cambridge’s environment is too toxic for me to ever think of coming back, but it has been nice and interesting anyway -we could still collaborate at a distance in the future, who knows. We discussed a lot about the kind of environment there is (he thinks it’s unavoidable for it to be so and that it is hopeless to try to stop people doing that: I disagree, but he had his points) and about the difficulties and learning experiences that research means.

The ones I heard less were my peer collegues (with a few happy, warm exceptions -thanks, you know who you are)[4]. Not surprisingly, given their overall personality. Just an anecdote: When I packed up my stuff last week there were three people in my office. I was taking down all my stuff -books, laptop, etc. from shelves and desk and putting it in a trolley. Nobody even turned at me to ask what I was doing. They surely have seen me -they are not deaf and dumb. They didn’t care at all, not even a “huh, what’s up with these books in the trolley dude?”.

Am I brave?

At least I did it, but is it courage the same?

A lot of friends, and even my ex-supervisor, are telling me I’ve been very brave to do it. I frankly don’t know: even in the worst case scenario, I still have a family to come back for a while. I’d hate it, because I hate to depend from other people but, as someone commented in a forum, social and family networks are there for these cases. I simply couldn’t cope anymore with a situation, and decided to cut it when it was impossible to sustain, at least for now. Is it bravery? I don’t think so. Brave could have been, after all, battling against all odds. But it is not often so easy to see if I’m battling windmills or real giants.

What am I going to do?
Who knows. It’s going to be hard. Job market is notoriously awful. I am quite confident it won’t be before 1 year that I’ll find a proper job, given how it works, but we will see.

Here and now I need something much less stressful, to recover. But in general: from scientific publishing to some industry job, from programming (I want to learn properly some C++ and SQL in this period) to technician, whatever.

I suck at written English.

Please inspect mine too.

Many redditers were laughing at the poor English of my previous post. I can’t disagree with them, and well, that’s something more to learn. People in the comments are more than welcome to become SS Obersturmbannfuehrers’ of the Grammar Nazi Party and point me the errors, so that I can learn (and fix the posts).

People don’t read Ph.D. Comics.
Finally, I peppered the previous post with a couple of “Ph.D. Comics” strips (apologies to Jorge Cham for this). I thought everybody would recognize them as, er, comics. A significant minority of commentators thought I draw the diagrams myself. This is a lesson in communication (things that seems shared obvious knowledge often are not) and in attention (the authorship of the strips was clearly written in the strips themselves, yet many ignored it). And, jeez, people: don’t you read Ph.D. comics?!?

[1] To be honest, I had a correspondence published on Nature about open access a couple of years ago, and when I was a teenager I had the honour of a letter of mine published on the Corriere della Sera, one of the top Italian newspapers. Both things probably were skimmed over by at least as many people as the post. However in the first case the impact around blogs and networks was almost zero, and in the second, well, I doubt it had any real impact despite a million-people readership. Let’s say it’s had the most direct, measurable impact so far.

[2] By the way, I have to say that during my Cambridge postdoc I went to the University consulting to seek help. It distinctly sucked: the mix of trivial, insensate advices they blabbered at me without even listening me made me wonder if they thought I was retarded, or if they were retarded.

[3] Even if how and why , and especially how to solve it are all subject of debate. But this shouldn’t be a debate ping-ponged through some blogs, it should be a global debate between scientists, a real debate.

[4] And, viceversa, a cold “takedown” request by one of the unnamed subjects of the episodes cited. Which I rejected: you make my life miserable, and then you complain if you could be exposed for that? Not going to happen, dude: you’ve stopped fucking with me.


  1. It’s redditOr, not redditEr, you heretic!
    About having a hub for alternative careers: the only self organized place on the web I know about is this:

    It has never being a good project though and it’s shutting down for the same reason. It looks there is a lot of demand and this could be not just useful, also a business!

  2. You are awfully correct: there are way too many with your experience out there and in most places it’s going to get worse, not better.
    I can attest to the competitive, nasty work environment at so-called ‘top-level’ institutions: they attract exactly these people because of their reputation. I was lucky, I managed to stay away from them. I’d question that research at smaller universities is boring or irrelevant. On the contrary, because you don’t have the careerists, you can actually focus on the science, in my experience.

    There are many different ways of ‘doing science’ both inside and outside of academia. If you’re as passionate about science as it seems, you’ll find your life in science.

    Good luck!

  3. leodicobbreo leodicobbreo

    Two things.

    First off, congratulations on making this decision. Clearly, it was one you had to make. I hope if it comes down to it and I have to make a decision like yours that I can be half as brave as you.

    Secondly–Have you put this entry up on reddit as well? I know they would appreciate knowing that there is a follow up. Also, considering the enormous response your previous entry generated when you put it on Reddit, I think that there is a distinct possibility that you may find enough people of similar opinions as you (that academia is defunct, etc etc) to potentially come together and form a website or other resource, so that people who come to decisions like the one you made can feel better informed and more confident.

    Best of luck in all you do.

  4. Hi,
    Thanks for the comments: I didn’t want to “blogspam” too much, but indeed I’ve put this entry as well on reddit now.

  5. Damn it.I thought your grammer style in your first post was awesome,I copied the post to give to my Eng 121 Prof and ask her to identify the style.I had even started to incorporate this “cool” style into an Essay due this week. So much for that.

  6. Just wanted to say thanks for the heads up about PHD comics. I’m no longer studying but I have many friends that do and they’re all really close to the bone!


  7. joe-random joe-random

    Props to you man.

    I know exactly how you feel.

    The thing I hate the most is the “publish for the sake of publishing and advancing your career”.

    It is this quantity over quality that has destroyed academia and the proliferation of unethical bastards that care about their asses only.

    My advise (been there, doing that) is to take your time. First heal your emotional injuries, and do get a job in the industry. You’ll find it boring, but having some money to feed yourself is not. And then, once you’ve recovered you’ll get your love for doing things back and you can sanely decide what to do next.

    Heed to your principal’s advise: keep open lines of communication. Even if you never go back to your lab, at least you have a social contact with someone who is clearly smart and understands you, and from what you wrote seems to appreciate you deeply.
    Don’t break this contact.

    — 0l

  8. Mr. B Mr. B

    I dropped out of university for two reasons.

    I went to what is considered the best university in my country, but after about 2 years I dropped out. I was very disappointed with the whole experience. The lecturers were terrible, there was a constant pressure to hand in pointless papers and the curricula were not really well aligned with what I needed. Some of the classes just didn’t make any sense at all — both due to useless curricula and exceptionally incompetent lecturers.

    (I went to an elite school before university and I was somewhat spoilt by having brilliant teachers who knew how you teach effectively. At the university I stopped going to lectures because almost none of my professors knew anything about teaching.)

    The second reason was that there was a lot of interesting stuff going on in my field at the time and I didn’t want to miss it. I chose to participate in, and study that instead. This meant that I spent a lot of time in the library and in the lab reading and teaching myself things that were not part of the curriculum. From math subjects that you normally study later to acquiring more practical skills. Which in turn meant that I failed a lot of exams for more subjects more peripherial to my field.

    Don’t get me wrong, one should have some breadth to one’s education, but I thought that the Msc program was ill focused. I was basically being educated for what might have been a good mix of subjects 30 years ago.

    I spent the next 7-8 years working part time at the university and studying on my own. As my classmates graduated they got higher paying jobs than me. However, very few of them had my depth of knowledge across a wide range of subjects in my field. Also, I had lots of practical experience.

    Eventually I started my own company. With absolutely zero funding. After a few years I sold the company for a considerable lump of cash and stock and became an employee in the company that bought us.

    That was 12 years ago. Since I have worked for several of the top tier companies in my field. Companies you have heard of and whose products you use every day. Companies that have hiring standards that are extremely high. All of them have been aware of the fact that I didn’t have a degree.

    An interesting side-note: the higher the hiring standards: the easier it was for me to get in. One company, famous for its extremely ardous hiring process, spent a LOT of money securing my services. This was probably because their interview process was very intensive and they focused on what I knew and what I could do rather than the formalities.
    It is almost funny that most run-of-the-mill tech companies would probably not hire me or give me a shitty offer.

    Right now I have a very senior position in a very large international company. My formal title could lead you to believe that I’m a traditional executive, but I’m not. I get to define my own job and I get to work on what I like to work on. I have immense amounts of freedom and I get paid well.

    Now to summarize: I am not suggesting you drop out of school. Getting a degree is always a good thing. In part because it gives you a piece of paper to get bread-and-butter jobs, but also in part because most people benefit from an education.

    I succeeded because I never stopped studying. It has been nearly 20 years since I dropped out and to this day I still study and learn. I read a lot of books, I read lots of scientific papers in my field and I have branched out and studied things that are not really my field. Very few people I went to school with still do this to this extent.

    I also execute. I write software, I communicate extensively with people in my field, I act as a hub in my professional sphere and I rarely accept the status quo if I am not satisfied with something. I affect change, I push other people to do better and I mentor.

    People notice this.

    The most important lesson life has taught me is that NOBODY will tell you what to do. You have to figure it out yourself and they you have to DO it. Another important lesson is that: you CAN do things. If you have a great idea: you can act on it. Don’t invent excuses. Just do stuff.

    Also, practical skills matter. There is no point in taking, for instance, a math course if you cannot apply what you have learnt. Most academics are terrible at this — which makes them lousy scientists and even worse practitioners. This is perhaps my biggest problem with academia: they produce lots and lots of candidates that need an additional 3-5 years to develop skills in applying knowledge.

  9. mark mark

    The classic training paradigm encourages exponential growth in the number of trained scientists, but historically funding levels have rarely grown that way, typically they grow arithmetically (tracking inflation) or sometimes worse. Needless to say those two curves will cross at some point, and probably did somewhere back in the 1980s (versus the heyday of molecular biology, my field, in the 60s and 70s). Since funding is more or less out of our control, the only way to ease the tension is to slow training rates. That would require some kind of central management to prevent universities from simply hiring more and more recruits (as they’ve been doing for decades now) and letting the new faculty fight it out jungle-style for the shrinking share of grants.

  10. Joe Joe

    When I read your first article, I just thought that I wished a talented person like you had gotten into a warm and collaborative group. I’m sure that if you get back into science, you’ll join a team who care about each other and would be more likely to throw a party for you than not even look as you walked out the door. And I’m sad to say that people who love the system are more likely to be the ones who take power and run “science”, while the people who hate a cutthroat military industrial complex turn their backs on it. Your personal health comes first, but I have to say that given that “this shouldn’t be a debate ping-ponged through some blogs, it should be a global debate between scientists, a real debate” it’s doubly sad to see you go since you have a strong voice, and it seems you’ve left the “between scientists” category to ping-pong blog posts. Happy enclaves of science will miss you, and the science policy debates will miss you. No matter what you do, hope you’re happier and happier doing what you love with people you love every day.

  11. Anonymous-EU Anonymous-EU


    Although I also observed some of the cases of the academic misbehaviour described in your previous post (and even plagiarism of my works by some people) and agree that now it’s hard to find a research job, I wouldn’t support your decision to give up and leave given your age.

    Last summer/fall I was in a similar desperate situation (but without anti-depressants of course — I do extreme sports instead). I was applying for a permanent job (national-wide competition in on of the EU countries, not in Italy). My experience was matching one of the proposed profiles by 100%, but the position on that profile was given to a low-qualified protegee of the selection committee member. At that time I decided that I would quit research and start a personal business project unless I could find a tenure-track or permanent job starting in 2011. However, things went differently.

    I’m 30, made PhD 4.5 years ago in (…prefer not do disclose…) At the end of my PhD I had difficulties with my supervisor, but everything was finished after the defense when I joined a good team in a different lab led by a very sharp and hard-working “a-political” lady well known in the community for her enormous productivity and well-cited results. I worked “for and with” that team quite a small fraction of my time (20%) but sufficient to advance in the project, the rest was “independent research”, i.e. I did what I wanted to do and what was interesting to me. After three years I moved to another place (where I’m now), where the political situation was much harder. Here the lab management is not happy about my independence although my contract says about 50% of my own time. Anyway, in 4.5 years after my PhD I published over 20 refereed papers, 70% of them as the 1st author including one in the world-leading interdisciplinary scientific journal. I became well known and recognised in the community in several fields of my “independent research”.

    However, all this did not help to find a job. During the 2010/2011 recruitment campaign I submitted over 30 applications to tenure-track positions (mostly but not only in the US although I strongly prefer Europe) and was not shortlisted in any of them so far. And the reason was that I was completely “out of the system”, i.e. out of large teams and collaborations ruling the field. So, I was depressed and because of that desperate situation.

    The situation changed drastically a few weeks ago. I was contacted by one of the top US universities (really top) where I didn’t even apply, because there were no public openings. They offered me a permanent research job with some support duties for a fraction of my time. And even these duties are exactly about what I love to do, that is complex data analysis. And in my opinion, this is much better than teaching duties and endless grant-writing on normal tenure-track faculty positions. Before this happened to me, I even couldn’t have thought about such a possibility.

    So, of course it’s up to you to decide, but I wouldn’t be so pessimistic at your career stage about the future.

    Good luck!

  12. Well, 20 papers in 4.5 years, including a Nature/Science is an enormous output (at least in my discipline) -I couldn’t arrive even close to that. No surprise you landed with a good job! And 70% of the time away from lab projects is unthinkable here. I very much admire (and envy a tiny bit) you. But your case isn’t the norm, not even for skilled people.

    If anything, your story confirms my case: if even with such a CV you had 30 applications refused, it means the career options are really few.

  13. Joe: You’re right about the ping-pong :), but I’m currently thinking about options to bring the debate further than here. We’ll see what I manage to realize.

  14. icemelts icemelts

    Hi, i think you are leaving academia with a lot of grief and resentment. Academia is ruthless and political, but not more than any other job. Quitting is OK, but trying in a different place is also an option. Top end universities are very different from the mid range one. If you were expecting anyone to thank you at Cambridge or to praise you work just forget about it, it is not going to happen (sorry if i have to be one telling you this, but i know that system and you can forget about recognition)

    good luck

  15. Annette Annette

    Mi permetto di rispondere in italiano. A leggere l’incredibile mole di ultrasecchioni che ti rispondono mi prende male. In effetti, cavolo: in che ambietaccio sei finito. Tranquillizzati, non so che tipo di lavoro cercherai o vuoi ma con il tuo curriculum non farai certo fatica a trovarlo in meno di un mese. Sempre che tu stia davvero cercando qualcosa che ti lasci il tempo di vivere. Buona fortuna!

  16. Hi, we have set up an Internet based campaign for PhDs students and precarious researchers. We try to address most of the points you make. The important thing is to be aware that what is going on in the academia is nothing but a specific facet of a more generalo attack on the right of working people. We are not alone – nor as precarious researchers, neither as young people who struggle to find our own way in this society.

  17. B.S. B.S.

    Ciao! Rispondo anche io in italiano… Ho la tua stessa età e sto scrivendo la tesi di dottorato proprio ora. Il dottorato l’ho fatto in Gran Bretagna, perchè, per motivi che andavano al di là della volontà mia e del mio capo italiano, non sono riuscita a trovare nessuna opportunità di rimanere nell’università in cui ho studiato.
    A sentire il mio supervisor, il mio dottorato è stato brillante, anche se non pubblicherò su un giornale importante, visto che sono stata battuta sul tempo da qualcun altro…. solo un mesetto purtroppo, ma è già abbastanza… Il gruppo in cui ho svolto il mio dottorato è meraviglioso, niente pressioni, niente lamentele per le volte in cui, presa da depressione per un cattivo risultato, non rientravo in laboratorio per qualche giorno… Anche dei colleghi non mi posso lamentare: alcuni più simpatici, altri meno, ma questa è la norma, credo. La peggior nemica di me stessa sono stata io, che mi sentivo in colpa se non lavoravo abbastanza e mi arrabbiavo se non riuscivo ad ottenere i risultati che volevo. La mia giornata lavorativa generalmente durava dalle 10 alle 12 ore e, non contenta di ciò, ho passato anche gran parte dei miei fine settimana in laboratorio. Fortunatamente non ho mai perso di vista il mio obiettivo principale: ritornare in Italia e cercare di metter su famiglia con il mio ragazzo che, come un santo, mi ha aspettato per tutti i tre anni e mezzo in cui sono stata via e mi ha sopportato e coccolato nei (molti) periodi neri dovuti ai cattivi risultati che ottenevo.
    Ora son tornata in Italia e, come già detto, sto scrivendo la tesi. Tra un mesetto inizierò un post dottorato in una piccola impresa che associa ricerca e servizi. Io amo la ricerca, ma ancora non ho deciso la direzione in cui andrà la mia vita. Credo che entrare in università in Italia sia quantomeno impossibile, quindi mi farò questo periodo di post doc e poi deciderò se continuare a seguire il cuore (la ricerca con le sue incertezze) o se deviare su qualcosa di meno entusiasmante, ma più sicuro, con stipendio migliore e dove il posto fisso non sia un’utopia.
    Ho trovato il link al tuo blog sulla pagina facebook di un’amica e, dopo averlo letto, mi sono sentita molto vicina a te e non più sola nei miei tormenti riguardanti il futuro. In bocca al lupo di gran cuore, spero che tu possa riuscire a trovare la tua strada…

    P.S. per la cronaca, anch’io credevo che PhD comics fosse conosciuta da ogni singolo dottorando esistente sulla faccia della terra… dovrebbero citarlo nei libretti informativi che ti danno quando inizi il dottorato!

  18. Bio-PhD Bio-PhD

    Good job, man!
    I am from Italy too, just slightly younger. Starting my Post-Doc overseas in this month after a honest PhD in Italy.

    I think we, people concerned about science, may loose some steps in growing humanly and psycologically (maybe as much as many others, actually…but still we do).
    I had my bad period too (yet I did not gained results “academically good” as yours).

    I have always in mind the story of one person that I know. More than 40, still post-doc in the Italy, he lost his finally-found permanent position in a company R&D for the crisis and now…too old for both a Post-Doc and an academic position…as well as for other jobs…

    At the end…What only is important is to be happy in life.
    I will keep in mind your and your readers’ experience and try to find my way in life, too…within science (or out of it if I will consider wiser).

    But this discussion brings some contribution to research for sure…at least the personal research of each of us and, thus, of the community.

    Thanks and good luck!

  19. Thanks ever so much for this Thanks ever so much for this

    Two thing: some (I hope) good words, and a request.

    (1) I think you are very right here to say that, after a break, you may return. You sound more “burned out” than anything, and taking a break is the 100% right thing to do now. I know it seems like science is a zero-sum game (perfection – all success all the time, or failure) but it’s not. Get your life back, sleep, and recharge with the things and people you love. Soon the urge for science will come back strongly and you will return on your own terms. Or you will find a new great passion, start a new phase of life, and you won’t come back.

    (2) Have you seen this: ? Any parting words (for now) on what you could have done differently? To help others of us who are battling the same career burn-out, but not quite at the same point yet.

    • Hi zmartine,
      Yes, I am mostly burned out. But I am also painfully aware of a lot of long-standing issues in science career that won’t fix as soon as my burning out. I knew article you link and in fact it has been a strong inspiration for me to leave. I recognized myself in many of the things she said (including the difficulty in networking and in maintaining unabashed self-confidence).

      What could I have done differently? Well. I could have been more cautious in choosing a new project. I should have investigated more the human aspect of the workplace (When I first visited it I was fooled, it looked to me much more warm and friendly that it would have revealed). I should have planned in advance for other career opportunities: taking courses, doing part-time jobs. And I should have thought more firmly to put my own personal happiness first.

  20. Barbara Barbara

    Just Thanks! I felt lonely and miserable in the past days and the following words really reflect my mood: “trovarsi di fronte alle dighe poste sul cammino della ricerca è spesso enormemente frustrante e infine, quando ci si trova costretti a cambiare cammino, la sensazione di aver fallito nella propria vita è ben più profonda di quanto normalmente sia per un altro tipo di carriera”.
    I still do not know if i am going to quit science or not, but thanks for reminding me that pursuing our happiness is not a failure, it should be our main goal in life.

  21. Hi there,
    after I read your previous post, I was amazed…I couldn’t believe that someone else on earth went exactly through the same situation I once was in and had the very same thoughts and reactions I had, but then I had a look at the comments and, yeah, alright, I realised I was in very good company! But honestly, now I’m even more amazed that so many people didn’t know about the PhD comics, I thought by now they’d give them together with PhD application forms! Don’t they? Noooo? Then they should start! When you don’t have a real project, a caring supervisor, nothing that would look, not even by far, like a result, at least there’s a new strip of the PhD comics coming out!
    Anyway I’m writing to you just because you look like me a year ago and you may want to know what it could be of you in a year from now (don’t worry, just one of the thousand of possibilities, of course): I had a dreadful PhD from which I did not quit and a frustrating postdoc from which I did quit almost a year ago. These two experiences really changed my life and taught me a lot of things. Now, after all this strong and difficult experiences and after a non-scientific-sort of-sabbatical year, how did I use my new wisdom? Well… applying for another postdoc!! And I might even not get the job because my PhD supervisor, who never cared for me during my PhD, cares even less now that I’m not in his lab anymore and that he’s retired, forgetting to send my recommendation letter for the last 5 weeks! And so, dealing with the same mechanisms and the same people, in what did my life change so much then?? In the perspective. I have a new view on things, even when doing the very same things, I just see them differently. For this reason, I feel that quitting a year ago was the right thing to do. Even if now I might end up having the very same life, it won’t be the same because I’m not the same.
    Good luck to you!

  22. Goldie Goldie

    Time to heal.. that’s exactly what I need too. I am also quitting my job, and I don’t know if I’ll ever get a job I have struggled so much for, cos this one now was (I feel) a mistake. Good luck to both of us.

  23. Massimo, do you really think scientific publishing is less stressful than doing research?
    I’ve done both, and I don’t really think so.


  24. dd dd

    99% of science is a bleak nothing

  25. What's in a name What's in a name

    I will be leaving my postdoc in about 2 weeks from now. Reading your blog only made my conviction stronger. Academia breeds a**holes. Maybe that is the only pr-requisite to survive in the ivory tower. So long mate! catch you on the other side.

  26. Drifting Scientist Drifting Scientist

    (Sorry, I Didn’t realize there was a follow-up)

    Thanks for the update! It’s been 3 years, and I hope you’ve safely landed on your feet. And happy!

  27. Nix Shelby Nix Shelby

    I’m late to this post. Very late. However, I would not have found it if I was not preparing leave academia. I’m a Research Scientist in a R1 university in the US. I’ve had incredible difficulty obtaining independent funding due to a lack of publications. The lack of pubs comes from my PI who does not publish (hasn’t had a 1st person authorship in 13 years) and does not share data so that others may publish. I’ve worked on 3 R01 projects he was PI of and he never published anything on them. That represents about $7.5 million in direct costs without anything to show the sponsors or the tax payers. However, he continues to get funding because he’s part of the club; I.e., the good ol’ boy system. I’ve learned the hard way my career is dead… He effectively killed it the moment I joined that lab. But I stayed, hoping for something different, maybe just asking nicely for data to analyze. Nope. My job is to perpetually write IRB apps, run the funded projects, and write grants that will never be funded (reviewers like my innovation but question my lack of pubs). He gets to go on overseas conferences while I stay put like a good boy, don’t take time off, and make sure the projects run smooth. I’m tired. I’m broken. I’m depressed. I have no confidence. My counselor compared me to an abused wife, someone who is too terrified to leave because they think they are worthless and will never be able to live outside that reality. But I realize that I will die sooner than later if I don’t leave. And I mean leave within the next few months. I don’t know what I will do – just what I won’t do ever again. At least I have several years of retirement from this experience. I feel better for reading your posts and getting this off my chest.

  28. Geoff Worsley Geoff Worsley


  29. “We give them a hard time – there’s no point otherwise – but also lots of constructive feedback,” Liz says. “Around 50% of postdocs land the job following a mock interview. That’s substantially higher than success rate than without one.

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