The Sassy Scientist – Out Of Orientation

The Sassy Scientist – Out Of Orientation

Ravi is done with his research, mentally. As he muses on a potential departure from academia – awaiting an unhackneyed sense of perspective – he asks:

I want to leave academia! Where do I go?

Dear Ravi,

I am sorry to hear you’ve given thought to a termination of your academic career. After years of working in geodynamics, it sure shall be a great challenge to find new perspectives in life – and a tough change in lifestyle indeed. Before adopting such new lifestyle, the first step should be to ask yourself: Why would you want to leave academia? Ever? I mean, it’s geodynamics! An unmistakable pinnacle in the crown of science. I’ll be the first to admit that science colleagues aren’t always top shelf (myself not included, obviously, I’m great). Up to the point of utter dissatisfaction sometimes. You should be able to handle that, as the prospects in the real world aren’t that great either: are you looking forward to beating Karen from accounting to your favorite parking space near the elevator every single day leading you to start work an hour early, argue with David from HR whose turn it is to clean the dishwasher (even though it’s most certainly his turn; it says so on the spreadsheet you’ve been mailing office-wide over the last three months!), or simply put a sticky note on the fridge screaming that people need to finish their food in time before it walks out of the fridge on its own terms. Oh wait, that’s still science. Never mind then. Some – who shall not be mentioned – say that they lose their mechanical couple to the asthenosphere. I know it’s difficult, but a little coupling can go a long way. Don’t tell me you’ve grown bored with your own research. Sure, we’ve all come to a certain point where we contemplated chucking it all in, launch a DDoS attack from your terminal and watch it all burn. That will teach those segmentation faults a well-deserved lesson! But, you know, we’re all decent people *cough* *cough* and none of us would even ponder such spielerei *cough*. Ever. Never ever? Never have I ever considered to propound such malice. Look what you’re making me do with that silly suggestion of leaving academia. So irresponsible of you. Be that as it may, if any of my questions have reinforced your ideas, and to you sound like good reasons to leave academia, I guess I’ll have to carry on “helping you”.

I figure you’ve been whirling around academia for a while now. You realize that academics aren’t always perceived as the perfect prospective co-workers; critical thinking, team work, pragmatism and the continual crushing of every single deadline are virtues for a scientist, but can be frowned upon by members of society who look at the clock at 9:02AM each day and can’t wait to get back to that couch and surf it all the way to the latest exploits of their favorite pseudo-popular family. I am sure that they would be dissatisfied by you! Quite an uncomfortable new beginning, right? You must realize that you have no other option than walking on the outmoded, stiff Earth’s surface, dominated by anthropogenic modifications when translocating outside academia. It would be gravimetrically impossible to escape from this boundary between anthrosphere and biosphere – which now would be your new ordinary reality. A grand challenge indeed.

Let’s return now to your subject of choice: Geodynamics…. The pinnacle of Earth sciences, as previously determined unequivocally. The infinity of Earth and outer space. A symphony of elasticity, viscosity and resistance. A continuous search for the perfect lattice to avoid increasing (or decreasing) pressure. A balance between ductile and brittle deformation. Are you still dizzy from the erudite ooze of godynamics as to not be infatuated by its trifling presence. Odd. A daunting task awaits every mere mortal who decides to grasp that chalice and down that ooze, all at once; when dribbling through the corridors of your institution, chanting “No, your plate has an internal friction angle of -0.5, get your numbers right!” at your office mate, and leaving a little present in the department botanical garden because it was closer by than the loo, you know you’ve had enough. More than enough. Maybe somebody should have stopped you sooner. And perhaps it’s time to consider that departure and really leave academia. Such desolate soul, with poorly understood ideas and a citation record of zero to prove it as no one wants to read your publications – just go as far away as you can and never come back again. You just have to decide if you are worthy and stay in the epic union of Earth scientists or not. The union of geodynamics to be specific. It’s a supermassive black hole of an union indeed, with the cosmic effects of sucking in all the science prowess you can imagine. However, there is always the need for those highly motivated high school teachers who love their subject. Personally I cannot wait to see that next-level paper mache volcano, a solar system of cans or a spectacular “mud” flow. High schoolers are so inventive, it’s even more difficult to wrap your around than spline differences, rate-and-state friction and fractional differential equations.

Yours truly,
The Sassy Scientist

PS: This post was written on behalf of high quality research.
PS2: If you need more inspiration I can recommend reading this.
PS3: Or this.
PS4: If you are still not convinced of staying in academia – leave! You might want to get your hands on a street map of your hometown. You’ll probably need it. Have you ever appreciated the beauty and wonders available to you, just around the corner? Might be worth your while…

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I am currently employed at a first tier research institute where I am continuously working with the greatest minds to further our understanding of the solid Earth system. Whether it is mantle or lithosphere structure and dynamics, solid Earth rheology parameters, earthquake processes, integrating observations with model predictions or inversions: you have read a paper of mine. Even if you are working on a topic I haven’t mentioned here, I still know everything about it. Do you have any problems in your research career? I have already experienced them. Do you struggle with your work-life balance? Been there, done that. Nowadays, I have only one hobby: helping you out by answering the most poignant questions in geodynamics, research and life. I am waiting for you right here. Get inspired.

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