The Sassy Scientist – The lost mug dilemma

The Sassy Scientist – The lost mug dilemma

You guessed it right, it’s that time of the month when I emerge from my lair, ready to share some of my great wisdom to help you navigate this scorching October. Seriously, my climate crisis depression has me in its grip but I’m here to cool us down a little bit, no worries. So, this week, we tackle Lara’s question:

Should I leave academia or apply for a post-doc after my PhD?

Dear Lara,

You asked a question that puts all of us in purgatory, the question that will never get old but drags us into the deepest, darkest part of the ocean. I’m sorry, but I believe you found me in the most pessimistic period I have ever had – but mostly pessimistic towards academia. So, I can’t give you an unbiased answer.

Now that I have given you a clear warning, let me be brutally honest – academia can sometimes feel like that sinking feeling you get in your stomach when you discover your favourite lab coffee mug is missing. But don’t mistake my cynicism for indifference; I still have a soft spot for it deep down, nestled between the grants, rejections, endless stacks of paper, and many types of instability.

I’m going to assume that if you are asking this question, you enjoy research and exploring new research opportunities but you are pondering or sitting on the fence about the things that you must sacrifice for it. Then go and grab a pen and paper. Ready? No, seriously, I’ll wait for you. Did you grab it? Okay, so, there are some questions you need to answer like whether:

  • you are planning to be a professor
  • you, and if you have a partner or a family, are okay with being a complete nomad for a good while till you land that impossible permanent position
  • you can survive on the tiny amount that they pay you for a series of works that you do while you still don’t feel appreciated by the scientific community
  • you are terrified by the amount of bureaucracy and the cost that you have to deal with every two years (especially if you are not a white-privileged person, it gets worse, I know)
  • you are afraid of leaving academia or having FOMO when you see your friends posting photos from EGU

Let’s be real, we are working on improving the lives of postdocs, but that will take a couple of decades. Hopefully, you won’t still be a postdoc by then. So what I’m saying is: remember that this decision isn’t about right or wrong, but what feels right for you. It’s your life, your path, and ultimately, your choice.

Yours truly,
The Sassy Scientist

P.S. whoever took my mug, I’d like to see it back on my desk on Monday morning, with some biscuits, please.
P.S. sorry that I’m so pessimistic, I mean what do you expect after having this ridiculously hot October?

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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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