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Which Grad Students Are the Most Miserable? 332

Posted by timothy
from the law-students-get-the-best-free-food dept.
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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Which Grad Students Are the Most Miserable?

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  • by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday April 06, 2011 @08:29AM (#35731552)

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

  • by antifoidulus (807088) on Wednesday April 06, 2011 @08:31AM (#35731576) Homepage Journal
    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.
  • by Fractal Dice (696349) on Wednesday April 06, 2011 @09:24AM (#35732040) Journal

    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.

  • Re:Short answer (Score:5, Informative)

    by paiute (550198) on Wednesday April 06, 2011 @09:47AM (#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.

All this wheeling and dealing around, why, it isn't for money, it's for fun. Money's just the way we keep score. -- Henry Tyroon

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