My comment with a counter/double comment:
Great article – thanks, but I believe that it left out a single key point concerning the potential future for those pursuing PhD’s in the sciences.
Namely startups. Maybe the future lies outside of academia and is instead in private industry.
I for one firmly believe that the next great advances that will come from the sciences in the next twenty years will be come from some aspect of biology: genetics, cellular biology, or systems biology to name just three.
There are many big problems in these fields that remain to be solved and the solutions will prove to be highly lucrative. And when government funding for research and development retracts (as in the case of the NIH), the private sector steps in. Think NASA and SpaceX.
I predict the next big explosion in jobs – much like the PC/IT/internet revolution of the late ’80s/’90s – will come out of the biological sciences.
I coached my daughter to interleave her education where it had both breadth and depth. Hence, she got her undergrad in bio-chemistry, her masters in systems engineering, and she now has one year to go to finish her PhD in cellular biology.
She is excited about the future and perceives like me (and her colleagues) that there are and will be numerous opportunities for her and other bright and shining research oriented scientists.
I get so frustrated with previous generations refusing to see this data for what it is – a surplus of PhDs. The opportunities you’ve promised to your students and children are not going to magically appear, no matter how earnestly and optimistically you wish them to. Regarding start ups, programming requires very little capital. New biomedical companies, are, at the moment, prohibitively expensive to start. The barrier to entry may not be as high as a space shuttle program, but it is still unrealistic for a recent graduate who is mired in debt. There are a few ways it could change in the future, but if you think the percentage chances of making it in academia are low, maybe you should look at the start-up market a little harder. For me, science is an interest and a way of looking at the world, but not a career – and that is ok; I’ve got other skills.
I don’t disagree that biomedical companies are astronomically expensive to start. And I wasn’t suggesting that ‘a recent graduate who is mired in debt’ was even remotely capable of such a feat.
What I was trying to say is that there can be opportunities for research PhD kind of people that lies beyond our current scope of thinking; I proposed the private sector as a possible means for funding new projects.
I totally agree with how you closed your reply to my comment when you said ‘for me science is an interest and a way of looking at the world…I’ve other skills.’
That is spot on. My daughter is ultimately in the science field because that is part of her lifestyle which is learning.
As for me, I am an old but still learning (science studying) electrical engineer who moved to Mexico 4 years ago to write – 2 new books and counting – and learn the art of sandalmaking.
PS – The investment that I have made in education for both me and my daughter have already paid great dividends. To live is to learn.