And you, could you give up your bench work ?

There are so many different kinds of scientists out there. And lately, I’ve been talking to post-docs. The kind of post-docs stuck at the bottleneck of the academic world. They are good scientists, enjoy doing science, and have been doing it very well for quite some time already. But they would not like to become PI’s.

Why ?

They like the work in the wet lab, at the bench. Doing experiments, smelling, tasting ?, troubleshooting, optimizing, supervising, etc …Occasionally they write grants or teach, but most of the time they work in the lab like us, PhD students.  They do not want to give that up, but there is very little space for these experienced and qualified people in academia. At some point, they know they have to get their own group or get “a real job”. (I don’t like how that sounds either, but that’s what they said.)

I’m always a bit surprised to hear people who like so much working at the bench. For me, working on the bench compares to driving a car. It is absolutely necessary, and I have no problem doing it, but I don’t love it. If I had to, I could give it up.

I like reading literature, doing computer work (getting started in bioinformatics), doodling stuff, listening to podcasts, writing, tweeting, etc … I do not necessarily need to work with smelly bacteria, under noisy hoods, sweating under plastic gloves, or having crappy 12-hour time points. (OK, exaggerating a bit, when things work, I really like it of course)

One big exception tough, I would not like to give up my flies.  I like the fly work to much I guess. There, you got me.

So, I’m asking you readers ? Could you give up working on the bench ? 

4 thoughts on “And you, could you give up your bench work ?

  1. I was chatting to some fellow psychology PhD students about this recently. We came to the conclusion that though running a study can be frustrating at times, it would feel weird not to be directly involved in data collection. if I ever were in the P.I. position, I can imagine still wanting to have some nominal degree of input just to get that first hand account of how things are working and the people the data represent.

  2. I don’t need labwork. Especially when doing things like minipreps on a large scale, I feel more like a robot than a human being 😉 Don’t mind being in the lab, have lots of fun there too, but can surely image doing without it… I guess when you reach the point where you are the PI sitting in an office all day, you will have some people working in your lab of whom you know that they are reliable and that you trust enough to instruct new people etc.

  3. yes and no. i like bench work, i hate when experiments fail for weeks/months at a time. i like gathering data to flesh out a story centered on a good question, i would not like to be responsible for writing grants and funding a lab solely on my own. but i’m in a unique postion, i got into grad school as an older student (i had 4 years of post-UG work experience) and i got a Master’s first (3 years) followed immediately by starting my Ph.D. i’ve now been in grad school for almost 10 years when you combine the degrees. it’s been a lot of excitement and a lot of frustration. i can understand wanting to be a post doc but not a PI. i can understand wanting to work for industry to have regular hours and a salary that allows me to pay off my student loans.

    but when it comes down to it, i will graduate sometime before the upcoming july and will need a post doc. then i’ll have to find my path.

    • Thanks for giving your point of view, I really appreciate the input. Indeed, everyone had to find their own path, and this is fine, necessary, and very much understandable.
      Graduate school system of the US is quite different from the training in europe, but it sounds to me that you already a lot of experience that allows you to continue in academia but also look for other ventures 🙂 Good luck with everything.

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