Thinking about post-PhD life

There is no week, literally no week, since the beginning of the year, without discussions about what life will be after obtaining the PhD degree. Most of my friends started their PhD around the same time then me, and we are all reaching this phase of starting to think about what’s next. So here are some of the options:

The obvious (and easiest ?): Do a post-doc.

It’s an attractive option for many reasons: staying in academia (and enjoying it’s perks), starting a fresh and exciting new project, getting more experienced, gaining and sharing knowledge, teaching, travelling, meeting new people, and so on …But: 1 out of 10 post-docs (at the best) will make it in academia. So, why not make an exit earlier, and not risk being disappointed, discouraged, frustrated, jaded, and rejected by a ruthless academic world.

Plan B’s 

First, I guess they should be called plan A’s, since they concern most of PhD students. There are lots of things to do: Research and development in industry, science communication, teaching, project management. Science policy, global health. But also, owning a bar, a restaurant, a bakery, a bed and breakfast, a travel agency, a book store. Raising goats and making your own cheese.

I have plan B’s and plan A’s. And no idea what will happen (I mean, who does, really ?)

I enjoy research right now, which is easy to say when things go well, and when hard work is decently appreciated. So why not continue with a post-doc and go for it. Academia. I’d love to have my own fly lab some day. With an awesome fly room, full of flies, books, drawings, discussions, crossing schemes, and laughs. I have a picture of this in my head. But sometimes, luck can fail you. Life might get in the way. So, you can only hope for the best. Especially do your best, and never regret not giving it your best shot.

Closed doors generally open new ones. A this stage, i think it’s important to at least think about those things. Develop other skills. Writing this blog, developing the lab’s website, tweeting,  made me realize I like that kind of stuff. I love making my powerpoint slides and telling people what I do. All these skills I develop “on the side” might become truly useful someday.

Well, that was a short summary of things that go trough our minds these days. Nothing deep or insightful, but I guess i needed to write it down.

Famous Scientists Quotes -3-: “Become a scientist only if you cannot imagine yourself doing anything else”

Hi all,

I have been listening to old podcasts of “This Week in Virology” lately, notably TWIV n°100, with David Baltimore (Do I even need to present him ?) as a guest star. He was talking about all the seminal work he did in virology, and was asked to give an advice to young aspiring scientists. And he said the following: “Become a scientist only if you cannot imagine yourself doing anything else. It is hard, and only gets harder.” 

Picture from discover magazine.

To be honest, it creeps me out big time. I’m not going to lie. I can totally picture myself doing something else. Many things actually. So I asked my supervisor, former supervisors, other scientists, what they thought of this. To my great relief, they ALL said that they could imagine themselves somewhere else, and that they even seriously though about getting out of academia at some stages of their careers.  Pfffiouuuu, right ?

So let’s just stop acting like academic science was just the only valid thing to do when you love science. And even following that path does not mean not imagining yourself going somewhere else sooner or later.