Bugdoc sent me an interesting article that she found in Science recently written by Jeffrey Mervis, tracking alumni from Yale’s Molecular Biophysics and Biochemistry graduate program 10 years or so after graduation (they entered the program in 1991). Let’s just skip directly to table 1, shall we? Actually, it’s not entitled table 1, but there is only one table- I’ll summarize because you have to have access to Science to see the full text. Out of 26 graduates of the year that the article was following- only 2 are on the tenure track or are tenured (that’s one on the tenure-track untenured, and one with tenure). WOW. That’s a pretty freaking low number.
So here is the breakdown- of 26 in the entering class: 8 remain in academia (all but 2 are non-TT), 11 are in industry, 4 are in the ‘other’ category (law, IT) and 3 are status unknown. Nearly all of the entering class of that year wanted to stay in academia when they started graduate school, and according to the article the MBB website says their mission is to “to prepare students for careers as independent investigators in molecular and structural biology”… is this code for ‘traditional academic positions’… or something more broad. Is the mission of the program serving the students that are being selected – and should the mission be adjusted to reflect the more broad range of career paths graduates are being prepared for…? One faculty member quoted in the article wildly overestimated the percentage of students in that year that he thought would be in tenure track positions – he thought 20-25%… when the figure is actually 7%. What does that say about what faculty are training for, and what the reality is at the end of the training period??
One thing that came through to me in reading this article, and warms my heart actually, was that of those that left academia – they didn’t seem to have the bias that one only left academia when one was a ‘failed’ scientist. These kids started their own seminar series to gather information from graduates of the program that were working outside academia- which I think is a totally awesome idea. Nothing like this was available in my graduate department when I was a student… but we could have made it happen.
What about my own graduate class? There were 6 of us in my year, including 3 dual degree students- of which I was one. Of the two MD/Ph.D.s- one is in strictly clinical practice, and the other is in a clinical/clinical research type position- so no tenure track. Of the three Ph.D. candidates in my year- one left science for law school, one left science for venture captial work, and the last went to industry (and at last survey is doing quite well at it). Of these three, none of them did a traditional post-doc, they left academia directly after graduate school. And then there was one. Only I remained in academia… and if you knew the circumstances you would know that that happened sort of by chance… or by fate…
How about your own graduate school class- where did they go… how many ended up in tenure-track positions?