Selling the PhD

So these research tidbits of mine don’t get lost in the DrugMonkey comments, reposting them here. This in response to commenters who claim shit like “everyone” knows that getting a neuroscience PhD is not “really” preparation for an academic/research career. You should take your 10 years of training – for which you get moderately paid — as a special experience and prepare to enter any of a number of careers you are being carefully prepared for by the trainee-career-oriented philanthropists at your university.

And because my links and zinger got moderated at DM, I’ll quote myself here. This is the stuff that’s vetted, presumably by the program faculty. Imagine what they say when they’ve got the kids in the room with free Pepsi? (I don’t really have to imagine, because they hold these recruiting events in a conference room near my lab. The material is pretty blatant.)

Duke Neurobiology: The goal is to train scientists for academic positions in research-oriented institutions.

Crazy! That’s the exact same goal as most people starting a PhD! It’s like, they totally GET me.

UCLA: The goal of the UCLA Interdepartmental Ph.D. Program for Neuroscience is to educate students for careers in neuroscience research and teaching…. Now is an opportune [sic] time for graduate study in the UCLA Interdepartmental Ph.D. Program for Neuroscience.

Michigan: Graduates receive a Ph.D. in Neuroscience, which provides tremendous flexibility in choosing one’s career path.

If by “flexibility” you mean “something other than neuroscience.”

UW: The goal of the Graduate Program in Neurobiology & Behavior is to produce the best neuroscientists possible.

Because neuroscientists make awesome consultants/editors.

NYU: “The GPNP provides comprehensive training in neuroscience that positions our students to attain success and make significant contributions to the field.”

(This one was written by an administrator because it says “attain success” rather than “succeed.”)

UCSF: “The purpose of this program is to train doctoral students for independent research and teaching in neuroscience.”

Davis: “We offer an exciting, rewarding and intellectually stimulating program of study that will prepare you for a successful career as an independent scientist and scholar.”

Le Great White North: “The Integrated Program in Neuroscience (IPN) at McGill University is an inter-disciplinary, inter-departmental graduate program, dedicated to producing world-class neuroscientists.”

“The Integrative Neuroscience graduate program at the University of Chicago is designed to provide the training and research opportunities for the next generation of behavioral, cognitive, and social neuroscientists.”

“The Neuroscience Track at Wake Forest University offers a PhD degree tailored for a research career within one of the most challenging and fascinating scientific endeavors ever attempted — the study of the brain and the nervous system.”

“The Department of Brain and Cognitive Sciences offers an interdisiplinary [sic! – for real] graduate program … designed to prepare participants to be competent scientists engaged in original research and to teach effectively.”

Tulane: “The curriculum is designed to prepare the students for active research careers.”

In summary, fresh undergrads should be totally “in the know” on how the biomedical career path works, yet all of these institutions make it clear their sole purpose and function is to train research scientists.

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2 Comments on “Selling the PhD”

  1. […] We will not be able to pretend for very much longer we are preparing PhD students to be research […]

  2. […] warning about the likelihood of getting what you want), it bears almost no relation to the tone of PhD program recruiting materials, and it does not change the fact that most people who are both highly qualified and have the desire […]


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