A Conscious Decision to Change Careers Should Not Be Mistaken for Failure

A recent PNAS article tracked the careers of scientists in three different fields based on research paper authorship. They found that, over a 50-year span, there was a dramatic reduction in how long scientists remained in each field, which they termed “survivability.” More than half of the scientists that started out in the 1960s published in their field for an average of 35 years, while about half of scientists starting in the 2010s published in their field for an average of 5 years1. Tracked academic researchers were classified into three categories: transients (authors who had only one publication during their career), dropouts (authors who stopped publishing at various career levels), and full-career scientists (authors who continue to publish in the field). Overall, the data showed that there are an increasing number of transients that contribute to scientific papers. Thus, the authors of the PNAS article concluded that the demographics in those academic fields are shifting toward scientists who leave the field quickly. The observed increase in the number of scientists who are temporarily in academia makes sense, given the number of PhDs relative to the limited number of faculty positions and permanent staff scientist roles. However, the terms “survivability,” “transients,” and “dropouts” give the impression that leaving academia means that these scientists have ended their career or failed.

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Sitting on the Moon

Today’s blog is from BTCI Instructor and guest blogger Jackie Mosher.

Shoot for the moon. Even if you miss, you’ll land among the stars. —Norman Vincent Peale

mosher_a_editThis motivational quote has echoed throughout my life from childhood.  It has inspired me to be fearless in dreaming, to be ambitious and to reach for those goals without fearing failure. So, naturally at the ripe age of 10, my goal was to become a scientist and discover a cure to both AIDS and cancer with a secondary plan of becoming this nation’s first female President. However, as I grew older, I realized my genuine interest and excitement for science and that I enjoyed not only learning about various scientific concepts but also sharing this information with others. Therefore, I completed a Bachelor’s of Science degree with a major in Molecular Biology and minor in Chemistry and decided to continue my studies as a graduate student at UW-Madison in the Cancer Biology graduate program.  My goal was to graduate and aid in disseminating scientific knowledge.

Why teach and not become a scientist? 

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