What do I wanna do?
Um, be a PI. Get to play in a lab forever. Contribute to my field. Be respected. Be loved by my students. hehehe My dream is to do research until I die, thus to have the opportunity to totally traumatize my grad students by letting them discover my cold, dead body slumped over the tissue culture hood one morning (ah, if I could only be there to laugh at them!!!)
But do I plan on being a PI? Do I hang my hopes and dreams on it? Will I be crushed if I cant be a PI?
I mean, I think Im smart enough. I think Im creative enough. I think Im a pretty hard worker.
But in my few years in Research World, Ive already seen several smart, creative, hard working PIs not get tenure.
There just aint enough money. There aint enough money for all the good ideas people think up. And contrary to the claims of Creationists, if you dont win grants, if you dont bring in money, you dont get tenure, and you dont get to be a PI forever and ever, and you cant use your 92-year-old dead body to traumatize your grad students.
Luckily, Im surrounded by mentors who are trying to prepare us younger folk for life in the current funding climate. Oh sure they coach us on grant writing, how to network to find great post-docs, how to give the best presentations at conferences– but they also bring in PhDs for us to talk to who have made ‘alternative’ career choices. Science policy advisers for politicians, people who started their own tech business, etc.
So do I want to be a PI? YEAH! DUH! But will I be pissed if I ‘have’ to work in DC as a science adviser? LOL No! Will I be sulking if Im ‘forced’ to work with a private industry like the Venter Institute? AAAHH NOOO!! Will I be suicidal if I ‘end up’ getting a gig as a consultant for a bioanimation company like XVIVO? NOOOO!
Look, I had a horrible, horrible physics teacher in high school that I learned one lesson from: Cream rises to the top. If you work hard, youre creative, and you love– you genuinely love what you do, you can rise to the top. I dont worry about my future. Like Arnie, Im obnoxiously happy and optimistic.
But like what scared me to death about ‘When a PI dies’, what I worry about with this dismal funding climate are the lost ideas. The great ideas that arent getting funded. The great ideas that are never being tested. The great ideas that might be lost, over something as stupid as money. When were throwing money down the drain on crap and The War… what innovations, what revolutions, are we losing?