Bio tech brain drain: are too many talented scientists leaving the Southeast?

The Southeastern United States has long been recognized for producing talented scientists and technicians. But are too many of them leaving the Southeast to find jobs? I recently explored this issue in an article that was published in the August 2008 edition of Tech Journal South. Georgia, North Carolina and Florida were selected as representative Southeastern states. The problems they face-and solutions they create-are likely to reflect on other neighboring states. Area scientists and administrators, including those who work in the Southeast or are actively involved in recruiting and retaining talent, weighed in on the issue. Read the full article here. 

More like this

A certain segment of the US population is obsessed with "family values" and the "culture wars". This has been on full display ever since Sarah Palin was nominated as McCain VP. But let's face it, the facts are often at odds with the religious right's core beliefs. This idea that the country's…
The US government wants to build yet another high containment laboratory to "research" agents of high risk. This one is supposed to replace the aging facility at Plum Island, New York. Maybe your state is one of the ones bidding for this laboratory. You might even have read about it in your local…
You don't have to look far to find mutterings about the peer review system, especially about the ways in which anonymous reviewers might hold up your paper or harm your career. On the other hand, there are plenty of champions of the status quo who argue that anonymous peer review is the essential…
The news article is a month old but that doesn't make it any less infuriating. Potable water is becoming a major environmental issue, something that folks in the southeast of the US already know since they are experiencing a drought. What better time to sell the multinational food and beverage…

I wouldn't call myself a scientist but I have an undergrad in physics and have had several technical jobs. Having lived in north Florida, south Georgia, and now Raleigh, Durham, and Chapel Hill North Carolina, I'm leaving the southeast. My reason? I can't stand the 100º days anymore. I'm moving largely to get away from the oppressive heat. Probably to Portland, Oregon, based (among other things) on temperature data I've gotten on several dozen big US cities.

Hi Steve s,
Thank you for sharing your reasons. In fact, my move to the south (from the Northeast) was driven by temperature-I actually prefer the heat. I guess we all have our reasons.

I wish that biotech, and the demand for PhD graduates, would be more evenly distributed throughout the country. I guess there are some economic issues I don't fully understand that justify the concentration of biotech in the west coast and the east coast and not elsewhere.

You should talk about the salaries Ph.D.'s expect after spending most of their lives as students... that would be interesting too.

The Southeastern United States has long been recognized for producing talented scientists and technicians.

can you elaborate here karen? i mean, there are great scientists in the southeast, but that's generally not what my perception is in terms of what it stands out in. e.g., compare the higher of top flight universities in massachussets vs. all of the south.

Dear Razib,
Thank you for your comment. To elaborate on the above statement, I am simply suggesting that in addition to other things that the Southeast may be known for it can also produce great scientists. I agree that Massachusetts may have more "top flight" universities but it certainly does not lead the way in the number of PhD's produced. California, of course, produces the most PhD's (~6,000 in 2005). That same year, Florida alone produced more PhD's (~3,000) than Massachusetts (~2,600) (these #'s are according to the U.S. Department of Education, National Center for Education Statistics). We could argue about this extensively, but it is not the point of my article. The main point is that there are talented scientists produced in the Southeast who would like to remain in the Southeast to work and that as the area's biotech and life sciences industries grow (as is projected by experts), so will the availability of jobs for these young scientists.

I am curious to know what your "perception is in terms of what [the Southeast] stands out in."

Thanks Karen for an interesting article.

I think having a critical mass of people and companies in a given area is an important concern, both in developing a local, sustainable industry, and in figuring out where you want to go to look for a job.

Nice work!

2 years ago looking to hop jobs doing either chemistry or pharmacology, I looked in the SE from Orlando to Savannah. There were ~5 options and none with a good career progression. In comparison, Connecticut had ~15 at well known companies. Even Ohio, where I ended up working for a consumer products company, had more possibilities. It's probably due the conservative culture, if it weren't for the money the GOB's (Good Ol' Boys) would probably still be tying up research-development opportunities in sweaty red lace made from 'public funding', 'morality', and 'common sense'.