If you feel unsuitable during the reading process, you can choose to drop out.From SciencemagAuthor: Katie LanginCompile: the heart of the machine
Participation: Hu Yuyue, Lu
In hindsight, it should be time to start the end. One day in 2010, Benjamin Schulz worked late at night in his “dirty and depressed” graduate office, when his attention turned to the Deepwater Horizon spill. He stared at the oil erupting from the submarine pipeline. There seemed to be something in the depths of his heart that collapsed. He could not help but think of his career path. "Look at this messy world," Schulz, a computer science major at Missouri University in Columbia, recalls the idea at the time. "I am here to work hard to calculate this complex formal calculus, just to prove a line and another. A line is not connected, what am I doing?"
Until Schulz attended the academic conference in 2012, the issue still haunted his mind. So he asked the dozens of professors and new doctors at the dinner party: "What wakes up every morning to get up and work?" The table was silent for at least 5 seconds until a young scientist broke the silence. "Basic research can bring about major discoveries." Then the topic was diverted. "Oh my God," Schulz recalls. "Not just me, others don't know why they want to do this."
When he first entered the graduate school, he once thought: "I want to live a spiritually rich life. I want to think deeply and creatively about those really interesting questions." But the reality is very different. "I was forced to become smaller and smaller." The corner …… is really frustrating."
Two months after the end of the meeting, he still couldn’t get rid of that feeling of inaction. So he walked into the mentor's office and suggested that he would drop out of school. The mentor he likes to work with supports his decision and then asks him what to do next. "I don't know, I just think I have to do something different."
According to data released by the American Graduate School Council (CGS), approximately one in four US science and engineering PhD students will abandon their studies in the first three years. In some ways, this worrying number has become an urgent problem to be solved. In some cases, abandoning a doctoral career may be due to harassment, discrimination, financial hardship, or even other reasons that are not related to personal or professional goals.
But for individual students like Schulz, and continuing to struggle on a project that has no sense of accomplishment or can't help for their long-term goals, dropping out of school may sometimes be a better option. Science Careers interviewed nine students who had dropped out of school without a Ph.D. and identified several common reasons for their abandonment:
Loss of interest in research
Almost everyone said that when they made up their minds to leave, the motivation that drove them to read Bo had disappeared. One of them said in the last year of reading Bo, "I was unable to fully participate in it at the time. I have already quit half of my spirit." Another person said: "In the end, I found out that I am not like other people. I love science research."
For many people, they are not interested in their own disciplines, but feel that day-to-day research activities lack a sense of accomplishment. This is the case with Ellen Martinsek, a former Ph.D. student in physics at the University of Chicago. After two years of studying, she dropped out of her master's degree. "In general, I am really interested in the projects I am working on, and I am really excited to promote human knowledge, even a little bit," Ellen said. "But in my daily work, I stare at the computer screen every day. Analyze the video, just like staying in the basement, and eventually I found it really not for me.” The separation between the two made her realize how important it is to like the daily tasks and responsibilities at work. And this is something she never prioritized when she thought about her career.
In all the work of reading Bo, what she really liked was teaching assistant, a career path leading to high school physics teachers in Chicago, and the work she loved. "Every day is brand new, really great."
For those who go further, giving up may be harder. "I was discouraged in the fifth year," said Mario Muredda, who joined the Ph.D. in Biochemistry at Queen's University in Kingston, Canada in 1998. In the first year, he spent the whole year "essentially just to prove that the transgenic mice we thought were not genetically modified … … this is a tough start." Then, his second project and other colleagues in the lab The work is completely different, which makes him feel isolated. These two things made him lose his self-confidence and gradually lost his curiosity about scientific research.
But Muredda always thought, "You have to get a degree, you have to get a degree." Part of his reason for this is his growing experience. He was born into an Italian-Canadian family who values education and was trained as the first generation of Canadians. He didn't want to disappoint his parents. In addition, the Ph.D. program he is involved in does not allow him to drop out of his master's degree. Even if he can do so, he is not sure if he will take this route.
So he went on and eventually made enough progress. His mentor told him that he could start writing a thesis, but he said that his mind was not on it.
He decided to stay in the graduate school, but left the lab to do non-academic health care communication, and then write a thesis in his spare time. But he said, "As you can imagine, the passion has not returned since leaving the lab, and the situation has gotten worse." It took him a whole year to finally face the fact that he could not graduate, and then officially dropped out. Eight years later, "I left nothing," he said.
This decision was devastating and produced emotional scars. But time can heal everything, he said. Today, Muredda has become the CEO of Harrison and Star, a New York health care communications agency. Looking back, he believes that giving up his doctoral career is the best thing in his life. "Nothing will change my decision," he said. "The decision to drop out will not make me happier …… the challenge is the old saying, but it is me." An important lesson in life."
Pursue different passions
Toby Hendy didn't decide to drop out because she didn't like research, and more because she wanted to spend her time on communication science.
Hendy was a Ph.D. student at the Australian National University until January, and she was reading because she wanted to be a university teacher. At the time, she worked in the lab, and when she had time, she recorded some teaching videos about physics and mathematics on YouTube. In fact, she started doing this from high school. With the increase in fans —— she now has more than 200,000 online subscriptions, and she realizes that traditional college teachers may not be the best career choice for her. "If I just want to teach, then I can reach more people on YouTube than in traditional classrooms," she said.
So she dropped out of school after a year of reading and posted a video on YouTube explaining her decision, and she was fully involved on the YouTube channel. She did not completely sever her own way of reading Bo, but at the moment she only wants to focus her work on science communicators. "YouTube is a place where people can learn and get inspiration …… here I feel like a part of a strong organization."
Luke Mitchell, a former neuroscientist doctoral student, found that dissatisfaction with a Ph.D. program may lead to the discovery of new passions. In 2016, Mitchell, who had been at the Drexel University in Philadelphia for three years, became tired of day-to-day life and began looking for something new to satisfy his geek spirit. "I have always been a super sci-fi geek," Mitchell said. He began to use passion as the driving force for writing, using night and weekend time to create science fiction. "I am increasingly addicted to writing. When I sit in the lab, I just want to go home and write."
At the time, Mitchell's wife had just graduated from medical school and was preparing to go to Boston for an internship about 500 kilometers from Mitchell's Philadelphia. In the end, he decided that he would rather drop out of school and move to Boston than his husband and wife. "I have started writing," he said, and it is time to move on.
He dropped out of college with a master's degree and started writing full time. "I can clearly understand that this is what I don't want to stop."
Some former doctoral students said that after experiencing the human culture, they are no longer interested in academic careers and PhDs. Schulz said: "I have seen a lot of stressful and unhappy people in the academic world. They are successful people." He thought, "If this is success, then maybe I don't want to succeed in this area."
Others have envisioned their academic career and believe that this road is not suitable for themselves. "I don't think my previous definition of academic career is completely correct." Andrew Racz said that he began his Ph.D. in Earth Science at the University of California, Santa Cruz, in 2007. After reading it for a few years, he "opened his eyes and saw the true nature of the research." He realized that he was not interested in the professorship. "If I can go back and explain the work of the researchers to myself at the age of 25, then I may realize earlier that studying for a master's degree may be my right choice."
Racz also found that completing the course was just "thinking to spend a few years in the same position …… and this is not something I am prepared for." At that time, Racz was very comfortable in Santa Cruz. Talking about love, this makes him want to stay, not because he wants to be a postdoctoral or stay in school.
Therefore, he graduated with a master's degree seven years later and then found an assistant engineer. "I am still in Santa Cruz, we just bought a house together. So, this is a happy ending."
For Lynne Tye, who studied for a doctorate in neuroscience at UC San Francisco, the academic world is like a "family business" —— her parents and sisters are professors, and Tye wants to be a Professor. "In order to be able to enter a good graduate school in the future, I will concentrate on preparing for the undergraduate course."
Everything went smoothly at first. She passed the qualification exam and co-authored a paper. But in the second year she began to cry frequently. "To tell the truth, I haven't known why I cried for months. I'm not sure if I am homesick or not like my project or lab. I don't know if I should break up with my boyfriend or move to live with him."
When she sat in the audience of the postdoctoral seminar without any interest, her "epimentary moment" came to — — she realized that she was really tired of research. "I was confused when I thought that I did a good job. It was a cause that made me unhappy. I suddenly realized that I didn't like the way I walked. I wanted to leave." She dropped out less than a week. She doesn't want to spend decades doing research, nor does she want to climb the "very linear ladder" of academia. Instead, she entered the software development arena and now runs Key Values, a San Francisco-based engineering recruitment site. "I still think that neuroscience …… is fascinating, but that career path is not for me."
Many former doctoral students who leave the PhD program feel like a loser. "This is part of the reason for their hardship," Ellen Martinsek said. Her other layer of mental pressure is that there are so few women in the field of physics, and she is worried that she will not be able to sex. Martinsek reminded herself that deciding to leave "doesn't mean that I can't succeed. It doesn't mean that women can't succeed. I'm just making choices for myself." This also helps her to feel "very quickly" afterwards. "But it was still difficult to do this because you wanted to finish it when you entered a project."
Schulz recalls: "Everyone thinks I am stupid." He also worried that he spent several years specializing in a project at the graduate school. He didn't know what to write on his resume to find a "regular job." He feels that potential employers will feel that he does not have any practical work experience. "How can I move to a broader world? What can I do?" he thought.
Schulz finally chose a tortuous road —— first as a teacher, then into the software industry. He currently works as a quantitative software engineer at a mortgage company in Columbia, Missouri. He said: "I think this is the best result, but that doesn't mean I don't have a lot of strange, complicated and sad feelings about it."
Tye said that in many ways, giving up a doctorate is the most difficult choice she has ever made, but she is also the most proud of her. "It makes me feel free," she said. "I am passionate about life." She compared this experience to the movie "The World of Truman": "You will realize that this little world is not all in front of you."
Muredda later took the time to reassess the motives of the time when he read Bo. "I think I have some correct reasons for doing research, and there are some reasons for mistakes." He is fascinated by biology and is very curious about how things work. But "In any case, the three letters of Ph.D. are too significant for me. This is not the reason why I am engaged in research."