Doing Both

Doing Both

Most PhD programs are pretty intensive, requiring the pursuant to work in some capacity at the school in the department to which they are submitting their PhD candidacy. Many of them maintain student work positions to fund their studies. I am one of those students.

I work during the day at the university as a research assistant professor, which I thought was going to mean I wrote exams, delivered lectures, graded responses, encouraged great students, helped less great students find alternate routes to their goals, etc. But I work in more of a peer advisor capacity and as an obstacle between disgruntled students and their actual professor. I sit in a dark little office doing my research, and pretending to fulfill my on-paper duties of: administrative assistance, peer review and guidance, and other duties as assigned” but this doesn’t take up more than about four hours a day. I spend the other four of these paid hours (think, way below minimum wage with some tuition benefits) doing and writing my research. Then I go straight from school to the damn mall four days a week for my retail shift.

It’s a lot of work. I’m really tired all the time. My social life – besides work-required social events – is limited to a maximum of ten hours per week. I try to run to school every morning to try to maintain some sort of exercise regimen and often there are yoga or pilates classes (student-led) at the student center that I try to drop in on.

I try to explain to people that while my entire life currently revolves around academia, I do not plan to do this long term. The academic lifestyle is very concerned with publish – publish or perish, they say – and this results in lots of scientifically unsound papers getting published just so that academics can maintain their credibility, name-recognition and funding. Over half of new PhDs remain in academia, this number is higher in those studying humanities, but in the sciences we’re somewhat isolated.

I would like to maintain a career in research, but not in an academic setting. I want to work in the pharmaceutical/bio-medical development field but from an ethical standpoint where chemistry can be studied to develop cheaper drug options that are available to more people around the globe. Research and development is a heavily funded pharma initiative, obviously because there’s lots of money to be made in pharmaceuticals. But the money made is based on demand, not the difficult in producing. So I figure, if we make drugs that are astonishingly easy to produce and we sell them for production cost, people will buy enough of it to make up for the lack of mark-up. And then we can collectively come together as a culture and agree that life-saving drugs are a human right regardless of income and people like Martin Shkreli will cease to exist altogether.

The tricky part is to develop inexpensive ways to produce drugs that are already on the market – this is the central topic of my dissertation. I’ve completed 16 credits of my academic course work of a required 20; all have been completed at or above the 500-level of which only four are required; one has been in mathematics and one in natural science for the sake of well-roundedness; and my research coursework has been occurring concurrently so I’ve completed 6 of the required 8 credits.

Once I complete and defend my dissertation, which will fulfill these additional 2 credits, I’ll be ready to get out there and get working. And if I have to spend a year or two in clinical research or pharmaceutical r&d internship work, I’ll do that. I’ll even be willing to work at this personal injury law firm in Biloxi if that’s what it takes!

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