Despite your graduate education, brainpower, and technical prowess, your career in scientific research is far from assured. Permanent positions are scarce, science survival is rarely part of formal graduate training, and a good mentor is hard to find. This exceptional volume explains what stands between you and fulfilling long-term research career. Bringing the key survival skills into focus, A Ph.D. Is Not Enough! proposes a rational approach to establishing yourself as a scientist. It offers sound advice of selecting a thesis or postdoctoral adviser, choosing among research jobs in academia, government laboratories, and industry, preparing for an employment interview, and defining a research program. This book will help you make your oral presentations effective, your journal articles compelling, and your grant proposals successful. A Ph.D. Is Not Enough should be required reading for anyone on the threshold of a career in science.
A bit dated after these 20 years, but still contains lots of solid advice.
The chapter on Establishing a Research Program is especially helpful. Be "problem-oriented" not "technique-oriented." Start your career by choosing a problem that will lead to several small publishable milestone results ("publons" or small publishable kernels of work) each year, not exclusively one huge result that will take 10 years. Diversify by working on two or three problems at once.
Another good point: Don't be seen as a dilettante. There's a story here about a promising young graduate who lost a job interview when he said he "didn't want to be pigeonholed" by choosing a focus, and would rather be a "generalist" who'd just "look for something interesting" once he landed the job. Prospective employers won't know what they can expect from such a person. You must be able to express your personal interests. Your focus can change over time, but you should be able to express an "inner compass" or "a burning desire to know something."
The career path chapter discusses frankly the many downsides to an academic career, especially early on when you're still an assistant professor trying to earn tenure. Instead, the author suggests working at a governmental or industrial research lab for your first few years after grad school: get a real salary, focus on research without the distraction of teaching, be productive during your 8-9 hour days and then actually have a family/social life outside of work... AND THEN, once you have good research credentials and publications, apply for higher-level tenured faculty jobs. This is a really interesting idea. I wonder whether this is a practical option these days? Do people do this?
Earlier, for choosing a thesis adviser, the author suggests going with a tenured, prominent scientist. Else, if you are a productive student, a young and untenured adviser might see you as a competitor. They might also not get tenure and have to leave before you finish your thesis.
يتناول المؤلف (عالم الفيزياء بيتر فايبلمان) المسار العقلاني لمهنة البحث العلمي، يقدم المؤلف نصائح مهمة عن كيفية اختيار مشرف رسالة الدكتوراة أو مشرف دراسة ما بعد الدكتوراة، بالإضافة إلى كيفية الاختيار بين عدة وظائف في البحث العلمي في مجالات الأكديميا أو مختبرات البحث الحكومية أو الصناعة، بالإضافة إلى كيفية التحضير لمقابلات الوظائف والتعريف ببرنامج البحث. التوجيه الذي يوفرة هذا الكتاب سيساعدك في جعل طريقة تقديمك الشفوية لأبحاثك أكثر فاعلية، ومقالاتك في المجلات البحثية أكثر قوة، ومقترحاتك البحثية للحصول على المنح أكثر نجاحا.
المؤلف عالم الفيزياء بيتر فايبلمان: باحث كبير في مختبرات سانديا الوطنية في الولايات المتحدة الأمريكية، حصل على درجة الدكتوراة من جامعة كاليفورنيا في سان دييغو، وعمل كباحث ما بعد الدكتوراة في معهد سالكاي في فرنسا وجامعة اللينوي في إيربانا في الولايات المتحدة الأمريكية ، كما عمل في التدريس في جامعة ستوني بروك في الولايات المتحدة الأمريكية أيضا.
I definitely read this book right when it is of most use to me. Suffering from a lack of direction, ambition and motivation in the vacuum left behind by my Ph.D. work, this book gave the best, no-nonsense advice that I've ever received about figuring out the best route to success within academia. Highly recommended to anyone looking for a career in research.
I recommend this book to PhD students, postdocs and grad school applicants. If I had read this book before entering grad school, I would have spent my previous years differently.
I view this book as a science career survival book full of practical advice. Meanwhile, it gives you the big picture of scientific academia. This book is not about alternative career paths available.
After ~70% of the journey, the points start to look familiar and I find it less stimulating compared to the first several chapters. It could be because I am far away from the stage of "writing a research grant" or "setting up my own research program".
Actualmente estoy haciendo un postdoctorado de matemáticas y encontré este libro en la estantería de mi despacho, que comparto con mis compañeros del grupo, y por eso decidí leerlo. Está escrito por un investigador en física que, desde su experiencia, trata de compilar lo que indica en el título, una guía para sobrevivir en la ciencia.
El núcleo de los contenidos se centra en la etapa postdoctoral y la inmediatamente posterior, así que pienso que lo he leído en el momento más adecuado. No pocos de sus consejos son útiles, sobre todo en temas prácticos sobre cómo hacer charlas, escribir papers, relacionarse con los otros investigadores, elegir temas y grupos de trabajo, etcétera. En fin, todas esas cosas que son el pan de cada día del gremio.
Voy a hablar ahora de los aspectos a mi entender negativos. El autor presenta una visión del panorama científico más bien darwinista, identificando el éxito a la carrera investigadora propia con destacar sobre los demás, y hacia ello orienta sus consejos. Sin ir más lejos, califica a los investigadores de la misma área como 'competidores'. Yo no comparto en absoluto esa visión; para mí los autores de mi área de trabajo son mis compañeros o mis colegas, y mi éxito puede ir asociado en buena parte a colaborar con ellos.
Por otra parte, el libro adolece completamente de perspectiva de género. De las historias reales que presenta al principio (con iniciales para no invadir la privacidad de nadie ni incurrir en prejuicios étnicos, 'good job'), uno de ellos está protagonizado por una mujer, y esa es toda aparición del género femenino en la obra, que yo recuerde. En este mundo, es patente la presencia de las barreras que las mujeres tienen que superar por el mero hecho de ser mujeres, sin ir más lejos por la escasa presencia de la misma. En ese sentido, entiendo que a una investigadora en la etapa referida, esta obra se le quedaría corta. Pero no es solo que no mencione estas dificultades, es que da la impresión de que tiene todo el tiempo en la cabeza en un hombre, y en cierto momento directamente dice 'así tendrás más tiempo para ayudar a tu esposa con la cena'. Esto es en parte explicable por el año en que se escribió la primera edición (1993), y no tanto cuando se escribió la segunda (2010). Por todo ello, es necesario poner este tipo de cuestiones en el foco.
El libro es cortito y en un estilo no demasiado difícil, así que en este caso el que estuviese en inglés no me ha supuesto un obstáculo serio. El ámbito del público es muy específico, pero si perteneces a él, te recomiendo sin duda que le eches un vistazo.
Pursuing a PhD degree is more than just getting a higher education degree. It is actually part of a research career, be it in an academic institution or not. This book actually helps put that in perspective, and gives advice on what to keep in mind to climb the ladder of scientific career.
I did gain new insight on how to position and prepare myself if I want to do research for a living. There are surprisingly some things I had not been aware of, even though I've acquainted myself with working in a research and academic institution. Otherwise, some of the advice are, well, common sense. But sometimes even common sense needs to be shoved at your face to be reminded of how important these seemingly little details are.
The author seems to be more pro research outside professorial work (he actually got me a little intimidated with his take on fighting for tenure position and whatnot), but I think no choice in life is perfect all around.
Also, perhaps due to his Physics background, I find that some of his opinions would be more relatable to those working on pure/natural science.
Would recommend this to those preparing for or undergoing PhD with a research career in mind.
Overall: The book talks mainly about what one should do after getting a Ph.D. to be successful in the academia emphasizing on the need to publish more. It is a good read during the Ph.D. curriculum.
Directly from the book (my comments in brackets):
Pg. Quoted ix Those who do not (learn science survival skills), to paraphrase Mencken, have an excellent chance of moving from graduate study to scientific retirement without passing through a career. xi If no one pays attention, what difference does it make if your results are clever! 2 What do scientists do? Technique vs. problem orientation. No technical skill is worth more than knowing how to select exciting research projects. 4 There has to be a theme to your work—some objective. Don’t start with: “I have been trying to explain the interesting wavelength dependence of light scattering from small particles,” but rather “there is a widespread need to explain to one’s kids why the sky is blue”. Give some “historical” material showing where the field is, the relative advantages of different methods, etc. Then outline what you did, and describe your results. Conclude with a statement of how your results have advanced our understanding of nature, and perhaps give an inkling of the new directions that your work opens up. Rehearse your talk in front of one or two of your peers and/or professional supporters. 7 Many a graduate student or postdoc spends time trying to understand what his advisor wants and getting it done. In fact, it is the young scientists who define and carry out what they want, who learn to be scientific leaders, who find the best jobs and have the most productive and satisfying careers. 10 A more aggressive or aware young man might have spent a significant fraction of his two years not simply building the desired instrument, but rather asking questions about the direction of his new field, reading as widely as possible in its literature, and formulating a research direction of his own. 11 Institutionalized conflict: Managers make many mistakes. More often than not these hurt the people they manage, rather than themselves. Permanent position would only really be permanent if he proved himself a capable scientist in his first two or three years. 12 Successful collaboration is possible when one or both contributors have established reputations, or when each researcher brings a different, identifiable skill to the collaborative project. 15 Everybody likes to give advice, so ask. 17 What a prominent advisor can offer is: 1) being part of the “old-boy network” (he can help you survive if times are tough, sometimes even if you don’t deserve to), and 2) not competing with you. 18 A young advisor, trying to make his way in the world, doesn’t want to be shown up by his student or postdoc. He has a lot to prove, and is therefore unlikely to be generous with credit for ideas or progress. An advisor who has made his mark views the accomplishments of his students with pride, even joy. A more senior advisor also offers you better prospects of finishing the thesis project that you start and of spending your entire graduate career at one university. 19 Does the established person you are considering make him/her-self available to his students? Does he give real guidance? Is he comfortable talking to people who are not his scientific peers, i.e., beginners like yourself? Does his group have a sense of purpose? Do they interact with each other? And does Professor Eminent teach “survival skills”? 21 If you are one of the few whose thesis represents a major breakthrough, you will probably be much in demand, and you will likely have few problems finding a permanent job.
Before I read this, I was never able to give a solid answer when my advisor, supervisor, or department head asked me what I wanted to do when I'm let loose with my PhD. I had no idea. No plans beyond getting the degree itself.
I'm so glad I read this book. As a PhD student in Chemistry, I was blind to what was waiting for me coming out of grad school. Post-docs, assistant professorships, tenure, academia, national labs, industry?
I won't bias the review with my conclusions, but this book helped me quickly identify which track is right for me, not only by confirming the suspicions I had about certain options but by demonstrating the differences, large and small, between them. It made me think about my strengths and weaknesses and has helped me figure out how I need to focus the next few years of my life.
A must-read for anyone floundering with life after grad school.
4 stars, rounding up for a personal connection. I heard about this book from my father a while ago. Although my PhD is far from over, it is a rather fun, short read. I strongly disagree with some comments, especially with regards to taking funding from every where you can get it (I myself was taught and believe in only accepting money from ethical funding sources)..
It is also very much a product of its environment, grant writing comes into play for doctoral researchers in many parts of Europe, including Iceland, however, that just made more of the book relatable.
Still, I can imagine what an eye opener this must be for many and that in itself is enjoyable. The book is well written, brief, and rather charming, if slightly outdated.
The book is a quick read, and I would not be wrong if I say: "Only good things can come out from reading it".
The book is targeted for people who are seeking a career in academia. It is a relevant book for people nearing the end of their PhD as it can help one see different ways their career can unfold in "Academia".
The author provides different pieces of advice regarding different facets of Academia, for eg. on how to give a talk, networking, choosing research projects, labs etc. One of the message which resonated a lot was about how to pick new projects. According to Peter, one of the vital skills for survival in academia is to choose projects which are interesting or have a good contribution to the field in contrast to choosing projects in order to publish X papers every year. As obvious this advice sounds, it is equally uncommon in most labs.
Overall, a good read, concise and well structured.
A straight-forward book, but the imperatives offered here are important ones.
Finish what you start.
What is the problem you are trying to solve?
What is your story?
What is the story of your research?
How do these stories conflate?
Answering these questions - honestly - can be the foundation of a strong career. The weakness of the book - understandably - is an underestimation of the labour surplus in universities, and beyond. Absolutely outstanding people remain unemployed or underemployed. That is beyond what an individual can choose or manage.
I do think this book had a lot of good advice, but he was very glib about ethical oppositions to contributing to the military industrial complex. He didn’t address that as a factor when choosing between industry and academia, and he basically said to get over it if you don’t feel right accepting DoD funding. Also, I was bothered by the first chapter’s stories - the two male phds failed because they weren’t successful postdocs, but the female tenured professor failed because she didn’t have time to have babies 🙄
A concise and informative book every young scientist should read.
Despite the first edition of this book being released in the early 90s, I found the advice in this book to be timely in 2021. I am finishing a PhD in biomedical sciences with the hopes of landing a position in industrial research. I was interested in potentially returning to academia later in my career, but was unsure if this was a wise idea. Feibelman made statement that was contrary to every thing I had heard, apparently taking a position as an assistant professor is the most stressful and uncertain (although common) way to achieve a tenured position in academia. He suggested early career scientists get their bearings in a government or industry lab where better work-life balance and reduced bureaucratic obligations facilitate scientific research and publications. I was always led to believe the opposite, once you leave academia there is no coming back. However, this book helped to solidify my post-graduate plans of exploring non-academic research and hopefully returning at a later date.
Feibelman was also clear about the potential downsides of entering industrial or government research. However, for me, the positives outweigh the negatives. As much as I love research I am not willing to further postpone goals for my personal life or risk my mental health to maybe get a tenure-track position.
I would love to get an update for this book in the current research/job climate. I understand the copy I received was updated in 2011, but so much has changed in the last 5 years years.
Its a short read that can be finished in one afternoon. Definitely worth looking into for young scientists.
ETA: Another thing worth noting is the emphasis on the purpose of postdocs. This book gave me a better timeline for a postdoctoral position, what its purpose is, and how to make the most of it. As much as I enjoy benchwork and being a student, the current trend of postdocs extending to past 3 years is insane to me. As far as I am concerned I already devoted 6 years to a PhD and dont what my postdoc tenure to compete with that timeline.
What I got from this section is to decide what you want and "work backwards" from there. If you want a 2-3 year postdoctoral appointment, you must jump onto projects in the near completion, develop short-term projects, and contribute to the development of a longer-term project. Avoid getting sucked in the trap of an all encompassing question that could render little to no results in your timeline. This is especially important for someone like to me hear. I enjoy "deep dives" when it comes to research and intellectual pursuits, however these things can be time sinks for someone with a temporary appointment.
Also the author greatly emphasizes putting your own personal and professional desires FIRST. Whether by direct statement or implication a lot of PhDs are taught the most important thing is the research above all less. There is not much emphasis on how to create a career or outside life that supports one's life goals. I have a very supportive PhD mentor but even I was reluctant to state my trepidation about leaving my city/family/friends for a postdoc (I have since gotten over that with my mentor's help). I felt childish and a little silly but this is reality for many people in the life/natural sciences, as this career path calls on you to follow opportunities rather than limit yourself to what is nearby.
This is absolutely essential reading for anyone pursuing a scientific career in the hard sciences. Feibelman gives clear, straightforward advice on how best to maximize your chances of succeeding in the dog eat dog world of research in academia, government labs, and private industry. He gives advice for all stages of a scientific career, beginning in graduate school up to the establishment of a research program as a "senior scientist." The topics covered include
1. choosing a thesis advisor, 2. choosing a postdoc advisor, 3. giving engaging talks, 4. writing scientific papers, 5. the merits of jobs in academia, government labs, and industry, 6. job interviews, 7. how to get funded, and 8. establishing a fruitful research program.
The particulars of each topic range from giving suggestions down to the smallest details to showing you the big picture that should serve as a guiding perspective. It is a quick read that has the potential to benefit readers immensely. I certainly plan on revisiting this book later on when I'm in the trenches of graduate student work and recommend that anyone pursuing this path do the same.
O livro nos deixa muito tenso, pois não estamos acostumados a refletir sobre nossa carreira. Possui alguns bons conselhos, mas a maior parte deles é aplicável principalmente a estrutura da carreira científica norte americana, que é bem diferente da brasileira.
Very solid advice. Particularly good points on the importance of having short-term research projects with good expected payoff even if you want to pursue a longer project at the same time, and on how to make effective presentations.
This is more like a 5 hour long blog article than a "book". It was first written nearly 30 years ago but the takeaways are still valuable for those who will seek academia as a career and far beyond just cliche. It not only gives practical instructions on things like how to give talks, write papers, connect with colleagues, but more intriguingly provides rookies like me vivid anecdotes and experience as well as golden rules to survival in academia. My favorite part is about how a phd student or graduate should take comprehensive control of every aspects of one's own academic career development -- in reality, it is the young scientists who define and carry out what they want, learn to be scientific leaders and find the best and satisfying careers -- making advisors happy is worth doing but never the top priority. Guess I need to read it again when I make it to graduate.
A really good book, a must read for those who want to pursue a career in academia. It is relatively succinct and within 100 or so pages delivers a lot of common sense, so to speak. Chapter 4,5 and 9 will be very useful for grad students of all years. It even provides stories of students who succeeded and those who did not and gives tokens of advice from their experience.
You’ll either learn from it or it will reiterate that you are on the right track, eitherway it is definitely an important read. This is a book i’ll be coming back to over the years in my scientific career.
The author is a US physicist, and therefore many of his examples and experiences better refer to what probably is the reality in the USA. Nonetheless, I found many useful examples, through the mistakes of others, and suggestions to reflect upon. I would definitely recommend this book to a young scientists that is trying to make his way through a scientific panorama similar to the one in the USA or Europe.
As a first year PhD student, I found this book to be incredibly relevant. This book is not really inspiring you to undertake a PhD. However, it shows you the reality of academia, and provides you an insight how to survive or make best use of opportunities by going out there and presenting yourself. The survival checklist at the end of the book was also very nice conclusion and overview of the whole book. It focuses on the important theme, like putting yourself in the shoes about the audience (supervisors, managers), thinking about priorities and saying NO! If you are thinking about academia, this book may change your mind or at least prepare you for the task ahead. Personally, I still don't regret doing my PhD. I am grateful for the opportunity. It is one of those things you cannot really explain in few words. Maybe someday I will write about it! But I have to finish my manuscript now!!! :D
Feibelman's A PhD Is Not Enough: A Guide to Survival in Science is a succinct guide on navigating a career as a scientist starting from the graduate student level. Includes tips on giving scientific talks and also job interviews. By today's standards, perhaps the advice is rather general and boilerplate, but there are still a lot of good pointers to take away from it. Feibelman does have certain strong preferences, which seem to reflect his own life journey: 1) Always try to work for an established professor (not an assistant professor or a newer person) at all stages of your life 2) Go to national or industrial labs first and try to skip the assistant professor phase, even if you ultimately want an academic job 3) If you're a theorist, always find ways to impress experimentalists, by talking to them and dumbing down your talks
One of the most valuable pieces of advice he gives is the importance of picking good, short-term projects to work on as a postdoc instead of blindly accepting whatever your supervisor gives. Also, be aware of the big picture of what you're doing. He also stresses how crucial project completion is in forming the perception of your success as a scientist. This is something I've noticed recently, and Feibelman is the first person who explicitly and forcefully drives this point home. It's always better to have two small completed projects than one 50% completed large project.
While the book is slated as a general book for scientists, it's slightly geared towards theorists, as that was Feibelman's area of expertise. I think the skills needed to impress and network scientific colleagues as an experimentalist are slightly different in subtle ways (such as always remember to be well-read in the theory underpinning your experiment). Networking for experimentalists is also a different experience, I think. In general, the book would've been better overall if more concrete tips were given for how to network with scientists other than in your own lab. (Feibelman just mentions shyness as a problem to be "overcome." I guess he's just not a psychologist or motivational speaker.)
Lastly, Feibelman openly admits he is from an older generation more used to snail mail than email and Facebook. Enlisting a younger scientist who knows about personal branding, writing CVs and resumes and using social media to increase the visibility of your research might be useful. There are other topics that may be peripheral but interesting to touch upon. For example, is doing physics outreach ever be a useful thing to your career or is it always detrimental? How do you become a better teacher/instructor, if you're looking for jobs with significant research components? How do you start writing lecture notes when you're designing courses for the first time? (I guess Feibelman never had that experience himself.)
In general, I would also like more details about how to gain expertise in your field and intellectually mature as a scientist. For example, how do you read papers effectively? Which papers should you read in full, which ones should be skimmed over? Should you read papers from other subfields (or even fields)? How do you become a designer of experiments, as opposed to just an executor? Maybe elucidating such details is outside of the intended scope of the book, but it is these things which are sorely lacking even in today's wealth of information on "how to become a scientist."
All of that having been said, despite its shortcomings, the book can still be useful for any scientist, even biologists or chemists.
The book explores the world of a scientist after completing the PhD. The portrait that Feibelman gives of the science world when looking for a job is not a good one. To become a scientist is very difficult and the completion is fierce. Feibelman believes that the skill for surviving the world of science can be taught, where other scientist believe that it can only be gain by experience and only the taught will survive.
Feibelman provides some of his experience (and some of the experience of his colleges) to present some pointers for those who want a life in the science world. Some of his pointers can be said that they are general for anyone looking for a job that requires some level of mental work. I would say that only few are specific for science, such as those like getting funded, establishing a research program and getting to tenure.
I found the book to be interesting and shows a world of science that is only know to those that are in it. People outside of it probably do not know anything of this and believe that once you get a PhD there is nothing else to do and those that believe that being a professor is an easy job. The book is not a must read, but a good read for those venturing in this world.
First, I can't believe he used "he" for an entire book on surviving in STEM. Your advisor: "he". Your fellow student: "he". Your boss: "he". Ridiculous and infuriating. And I read the second addition, copyrighted in 2011! Second, he argues that nobody should ever be an assistant professor because it's about the worst job you could have (...arguable) and instead, you should go into industry first and go to associate professor from there ('cause there are so many assoc jobs available). Note that this is not actually an option in all sciences. He also says that presentations that look too good will make people think you have too much time on your hands (granted, he does say they need to look professional, just not too good). These things and a few others struck me the wrong way. There are some nuggets of wisdom to be found here (e.g., be very strategic in your research plan), but this is not something I would recommend to a student (especially in psychological science since this is geared toward the physical and biological sciences). The title alone is harsh; I don't think scaring students is helpful. We should give them a realistic picture of life after grad school, but we should be able to do it without scaring them (mostly anyway).
I am going to start my PhD very soon, and by reading the book, I have chance to know a few things that I would encounter on the road ahead. I really appreciate success and failure case studies the author provides in the first chapters. It would clearly help new PhD students like me in not only choosing appropriate research path but also getting to know how to write and publish good papers. Whereas later chapters of the book focuses more on what it looks like being a postdoc researcher, a professor or an industry researcher, I still recommend to people who are either new to PhD or being working on it. It is a good chance to grasp a whole picture of what it may look like to being the shoes of your supervisor, which is extremely beneficial in terms of achieving better collaborative working environment.
I think the main takeaways I got from this are (a) to focus more on big-picture things when talking about your research, rather than techniques, (b) during your postdoc, even more so than during your PhD, the amount of focus and dedication you need is really high, and you should focus on short-term/easily-completable projects as much as possible, and (c) national labs or industry labs are a good career path even if you're ultimately interested in becoming a professor. I will definitely reread this during my postdoc if I ever do one, but I don't think the book is too useful for middling PhD students. (NB: I originally intended to read the book to add motivation to my PhD, but the book doesn't really help with that in any way; it really is geared towards giving practical advice to people in the "end-of-PhD-transitioning-to-postdoc" phase.
Unromantic view of what it takes to be a scientist nowadays so that one can get to do some of the romantic stuff someday, the hacking-away-at-the-frontier-of-knowledge someday. The enterprise of science described in its nitty-gritty details: grants, advisors, publishing, building a reputation, getting tenure. A reasonable trajectory from PhD to tenure is proposed: get the PhD, after that do a post-doc, leave academia for industry or a government lab, build a reputation there, and return after that. Better if your presentations aim for simplicity and clarity, and under no circumstance aim to impress with complexity. Publish, publish a lot. Toys don't go without batteries, that is, remember that you need money to make science.
This book is definitely something worth reading while working on a PhD in a STEM field. It is a bit cynical and a bit depressing, but also contains a lot of good information about marketing yourself as a researcher. A lot of the information is intuitive one you hear it, but I personally had not thought of a number of the issues before. I found the chapter on giving talks very informative. It helped me to clarify why I had found certain talks good or bad in the past. However, while very informative on what a good talk should look like, it is rather weak on how to actually write such a talk.