Day in the life

Academia PTSD

I was having serious flashbacks to my postdoc yesterday. I had a call with a client and his former mentor to discuss the results of their last grant proposal; if I hadn’t already known that they were mentor-mentee, I would have guessed by the way Dr. L was constantly talking over him, contradicting him, and saying things like “I’m not saying no, I’m just asking you to think about why…”.

Dr. L was definitely an old-school academic. Instead of thoughtfully considering the reviewers comments, he would say things like “Anyone who thinks so has the brains of a brook trout” and “Well this guy’s obviously a moron.”

This is one of the major things that pushed me out of academia. I don’t know if it’s just a personality type that’s attracted to tenure professor positions, or whether the process itself fosters the growth of this kind of ego (honestly, it’s probably a bit of both). But when the people at the top constantly treat those who are supposed to be their peers with this kind of derision, is it any surprise that PhDs are leaving in droves?

There are more factors, of course, like lack of funding and the near impossibility of tenure anymore, but the way senior scientists treat their people is just awful, and needs to change. I don’t care if you’ve never had a reviewer not comment “world-renowned expert in X disease” whenever they read your biosketch – your grant was full of holes and the reviewer was spot-on with his/her comments.

Brains of a brook trout aside.

He liked me – because I just agreed with everything he said. I know how to deal with the academic ego: agree in public, then go back and write it the way it should be written regardless of how much they complain.

Just because you have a PhD doesn’t grant you license to be an asshole.

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