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PhD humor and PhD facts

The Simpsons vs. the PhDs

Daniel Clowes makes fun of PhD students returning home to live with their parents after completing their degrees. Cover of The New Yorker
“Boomerang Generation”
by Daniel Clowes, on the cover of The New Yorker, May 24, 2010

Facts and figures on average number of years it takes to complete a PhD degree in sciences and humanities
An illustration from “The Long-Haul Degree”,
an article by Patricia Cohen, The New York Times, April 8, 2010

Young Americans have generally woken up to the bad prospects and absence of a reasonable middle class career path in science and are deserting it. If you haven't yet, then join them. Leave graduate school to people from India and China, for whom the prospects at home are even worse. I have known more people whose lives have been ruined by getting a Ph.D. in physics than by drugs.

Don't Become a Scientist! by Jonathan I. Katz

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 $40K!                                      **     *    Any Questions?
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 $30K!                           ****                 *
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 $20K!             *****                                 *
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 $10K!  ***                                                 *
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     no       high       some        Bachelor's   Master's  Doctor
     high     school     college     Degree       Degree    of
     school   diploma                                       Philosophy

Career Guide for Engineers and Computer Scientists by Philip Greenspun

A lot more men than women choose to do seemingly irrational things such as become petty criminals, fly homebuilt helicopters, play video games, and keep tropical fish as pets (98 percent of the attendees at the American Cichlid Association convention that I last attended were male). Should we be surprised that it is mostly men who spend 10 years banging their heads against an equation-filled blackboard in hopes of landing a $35,000/year post-doc job?

Women in Science by Philip Greenspun

America is thus a nation rapidly drifting towards a state of things in which no man of science or letters will be accounted respectable unless some kind of badge or diploma is stamped upon him, and in which bare personality will be a mark of outcast estate. It seems to me high time to rouse ourselves to consciousness, and to cast a critical eye upon this decidedly grotesque tendency. Other nations suffer terribly from the Mandarin disease. Are we doomed to suffer like the rest?

The PhD Octopus by William James, Harvard Monthly, 1903


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  1. AnonX AnonX said


  2. AnonX AnonX said

    Please add Greenspun's career guide. This guy knows what he's talking about, he has a PhD in engineering. He retired in his 30's and knows that careers in science and engineering are the shittiest.

    Career Guide:

    Women In Science (applies to everyone actually):

    Don't forget the first person to ring the alarm on the PhD bullshit back in 1910!:

    • AnonX AnonX replied ↑

      sorry, 1903 in the Harvard Monthly

    •  Andrei replied ↑

      Yes, absolutely. I want to pick some good quotes from there and then I'll add them with the links.

    •  Andrei replied ↑

      Damn, that Women In Science article scoops me on about 50-60% of the things I wanted to say in this blog. )) Including the thesis itself, the reasons for a dearth of women in science. Hitting nails on the head left and right, great stuff.

      • AnonX AnonX replied ↑

        Yeah, Greenspun really isn't exaggerating by much. The Ph.D Octopus is also worth reading through. No pictures, a little pedantic, but the essay sounds like it was written yesterday. I really love that "Mandarin Disease" line in there. It's a very applicable observation today. I still can't believe it's over 100 years old!

      • AnonX AnonX replied ↑

        Greenspun recently wrote a blog entry on women in science, check it out here:

        Funny, makes me want to read that book.

        •  Andrei replied ↑

          Me too, finished listening to the audiobook today. Good read, cool parrot, horrible life. I didn't realize that biologists, of all people, still had their panties up in a bunch over humans not being oh so infinitely superior to other animals. Well, I suppose when you spend half your life as a "student", battle countless others for a handful of faculty positions, work around the clock all your life and get paid shit... You gotta find ways to feel better about your sorry ass.

          • Yusei Fudo Yusei Fudo replied ↑

            Regarding another scientist, read the wikipedia entry for Douglas Prasher. Also the Atlanta Braves starting pitcher keeps posting on his blog about layoffs in pharmaceutical industry which harms highly-educated chemists.

            •  Andrei replied ↑

              Holy crap, I heard Prasher's name in connection with the GFP story, but I didn't know he got screwed, and so badly too. Bus driver?? You've got to be kidding me. And yeah, from the looks of it, it's not the best time to be a chemist. Funny, I remember synthetic chem postdocs being worried about pharmaceutical companies hiring less back in 2002. That was nothing compared to now.

              • Yusei Fudo Yusei Fudo replied ↑

                Well, apparently, he got a research job in Massachusetts, according to the author affiliation on his paper:


                I am obviously not interested in the content of that paper, but the front page is good enough. And his publication list has two PNAS and a Science. Not bad at all... but he was not as prestigious or connected like some of the Scripps faculty. In contrast, Joyce has a helluva lot of Science, Nature, and PNAS pubs.

                Well, I liked this quote: "it’s okay once you accept that you can never accomplish or change anything" (on being a government worker)

  3. Sid S. Sid S. said

    Hi Andrei, (or the webmaster)

    If you wouldn't mind I posted some of your researched articles such as " How to be a good Scientist " etc or a Ph.D. student in my website as well. You will understand the reason why if you look at these two websites below. I apologize here for getting back to you after advertising those two very well written articles

  4. coiled coil coiled coil said

    Thought you might want to put up this classic:

    •  Andrei replied ↑

      Hold on, this gives me an idea. Working title: The Asshole Scientist Hall of Fame. Carreira's letter will be there for sure.

      • Yusei_Fudo Yusei_Fudo replied ↑

        Would Reza Ghadiri enter the hall of the fame, or he is just a mediocre asshole with only a few good "asshole" years to make it in?

        Maybe, as a reference to Barry Bonds, there can be some Adderall in one of the exhibits that some post docs or grad students (or even PIs) take to be attentive and to have that extra edge. We also need some memorabilia with an asterisk branded to it too.

        •  Andrei replied ↑

          "Asshole years" is a good one. )) Nah, I've done enough to make the world think I hate Reza's guts as it as. And I really don't, it's more of a publicity stunt than anything. People like stories, and I like my stories to be edgy. The only thing I could possibly hold a grudge against him for is not being completely straight with me, but even that I can understand. He's actually a decent guy and a good PI in a number of ways. Objectively better than many, subjectively the best I could find at Scripps to suite me personally.

          • OrgasmiChemist OrgasmiChemist replied ↑

            Wow, I'd hate to see the website you dedicate to someone you actually hate.

            This Carriera letter is fairly tame compared to what my advisor says to his students in person.

            Also, thanks for this website, and thanks for allowing the commenting to be private. I'm at the point in my PhD now that I am fairly certain that switching advisors is the best thing for me, and this site has helped push me over the edge to actually set up appointments.

            • Dick Richards Dick Richards replied ↑

              Carriera demanded working all day, evenings, and weekends which means slave labor. How is that tame and how could anything be worse? Lets hear it.

            •  Andrei replied ↑

              Luckily, I try not to hate anybody. )) And if I did, I'm not sure I would dedicate any websites to them. Or maybe I could do really simple "Dear X, burn in hell" ones, I don't know.

              That's cool, I did hope this thing would actually be useful to someone. Good luck. And nice nickname, lol.

              • OrgasmiChemist OrgasmiChemist replied ↑

                Partially in thanks to this site among many other influences I left Organic this month and I will be entering a ChemE/Materials group in two weeks.

                Its hard when you are neck deep in a program to be able to lift your head and see outside of the situation. its just not worth it. Especially with no chemistry jobs at the end of the tunnel.

  5. Yusei Fudo Yusei Fudo said (Peer Review ca. 1945)

    Should be a link for the "humor section".

  6. Anonx Anonx said

    Please add this article to your site: ?

    This site has saved an enormous amount of talent from being wasted.