As academic professors, we aim to train people in our fields. We have good intentions, but we make one key mistake: we try to create our trainees in our image, for them to be the younger copies of ourselves. Our job is to train students to follow in our footsteps, even when this may not be the best choice for them.
We help students to get their PhDs, then land postdoctoral positions in the hopes of having them eventually get academic faculty appointments -ideally, a tenure-track one. We create an army of Mini-Me’s ready to continue the same scientific quests that we have been working on, and so we perpetuate the circle of life in academia.
Are we setting trainees up for failure? For many new research scientists, the academic career path becomes a series of dead-end postdoctoral positions with little prospects for their own independent academic careers. According to a recent New York Times article, we are training many more research scientist than there are faculty positions. So why are we doing this?
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Dr. Luz Claudio is an environmental health scientist, mother and consultant, originally from Puerto Rico. She is a tenured professor of environmental medicine and public health. Luz recently published her first book: How to Write and Publish a Scientific Paper: The Step-by-Step Guide. Dr. Claudio has internship programs and resources for young scientists. Opinions expressed in this blog are solely her own and may not reflect her employer's views.