The Sceptical Chymist | Blogroll: Those who left

Published in Chemistry

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Editor’s note: As we continue to invite bloggers out there in the wild to compose our monthly Blogroll column, Brandon Findlay returns to pen the June 2015 column.


What happens to students who leave graduate school without defending?

Continuing a conversation from years past, Vinylogous and Chemjobber have revisited the strain that graduate school can place on mental health. Now further into graduate school, Vinylogous has had some dark days — with a multi-month project in ashes and friends outside of academia doing better with less effort, he even prepared a farewell speech. Rather than deliver it, he stepped back and examined the future benefits of a PhD, and the opportunity costs. Working with his supervisor, he then made changes to foster sustained health and productivity.

Some readers may have found themselves in a similar situation, and know the solution is not always the same. Chemjobber requested feedback and posted the responses under the label ‘I quit grad school in chemistry‘. For some it took years for their love of science to return, but many have found fulfilling outlets for their skills, whether as adjuncts in smaller centres or from lucrative careers in industry that started earlier than expected. One, LB, even returned to graduate school, finding more success in economics than chemistry.

The factors behind each respondent’s departure vary in details, but often stem from either a mismatch in interest or skill-set, or a toxic work environment. Each entered graduate school as an adult, responsible for their own decisions, but the effects of PIs not experienced in — or poorly suited to — management are obvious. With new reports from those who left continuing to be posted, Tehshik Yoon has called for experiences from successful graduates. If you have a story to tell, let the world know.

Written by Brandon Findlay, who blogs at and tweets as @chemtips.


[As mentioned in this post, we’re posting the monthly blogroll column here on the Sceptical Chymist. This is the June 2015 article]

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