I’m all out of love for research


Alice and her friends answer questions that you don’t want to ask your preceptor, peer, or colleagues regarding your career in science. Got a question for Alice? Send it to .

Dear Alice,

“Women still have to overcome bias in many work places, and having a Ph.D. after your name or being called ‘Dr. So-and-so’ instead of ‘Ms.’ or ‘Mrs. So-and-so’ immediately gives you more gravitas.” —Alice Huang

“Women still have to overcome bias in many work places, and having a Ph.D. after your name or being called ‘Dr. So-and-so’ instead of ‘Ms.’ or ‘Mrs. So-and-so’ immediately gives you more gravitas.” —Alice Huang

I’m in my fourth year of a molecular biology Ph.D. program. As I am getting closer to finishing, I’m starting to realize that I don’t want to teach and that the love that I had for scientific research as an undergrad is gone. My project is going well, but everyone else in my department is more excited about it than I am. I’m on track to graduate in another year or so, but should I bother? I don’t want to leave right before finishing and have all that time go to waste, but I also don’t want to waste my time on a degree I won’t use. Does having a Ph.D. help in nonresearch-related occupations like medical writing, intellectual property, or technology transfer, or am I better off leaving with a master’s degree?  

—Ms. Stuck

Dear Stuck,

Definitely don’t quit now with a master’s degree. You have already invested so much time, and you are only 1 year away from earning your Ph.D. As long as you finish, the time you invest will not be wasted because you will be honing your skills in presenting your research and writing it up for a thesis and, hopefully, for publication. Public speaking and writing skills are important for any career that you might want. In addition, in a relevant nonresearch occupation, a doctorate will usually net you a salary windfall that over a lifetime can become significant.

Women still have to overcome bias in many work places, and having a Ph.D. after your name or being called “Dr. So-and-so” instead of “Ms.” or “Mrs. So-and-so” immediately gives you more gravitas. You will be taken more seriously. However, a word of caution: In some situations, flaunting a doctorate degree may not be helpful at all. Use the degree in situations where you see an advantage. Good luck.

—Alice

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