17 February 2011

My million dollar training

The Republicans in the House are currently working on slashing science funding in shocking ways. I can't say I'm surprised. It was one of the first things I thought about when I watched the map go red on election night. I've always said they're anti-science. And I'm waiting for someone - anyone - to prove me wrong on that.

So tonight, as I was coming home from the lab, I started thinking about all the money that the government has invested in my training as a scientist. Right now, I'm wrapping up my 4-year postdoc and about to move into industry. I've basically spent the last 11 years doing cancer research on the  government dime, and now I'm going to take all that training and head into the private sector to work on something totally different. I can honestly say that the most recent election provided the final nails to hammer shut the coffin wherein I buried any last vestiges of a career in academia-based research. Not only are conservatives anti-science, but I think they're simply anti-education as well. They have enough money, apparently, to pay people to educate their children, so public education be damned. The part I can't understand is that they'll still get cancer at the same rate as everyone else, so by denying science, they aren't helping themselves...

But aside from all that, let's get down to numbers. My F32 fellowship: $150,000; T32 postdoc fellowship: $125,000; DoD postdoc fellowship $380,250. Then there was my heavily subsidized Public Univ tuition, which was paid in full by university fellowships before my F32, the salary I got as an adjunct lecturer as a grad student, and even some subsidized student loans... All told, we're looking at close to a million dollars, maybe. And that doesn't include the salaries of my professors at the Public Univ, or any of the Public Univ infrastructure that public funds supported. I'm mostly just thinking about money that went to supporting me, my family, and my research directly.

That's quite an investment. You would think that the country would want to keep me working on cancer pharmacology. After all, I know a lot more about it than when I started 11 years ago. Way more. In fact, I feel like I'm actually getting to the point where I could make some real contributions... But instead, the private sector is benefiting from all that public investment. The company I'm going to work for is getting a bargain. They can pay me well, but they're getting a trained scientist for their money. The US taxpayer, however, is losing my expertise. I'm off to make products!

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