Postdoc university research losing students to industry. They are the main workers in developing new drugs and procedures

Postdocs are a screw job.

But necessary if they want to become professors, etc.

They are also the backbone of the low-cost R&D used by drug companies to research new drugs and treatments. If that “backbone” disappears, there will be far fewer R&D projects funded by the federal govt to find new drugs and treatments.

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Necessary out of convention, but not out of any real need. My field of study in college was chemistry, which I was good at and enjoyed. But as I considered my options, a BS in chemistry qualifies you to be a lab tech. A boring job for low pay. Pursing a PhD, takes about 5-6 years (getting master’s before a PhD is not typical in chemistry). Then you need a post doc, which is typically 2-3 years but can be longer depending on the research, and sometimes you need two post docs. The article you linked said post docs are 4-6 years, which sounds about right.

So, realistically it takes 15-18 years–possibly longer–before you can start your academic career. tells me the average beginning salary for a chemistry professor is $58,449 /year.

So increasingly, people are deciding the screw the post-doc and just go straight into industry. There is no financial benefit and a post-doc is only needed if you decide to go into academics.

We often hear people lament that so many Americans don’t pursue science careers and we’re falling behind. It is because the academics are hard and for most fields the pay is low.


The habits/traditions/rules, institutional financing and managment structuring, and overall orientation of College and University education is increasingly obsolete, wasteful, and dependent for survival on status, B.S. and the aspirational pressure of zillions of undereducated ambitious kids world wide.

I would expect large scale changes.

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Some of the fondest memories I have are of four years of campus life. I’m hoping my daughter gets to experience that as well. So much learning and growing happens outside of your core discipline. I think we are going to lose all that. It has value.


Mine too. I learned enormously from my classmates about things far removed from the college curricula. But that was the late 60’s into early 70’s, and a different world.

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I do too and I enjoyed the survey/general ed courses quite a lot and got quite a bit of value from them.

But to the point, I have a humble proposal to launch America into an academic juggernaut. I have a friend from college who got a PhD in math and now teaches in the Texas A&M system. She’s of the opinion that algebra II is plenty sufficient for the vast majority of people. I share that opinion. Some people need to know more, but most people–even people who use math professionally–don’t. So we can cut out college algebra right out of the curriculum for most tech majors. Those who need it can take more. Those who don’t need it, don’t take it.

Calculus itself is not very hard, but calculus problems usually involve hard algebra, so we can simplify it way down and start teaching calculus in high school. And then make it a little harder each year like we do algebra. We have time to do this because most kids on a tech track won’t be taking college algebra. Review is a big part of the learning and mastery process. And similarly, most tech fields don’t need a ton of calculus. If you need more, you just take more.

Now we get to chemistry. Many tech majors, engineering, physics, biology, pre-med, etc. have to take freshman chemistry. A big chunk of freshman chemistry are things like stoichiometry, balancing equations, molarity, molality, combined gas laws, titration, buffer equations, etc. Most of the fields I mentioned barely to know any of that. Even most chemists barely need to know it, and if you do there is later course that gets deep into the guts (usually called qualitative analysis). So we can cut almost all of that out of freshman chemistry and replace it with stuff people can actually use, like a good introduction to organic chemistry and instrumental analysis. Both of those top are covered in later courses, but because freshman chemistry would provide good fundamental basis, those courses can go even deeper into the material.

Next thing is we get rid of most labs. Most chemistry courses have a lab, and sometimes the lab is twice a week. Although chemistry lab work is important, most chemistry lab classes are stupid.* Replace all those course specific labs with a class (or classes) called “lab techniques.”

So we’ve cut out a bunch of courses and labs, now what? Students can take a deeper dive into their field, taking on graduate classes (which in chemistry are no harder, and IMO easier than undergraduate classes). And instead of busy work class labs, undergrads would be assigned to work in graduate or post-doc labs. Which is approximately 4.8 billion times more valuable experience than class labs.

So in this scenario, we have students completing their chemistry undergraduate in about the same amount of time, but with a deeper knowledge base and deeper lab experience too. This translates into better and faster post-grad and post-doc completion too. Students have already completed many graduate courses and don’t need to learn practical lab work.

*For example, I had a gas chromatography lab, which is something every chemist should understand because the GC is an important technique can identify compounds in a sample and even measure concentrations of a specific analyte. The GC would plot out the results on paper, very similar to a lie detector. The area under the spike on the graph is the concentration. So we would take an exacto knife, carefully cut out the curve from the graph paper, weigh it, and compare it to the weight of standard sample. If it sounds tedious and inaccurate, you’re right.

Even at that time (late 1980s) GCs calculated the area under the curve using computers. And even before computers become powerful enough, op amps could integrate. The whole lab was stupid.


As a mentor and tutor to Elementary through High School students I heartily endorse your curriculum POV. Thanks for writing it out.

Hard sciences and math are learned only through either having a profound love of the subject or some form of coercive terror (e.g. that you promised your gorgonic Mom-in-Law and wife that you were going to be a Doctor [come methamphetamine, expensive tutors, or bribery]).

The now centuries old curricula based on mastering multivariate algebra, calculus, Newtonian mathematical physics, and simple organic chemistry is absurdly, almost idolatrously, out of date.

As much as I esteem higher education, our current institutions are absurdly out of date in almost every possible way, exemplifying the Medieval institutions that they are.

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I graduated from Rose-Hulman in 1989 with a bachelor’s in Computer Science. My curriculum started with Calculus and went from there. Diff Eq, DisCo, linear algebra, etc. Physics. Chemistry. Some EE to understand how this computer executed our code. Plus 3 years of humanities and social sciences. They still require those humanities classes. I think some people here now think that curriculum is a waste of time. I heartily disagree. Producing students who are very deep but very narrow in their knowledge is an error.

“If you need more, you just take more.” You don’t know that in undergrad is the problem. What I ended up doing for a living is so different than what I thought I’d do while in college. There is no way I could have successfully narrowed my coursework and had things turn out right.

In the early 90’s I worked at Texas Instruments and I had to help a BIOS developer at American Megatrends in Atlanta port their code to our chip set. This was a CS major out of Georgia who had zero electrical engineering. Had no idea at all how the hardware worked, and was trying to write BIOS code. It became painfully obvious to me how a very narrow curriculum cannot prepare you for a career.

Lastly, as an Austin resident I’ll take a jab at that A&M professor and say it doesn’t surprise me that someone from A&M would feel this way about their profession.


What’s a high school chemistry teacher make after 18 years, probably over $100K in large cities.


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Nice word.

I agree with your overall assessment of higher education. Apart from the curricula being out of date, I also think larger universities rely too heavily on lectures and reading. IMO - Smaller schools that facilitate more of a discussion approach to learning will produce better results.

I’d like to give an extra thumbs up to this.



I graduated high school in 1985. I took calculus senior year of high school. Geez!

I had a semester each of algebra and calculus in 9th grade … 1960. Same year we did an introduction to laboratory science … all experiments.

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Well, in NH it is
“As of Mar 23, 2024, the average annual pay for a Chemistry Teacher in New Hampshire is $46,763 a year . Just in case you need a simple salary calculator, that works out to be approximately $22.48 an hour.”
In New York City it is $57,700. In CA, $73,681.
from Zip Recruiter


A high school chemistry teacher with 18 years of experience is going to be near the top of the union pay scale, not the average.

Here’s the pay scale for New York City.

For 2024 a teacher with 18 years of service to the school district would earn between $102K for a Bachelor degree to $118K for someone with a Master’s degree.

The salaries for the Head Custodian are even bigger. That’s the career path I’d be investigating


You are kidding, right - after 18 years and 102K in NYC??? Lots of years at below the average! We are not encouraging people to become teachers!!



Absolutely, teaching is a bad deal as a career. My point is that it’s even worse, as skye6 pointed out, to be a PhD looking to make it as a college professor where salaries are even lower.

The growth opportunities for educators are Youtube, TikTok, and OnlyFans.



I lasted 2 years as an educator. Those who enter the profession generally have a lot of passion for educating future generations. Those who stay in the profession are gluttons for punishment.

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