Science Career? You Need Healthy Aging At All Stages Of Life!

Enjoying A Science Career

First Survive Your Science Career, Then Enjoy It!

science career, surviving and enjoying, read these four books.

I needed a break from plantar fasciitis, so I’m working on this book!

How I Survived Happily In Science For Forty Years: Lessons Learned From A Career In Biology

Here’s the draft introduction, for anyone who’s interested!

A change IS as good as a rest!


science career, FitOldDog with his PhD

A PhD might not be enough, but it sure helps. Boy, I submitted that in 1975!!!

You want to enjoy a career in science? Why not? This book is about how I did it!

  • There’s some luck involved.
  • Talent is helpful.
  • Better still, have a strategy.
  • More importantly, have a trade.

You could start by reading the four books at the head of this chapter. They are excellent, but more about that, later.

I didn’t have a strategy, and it never occurred to me that I should. As a war baby, I wanted to earn a living. I actually needed a trade, in order to eat. Yes! I knew what it was like to be hungry. My ‘careers master,’ in high school, advised me to become a biochemist. I said I wanted to have a guaranteed job after my degree, so I thought doctor, dentist, or vet. He replied, “Kevin, with your grades, you would be accepted into medical or dental school. But veterinary school is too competitive [English people love their pets], so you can’t go there” That settled it!

I went to vet school.

Even though I eventually became a competent large animal vet, I didn’t handle difficult people very well. Furthermore, rushing from one thing to another, talking to owners all day, isn’t in my nature.

James Herriot

James Herriot: “I hope to make people realize how totally helpless animals are, how dependent on us, trusting as a child must that we will be kind and take care of their needs.”

After three years in a farming practice, in the West of England (read All Creatures Great And Small, by James Herriot, to see what my life was like), I became increasingly depressed. I’m almost never depressed! The practice was great. On duty only one night, and one weekend, in six. Friendly, supportive colleagues. Nope! I was unhappy as a country vet.

After applying for all sorts of jobs, none of which I was qualified for, I was offered a position. In Scotland, way up North! I was essentially the only viable candidate, apparently. It involved a two-thirds cut in pay, and I had a young family to support (wife and one-year old son). Off we went to the wilds of Scotland.

The job? Comparative Neuropathologist – a trade! I wasn’t even really interested in Pathology in vet school. But I had to escape. Studying the nervous system sounded fascinating. It involved lots of dead sheep, some cows, and the odd horse or two. My vet colleagues thought I was nuts, and said so. Often!

I walked in the old front door of the Moredun Sheep Diseases Research Institute, Edinburgh, Scotland, in the fall of 1970. Young, naive, hopeful and nervous. I was directed to my boss-to-be’s office; he, Dr. Barlow, aka Dick, was away, leaving me his office and microscope, until he returned, in three weeks, with no instructions. Remember, I was used to having every minute of my day accounted for, going from one cow, pig or sheep to the next. I sat at his desk, turned on his research microscope, with some difficulty, picked up a slide of the brain of a sheep (pons, stained with Luxol Fast Blue – I can see it now!). In that instant, I fell in love with Pathology. The study of the nature of disease.

science career: plantar fasciitis exploratory research progresses because FitOldDog is in The Element.With overwhelming emotion, I realized – I’d finally come home. The next forty years, as a diagnostic and research pathologist, flew by in a flash!

I had found my passion. My element! I never looked back!

I’m crossing my fingers that you find yours!

In your element, your job isn’t work, it’s living life!

If you want to follow in my footsteps, but you don’t,

  • Enjoy learning new things – keeps you young.
  • Like being challenged – know your stuff, and let the best idea (not person) win.
  • Enjoy fighting reviewers – the papers improve in the process.
  • Relish fighting big egos – these are little people, on the inside!
  • Accept going up one blind alley after another – there’s a lesson up every alley.
  • Have the energy to struggle for funding – being true to your ethical standards, is the trick.
  • Love science (the stuff itself), and can hack Science (the edifice).

Consider other courses of action, or prepare to learn and change!

My book is [being] based on stories from my career, selected to complement the four books shown in the graphic at the head of this chapter. No point reinventing the wheel.

Each of these remarkable pieces of writing provides different insights, for a science career.

Each is relevant to surviving the turbulent waters of a career in science.

science career: Arrowsmith by Sinclair Lewis, being a scientist, conflict,

Arrowsmith (The conflict between science and science management)

  • Scientists are trying to work out what is going on. They have little or no idea how long it will take, or how much it will cost. So they guess!
  • Science Managers want to quantitate. They need to know the product of their invested dollars. “How many papers have you published this year?” they ask. “What have you done for me lately?” Just read the story of Feigenbaum, to show how this can get science managers into trouble?

To succeed in science, you need to be cognizant of both perspectives.

A PhD Is Not Enough (Strategy)

As I was carrying out research for my book, I looked around to see what was out there. I came across this one. It really is excellent. science career

Well written, amusing, and packed with savvy strategic advice. The author includes many case reports, of mistakes made to the chagrin of young, wannabe scientists.

I entered science by accident, and never did follow any of his rules.

But I had luck and the nature of the times on my side. Life in science is now more difficult, than in the 1970s and 1980s, when I was establishing my ‘niche.’

Highly recommended reading.

Zen And The Art Of Motorcycle Maintenance (Caring about the little details)

When lecturing (with) young scientists, I always recommended that they read this book. It addresses the nature of quality. Using the metaphor of two couples. Both motorcycle touring enthusiasts. One couple ride the bike, but they have it serviced in a garage. science career; zen and the art of motorcycle maintenance.They have little or no interest in the details of how their machine works. The other couple know their bike, inside and out. They carry out their own maintenance and repairs. The in depth involvement of the latter couple, caused them to have a closer relationship with their bike. It wasn’t just a machine to them. It was a friend. A piece of mechanical magic that enhanced their travels. Remember this, as you do your work, with all sorts of remarkable equipment and people. The magic lies in the little details.

Winning The Games Scientists Play (How to play the game well).

This book is useful at any stage of your science career. There are clear rules for succeeding in science, though there are different ways to apply them. If you are a brilliant loner, maybe you can largely ignore people, but you had better do something really career; winning the games scientists play Or your science career is over.

Two examples from the book, about attending scientific conferences:

(a) as a young scientist, listen to all of the relevant lectures, and learn from more experienced researchers,

(b) as an established scientist, only go to a few chosen lectures, and spend the rest of the time networking.

By chance, I did exactly this, before reading the book.

I learned a great deal from accomplished speakers, as a youngster. Later, I just couldn’t sit there and listen. However, I almost always came home with a collaborative research project, developed out of a conversation with other scientists I met around the meeting site.

All four books are packed with invaluable advice.

I had better get on with writing mine, now.

Wishing you an enjoyable and successful career, in whichever field works for you.

Kevin aka FitOldDog BVSc, PhD, DipACVP, ExFRCPath

Yes, these letters after your name help, too!


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Disclaimer: As a veterinarian, I do not provide medical advice for human animals. If you undertake or modify an exercise program, consult your medical advisors before doing so. Undertaking activities pursued by the author does not mean that he endorses your undertaking such activities, which is clearly your decision and responsibility. Be careful and sensible, please.