My Vision

It may come as a surprise to some people that know me that I’m contemplating a career change. I currently do biomedical research (prostate cancer specifically) and ever since high school I’ve been on a research track.

Since high school I’ve wanted to study sickle cell anemia. Sickle cell runs in my family. My mother, 3 brothers and sister all have the trait. I also have a couple of cousins who actually have sickle cell. In 2004 when I started my first year of grad school I was devastated to find that there were no basic research labs that studied sickle cell anemia. I ended up in a prostate cancer lab and I thoroughly enjoyed my experience to the point where I’ve gone on to study it during my postdoctoral work.

I’ve contemplated a career change because I’m tired of the politics involved in research. With national funding cuts across the board to all types of research it’s become ultra-competitive to get grants. Not only research money but job security and salary are tied to how much funding you can obtain. I’ve seen how stressed my PI (principle investigator) gets when writing grants and I don’t think the pay is comparable to our level of education (a PhD is the highest degree attainable).

This brings me back to my career change. I no longer wish to be a principle investigator running my own laboratory. The other day I got a career analysis link from GemOfTheOcean. After answering about 100+ questions it was no surprise that the career at the very bottom of the list was principle investigator. Towards the top of the list was teaching. Both as a professor and K-12. I wasn’t surprised by this at all. I love teaching.

While in grad school I taught general chemistry to undergrad students who were interested in pursuing medical and dental school. At first it can be daunting to stand in front of a room of 40 people and talk for two hours. I also tutored math and science at the local community college. There is no feeling more rewarding than transferring your knowledge base to another person and seeing the look of comprehension on their face.

Some people reading this may know that my new career goal is to open my own STEM (science, technology, engineering and math) school for minority inner city kids. I don’t think that science and math are stressed enough to our children which is why we’re falling so far behind the rest of the world and other races. This also explains how I can be the only black person in my department of over 100 people.

I know to fulfill my dream I’m going to need more experience than a few summers teaching and tutoring. This is why after this postdoctoral appointment I’ll be searching for tenure-track professor jobs.

As far as your career are you happy where you are and where you see yourself going? What are you doing today to change that and ensure you have a career that you enjoy versus having a job?

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19 thoughts on “My Vision

  1. gemmieboo

    im really excited for your next steps. it might be hard to get a tenure track without doing research, but i think there are a lot of options open to you, you just havent discovered them yet.

    but i hear theyre looking for some one like you in Portland. thats probably a great place to begin your “shift” 🙂

    Reply
    1. madscientist7 Post author

      yeah i know it may be hard but on of my best friends just got an assistant professor job and she didn’t do a postdoc at all. i know it can be done. portland you say? lolol just let me know when and who i need to meet. 😉

      Reply
  2. fleurette

    Hi Uncle Tunde! It’s Tolu. I’m really thrilled and inspired about your career change. You’ve always been a very bright individual and no matter where life takes you, I’m certain you’ll be great!

    Reply
  3. The Black Jane

    Good stuff, Tunde. Personally, I already know I’m going to move away from the bench into politics/policy for two reasons. 1) We need more minorities “at the table” drafting research-based policies at the federal level. 2) We need more scientists and engineers running for office and lending their expertise to gov’t. I would also like to keep a foot in education (administration), and hopefully one day, run a college.

    Anyway, if you’re looking into teaching primarily, maybe you should look into liberal arts colleges. I know there is a group that tries to increase the number of minority faculty members at small liberal arts schools around the country. You might want to check it out:

    http://www.depauw.edu/offices/academic-affairs/cfd/

    Reply
  4. Janina

    Good post. Good luck with everything! I have always admired career changes. I think education is not so far away from research as you might think. Most faculty positions even at “research 1 institutions” require teaching and several liberal arts colleges often require a small research component.

    Like you, I enjoyed teaching the undergrads at HCOP and was comtemplating leaving research to teach, but after finishing my PhD I realized a few things. (1) While minority students are not well represented in the STEM fields, when it comes to research faculty positions the numbers are exceedingly low !! Which also means minority PhDs (like ourselves) are not persuing careers in academic based research. (2) Minorities, specifically African Americans, have the lowest probability of getting NIH funded grants (there were a series of papers published about this is earlier this year in Science. I can send you the link if you like.) (3) While I am not the biggest fan of scientific writing, I am extremely creative and have several cool scientific ideas. And I am getting used to the writing. (4) But ultimately, I realized that having a career an education will always be there, while a career in research is hard to maintain even if you put it on hold for a couple of years with how fast the field (at least my field) moves. So ultimately for me it was a combination of things: reasons 1 & 2 being motivation to change the numbers of successful minority scientist and reasons 3&4 realizing my capabilities.

    Glad to hear about your career change 🙂 There are several sickle cell labs at Vandy, specifically studying African populations a little late though.

    Reply
    1. madscientist7 Post author

      Sure thing. Can you send me the link? Thanks Janina!

      Yeah HCOP was really eye opening for me. I just don’t like fighting for grand dollars and the politics involved in basic research. I think that’s the biggest turnoff for me.

      Reply
      1. Janina Jeff

        Either field you go in you will likely face a political fight. Anyway I sent you an email with the papers. Enjoy!

  5. Muze

    dooooooope!

    my vision is verrry similar but with writing and the arts. i want to teach at Spelman one day in the future but i’ve always wanted to open an center/program for minority youth that emphasizes writing and the creative arts. so many music, art and writing programs have been cut from urban schools bc of funding and that’s been my vision forever.

    teachers are the best! good stuff Bowtie!

    Reply
    1. Elle

      I forgot to answer the question: As far as your career are you happy where you are and where you see yourself going? What are you doing today to change that and ensure you have a career that you enjoy versus having a job?

      No I’m not happy about my career choice, health care/HR is starting to become extremely mundane for me. It’s a great way to earn a living, but I’m a creative person and I finally found an outlet that I feel I will flourish and grow in. Make-up artistry allows me to get creative and help women enhance themselves if they choose to. It also allows me to flex my entrepreneurial muscles. Having my own side business is something I’ve always wanted and now I have that I have the chance to do it.

      Reply
    2. madscientist7 Post author

      sorry i believe the analysis link was only for science fields.i hear you on the entrepreneurial ambitions. one of my best friends and i have been talking about opening an upscale sports bar for the longest. once we get enough capital we’re definitely going to make that happen. we both love sports, alcohol and good food. its a win/win. lololol

      Reply
  6. Wu Young, Agent of M.E.

    My friend’s little girl, Skylar has sickle cell so I hear the horror stories about the lack of research. According to him there is only one pediatric hematologist in SC, which is madness considering our black population is hovering around 28% (Second to only Mississippi at 37%). Props to your goal of opening your stem school for inner city kids.

    As far as your career are you happy where you are and where you see yourself going? — I’m not. I hate being in an office all day running things for attorney who don’t quite understand or care about the logistics of what they do. I am happy with where I’m going. I’ve always wanted to be a novelist so I’ve been pouring energy into plots and characters that I’ve been screwing with for eight years. I’ll continue to work for these f**ks or various f**ks until I can do my thing full time.

    Reply
    1. madscientist7 Post author

      one of my friends died last year from sickle cell. she was 31 years old (i actually did a tribute post) and she left behind 2 little girls and a fiance. its a disease that doesn’t get a lot of coverage because its linked to minorities.

      as far as the writing thing goes its amazing how much i like to write in my spare time but i despise technical writing. smh i wish you well in your writing career.

      Reply

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