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chemchemical
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[*] posted on 31-8-2007 at 12:14
graduate school or computers?


Well i've been going through this forum for awhile now and a few others. This is my first post because I felt I never had anything to "contribute". After reading the post about what college a kid should attend though, I decided I might as well present my current issue with the hopes I might find the right path.

I started college as a ChemE major, didnt like all the computations though and thought I would like to go into research. I joined a Biochem lab and was persuaded to switch over into Biochemistry. The reason I joined the lab is because the PI worked at a pharmaceutical company "designing" drugs and thats what I think I want to do. I later found out that the lab does not design anti-cancer/viral drugs and does mostly protein work, I got stuck doing a laborous project that does not interest me at all.

I'm just wondering if all research starts out this way? And if research is really this "boring" until you piece it all together?

My biggest problem is that i do not like to work a lot, I have been in this lab working 40-60hr weeks over the summer and cannot see myself doing this as a career. I do attend a "research institution" and figure this may be why I work so much and why everyone needs to get results(or cause my PI is a work-aholic and doesnt care that i don't even have time for lunch). I would really like to continue in bio/chemistry but fear that I won't have what it takes to go to grad school. I do not plan on being famous and have been thinking of attending a smaller school to do grad work in the hopes there will be less pressure/work. I can see myself being a professor with maybe a small lab in a small school, or working in industry(doing something laid back).

I guess what i'm asking for is any experience people have with grad school or what kind of work I can do with a PhD that does not stray too far from the 40hrs per week.
I do not care about money.

I really like pharmacology and would like to pursue research in drug discovery/design or something involving neuropharmacology but I fear that I will find research in these areas boring too, just like my protein research. And if i attend a small school I may not find a lab that does my interests.

My other thought is to totally change directions and do something with computers.

I just dont know, I love science but research doesnt let me have any free time to pursue my other interests.

Any feedback would be appreciated.
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[*] posted on 31-8-2007 at 12:54


I've been a PhD in mechatronics, and if you really do research, then you also really have to be devoted to the work. Yes, research can be very boring. Generating ideas and brainstorming can be exciting and interesting. But real research is much more than that. You have to work out a single idea and sometimes that means working on your square mm for many months. If you can't stand the idea of having to go that deep into a single small subject, then research is not the thing for you.

Right now, I am a software engineer and IT consultant. So I "do something with computers". But what is your idea of "doing something" with computers. Also here, you sometimes need to do tedious things, all over again, to get things working. I design software systems, but I also build things. Building (usually this means integrating pieces of software and programming) such things can be very rewarding, but also very tedious.

The job, which does not have any tedious things, does not exist!




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[*] posted on 31-8-2007 at 13:27


They don't call them LABORatories for nothing.

I say keep on it... and build your own research institution so you can let off a little bit of steam... perhaps play with some yeasties or other bacteria that could be useful to industry.




Not all chemicals are bad. Without chemicals such as hydrogen and oxygen, for example, there would be no way to make water, a vital ingredient in beer.
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[*] posted on 6-9-2007 at 20:12


Well.. by "something with computers" i meant computer programming or EE with hardware design. Maybe even networking(almost became certified) or computer repair.

I don't mind going deep into a small subject, I just really need to like that subject. I do prefer to have a broad range of knowledge though, so maybe it is something about research being so specialized that turns me off.. or maybe because i'm here right now at midnight while all my friends are out having fun :)

I decided to take a quarter off, look at other labs. I would really like some more feedback from people who have done research (field doesnt matter) and what they actually enjoyed about it.

Also, whats mechatronics?
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[*] posted on 8-9-2007 at 13:14


Funding goes to people who get results (publications). As such there is always a push for results. There are, however, several shades of grey in that matter. When you go through your rotations you get a taste of how each different lab works. Pick the one that corresponds to your personality/pace.

On the same note, there are areas of research that are more cut-throat than others. Cancer conventions are filled with researchers that want to kill each other. You said pharmacology/drug-design so I am assuming that you mean molecular pharmacology (as opposed to clinical). You do know that protein interactions are the basis of molecular pharmacology right (you said you didn't like the protein work you were doing? exactly what were/are you doing?). Rational-drug design is a good field, but alot of the funding is competitive and the stress levels resonate down the line straight into the labs, just so you know.

If you go to grad school talk with the people in the labs before picking your rotations. You get a good idea pretty quickly which labs are filled with workaholics vs which ones actually like to have a life outside of the program. Oh, and its not always the workaholic's fault, if you really want to get into the nitty gritty, look for the labs that have directors with ALOT of funding (check their page for awarded grants). They are under somewhat less pressure than the others to publish. Oh, and if you see a professor with a huge general grant (as opposed to a project specific grant) and you like the pace, sign up.
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[*] posted on 9-9-2007 at 10:36


Quote:
Originally posted by chemchemical
Well.. by "something with computers" i meant computer programming or EE with hardware design. Maybe even networking(almost became certified) or computer repair.

The field of "something with computers" is sooo broad nowadays. Studying electrical engineering with hardware design is a totally different thing than studying information technology, or studying software engineering. Networks again are a different matter.
All three things certainly can be done on a university level. Finding a job, however, will be most easy when you do something in the direction of software engineering, networking, or software architecture. Hardware design is a fantastic thing to do, but the modern electronics devices are so advanced, that only very few highly specialized companies are dealing with these. All other companies buy off-the-shelf components. In software, this also happens more and more. Most companies buy off-the-shelf products and the task of local engineers then is integrating these products, according to some agreed-upon enterprise architecture. Still a low of work to do, but quite different from what was done 25 years ago.

Computer repair is not interesting at all. If a computer is broken at a company, and the most simple things like replacing a memory unit do not solve the problem, then it simply is replaced. At home most people will put some more effort in it, but even there, the attitude becomes more and more one of replacement. Computer repair certainly is not at the same level as the other things I mentioned.



Quote:
I don't mind going deep into a small subject, I just really need to like that subject. I do prefer to have a broad range of knowledge though, so maybe it is something about research being so specialized that turns me off.. or maybe because i'm here right now at midnight while all my friends are out having fun :)

I decided to take a quarter off, look at other labs. I would really like some more feedback from people who have done research (field doesnt matter) and what they actually enjoyed about it.
For me, the most fascinating thing of research was to find out what is possible with a certain technique, when one really goes deep into it. It really is surprising what wonderful properties still are hidden in materials, but also in algorithms, which can be applied in real-life.

Quote:
Also, whats mechatronics?
This is the combination of the words 'mechanics' and 'electronics'. But mechatronics is more than that. Combining ideas from both disciplines, one can come to better and cheaper products than thinking in separate domains. Nowadays, integrated multidisciplinary systems (e.g. digital cameras, CD-players, industrial robots) more and more are designed as a whole system. The classical approach was to design mechanics first and then, given the mechanical design, an (electronic) control system was designed. Nowadays, more and more, the complete controlled system is designed from scratch. This leads to better designs, because this approach allows the designers to shift problems from one domain to the other and see where it is easiest solved. E.g. robots need to be less stiff (which is expensive and makes them heavy), because in electronics, the lower stiffness is compensated for, or even used in an advantageous way.

The best example of mechatronics I still think is the CD-player. Initially, the big problem was how to read the disc at such an unbelievable precise rate. This required very expensive mechanics and a fantastic controller. Then one had the idea to use a buffer for the data read from the disc and play from this buffer at a very constant rate (which is easy with crystal oscillators as clock base). A fairly sloppy controller can be used for reading the physical disk. If the buffer tends to go empty (playing is faster then reading) then simply spin up a little and if the buffer tends to go towards an overrun then simply slow down a little. No precise control needed, as long as the buffer does not overrun or become empty there is no problem at all.




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