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I hope you aren't downvoted for this, as this is basically my exact thought process for the last few years.

> make rich people richer

It is prop trading, so we are making ourselves richer, technically. We do a lot of charity work and donations with schools, etc.

> Doesn't it feel like a waste of your talents

Absolutely. However, I also like not having to beg my toddler to eat the food in front of him because payday is 10 days away, every credit card is maxed, and who knows how we will get to the grocery, which is what happened sometimes during my postdoc 3-7 years ago. Student loans were coming in at ~$1500/month when I'm making $2500/month. It was very difficult, and I was deeply depressed. When I finally landed that professor position, my workload got worse, and while there was a pay increase, I still wasn't going to be buying a house anytime soon. This was NOT an expensive area. We ended up living with my parents for a while (me, my wife, and 3 kids). The math just wasn't adding up, and there wasn't an end in sight. Adding in trouble getting grants, not wanting to restart the faculty job search, I started looking at industry. I applied at a few prop trading firms on whim, and mine ended up being a great fit.

I was pretty successful doing the actual research, but my particular niche (neuroscience+software methods and tools) isn't really funded by grants. I even got several rounds of good publicity for some of my PhD work, and did international interviews, etc. I was a very good scientist, but that doesn't cut it any more; new investigators are competing with established labs and members of the AAS who are submitting 30 grants per cycle. I was doing some very cool work with kids with epilepsy, which would greatly improve outcomes. I was a very valuable member of our collaboration; that research more or less came to a halt when I left, though I have been able to help out through consulting from time to time. So, what I did was in high demand and highly worthwhile, but there was a disconnect with getting the funding.

Am I being greedy? Maybe. There is that saying "you have to love yourself before you can love others." I think that might apply financially as well, particularly with regards to your family. It wasn't worth seeing my kids live in the stress of living paycheck to paycheck, going to crappy schools in crime-ridden areas that we can afford, with the added possibility of losing their dad because everyday he wonders if today is the day he drives off a bridge on the way home or something. If that means that my epilepsy research doesn't get done...then so be it. Vote for people who will increase research funding. So, when the offer came in and it was 3X what I was making as a prof, without considering bonuses, the weight of the world left my shoulders.




"Vote for people who will increase research funding"

This. You don't owe anyone anything for being smart and diligent. If you were a lone wolf and enjoying your workload there would have been nothing wrong in your previous situation if you felt it wotrthwhile yourself.

Family changes everything. Having to fight to reach ends meet is not beneficial to anyone. Raising three kids means you are responsible for their future. There is nothing more important than caring for your kids. Someone might say that you are responsible for the reduced outcomes of epileptic kids whom your research helped but that would be completely lacking in human perspective.

Humans cannot live like supermen. That's why we have organizations with long term goals and mandates to affect society wide effects. An individual can make a difference, but that individual can be anyone.

A person who claims you should have stayed in the academia can do that if they will pay your loans and provide you with a sufficient life time grant. Otherwise they are full of excrement and lack a sane perspective.


I was in virtually the exact same position as you and made the same decision about a year and a half ago. I moved from biotech and neuroscience research into fintech consulting, to be able to feed my family and send my kids to a proper school.

I certainly would have preferred research, but given that most people just go voting for the same political parties that vehemently defend the current financial establishment, I have no remorse. (Yes, I am a huge Chomsky fan...) From my POV, we are only doing what is necessary to enable our families to have a normal life in a world getting more imbalanced, without any critical mass of people seeming to notice or care.

Hopefully, people will wake up soon enough and finally stop voting the non-options they are presented with (HC vs DT...)


Thanks for sharing your story. It sounds you had good self-awareness, and made an important decision to look out for your own well-being and end an unsustainable situation. There are many who could benefit from your example.


The cost of education (Fees) are going higher. Research/Researchers are not getting funded. Where is the money going to? Infrastructure of the universities?


> Where is the money going to?

That's the big question. In addition, when a professor gets a grant, the university takes a large chunk (40-60%) for overhead.

Anecdote: When I started as a postdoc recently, all new faculty and staff had orientation together. This was the middle of the semester, and there were about 20-25 of us. Of that group, there were no new professors (beginning of semester, wouldn't be unusual), 2-3 postdocs, maybe 5 facilities people (janitor, electrician, etc). Everyone else was administration/communication/finance/etc.

Universities, particularly large ones, are very, very, top heavy (with part of that due to compliance with regulations).


We get research funding from government agencies like the NIH and NSF. You can also get private grants (e.g. I got an NVIDIA grant in 2009 to do GPU research). The funding pool has remained stagnant for years, while we are pumping out more PhDs than ever. Back in the 90's an R01 (the top NIH grant you can get, and which more or less ensured tenure) had a 33% funding rate or so. It is now in the low to mid single digits. Plus, the rules have changed, so that you cannot fund your salary off of a single R01; you now need TWO R01s to pay yourself, which is the goal, at least in a soft money position. After learning this "on the job" as it were, it didn't take long to start looking elsewhere.


You've got an incomplete model of higher-education financing, leaving out subsidies provided by government.

For the most part, both increased tuition and falling research grants are symptoms of the same underlying cause: reduced government support for higher education and R&D.

With fewer funds for education, tuition rises. But that tuition is filling in the hole created by a subsidy gap. Not increased research.


My younger brothers undergraduate research mostly focused on answering this question in the University of California system. His conclusion is that funding was overwhelmingly going to the administrative faculty and has been doing so since UC let the administrative faculty have the most say in how he universities are run.


What could be done to change this?


Typically it goes to construction / infrastructure (dorms and facilities to attract students and compete with other universities) and administrative / compliance bloat.



Athletic departments are usually completely self-funded, especially the ones that spend millions per year on coach salaries.


Yeah a lot easier to balance the books when the athletes are basically slaves...


This, is definitely a separate issue...


Administrators.


Working in finance and sponsoring science aren't mutually exclusive. Some open source tools that are now mainstays in the scientific Python stack originated in finance (pandas is perhaps the most prominent example). It's highly doubtful that any of these tools would have been funded using traditional grants, so... positive externalities ahoy!

Furthermore, firms such as DE Shaw and Renaissance Technologies directly impact research by funding parallel non-profit science organizations (DE Shaw Research and the Simons Foundation respectively).

So it's not really a zero sum game at all.


A lot of neuroscience and financial analysis algorithms are borrowed or transitioned from one another, e.g. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Granger_causality. That is a big reason why the transition was so easy for me. If you can develop models to use brain signals as features and predict where the arm will be in 500ms, you can do the same thing with market data.


Why are you having children in grad school or as a postdoc? And three at that..


Because I didn't want to be 60 years old with a kid in high school?

This type of question represents one of the things that really turns people away from getting into science, or makes people leave. You are expected to give up your ENTIRE PERSONAL LIFE to "the good of society" and make these sacrifices, for...what? To get denied tenure in 5 years (if you're lucky enough to be tenure-track)? This is even more true for women, though this isn't unique to academia. I was thirty years old, had been married for 6 years, just finished my PhD, and thought starting a family sounded like a reasonable thing to. And, my next two kids were born after my postdoc. So, fuck that, and anyone who thinks that waiting until you're 40 to have kids sounds reasonable.


Grad students are usually between 24 and 30. Postdocs between 27 and 40. A career in science should not be treated like the sacrament of Holy Orders. Although practically, many early-career researchers seem to adhere to the vows of poverty, chastity, and obedience ...


Because biology does not stop? The older the parents the riskier having kids becomes.

The last time I looked at science there was no vow of staying childless required.


I kind of like the irony of the scientific "class" becoming childless, like a priesthood. It's probably not too far from the truth. Kind of like the two couples in Idiocracy.


Yes. Especially since historically the idea of a childless priesthood is a stopgap to stop too much wealth and power accumulating for the priestly class through inheritance.


Your question comes off as as self-righteous and overly critically. Why shouldn't he have kids? Clearly, he found a way to provide for them, to a higher degree than most, I would add.


Because you can not get pregnant at 55yo. For many scientist women is a now or never.


I think people underestimate how long "making it" as a scientist takes. For most life plans, having kids while you're still in education or training is a crappy plan. For science, "education and training" can easily stretch to being a postdoc at age 40.

Waiting for kids until you're 'settled' just isn't a justifiable demand for a career that takes 30 years to become established.


Is grad school supposed to be a monastic convent?


You can have sex without kids?




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