A detailed observation of the disgruntled postdoc

The disgruntled postdoc – or disgruntledoc - is a specific species of the academic family, first discovered in the wild and described by DrugMonkey. Its body is often found in a particular non-ergonomic posture that is intended to entirely devote itself to academic science, for example bent over to stare into a microscope, crouching on the floor to put a laboratory animal into an operant box or crawling behind a rig to fix the wiring. Its brain however is mostly occupied with online conversations on twitter or blogs discussing fair pay, the difficulty to obtain grant money and general unfairness of the academic system. This behavior has been observed consistently since the early history of social media.

At the end of the day, the disgruntled postdoc either indulges in cheap beer and free cookies – when these are left over from other occasions – or scrambles to be in time to pick up its offspring from their daycare that the disgruntled postdoc’s salary can barely pay for. In unique situations, the disgruntled postdoc will try to combine these two activities often with mixed success.

Similar to other adolescent mammals, the disgruntled postdoc stage has a hypothesized purpose to “learn how to maximize utility of their environment and emigrate to new social groups in order to prevent inbreeding”. It is expected that the disgruntled postdoc will leave its environment at some point in time. This point will either be reached when the disgruntled postdoc is able to rise in the academic ladder, or when the disgruntled postdoc reaches a threshold where their level of dissatisfaction is higher than their level of willingness to work hard on science. Where this threshold lies is different for each individual disgruntled postdoc and depends very much on the conditions of the habitat, most notably the amount of grant money available in said habitat.

5 responses so far

  • peirama says:

    What a great description of....me! Was that you once upon a time or did you get out before you turned into that unfortunate character?

    • babyattachmode says:

      No it definitely was me, but only for a short period of time before I found my current job. When I moved back to Europe because my husband got a grant I felt I took a big step back in autonomy in my second post-doc job compared to where I was first (where I was technically non-TT faculty and not a post-doc anymore). After the 10th fellowship/grant being rejected and some other stuff that made me disgruntled I most definitely fit the description. Sorry to hear this was you as well.

  • ImDrB says:

    Pretty good description of my postdoc years as well! Escaping to a TT position was the greatest thing I've ever experienced.

  • […] other day I wrote about being a disgruntled post-doc and how that becoming disgruntled as a post-doc seems to serve the purpose of forcing you to move […]

  • sweetscience says:

    Thank you for making me feel like there's a good purpose for these feelings!

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