Tag Archives: Edwin H. Land

OTHER JOBS FOR SCIENTISTS, PART III: UNCONVENTIONAL APPROACHES TO FIND OR CREATE EMPLOYMENT OPPORTUNITIES

 

Many Jobs now are Available for Doctoral Scientists  (http://dr-monsrs.net)
Many Jobs now are Available for Doctoral Scientists   (http://dr-monsrs.net)

 

The first 2 parts of this series have explained that job seekers holding a PhD in science have a large range of different employers and job positions to consider (see recent articles in the Scientists category on “Other Jobs for Scientists, Part I: Working in Science Outside of Traditional Situations” and “Other Jobs for Scientists, Part II: Research Jobs in Industry or Government Labs”).  Some provide opportunities for continuing to work in laboratory research, while others involve science and research only indirectly (i.e., science-related jobs).  Yet other possibilities do not involve science or research at all.  Many in this last group can be seen as being very unconventional jobs for scientists.  The nature of such unusual employment, and advice about how to find or create it, is presented and discussed in Part III below.

Finding science-related jobs for science PhD’s

Traditionally, a career in scientific research or any other business can be considered as being analogous to climbing a ladder.  This viewpoint necessarily means that if you are not able to step onto the first rung of the ladder (i.e., find some type of first job), then there is zero chance that you will ever be able to climb up that particular ladder.  However, once you have acquired some job and accomplished something (i.e., have moved up to rung number 2 or 3 by doing well and learning more during 1-2 years), it also becomes realistically possible to jump onto a different ladder (i.e., to switch to a different and better job).  Yes, experience makes a big difference!  Each job seeker must find their own path to a good job.

For some young scientists, it can be difficult to find a traditional research job either at universities, industrial research and development centers, or government research facilities.  In such cases, it is necessary to become more flexible about theoretical possibilities and realistic practicalities.  A key major question you must face is how much you as a scientist are determined to work only on research activities.  If you will consider working with science at non-traditional venues, or working on science-related jobs that do not directly involve lab research, then very many additional possibilities for employment will arise.  I already have introduced many examples of different science-related employment positions in Part I.

Becoming unconventional in your job search

The more doors that remain open, the greater choice of jobs you will have.  Restricting where and what you are looking at necessarily closes some doors.  What if nothing works in your search for employment and all seems hopeless?  Then, it is time to learn to think very much more creatively!  Even if you are only seeking a conventional kind of job, using unconventional approaches might give you an advantage or open some more doors.

Many new science PhD’s and Postdocs must escape from the straightjacket of traditional academic research, and learn to consider other possibilities outside universities and even outside science.  If these are unconventional, so what?  I once actually encountered a professional driver for a limousine company with a PhD; he likes to talk with scholarly overtones to me and all his many different clients about philosophy and politics, and seemed quite happy doing that!  I doubt that he ever planned to be a fulltime professional driver; it is possible that he first tried this job only as some temporary work, and then unexpectedly came to realize that this unconventional position suited his individual situation very nicely.

I consider Edwin H. Land as a spectacularly creative scientist and admirable human (see my earlier article in the Scientists category on “Curiosity, Creativity, Inventiveness, and Individualism in Science”).  Land did not seek a job, but instead he created one for himself!  Actually, he created several jobs for himself (i.e., scientist, educator, engineer, industrialist, and visionary)!  Even in his early college days, he was so determined to do experimental research that he got permission to work at night on his own research in a professor’s empty laboratory; he went on to continue to do research on several subjects during his later years running the Polaroid Corporation.   Probably, none of us has the same magic that emanated from Prof. Land, but you can try to copy his creative spirit when seeking to find a suitable job for yourself.  Can you do that?  Try it and see!

There are many different ways to create your own job.  If you can form some small business operation, you can hire yourself!  If you can convince a company that they need some new service, and if you can provide exactly such, then you might have created your own job!  If you can invent something new and useful to others, you can either manufacture and market it, or sell the idea or patent!  If you can innovate some new software that others will want to utilize, then you can license it for use or establish a new computer company!  If you do not have enough money to be able to start something like this, you can borrow funds from family or friends, or you can work temporarily at some ordinary job until you have saved enough capital; another approach is to try to win support via crowd-funding [e.g., 1-3].  Be imaginative in what you try to do!

Miscellaneous advice for job seekers from Dr.M

New scientists should never forget that you do indeed already have some valuable skills and experience in science and research, or you would not have succeeded in earning your doctoral degree.  Hence, you can have confidence in your own abilities to overcome the problems with finding a suitable job!  Besides your own self, you already have many external resources to help your search; never hesitate to consult with your former thesis advisor, postdoctoral mentor(s), favorite teachers, fellow research workers, and good friends about the current status of your job search.

Be vigorous in your job hunt, and always show self-confidence, initiative, determination, and a high energy level.  Check out everything, not just the most likely prospects.  As one colleague helpfully explained to me long ago, the time to worry about salary level and which desk you will have is only after you have received a job offer, not before.  Be willing to move if that is required for a job that you know would be good for you.   Be flexible.  Always be 100% honest during interviews, and emphasize how you are well-suited for the particular job opening you are applying for.

If you are looking in unconventional areas or trying to create a new job for yourself, then never limit your imagination.  Try to see more than everyone else does.  One of my own university science teachers retired at age 65 and then took several art courses to learn how to paint.  Within just a few years, her canvasses were selling and she was the featured artist at several shows and galleries in other states.  None of us students ever guessed that she also had a hidden talent as an artist.  She said unconventionally that for her, science and art have many similarities.

Concluding remarks

The main message in Part III is that job seekers with a science PhD should be imaginative and creative, and should not hesitate to consider nontraditional employment possibilities. 

Your main message for this entire series (Parts I-III) is that a PhD in science qualifies you for very many different types of employment, including positions that do not involve laboratory research or working in traditional job sites. 

Dr.M wishes all doctoral scientists much good fortune with their search for a suitable and satisfying job!

 

[1]  Kickstarter, 2014.  Kickstarter – Start a project.  Available on the internet at:  https://www.kickstarter.com/learn?ref=nav .

[2]  Rice, H., 2013.  Crowdfunding, Overview.  The New York Academy of Sciences, Academy eBriefings, October 9, 2013.  Available on the internet at:                        http://www.nyas.org/publications/EBriefings/Detail.aspx?cid=82c4e4b4-f200-49b3-b333-c41e1e2f46aa .

[3]  Schmitt, D., 2013,  Crowdfunding science: could it work?  Higher Education Network, The Guardian, Nov. 11, 2013.  Available on the internet at:                                                        http://www.theguardian.com/higher-education-network/blog/2013/nov/11/science-research-funding-crowdfunding-excellence .

 

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CURIOSITY, CREATIVITY, INVENTIVENESS, AND INDIVIDUALISM IN SCIENCE

 

Edwin H. Land inspects an oversized Polaroid BLACK AND WHITE image of himself taken with one of his Polaroid cameras; recorded by an unknown photographer in the late 1940's.
Edwin H. Land inspects an oversized Polaroid black and white image of himself taken with one of his Polaroid cameras; recorded by an unknown photographer in the late 1940’s.

 

            Curiosity is the desire in some individuals to wonder about the whys and wherefores of something (e.g., how does a clock work, what causes headaches, why do humans get old and die, when will cars drive themselves, is a mouse just a little rat, where was copper mined for making the first ancient copper pots, etc.?).  Creativity is an inborn ability to think and act in new directions, and to make unrestrained or unconventional associations.  Inventiveness is an inborn ability to devise and develop new or better objects, and new ways of doing something;  inventions are new devices or processes, made and developed by an inventor (see my earlier post on “Inventors & Scientists” in the Basic Introductions category).  Individualism is found in people who readily assert their own personal characteristics of thought, interests, and demeanor, and, who are not afraid to have some of their own viewpoints be quite different from those of the general public.   Any one person, whether a scientist or a non-scientists, can potentionally excel with any of these characteristics.  Some of these features, but rarely all 4 of them, frequently are found in research scientists; when several are well-developed in one individual researcher, the results often are quite spectacular.  

 

Most scientists started out as youngsters with the natural curiosity and creativity found in almost all children.  Sometime later, during the course of their education and advanced training, they become molded into adult scientists who are more ready to think along certain channels, accept participation in group projects, and perform research with standardized experimental approaches; this process often results in very restrained individualism, diminished curiosity, near absence of  research creativity, and, redirection of activities into only tried and true pathways.  Although everyone has a distinct personality with individual likes and dislikes, most research scientists now are inhibited from thinking creatively, trying to prove that some established belief is wrong, questioning interpretations or conclusions coming from very famous other scientists, and expressing their individual  curiosity.  In the modern world, most of us, whether we are scientists or non-scientists, are expected to conform, not be very curious, and not ask too many questions (i.e., “do not rock the boat!”).  It really takes guts for any artist, musician, poet, or scientist to be a creative individual in today’s world. 

 

            In modern science, the current research grant system unforunately opposes creativity in scientists.  This is largely because a big push is given to being able to actually produce the anticipated results with the proposed experiments; grant applications proposing to conduct experiments and attack research questions with well-established experimental designs generally are favored by the grant system over those more exploratory studies seeking to use new approaches, ask unconventional questions, or, use innovative designs and new tools for analysis.  For truly creative scientists, results of their experiments often either cannot be anticipated at all or are likely to be very different from traditional expectations; this condition generally is not viewed with favor by the modern research grant system. Inventions are widely sought in modern science and research because they can produce financial gain and help provide touchable evidence that new practical devices are generated by publically-supported research grants; in other words, the granting agencies like to show the tax-paying public that research grant funds are indeed helping make daily life better or easier.  Although today’s scientists are very appreciative that the research grant system does provide considerable support for experimental science, they also are at least vaguely aware that it also tends to suppress expression of the several attributes found prominently in dedicated and innovative research scientists. 

 

            Exceptions to the above generalizations about repression of curiosity, creativity, inventiveness, and individualism in modern science are among the most fascinating of all people.   One particularly well-known example is Edwin H. Land (1909-1991), who had vigorous expression of all 4 of these characteristics.  He is most widely known as the inventor, developer, and manufacturer of the Polaroid Camera and Polaroid films [1-4].  These comprised the amazing invention of “instant photography”,  and occurred decades before the now-commonplace digital imaging cameras were born.  Land dropped out of Harvard College in order to conduct research studies, but later went on to obtain his bachelor’s degree; he succeeded in educating himself largely through self-study, similarly to what Thomas Edison did.  It now is obvious to all that Land didn’t need academic degrees in order to achieve renown, because he was supremely individualistic and a remarkably self-driven worker.  His open curiosity, creative ideas, energetic drive, and engineering insights led this researcher and inventor to develop new means to polarize photonic light, and also a new theory of color vision.  His special cameras and unique films both had multiple models and diverse varieties [3].  The Polaroid Corporation had multiple buidings and laboratories with over 10,000 employees; the research and development labs housed several talented co-researchers and engineers toiling to make very new technological advances in photography [4].  Land was a very self-motivated creator throughout his entire life.  He felt that everyone should havre direct experience in conducting experimental research as a very valuable part of getting a college education, so he established new programs for laboratory research by undergraduate students at several universities.  By the time he died, Land the physical scientist, inventor, and manufacturer had obtained over 500 patents [1,2]; this giant number stands as an objective testimonial to the inventiveness of this very creative human [3,4]. 

 

            Creativity is not essential for science, but is very useful and helpful in speeding up research progress by enabling breakthroughs and large jumps over the usual step-by-step progress in laboratory activities.  Quite often scientists have become famous largely because they invented some key device or process that enabled them to examine and study something that was unseen or unrecognized by other eager researchers.  Today, it is often believed that younger individuals are the major source for new concepts and new ideas in science.  All of these basic recognitions force the conclusion that both the agencies awarding research grants, and the academic institutions employing faculty researchers, should do more to encourage creativity, individualism, and inventiveness in scientists, instead of repressing these capabilities.  Any funding program that intentionally or unintentionally suppresses creativity and curiosity by demanding that a proposed project be almost guaranteed success, proceed only with some currently hot methodology, or follow strictly along well-known pathways of logic and analysis, is thereby retarding the progress of scientific research.  Society, schools and universities, and, granting agencies, all need to recognize the fact that the unknowns in research make good experimental studies always risky, not easily guaranteed, and very challenging; but, at the same time these conditions also make science investigations quite wonderful.  Encouraging curiosity, creativity, inventiveness, and individualism in scientists will promote better results in scientific research, and that will benefit everyone. 

    

[1]  McElheny, V. K. The National Academy Press, 2013.  Biographical Memoirs: Edwin Herbert Land, May 7, 1909 – March 1, 1991.  Available on the internet at:  http://www.nap.edu/html/biomems/eland.html

[2]   Linderman, M., 2010.  The story of Polaroid inventor Edwin Land, one of Steve Jobs’ biggest heroes.  Available on the internet at:  http://signalvnoise.com/posts/2666-the-story-of-polaroid-inventor-edwin-land-one-of-steve-jobs-biggest-heroes .

[3]  BBC News Magazine, 2013.  The Polaroid genius who re-imagined the way we take photos.  Video is available online at:  http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/magazine-21115581 .  

[4]  Polaroid Corporation, 1970.  Edwin H. Land in “The Long Walk” (directed by Bill Warriner).  Video is available online at:  http://film.linke.rs/domaci-filmovi/edwin-h-land-in-the-long-walk-1970-directed-by-bill-warriner-for-polaroid-corporation/ .

 

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