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VP Professionals



I spent some time thinking about the recent notes about
batches of graduate students and the lack of jobs and stuff.
I understand the frustration of some who think it best to
not bring along students that probably won't get academic
jobs for various reasons, many not related to their talent
but to the great random and non-random processes involved
with how academic jobs get assigned. So most who go on to
some graduate level research won't get jobs teaching at a
university. So what?

I would hate to lose what is a great resource for all of us
because we have not used our imagination. The growth
industry in paleo jobs will be brand new niches that are
carved out by people who find a way to do some paleo as part
of what they do. I would like to see more high school
teachers have advanced degrees in something like paleo
because too many don't have a good grasp of any one subject
and, as such, don't have a good enough grasp of how science
works in general. Many high schools provide more research
time (Summers, etc) and higher salaries than most small
colleges with huge teaching workloads. Paleo is a great hook
to get people interested in science and would be great for a
sub-college teacher. If you want to go on and know your
talents are different from a Steve Gould, prepare for a
different teaching level and use whatever spare time you
have to do the research on what we love. Perhaps one can
approach whole school systems for a position rather than one
school. I won't say it is easy, but I know very few people
who haven't worked like hell to get the jobs they have. It
is very much worth trying.

There are lots of niches that can be exploited, or defined,
that can allow you time to make a living and still do work
in the field, perhaps with some time constraints but, hey,
who doesn't have time constraints. My position here at NMNH
is the only one like it I've ever heard of. It certainly
isn't a traditional avenue of development and I can't tell
you how it developed because it just did and, at times, I
still do some addition odd things as part of it that. These,
at times, have been stuff I didn't enjoy but some have
turned out really cool, although not paleo. We identified
Jeffrey Dahmer's first murder victim in my lab using
techniques I was using with dinosaurs and applying them to
forensics. Just gotta be real flexible - the way life is
anyway.

So my point - and I hope it hasn't been too covoluted (Had a
22 hour airline fiasco a day and a half ago and am still
dead headed) - is that one should get advanced knowledge in
paleo if it is a passion (like it has been for me) and try
to keep an eye out for ways to make a living, do some more
paleo and, if possible, sometimes both. Most paleo types
spend most of their 8 hours a day with teaching and
administrivia, and finally get some research done after
hours. Now if you have a nack for investing and make a bunch
of million dollars - open up your own paleo research
institute and high a bunch of people to do paleo. I know
exactly how I would spend the odd 100 million dollars if it
ever comes my way - and lots of dinos and pubs would be the
result. So, as much as I am sympathetic to people not
getting jobs, it is a way of life in academia, so don't be
shy about warping your environment to fit your needs in
combination with flexibility on your part and I think it
will surprise you how many will find niches. Hell, artists
have been doing this for years in the field, which is why I
have such admiration for them.


Ralph Chapman