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DBL%20Hendrix%20small.png College chemistry, 1983

Derek Lowe The 2002 Model

Dbl%20new%20portrait%20B%26W.png After 10 years of blogging. . .

Derek Lowe, an Arkansan by birth, got his BA from Hendrix College and his PhD in organic chemistry from Duke before spending time in Germany on a Humboldt Fellowship on his post-doc. He's worked for several major pharmaceutical companies since 1989 on drug discovery projects against schizophrenia, Alzheimer's, diabetes, osteoporosis and other diseases. To contact Derek email him directly: Twitter: Dereklowe

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September 23, 2011

"The Smarter You Are, The More I Will Hate You"

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Posted by Derek

I have just enough time today to link to this - which is simultaneously a nasty prank to pull on someone, and (for anyone who's been to grad school), completely hilarious. A message went out over a mail server list in Europe, after a post-doc position in Germany had been posted. It, um, clarified the nature of the position:

I am desperately searching for eager victims - postdocs or PhD students - mine or other supervisors' - to make my workhorses and to plunder ideas from. . .I cannot do research myself because I'm narrow-minded, rigid-brained, and petty. Therefore, I have to recruit desperate scientists from anywhere in the world and then manage (harangue) them into submission. The smarter you are relative to me, the more I will hate you. . .

It goes on in that vein for a while, winding up with the usual boilerplate legal language: "I am entitled to success because supremacy is my birthright".. Read it, cast you mind back to your own grad student/post-doc days, and imagine the temptation to do the same!

Comments (34) + TrackBacks (0) | Category: Academia (vs. Industry)


1. RB Woodweird on September 23, 2011 6:21 AM writes...

Man, Corey isn't even trying to pretend anymore.

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2. K C Nicolaou on September 23, 2011 6:51 AM writes...

How the hell did this leak?

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3. Leo Paquette on September 23, 2011 7:53 AM writes...



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4. Michael Krische on September 23, 2011 8:57 AM writes...

At first I was a bit worried, but then I saw it came from somewhere in Germany.

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5. Erick Carreira on September 23, 2011 9:52 AM writes...

Please, not another one of my letters shamelessly exposed to the glare of public scrutiny.

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6. Dieter Seebach on September 23, 2011 10:14 AM writes...

Sorry Eric, it was mine, or did I plagiarize it, I can't remember.

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7. Bionic Brothers on September 23, 2011 10:18 AM writes...

Sorry guys, JJ La-Clair patented this years ago.

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8. Hasufin on September 23, 2011 10:32 AM writes...

I once had this notion of going back to school; maybe getting a doctorate in bioinformatics. Seemed like a good idea.

Then I dated a grad student.

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9. RD on September 23, 2011 11:19 AM writes...

Ha! Try being a non-PhD working at a PhD level in a department full of PhDs suffering from PTSD. Get credit for your work? As if. The logic goes like this: "You don't have a PhD. Therefore, this work is, by definition, not as good as ours but if it is, it's only because someone in our group directed you or gave you the answer. But it really doesn't matter because you will be gone in the next layoff. We don't want upper management to get any ideas."
I've also heard, "You're work would be taken more seriously if you had a PhD.", like the right answer must come with a certificate of authenticity.
Poor Michael Faraday once had to play valet and got dumped on for years before anyone took him seriously, not that we're all Michael Faradays. Things never change.

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10. P. A.. Evans on September 23, 2011 1:10 PM writes...

I am gonna find out who did this in my group!....Oh, wait, it is from Germany...

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11. Anonymous on September 23, 2011 1:18 PM writes...

Could be a voice from the grave of Oppolzer??

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12. A. R. Katritzky on September 23, 2011 2:25 PM writes...

What, no mention of Saturday morning group meetings?? What a slacker.

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13. The Ghost of Bill Johnson on September 23, 2011 3:42 PM writes...

None of you pussies ever had one of your grad students pull a gun on you.

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14. Stuart Schrieber on September 24, 2011 10:20 AM writes...

I forgot to add that I do give time off for you to do your laundry on Saturday nights. I will even rebate the quarters on the dryer cycle to get you back in lab expidiciously

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15. Barry Trost on September 24, 2011 10:36 AM writes...

Ahhh, a chip off of the old block.....

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16. GreedyCynicalSelfInterested on September 24, 2011 12:38 PM writes...


You make a very important point as to why science is a crappy career. Even if you escape the graduate school ordeal, you find yourself working in a "class-based" environment where you are first judged on whether you have a Ph.D. and then where you got it if you do have one. It's an unending intellectual pecker contest that I want no part of.

If the government did not subsidize the exotic and esoteric hobbies of academics, there would be many fewer victims.

I still have nightmares about graduate school and my postdoc even though I started graduate school more than 20 years ago.

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17. Non PhD in R&D on September 24, 2011 8:27 PM writes...

@ 9 and 16
How about a big glass of Quit Your Bitchin. If your sht was that good, you would be taken seriously.

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18. Anonymous on September 25, 2011 12:07 AM writes...

Holy Jorge Cham, Batman!

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19. Bartosz Grzybowski on September 25, 2011 4:17 AM writes...

What! How the hell did this get out?! You think you're going to steal my ideas now!? You second-rate losers shouldn't have time to write this stuff anyways, get back to work! I will, will.... (FOAM)

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20. Elias J. Corey on September 25, 2011 8:20 AM writes...

I think you will find I personally wrote this about myself some 30 years ago. I didn't at the time think it important so I did not publish it.

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21. Dieter Seebach on September 25, 2011 9:19 AM writes...

Don't forget to put my name on the (stone) paper when you get round to sharpening your chisel.

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22. Adolf on September 25, 2011 11:31 AM writes...

You chemists are crazy.

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23. Fritz Haber on September 25, 2011 11:40 AM writes...

Hey Adolf how you doing these days?

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24. E.J. Corey on September 25, 2011 2:27 PM writes...

I forgot to put in the part about my traffic light, sorry.

Also, @RBW - let's get together and talk about those orbital symmetry rules I invented...

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25. Dalibor Sames on September 25, 2011 2:33 PM writes...

Qualifications: Please have a good sense of creativity, and a good understanding of ethics and legal documents

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26. Dalibor Sames on September 25, 2011 5:34 PM writes...

Also, an attractive countenance won't do harm (if you know what I mean). Get consistently good yields and I promise we will go over your figures together...

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27. Sam Danishefsky on September 25, 2011 8:32 PM writes...

This letter contains thoughts very close to my own but I would add one more important admonition; looking up the chemical literature and reading papers for your next experiment is not considered part of your workday. You do that on your own time, that's what evenings and weekends are for.

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28. Phil Baran on September 26, 2011 12:40 AM writes...

You oldies are crazy! That much exploitation. Look at my group, we do not have seminars on Saturday................................evenings.............................................from 9 to 10 PM

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29. Alois Fürstner on September 26, 2011 12:43 AM writes...

Well, don´t look at me! I am from Austria, Am I? Am I?

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30. Phil Baran on September 26, 2011 1:38 AM writes...

And every knows the campaign medals and combat helmets are just ironic, right? Right?

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31. S. L. Buchwald on September 27, 2011 1:22 AM writes...

I on the other hand, I urge my servants to take vacation. I find this a necessity for creative ideas to take credit for. Now get back to your hood.

PS. Hilarious comment thread.

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32. Easy solution on September 29, 2011 6:51 PM writes...

I would assume that most of these comments come from PhDs, many still holding to their well paid jobs in Pharma, Agro etc. I bet some of you can also make hiring decisions.

Now, if doing a PhD, with say EJ Corey, is such an exploitation of young Einsteins that come up with all these Nobel-winning ideas, then why industry doesn't hire all these geniuses at the BSc level, or even MSc, pay them a decent salary and have them do their magic?

The last time I checked, big (and small) Pharma would rarely hire top-notch PhDs, unless they had at least a couple of years postdoctoral experience.

So put your wallet where your mouth is!

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33. Terry on October 25, 2011 9:06 AM writes...

it sucks, in china we dont do this!

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34. Terry on October 25, 2011 11:17 AM writes...

it sucks, in china we dont do this!

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