You have a good mind—use it!

Alice and her friends answer questions that you don’t want to ask your preceptor, peer, or colleagues regarding your career in science.

Dear Alice,

Being depressed when you are in such a situation is not at all surprising. Anyone would be.

—Alice

Q: I recently started a postdoc position in Israel, just after finishing a Ph.D. in India, my home country. Things are not turning out well for me professionally or personally. A visit to the doctor shockingly informed me that I am suffering from depression; my psychological state is a result of my professional struggles.

Now I am confused. If I go back home, prospects of finding a position are dim. If I stay, there is no guarantee that things will improve. What should I do?

With best regards,

—Rohit

Being depressed when you are in such a situation is not at all surprising. Anyone would be.

—Alice

Dear Rohit,

A: You have given me very little information on which to base my advice. How long have you been in Israel? Why are things going poorly professionally? Is the research not working, or is it just going slowly? Is the chemistry between you and your mentor merely poor, or is it disastrous? Why are things going poorly in your personal life? Do you lack friends, or are you just homesick? What caused you to go to the doctor?

Nonetheless, I will try to provide some advice. Being depressed when you are in such a situation is not at all surprising. Anyone would be. If you are clinically depressed, you should be treated by a physician and not trying to solve your problems through an advice column.

But stop for a moment and examine your situation dispassionately. You have a Ph.D. and somehow, coming from India, you have landed a position in Israel. These are important accomplishments, against the usual odds, and you should take some comfort from that.

As for your current problems, you need to separate them out individually and see how you might change or adapt to each of them, rather than letting them overwhelm you, paralyze you, and make rational analysis impossible. Use the resources around you: the professors in your department, your friends and fellow postdocs, career counselors at your institution, and Indian compatriots. Your friends and family at home may be of some help. Collecting advice from different perspectives should help you make up your own mind.

Believe in yourself. You have been given a good mind. Use it.

—Alice

doi:10.1126/science.caredit.a1500067

Alice Huang

Dr. Huang is one of the pioneering researchers in molecular animal virology. She trained at Wellesley College and Johns Hopkins School of Medicine. She has worked at the Salk Institute for Biological Studies, Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Harvard Medical School, New York University (NYU), and California Institute of Technology. She has served on the boards of the University of Massachusetts, Johns Hopkins University, and the Keck Graduate Institute at the Claremont Colleges, in addition to many other nonprofit organizations. She introduced vesicular stomatitis virus as an experimental model in virology. She carried out many of the initial investigations on the molecular biology of virion structure, replication, macromolecular synthesis, viral spread, and virulence. Her work on the virion-associated RNA-dependent RNA polymerase led to the grouping of many viruses as negative-strand viruses. Her studies on pseudotypes, especially between RNA and DNA viruses, demonstrate the spread of viruses to new host cells and provide important tools for genetic engineering.

As a teacher, Dr. Huang has taught and mentored undergraduates, graduate students, medical students, postdoctoral research fellows, and clinical fellows. She has guided junior faculty members and department chairs. As an administrator, Dr. Huang provided the vision and obtained support for beginning what is now known as “Silicon Alley” around the NYU neighborhood. She is a past president of both the American Society for Microbiology and the American Association for the Advancement of Science (the publisher of Science Careers), two of the largest scientific societies in the world. She also dedicated 18 years to shepherding the Institute of Molecular and Cell Biology, together with Sydney Brenner and Chris Tan, into a successful center of research in what is now known as the Biopolis in Singapore. She continues to consult with research institutions and governments, sharing her expertise and practicing science diplomacy and policy.

Throughout her career, Dr. Huang has advocated for women in science. She encourages thoughtful approaches to reforms in teaching, to attract students with diverse backgrounds and interests to become interested in and committed to careers in science. She has been honored for her advocacy as well for her research accomplishments. Her wealth of experience as a leader and team player in research, administration, and advocacy prepares her well to provide advice to those pursuing careers in science.

Related Articles

More from Careers

Follow Science Careers

Search Jobs

Enter keywords, locations or job types to start searching for your new science career.

Top articles in Careers