The holiday season is here, which for many means exchanging gifts with friends and loved ones. There are lots of great options for the science lovers in your life, including science-themed books, apparel, home decor, and more. But here at Science Careers, we wanted to think outside the box. So, we asked: What career-related items are on your holiday wish list this year? The answers may not fit under the tree or on the mantel, and you can’t pick them up at the store. But they reflect some of the challenges—and rewards—of pursuing a career in science. The responses have been edited for clarity and brevity.
My career-related wish this year is to have a nice, peaceful holiday season without being overwhelmed by work. I always feel an immense amount of guilt when I step away from my research. But I have been working pretty hard lately, and I deserve some time off to enjoy my Christmas tamales and Mexican hot chocolate with family.
- Evelyn Valdez-Ward, doctoral student in ecology at the University of California, Irvine
I have just been promoted to professor, but I would like greater job security for all. Many academics are facing uncertain futures, and it is worse for those on precarious contracts. I’d also like to see a commitment from governments to support research across the disciplines, and from researchers in science, technology, engineering, and mathematics to stand up for social scientists and humanities scholars who find themselves under attack in the media or through reductions in research funding. Finally, personally, I’d like some more reading time. I have a huge pile of books I’d like to get through!
- Kate Sang, professor of management at Heriot-Watt University in the United Kingdom
My holiday wish is for postdoctoral fellows to receive the same matched retirement benefits that staff and faculty receive, which at my university is 8% of their salaries. Although I make a meager salary, I’m still fortunate and privileged enough to be able to save 8% every month. I long for the day when the support of my institution can turn my 8% into 16%, which would put me that much closer to retirement and my fantasy of opening a science-themed cattery. Who wouldn’t want to visit a bunch of cats in lab coats and kitties dressed as pathogens? Whatever, it’s my retirement!
- Collin Diedrich, postdoc in microbiology and molecular genetics at the University of Pittsburgh in Pennsylvania
My wish is to successfully land a joke while giving a seminar!
- Sara Wong, doctoral student in cellular and molecular biology at the University of Michigan in Ann Arbor
As an EU citizen living in Scotland, at the moment I am worried about how Brexit will affect my ability to stay and work in the United Kingdom, and how it will affect my students, the members of my lab, and a lot of my colleagues and collaborators. So, at the top of my wish list for this year is clarity on our rights, status, and future in the United Kingdom. In reality, what I secretly hope is that Brexit won't happen after all. I know this is mere wishful thinking, but if Santa Claus really is from Lapland, that makes him a fellow EU citizen, so he will understand and maybe put an end to our personal and professional uncertainties.
- Melanie Stefan, lecturer in biomedical sciences at the University of Edinburgh in the United Kingdom
All I want for Christmas is … more confidence in my writing ability! Over the last couple of years, I’ve worked hard to improve as a writer, preparing for my transition into a career in science communication. One of my greatest passions is sharing my love of science with the public. Although I’ve proven time and again that I’m up for that challenge, I continue to second-guess my abilities as a communicator. This holiday season, I want to stop calling myself an aspiring science writer—I am a science writer.
- Samantha Jones, doctoral student in biomedical sciences at the University of California, San Diego
An experiment where the result is completely contrary to what I expect. You only learn when a gap arises between what you predict and what actually happens.
- Daniel Nettle, professor of behavioral science at Newcastle University in the United Kingdom
My wish for the holiday season is that my university's administration will stop opposing postdocs’ efforts to unionize so that we can work together to make meaningful progress on policies related to workplace discrimination, parental leave, child care subsidies, livable salaries, affordable health care, and more. In October, my fellow postdocs and I submitted a petition to the Washington State Public Employment Relations Commission to administer an election to form a postdoc union, hoping to have the election in November. But so far, the university has prevented the election from being scheduled by claiming that roughly 35% of the researchers who are universally recognized as postdocs should be excluded from the bargaining unit because of how the university chooses to classify their job titles. Thinking about the improvements our union could make places my hope that the administration will allow all postdocs to participate in a unionization election and negotiate a contract with us in good faith at the top my wish list this year.
- Brian Weitzner, postdoc in biochemistry at the University of Washington in Seattle
The number one item on my career-related wish list for this year is for my committee to pass me on my defense! Without that, none of the other items on my wish list can come true.
- Alexandra Schober, doctoral student in neuroscience at Albany Medical College in New York
Science is international, and the idea of a holiday wish list might not resonate for all readers. That being said, my one wish would be that everyone could have that exciting “aha” feeling of discovery that, in my opinion, is the most wonderful part of our job.
- Rima Wilkes, professor of sociology at the University of British Columbia in Vancouver, Canada