The seven ages of the scientist

June 21, 2011 • 7:23 pm

At the beginning of my talk the other day, I showed a slide that I’ve often used throughout my career: the “seven ages of the scientist”: that is, the various activities we engage in as our career progresses from our Ph.D. to our dotage. I usually put an arrow next to the stage I’m at when I give the talk (I’m currently at stage 7).

I’m often asked for copies of that slide (in fact, a commenter requested one here), so I reproduce the latest version of the text.  Steal it and alter it if you want!

This melancholy career path is drawn, of course, from Shakespeare’s “All the world’s a stage” speech spoken by Jaques in As You Like It (if you haven’t read it, click the link: it’s wonderful).

The Seven Ages of the Scientist

  1. As student, listens to advisor give talk on student’s own work
  2. As postdoc, gives talks about his/her own work
  3. As professor, gives talks about his/her students’ work
  4. Talks and writes about “the state of the field”
  5. Talks and writes about “the state of the field” eccentrically and incorrectly—always in a self-aggrandizing way.
  6. Gives after-dinner speeches and writes about society and the history of the field
  7. Writes articles about science and religion

Right before my talk, my friend David Hillis (a systematist) noted that there should be a stage 8: “blogs about science and religion.” But of course that doesn’t apply to me since I do not “blog.”

25 thoughts on “The seven ages of the scientist

  1. Yes, the intent of this post is not lost on me but I must take issue with what you wrote in the lead in: “… as our career progresses from our Ph.D. to our dotage”

    I have an MS in chemical physics and I am the CTO at a well known tech company. Even without the PhD, I work, act, think like, and consider myself a scientist and so do my colleagues. And I would say that, after many years’ observation, a PhD does not necessarily a scientist make – in some case, far from it! Harrummph! 🙂

  2. “…I do not ‘blog’.”

    You’ve posted fashion updates(05/20/11), things you’d eaten (3/16/11), and funny videos about cats (no citation necessary).

    That’s about as bloggy as it gets. Sorry.

  3. ‘that doesn’t apply to me since I do not “blog.”‘

    I concur with earlier comments: MAN, are YOU in an Egyptian river …

    There are certain activities that I truly enjoy, but that have long lists of expressions for them, that I REALLY don’t like.
    But to say that “I do not “?
    No! Just no.

    And, once more, the instructions in your “other-word-for-blog”-s left hand column refer to this “other-word-for-blog” as … blog! (“Enter your email address to subscribe to this blog …”)

    Come on .. be strong .. join us in the 21st century .. you can do it .. say it:

    “Hi, my name is Jerry, and I blog”.

    You’ll feel relieved afterwards…

    (And no worries: I know the boundaries: I’ll never make you twit, or whatever that is called)

    All together now:

    H I .. J E R R Y …

    1. Oops .. I know better than to use ‘less than’ and ‘greater than’ symbols …

      Somewhere I meant to say:
      But to say that “I do not [nasty-word-for-otherwise-pleasurable-activity]“?

  4. Can’t resist quoting this. Does it apply to scientists?

    “Seven Ages: first puking and mewling

    Then very p**sed-off with your schooling

    Then f**ks, and then fights

    Next judging chaps’ rights

    Then sitting in slippers: then drooling.”

    — Robert Conquest

  5. It’s just the word that’s bothersome.

    Reading or hearing the word “moisten” makes me think “ewww”.

        1. We have had family discussions of our least favorite words. My adult son cannot bring himself to say “moist”. (My husband detests “tawdry”, the etymology of which I find fascinating.) At any rate, guess which English word seems to be universally detested by women? Sorry to go off topic here.

  6. “I do not ‘blog'” – Jerry Coyne

    Uh, sure. Updates about your travel, culinary tastes, places to eat, your interests in science and scientific debates, discussions of high profile research papers in biology, philosophy, favorite music and artists (including best of lists), cats and cat humor, world news, atheism and its influence…

    Okay…maybe you haven’t “tweeted” but you definitely blog. The blog definition found at Wikipedia describes your site perfectly and I’m surprised they don’t have your picture in the right hand column.

    1. I’m surprised they don’t have your picture in the right hand column.

      Does anyone know the folks at LulzSec? They could fix that for us.

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