Live by the sword

The economy is doing really well right now, so naturally, funding from industry has been coming in strong.  They have been more interested in investing in new technology and studies, and I’ve been banking on this, literally.  Two companies I collaborate with have had some kind of issue where some analysts somewhere have decided that, while the companies are more profitable than ever (according to their earnings reports), they are going to be taking on budget cuts.  So they will be having layoffs and departmental budget cuts.  I don’t miss those conversations, where business is great, but you still have to make cuts because the higher-ups and shareholders want to pull in more money.  So they make the lower workers work harder.  Then they realize that they can get good results while being ‘lean’, as they call it, then that becomes the new normal.

Now that brings me to the conversation I recently had with collaborators at these two companies.  One told me that funding will be cut in 6 months for the foreseeable future.  The other one said that we’re so far along that we have another year.  But in four months there will be a reduction to just one student plus supplies.  I had always planned for this, and to be honest, industry money was just a way to bring in more funding and work on more applicable projects.  My favorite ones are the projects funded by federal funds.  They’re more barebones science with a huge translational application.  Plus, I can publish freely and there are fewer status updates needed.

I really like working with industry because the money is easy and I get to make real things that will sooner see the patients, but this is really a double-edged sword.  I will have to back off the translational side of things but also lay off a lab tech in six months that has been very good for me.  I essentially have one lab tech for industry work and one for other work.  I won’t have the funds to sustain the industry one and keep a student.  Ultimately, I need to graduate students even though, in all honesty, the tech is a better researcher.  So this budget cut in a wonderfully profitable time will trickle down here, too.  I told the student and he didn’t seem to mind.  He understood how corporate America is like.  Time for me to get lean, too.

2 thoughts on “Live by the sword

  1. Could you put the student on a TA and keep the tech?
    My group has been top-heavy recently (two postdocs and a research scientist) plus a few students. I have funneled all my summer salary into the salaries to keep these senior folks and most students are partially funded by RA and partially by TA. Productive senior people are worth their weight in gold.

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    • I really wish I could because you’re entirely correct about productive senior folks being incredibly valuable. However, the department reserves TA spots for first- and occasionally second-year students because we’re supposed to ensure we can secure enough funding. Favors can be called in for extenuating circumstances, but I’m wary about pushing for a TA-favor at this point because, honestly, I don’t want to appear weak and unable to keep my lab funded. Like so many aspects of my life: insecurities win out….

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