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Careers

Time to degree

July 31, 2006 | APPEARED IN VOLUME 84, ISSUE 31

As a recent octogenarian, I am appalled at the extended time between the baccalaureate degree and a final Ph.D. in the physical sciences (C&EN, April 3, page 28). In the 1930s, '40s, and '50s, the usual time varied between a minimum of three years and a maximum of five years, unless one had the misfortune to have as a mentor a professor who valued the graduate student's work so highly and the student's career so little that he kept the individual working for the almost unheard-of seven years.

For a genius such as Robert B. Woodward, the dwell time between the B.S. and the Ph.D. was only one year. He graduated shy of his 20th birthday. But it was not uncommon for scientists to receive their Ph.D.s at age 24. Unfortunately, with a relatively difficult job market at the present time, the delay in receiving the degree translates into a shorter working career and a less comfortable retirement.

Nelson Marans
Silver Spring, Md.

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