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Academia withdrawal

  1. Dec 13, 2016 #1
    So after being in school for 6+ years for math (from age 33 to 40, undergrad to grad) I am back in the workforce. I still have to pass a qualifier, (for master's) but it was easier to study for it when I was not in school with the TA+class load+ baby. (and I didn't really need any more classes.) The job is temporary, not too hard, and allows me to study when there is downtime.

    I think I have turned into some kind of elitist. I can't seem to relate to my coworkers. They get offended if I correct them rather than say "Well I suppose you are right about point x but I disagree on point y for the following reasons." If I tell them something factual they don't like they just say "that's not true" despite the fact that if I say something I can provide the data to back it up. (I suspect they wouldn't believe it.) They don't know how to reason. THEY DON'T THINK MATH IS COOL.


    Has anybody else experienced this?

    I think I'm going to be spending a lot more time on physics forums. I need you people. Help.

    -Dave K
  2. jcsd
  3. Dec 13, 2016 #2
    Yea, I've experienced that. I've worked in many places in many different types of work. most of it menial. One nickname I often get is 'professor'. Sooner or later a situation becomes a shootout at noon. ie someone is determined to take me down by hook or by crook. Because I'm not interested in that I find in my dotage that doing is better than telling. As a result I often find people are nicely interested in what I do. I get a chance to explain it. Even so, one of my latest projects, a cinva ram variant, led to one guy insisting I was building a bomb. He was joking of course but I think it's his way of coping with not being the center of attention for the moment. I wouldn't worry too much. In time reality asserts itself.
  4. Dec 13, 2016 #3


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    I find that how they react to your corrections depends on how much you help them and they need you and you don't mention how much you have to help them.

    Don't worry, word will spread that you are the "source".
  5. Dec 13, 2016 #4

    Fervent Freyja

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    Don't let their attitudes get to you. I wish I would have gotten more exposure to mathematics in childhood- smart people should envy your abilities. :smile: Be who you are, else it will disrupt your mental flow.
    Last edited by a moderator: Dec 13, 2016
  6. Dec 13, 2016 #5


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    Unfortunately, a large number of people are in the mode of believing what they want to believe instead of relying on facts. As witness the recent US election.....
  7. Dec 14, 2016 #6


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    That's a very blatant example, but I can assure you the problem is not limited to US.
  8. Dec 14, 2016 #7
    Don't get me started.
  9. Dec 14, 2016 #8
    Unfortunately I think I have to just try to stop socializing and stick to work. The trouble is it is often slow and there isn't much to do and so things get chatty.

    My hope is to get off the contract and a permanent position, in which case I'd be moved to where the geeky people are.
  10. Dec 14, 2016 #9


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    Don't keep your hopes too high.
  11. Dec 14, 2016 #10
    It is a hope based on real data with a nonzero probability of being true. The problem is I'm not sure I can wait long enough for it to happen.
  12. Dec 14, 2016 #11


    Staff: Mentor

    While this won't help your current situation, it me of Flowers for Algernon and the Charly movie:

    Its a story of a guy who gains massive intelligence and his coworkers can't deal with it.

    From my long experience, I've found that you meet many kinds of people in a work environment and its beneficial to learn to accept who they are and develop strategies to handle each kind.

    In my early years, I ran into a couple of perfectionists who would markup my internal design documents, my user guides or go to great length to criticize the code I wrote while their code was more closely guarded. Eventually, they moved on to better things and I moved on to better things and away from them.

    One time I had a single personal copy of a document I had written on some software I had developed and made the mistake of loaning it to a coworker who was a former English teacher. She needed it to learn how to use the software for some other internal project. It came back marked up in red pencil even though I had explicitly said its my only copy please return it intact when you're done.

    The real dangers that lurk in working environments are coworkers who quietly criticize your work to your manager but not to you. Managers have hidden biases and sometimes these criticisms get taken at face value often to your detriment.


    In order to best handle this situation, its important to always have open communication with your manager appraising him of your work and where you stand. Sometimes this is made more difficult when working remotely. Without face to face and one on one manager meetings, other coworkers have a decided edge in influencing your manager again to your detriment. So always strive to have a local manager or better yet be your own boss.

    Lastly learn to be discrete in your corrections and criticisms, choose your battles carefully, work with the team and always plan to move on to better things.
  13. Dec 14, 2016 #12
    Fortunately the people I get along best with are the bosses, and people higher up. I just don't see them often. I am actually usually relieved to see them. It brightens my day because I feel like I can finally have an intelligent conversation (again, I know I'm being elitist and not a little mean).

    -Dave K
  14. Dec 14, 2016 #13


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    Sucks to be you.
  15. Dec 14, 2016 #14
    On the contrary, it's awesome to be me.
  16. Dec 14, 2016 #15

    Stephen Tashi

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    Geeky people aren't anymore likely to agree about a random opinion than other people. The distinction will be in the style of how the disagreements are conducted.

    In most real life situations (in my experience) there are not enough facts to make well posed mathematical problem, so the application or non-application of mathematics and pure logic isn't crucial. It is irritating to hear someone offer an invalid mathematical or logical argument in support of viewpoint. However, I can't say that it such invalid arguments necessarily lead to wrong decisions since most decisions have a large subjective component about them.

    Correcting imprecision in mathematical statements is a popular sport in academica, but not appreciated in the work-a-day world.
  17. Dec 14, 2016 #16
    I'm not sure if I made it sound that I was offering random opinions. I mean that I just happen to reason more precisely about normal work stuff, or stuff that comes up in conversation. It's not math, but it is logic.

    It's a technical job so management is expecting to see detailed and accurate work. Unfortunately my coworkers don't see the point, and my team lead is about to retire and doesn't care.

    Also, just from a personal perspective, I miss having intelligent conversation. I think hearing about X quantities of beer such and such drank and the strip club across the street. I'm posting like mad to PF right now as an outlet.

    -Dave K
  18. Dec 14, 2016 #17


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    I do not usually visit strip clubs, but it is my understanding that sometimes they employ college students. Perhaps there is a possibility for intelligent conversation after all?
  19. Dec 14, 2016 #18
    I can't get my legs around the pole though.
  20. Dec 14, 2016 #19
    Seriously though. I may be making it sound worse than it is. It's actually a great job and they are good people. But I needed to vent. I am going to be contributing a lot more around here I think though. (Hopefully in a good way).
  21. Dec 14, 2016 #20


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    May you be continually annoyed. :oldbiggrin:
  22. Dec 15, 2016 #21


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    Be careful about how you respond to people being wrong. Some will not be swayed by any facts or argument. If it won't make too much of a difference just let it go. Pick your battles wisely.

    This can end you up in a difficult position. If you are called on often to contribute you will be wrong on a regular basis (unless you are perfect). Some people see being wrong once as being wrong always. They want your input but often dismiss you based on their preconceptions of what the answer should be and the fact you were wrong that one time.

    Get used to it. The more you are "the guy that gets asked all of the questions" you will become the "guy that is always wrong".

  23. Dec 15, 2016 #22


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    Yes, I've seen that... :oldgrumpy:
  24. Dec 15, 2016 #23


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    To the OP: Now that you have concluded your master degree, would it be an option to continue for a doctorate? Among other things, it could remedy the withdrawl symptoms, for now as well as the future. (I am aware of your age.) In my country the route bachelor's ##\rightarrow## master's ##\rightarrow## doctorate is quite common.
  25. Dec 15, 2016 #24
    This maybe slightly off-topic,but...well, maybe not off topic but maybe more inverse topic, if that makes sense. I actually got my bachelors in biology in 1995 and was out of the game for 20 years running my own business in the "private sector." Now, I'm back in a university as a graduate student in the computer science department working under a DARPA grant doing artificial intelligence stuff. The problem is that my background is in psychology/cognitive science, and I'm competing with all these coding wizards from India in 500-600 level computer science classes. This isn't my forte. So it is a bit distressing.

    The analogy I came up with (I'm big on analogies), is, imagine this.. You are a concert violinist. That's your passion and you're good at it. You love it. You play the violin all day because you love it. Now, somebody says, OK, you love the violin so we're going to admit you to the Berklee college of music and set you up with your hero, the premier violinist and violin instructor in the world. What a dream come true. The only problem is, in order to live this dream, well, you have to get an MD in gastroenterology at the same time.. What?!

    Yep, that's the deal, unfortunately. So, in order to keep my job and keep my dream going of building autonomously thinking robots, I have to somehow become a wiz kid again at computers. But I'm 49 years old and I don't really care much about coding. And I'm competing on a grading curve with 24 year olds who love to code and have ambitions to be programmers.

    So, I don't know. I think I'm basically f%$&#-ed. It was a fun first semester, though :oldsmile:
  26. Dec 15, 2016 #25
    It's an option, but not for right now. As I told someone in another thread, when you are a not-so-bright student, you have to work harder than most people to get similar results. That is to say, I could do it but the sacrifices now aren't worth it. I also have a baby at home who is very high need (born 3 months premature) and a wife who can't work (complications from the birth).

    So I needed to put on my grown-up pants and get a job. That is not as grim as it sounds. I *was* getting a bit tired of being a student and missed working. I missed vacations, camping, being able to enjoy holidays, and all those things you really can't do as a grad student. So "the grass is always greener" as they say.

    Off topic: I am looking into a certificate and possibly masters in biostats/epidemiology which I can do online. But qualifier first.

    -Dave K
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