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Happiness vs. money.

  1. Oct 16, 2008 #1
    So, I'm at an interesting crossroads I hadn't quite expected. I'm about three months into graduate school in chemistry, I've finished two month long rotations with two professors (I have a third rotation to do, then need to select who I'll be working with for the duration of my time at graduate school).

    My first rotation was with an organometallic chemist. Most of what I did was "grunt" work, but lab work nonetheless; column chromatography, synthesis, a little UV-Vis, and potentially NMR work if I'd been there a bit longer.

    My second rotation is with a computational chemist. All of what I've done there is run calculations. I spend my entire time at a computer, and that's the entire prospect of what I'd be doing in a career as a computational chemist. I fear I'd go stir crazy if I was stuck doing that. I just like being in the lab, and working as an experimentalist, rather than working as something closer to a theoretician in computational chemistry.

    But at the same time, there's a lot of money in computational chemistry. The professor I've been working for sent me an e-mail earlier today detailing the fellowship I'd have if I worked with him.

    Chemistry graduate students at my school normally are paid ~$13,000/year, which I could live on (bachelor, and all that). I got lucky enough to get on a GAAN fellowship, which pays ~$22,000/year plus $7,000 research/travel stipend, but may run out after this year (well, it will run out, it's a question of whether or not the school will be able to renew it so I can get it again). If I were to go to work for the computational chemist, he has a graduate fellowship reserved that I'd get on that pays $32,400/year, along with a hefty stipend, and is guaranteed for up to 4 years.

    So it's become a question of money vs. happiness. I find I'm happier working in a regular chemistry lab, even if it's doing "grunt" work like synthesizing a compound then sending it down a chromatography column to separate, then TLCing and NMRing the results. But on the other hand, computational chemistry is a big field and growing, and the pay off would be immediate and continuous.

    So, for those of you with experience in grad school, do you have an advice?
  2. jcsd
  3. Oct 16, 2008 #2
    Figure that whatever you decide to pursue, you'll be doing similar things for the next 20-30 years or so.

    If you feel a little stir crazy after a two month rotation...
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