Tuesday, November 11, 2008

Academic Identities and the Real World

This may seem really minor or silly to some of you. But I have a problem. And judging by the most recent PhD Comics, I'm not the only academic with this problem.

copyright Jorge Cham, PhD Comics

In many ways it's worse for me than others. What I do is pretty interdisciplinary and also pretty obscure and overall just defies simple explanation. I can't just say I'm a biologist or a historian. While the average person (including myself) has no real idea what it is that a biologist or historian does on a daily basis, at least we are able to conjure up an image, an identity for these fields. My field doesn't even have a name that ends in an "ist!"

It's the eternal cocktail party dilemma. Is it enough to say I work at a university? I'm not a professor yet and nobody (and I mean nobody) knows what a "post-doc" is. Sometimes I say I do "research." I know it's a major cop-out but it's the best I can do.

Plus there's the very real issue identified in this comic. Few people really ever understand what any other academic is doing. If you were totally understood then I'd worry about your job security.

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Blogger Troy Camplin said...

Try me:

B.A. in Recombinant Gene Technology
M.A. in English
Ph.D. in the Humanities.
Dissertation: Evolutionary Aesthetics.
I have written a paper on the application of game theory to literature and presented conference papers on "Hubris, the Virtuous Vice", which deals with ethics and tragic literature, and on spontaneous orders as environments, comparing and contrasting them to emergent dynamic systems. My book coming out next year: "Diaphysics" -- a work of systems philosophy.

As a result, I was told that I was "overqualified" for an English position at a university. Another potential employeer told me "I don't know how to classify you." He said he didn't know what to do with an interdisciplinarian.

12:10 PM  
Blogger Patrick said...

I identify you as a {your field} Researcher at XYZ University -- if you must have a label.

2:12 PM  

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