What’s about academia?

It has been many years now since I started to think about the reasons we are so fan (or crazy) about academia. What are we so passionate about? Why do we work so much to succeed? Why sometimes our personal life is totally mixed up to the professional one and even sometimes not our priority?

I love my job, I really do. I love working hours trying to write down ideas and improve texts. I love thinking about my data and how answering my scientific questions. I can see myself, so many times, stuck in my thought because of a script or a text. And when I am in what I call my « bubble », it’s really hard to get me out of it.  All successful researchers I met work hard, from teaching, to developing new projects, supervising, and so on. They work during evenings and week ends, even during holidays (if they take some!). But why? Why do we do that? What is academia so attractive?  Even though we know how complicated it is to get a permanent position, to get funding, why do we still continue to work as hell?

After many years thinking about it, and talking about that with co-workers, I finally started to get some answers.

First, in my own personal case, I want to do a job that I love! I believe this comes from by the fact that I know how you feel when you hate your job. When you do not want to get up in the morning to go working, and you just wait for the week-ends or the holidays. I now have a job I enjoy so much, that I work all the time. And when I can’t, I miss it. I even consider fieldwork as my holidays. Many people hate when I say that, because yes, fieldwork is a lot of work, but I do not see my job as a job anymore. It is a way of living. It is a passion and now that I found my happy place, I do not want to do anything else. It brings me good and bad times, but that’s also what life is! It struck me last summer, during fieldwork. Once again, I met amazing people, devoting a huge part of their life for their research and, surrounding by all of them… I felt home. I really did. And that’s a feeling I want to keep!

Second, a colleague once told me we are like artists. And I strongly believe he is right. We spend hours thinking about how to do our research in the best way as possible. We draw, write, map, and work to make things as clear as possible so that people can see what we see. Isn’ it kind of what an artist does too?

I have now the answer for my own case, and it took me some times but I am in peace with this way of living, with the bad and the good. But what about all the other PhDs student and researchers working as much as I do? If by any change you read this article and want to talk about it, make comments on this post. I am quite sure I am not the only one thinking about that.

Happy researcher life!


6 réflexions sur “What’s about academia?

  1. Dr. Nina Dehnhard dit :

    Nice analysis and nice blog post! I can relate to a lot of your experiences. I see it as a huge privilege to work in a job that I love – and to be able to choose (funding-permitting) my research-topics. Also, you do indeed meet a lot of nice people in academia & during fieldwork and get to experience some amazing wildlife (if you are in the right field).
    The workload is just one thing in academia, though – to me the uncertainties particularly during the post-doc stage (« Where and on what subject am I working in one/two/ three years? Will I ever find a permanent position? ») were more challenging than the working hours


      • Matt Grainger dit :

        Remember that we are the « survivors » and that many of our cohort have fallen out of the process and gone on to do other jobs (that they love and where they feel valued). Survivor bias is something we in academic pursuits need to be aware of. Being a researcher has so many negative aspects to it, but for me those negatives and sacrifices are worth the feeling that I can make a difference in the world (a very small difference and I am not sure that I have or will ever do that).
        I think we might be endowed with the super-power of stubbornness. Despite all the negatives (uncertainty, poor pay, neglecting loved ones, etc.) we still fight against a system that is “designed” to get rid of us (no matter how good we are at our job – that doesn’t seem to make much difference in my experience). Is it healthy – no; can I stop – no. Maybe it is more like addiction?


  2. franckcourchamp dit :

    Céline, I loved your post! It is so refreshing to read something like that, when all I seem to see on the Internet these years is negative feelings from young researchers.
    I don’t really know where this passion comes from and which reasons are stronger, but I do know that the challenge is something very addictive to me. And research in academia is really challenging 🙂
    Freedom is also very important, and it is very present in academia, at least in France and in the CNRS (not quite sure about outside my own experience)


    • ceceitromso dit :

      Thanks Franck. You know your opinion means a lot to me.
      And beside the passion, I guess I also have been really lucky because since my first experience in Academia, I have always been surrounded by amazing people : you, Elsa, Céline, Corey, and the rest of the team, but also all of the people before and all of the people I am working with now. I guess it also helps a lot having such feeling about Academia. And yes, I think challenge is also a big part of this. Bigger the challenge is, better it is!


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