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I’m not a post-doc, I’m a scientist

August 29, 2011

When filling in official paperwork, whether it be for paying taxes or applying for a credit card, everyone wants to know your occupation.  Even barring the philosophical aspects, I always found this one to be tricky.  What is my occupation?  While I was a graduate student, “student” or even more specifically “grad student” often served – although I suspected that that particular designation was likely to hurt my chances of being approved.  As a post-doc, that designation, while probably still philosophically and sometimes even technically correct – my grandmother gently asks me each spring if I’ll be graduating from my post-doc this year – doesn’t fit.  I’ve met enough people outside of academia to know that the syllables ‘post-doc’ convey the same amount of information as “QA record release specialist” – a lot to a small number of people and nothing to everyone else.  So I started filling in that box with ‘scientist’ and moved on.  A graduate student in the lab recently bought a new car with her spouse who is a new post-doc.  On the financing application, under occupation, she wrote in “student” and he described himself as a “scientist”.  She found this shocking.  I did not.  They got the loan.

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