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October 3, 2005
Where Do the Good Ones Go?
Speaking of all these Nobel-worthy chemists brings to mind a conversation I had with one of my colleagues recently. We were talking about all the huge unsolved medical problems out there, and wondering: what sort of talent are we attracting to solve them? How many of the really bright people are working on these things, as compared to all the other opportunities available?
As far as I can tell, most professions ask this question about themselves. The general feeling seems to be that the best people are always going somewhere else (usually said with a quick, worried look around). I know that the American Chemical Society has been beating the warning drum for as long as I've been a member, and I think that the other scientific societies have been doing the same. "Critical Shortage of XYZers Looms" is a perennial headline.
But still, you have to wonder. Math and Comp Sci departments have long figured that they lose a lot of good people to Wall Street and to high-tech startups. Where does the drug industry lose candidates to? You'd have to figure medical school, in some cases. But I think that the sorts of people who would be really, really good at this job would also be just as good in totally different areas. Every profession loses those folks, because there just aren't that many of them around.
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