How did he do a PhD at 47 and become a professor five years later?

2022-05-04 0 By

At the age of 47, Roger Tipton’s decision to switch to academia, complete his PhD in five years, take classes with people 20 years his junior, and do experimental research between work and his children was probably the best way to break out of his midlife crisis.Recently, in the Nature Careers column, Roger Tipton shared his experience.He is about to fulfill his academic dream by becoming a professor at the University of South Florida.The following is a description by Roger Tipton.In January 2017, after another protracted day at the office, I complained to my wife again about my lack of professional fulfillment and my desire to work in academia to run my own lab.At that time, I was working as an executive in a technology company called Unbounded Labs in Tampa, Florida.Previously, I held engineering and management positions at Companies such as Rubbermaid in Wadsworth, Ohio, and Little Tikes in Hudson.None of these jobs are bad, but I’ve always wanted to do research, add something important to the world, and teach the next generation how to do it.My wife helped me get my bearings that day when she said, “You’ll be 50 in a few years. Do you want to be an academic when you’re 50, or do you want to complain about not being a professor?”Her words gave me a great push.Later, I called my local university of South Florida to see if they could accept me as a part-time graduate student.To my surprise, they told me I should sign up for some courses right away.Roger Tipton became the oldest student in the room so I talked to my boss about being judged by performance rather than time spent in the office.The boss finally agreed to flexible working hours while maintaining his current responsibilities.I think my company sees value in a leader who is passionate about self-improvement and will bring stability to the organization over the next five years.The day I entered my first graduate class in 2017, I arrived early, feeling old and out of place among students 20 years my junior. I sat in the back hoping not to be noticed.A few minutes later, two students sat down next to me and pulled me to chat. I felt very comfortable.Suddenly, I felt like a member of the class.We spent two years together and they graduated in 2018.It wasn’t until three years later, at age 51, that I finally graduated with a PhD in chemical, biological and materials engineering.It was the best experience of my life and one of the hardest things I’ve ever done.Most graduate programs are designed for students who have few external commitments and can spend most of their time in a classroom or laboratory.By contrast, middle-aged students with mortgages, partners, children (I have two boys, aged 11 and 13) and perhaps a full-time job have less time to spend at university.My day usually starts with lab research from 7-9am and returns to work after 9am until 2pm.Twice a week, IN the middle of work, I have to go to class for an hour or more and then go back to work.After work I would go home and stay with the kids until 9pm when they went to bed, and then I would study until 11pm.Also, two days a week, I would be in the lab from morning until 4:30 p.m. to teach an advanced chemical engineering course.I actually worked 12 hours a day during the week and 6 hours a day on weekends, switching back and forth between outside work and school work.I thanked my wife Rachel for all her support during this time, taking the kids to sports while I wrote my thesis, and doing all the meals while I did my lab research.But I definitely don’t recommend working such long hours a week. My productivity and mental state have suffered during this time, and perhaps better time management skills would have made me more productive.In the years that followed, I delegated more work to the team, saving a lot of time and effort that I should have done sooner.Even so, my time in the lab was relatively limited, which was a source of friction with my supervisor.I usually do my research work early in the morning and late at night, and finish my analysis while the kids are asleep, which gets me a lot of work done.I recommend discussing and agreeing lab schedules with your supervisor at the beginning of your graduate study.It was entirely possible to switch careers in midlife and enter academia. The school charged $65,500 for five years, which was a struggle for me.My advisor suggested that I apply for a NASA fellowship to study fiber interconnection and 3D printing in order to pay for my tuition.In addition, the teaching assistant salary relieved most of the rest of my tuition pressure, but I still had to pay thousands of dollars myself.I suggest that, for a PhD, look for a programme that will provide you with an immediate stipend, while also working towards scholarships and funding.I am often told that at this age it is impossible to get a job at a leading academic institution, and that universities need young researchers who will be productive for decades to come.But here, I am proud to say that I will be taking up a professorship at the University of South Florida starting In January 2022.My experience proves that it is possible to get a PhD in middle age and still work in academia.In the future, I can also work as a paid consultant for my current company to help it develop better.I’m so happy. I waited 20 years to do this, but I made it. I’m so excited about my new life.I do research at the university where I live and my family is happy that I don’t have to move.In December 2021, I tried on my graduation gown for the first time in the company of my family, everyone excited and proud of what I had accomplished.I think I set a good example for my two sons that anything is possible, no matter how old they are.Resources: https://www.nature.com/articles/d41586-022-00113-7 source: science network