Search Menu
Photonics Media Photonics Buyers' Guide Photonics EDU Photonics Spectra BioPhotonics EuroPhotonics Industrial Photonics Photonics Showcase Photonics ProdSpec Photonics Handbook
More News
Email Facebook Twitter Google+ LinkedIn Comments

Well-Educated Americans Need Not Apply
Nov 2008
Nov. 11, 2008 — No doubt you've heard about Douglas Prasher, who was the first person to isolate the gene for green fluorescent protein, GFP. His grant funding ran out, and he gave away his work to Martin Chalfie and Roger Tsien, who both won this year's Nobel Prize in Chemistry for their work on GFP. Now Prasher drives a courtesy shuttle for a Toyota dealership in Alabama for 10 measly bucks an hour.

Unfortunately, tragedies like Prasher's happen commonly in science. Although collaboration around the world is a hallmark of science, in many cases, foreign labor is being hired and business is being offshored simply because it's cheaper, resulting in the exclusion of talented Americans from the workforce. This system hurts our friends overseas as much as it hurts Americans here.

This problem goes beyond science to American businesses in general. What happens is that greedy executives make money on the backs of workers. According to the Institute for Policy Studies, CEO pay is now 344 times that of the American worker and two-thirds of American corporations avoided paying taxes from 1998 to 2005. But there is good news. I believe that the new presidential administration and Congress will fix this problem.

I have heard more and more people speaking about this issue, and I read of a study that showed that America is producing more PhDs than actually get hired. However, one thing that political candidates still push is math and science education. I agree with them, education is great and we need a scientifically literate populace, but Americans need jobs waiting for them in math and science when they come out of school.

The heads of businesses, like Bill Gates when he was still with Microsoft, consistently have said that America lacks talented scientists and engineers. But the reality is that America lacks cheap scientists and engineers. Businesses need to hire American scientists and pay them appropriately.

No PhD, No Nobel

Another problem with the Prasher picture is that the Nobel Prize is the most prestigious prize known to the public and to scientists, but only three people can be awarded, so important contributors are bound to get left out.

When Raymond Damadian was denied a share of the 2003 Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine for the invention of MRI, a group calling itself The Friends of Raymond Damadian took out full-page ads in the New York Times and other newspapers decrying, "The Shameful Wrong That Must Be Righted." Damadian was denied the prize possibly because he already is wealthy without the prize money, because he has an MD and not a PhD and because of his Creationist beliefs. But I believe that he was denied the prize for a logical reason, because his original design is not the one used in modern MRI scanners.

Although James Watson, Francis Crick and Maurice Wilkins won the Nobel Prize for the discovery of the structure of DNA, many people have pointed out that they made the discovery based on the work of Rosalind Franklin. Many people also believe that Franklin's work was obtained unethically, but the point is moot. Franklin died before the prize was awarded, and the prize cannot be given posthumously.

My grad-school roommate from India pointed out that the majority of the awards go to Americans and Europeans. He argued that Satyendra Nath Bose should have won a Nobel Prize. Indeed Bose contributed greatly to physics and even ended up with three things named after him: Bose-Einstein statistics, the Bose-Einstein condensate and the boson particle. And although other physicists have been awarded the Nobel Prize for research on those very three topics, Bose was not himself awarded. In addition to being from India during the British occupation, Bose lacked the all-important PhD degree.

One problem with the Nobel awards is that professors and scientists in management roles in industry receive awards, but not their employees who execute the work or those who lack the appropriate credentials. It is silly that you can be a genius and discover something great, but you must have a PhD and be in a management role in order to win a Nobel in the sciences.


The technology of generating and harnessing light and other forms of radiant energy whose quantum unit is the photon. The science includes light emission, transmission, deflection, amplification and detection by optical components and instruments, lasers and other light sources, fiber optics, electro-optical instrumentation, related hardware and electronics, and sophisticated systems. The range of applications of photonics extends from energy generation to detection to communications and...
Terms & Conditions Privacy Policy About Us Contact Us
back to top

Facebook Twitter Instagram LinkedIn YouTube RSS
©2016 Photonics Media
x We deliver – right to your inbox. Subscribe FREE to our newsletters.