Is the industry tapping into the full potential of PhD expertise?


While the industry keeps pointing out to the lack of qualified talent, we continue to see various analysts pointing out the exact reverse – there’s a surplus of scientists. As the debate rages on, PhDs and postdocs seem to be taking the bearing the brunt since a very small percentage of them end up getting plum positions in academia. Some are lucky enough to get good jobs in the industry, whereas others end up toiling as a low-paid lab hand (read as postdocs). The graph below illustrates this point quite well.

Postdoc salaries


Businesses remain skeptical about the availability of suitable PhD expertise for the industry. However, the industry is probably losing out on brilliant PhD expertise that can change things drastically in the way businesses are conducted. Time is ripe for a mindset change, and this can be brought about quickly by bright PhDs and postdocs.

An example might help in making my point a bit clearer. You’ve always believed that every time an application on your smartphone tries to access your location, you’re alerted and the feature is enabled only once you give an explicit go ahead. We’re quite cautious about our privacy and turn off this feature on most occasions. However, Yan Michalevsky and a few of his pals at Stanford University in California have now proved that we actually carry the technology to be tracked right in our pockets. It turns out that a smartphone’s power usage depends largely on the distance from the nearest base station.

Yan et al. have proved that malicious software can determine the position of a smartphone simply by measuring the way it uses the power. It’s amazing how a different angle introduced by a few bright PhD experts can change your perspective around privacy. It’s time for the industry to sit up and take notice. Are the powers-that-be at Android and iOS listening?

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Minhaj manages operations at Kolabtree

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