So, in a bit more than 1 year, I will have my PhD. I have been doing well, I will probably with 4 papers published by the end of it. However, I have been feeling a bit empty. I feel like I started doing research because I thought I could make some difference but I'm feeling less and less that isn't going to happen.

So, I don't know what to do. Obviously, I could do a pos-doc, but I'm a bit afraid of the feeling staying there. I was considering other career options, but I don't really know what to do. One thing that I like is computers and I wouldn't mind working for cybersecurity, particularly associated with cybercrime. The problem is that I have limited knowledge. I do know that some people start working for software companies with PhDs in unrelated fields, like physics. Is it the same possible with a PhD in theoretical biology? I deal with maths and programming a lot, but can I expect that people will want me for that kind of position and offering me some basic training?

In general, are there any other career options for theoretical biologists besides academia?

  • What exactly is theoretical biology? I know theoretical ecology but not biology? – Herman Toothrot Jan 9 '18 at 14:21
  • Right, I should have been more specific. My field is theoretical evolutionary biology. – train sleeper Jan 9 '18 at 14:32
  • I think it would be also useful to list the kind of tools, software, methodology that you have learned. Bioinformatics might be a venue. – Herman Toothrot Jan 9 '18 at 15:00
  • I have a BE, MS, and a PhD in CS. Personally, I wouldn't mess with cyber because it is so far out of my expertise that it would take a good 3-5 years to catch up. I do have some friends in the field, and it takes considerable knowledge of networks, OS, architecture.... it is a hardcore field, not something you can do on a whim. – Fábio Dias Jan 9 '18 at 15:41

One thing that I like is computers and I wouldn't mind working for cybersecurity, particularly associated with cybercrime.

Companies hire you because of what you know, not because of your degree. Of course, your degree indicates strongly about what you know. For whatever kind of job you want to apply, go through their requirements. If you see you are competent in all they want, then go ahead and apply.

Perhaps you already heard all the noise about spectre and meltdown this couple of days. In case you don't, here is the link.

Long story short: that's an attack that exploits an optimization of the processor. That's kind of deep system knowledge is required if you want to work on security.

My field is theoretical evolutionary biology

What is evolutionary biology? how it is related to evolutionary algorithm, or more precisely genetic algorithm. I'm asking because genetic algorithm is extremely successful in security (and software engineering). Google has a tool called American Fuzzy Lop (open source), which discovered hundreds of exploitable security bugs. It is also widely used in DARPA Cyber Grand Challenge.

I hope you can find something interesting from there.


I'll answer from my perspective as a former publisher. You can consider publishing as a career - it's a field which much of the grunt work doesn't take much training (I know an English literature graduate who can't read calculus symbols but handles engineering journals), however there are a few high-level positions that can make use of a PhD. Things you might be doing:

  1. Approaching potential authors, either by email or in person, about possible collaborations. This could involve writing books, writing reviews, editing review volumes, and so on. This aspect is likely to be the bulk of the work.
  2. Handling any queries from the "grunts". These can be virtually anything related to publishing. For example, I remember one question I had about an accepted paper. During copyediting, I noticed that there were a chart with four points that looked like a diamond <>. The authors had drawn a horizontal line across the data. This troubled me since there were only four data points. I raised it with the editorial consultant, who said that strictly speaking the authors could also have drawn a vertical line across the data! He further said that this kind of issue should've been caught by the reviewer, but since we've already accepted the paper, it's too late to reject it, although we should ask the authors to further elaborate on this.
  3. Handle book proposals. It's not just evaluating whether a book is worth publishing based on the author's CV and reviews. For example, a proposal could be fine but only come to ~100 pages, which is too thin for the marketing department to sell. You could be asked to brainstorm for more topics the author can write about.
  4. Attending a conference to promote the publisher's products. You'll be expected to network, sell some books, find potential authors - that kind of thing.

If you're still interested in theoretical biology, then publishing is ideal in the sense that you're paid to keep up-to-date with the latest developments. If you're interested in publishing at PhD level then the best resource I know is Naturejobs. Search for a word like 'editor'. Good luck!


Might I suggest you look at the idea of becoming a patent attorney? It would afford you the ability to use your current level of knowledge on your subject and also learn new things everyday.

This website has articles on careers in intellectual property (IP) and related job postings.

  • 1
    Are you associated with IP careers? If you are, you need to say so. – Azor Ahai Jan 9 '18 at 22:31
  • Nope. I just am a Trainee Patent Attorney who went through the same thing as OP and found my job on that website. – Joel David Briscoe Jan 10 '18 at 9:57
  • +1, because the point that the OP might consider a career in intellectual property law seems to be consistent with what they were looking for. Edited the above answer to be more consistent with SE standards. – Nat Jan 10 '18 at 15:29
  • not intellectual property law - there is a difference (one is a lawyer who does IP law the other is a scientist by trade and learns a niche part of the law) we're not lawyers as we don't do a law degree. Im a physicist by trade - Did my PhD and couldn't find something that suited me. I wanted to learn new things daily but wanted to use my PhD knowledge too. You have to have a STEM degree to sit the patent attorney exams and I'm surrounded by like minded people and learn new things every day. I sympathise with OP but I'm not going to force it on them - they can decide what's right for them – Joel David Briscoe Jan 11 '18 at 10:14

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