Climate change and mass extinctions are happening, so in my private life, I try to be as sustainable as possible. For example, I eat almost exclusively organic vegetarian food, I have no car, buy most stuff used, have a renewable energy contract and avoid flying (especially intercontinentally).

But when I look at my professional life, it is a different story: I am doing my PhD at an institute, working on a side branch of microelectronics. Our institute reportedly uses the amount of electricity in a year that is comparable to a city of 25,000 people. While certainly a lot of what we are developing might end up being useful, other developments aren't leaving the prototype stage once a project is finished. We produce a huge amount of electronic waste on the way to success and other not very sustainable stuff is happening along the way, too.

My dilemma is that I really enjoy working there. I love my colleagues, my supervisor is great, the work is challenging, but extremely interesting. I have a lot of freedom and support, and a good career outlook. And: I am really good at what I do. I published papers and I built a great network.

But on the other hand, I really question the need to integrate electronics everywhere. I cannot really stand behind a lot of what I/we do and the unsustainable practices in our industry. To make matters worse, we even sometimes work on projects for the military — which goes totally against my political beliefs — but the projects themselves are interesting and fun to research.

I am really torn between what my personal beliefs are and what I do at my work / during my research. I try to convince myself that what I do is ok because it is better to have critical people working on a topic, that aren't afraid to question the necessity of new developments, than just the ones who blindly think everything is great. But this sometimes feels like I am gaslighting myself into thinking that what I do is great, even though I know in my heart that it is (kind of) wrong.

What are strategies to deal with this, apart from changing careers (because that train has kind of left the station)?

EDIT: Thank you for your insightful and thought provoking answers. I cannot choose the one answer that is better than the rest, as many of the answers contain important aspects.

  • 16
    If you were to quit, they would keep doing what they are doing, only without you. If however you are part of the institute, you may be able to make some changes "from the inside" to encourage more sustainable research practices.
    – Louic
    May 28, 2021 at 18:29
  • 4
    I used to work as a CNC machinist. I loved the work itself—and the pay. Unfortunately, I soon learned that, at least in my area, it's practically impossible to find military-free machining work. I do miss machining, but I can report that in my personal experience, I'm far happier, overall, with having left to do other things. Just my two cents. May 28, 2021 at 23:10
  • 7
    Not enough reputation to answer, so just a comment: Stand for your beliefs both personally and professionally: On your professional hill, where you're king, bring sustainability into the equation: don't just execute what you're asked to do / need to do, but think about lower energy consumption / higher energy generation efficiency / ... and as you grow, your hill will become bigger and then ensure you open the mind of everyone working for you and keep on standing for your values your entire life (and thus change the world you can change) ¯\_(ツ)_/¯
    – Fabby
    May 28, 2021 at 23:10
  • 6
    How many people are at your university? If you have a few thousand students who are there most of the year, I feel like using only three or four times as much electricity as the average consumer in order to push forward basic scientific knowledge (and ultimately benefit sentient beings both in terms of sustainability and other areas) is actually potentially really good
    – Obie 2.0
    May 29, 2021 at 4:42
  • 3
    @Obie2.0 Good luck trying to do experimental work in particle physics, for example, with only "three or four times as much electricity as the average consumer". Of course if you think all experimental work in particle physics should be abandoned for that reason, you are entitled to your opinion.
    – alephzero
    May 29, 2021 at 17:42

13 Answers 13


The fact that some projects lead nowhere is natural to research. That is not "wastage", it's investment. If something works, it can be scaled up and benefit humankind. You can try and concentrate on projects where, if successful, it will save energy, optimize water, etc.

I suggest it is legitimate to waste material and energy to develop these to viable directions, because it will save orders of magnitude more than you waste now. So, I do not necessarily see a contradiction in finding good topics that correlate with your lifestyle/philosophy.

As for defense research, that's quite a different matter. If you really do not believe in defense work, there is no way you can justify to yourself to do it. To take the advocatus diaboli: some people may say that it is in the nature of things that there are less than friendly actors around in the world; neutral and even friendly relations can sour to a point where it is essential to have the country you generally agree to live in the military option at least in the hope that its use will not be necessary.

But if you are strictly opposed to this, either as fundamental principle of non-violence, or because you believe that with all lofty aspirations, the military-industrial complex and/or the political echelon has too many ulterior motives, then I do not see a possibility to reconcile your private beliefs with defense-related work.

The argument of people effectively supporting an activity they fundamentally disagree with by offering a "critical" perspective is not something you can easily get away with, unless you live in a dictatorship and have no reasonably good other choices. And there, being "critical" means being subversive.

To use a similar picture: If you like the taste of steaks and want to protect animals, there is a contradiction; unfortunately, that means that the best you can do at this point are vegan steak replacements. The ones I know are so yucky that it's better to identify genuinely vegan food that does not pretend it's something else.

Standing up to principles requires sacrifice - not always, but more often than not.

  • 15
    "That is not "wastage", it's investment." OP might want to consider the timescale of these "investments". A investment which spews out gigatons of CO2 for 100 years for a massive payoff in 1000 years doesn't make much sense if it destroys the biosphere in the process.
    – thosphor
    May 28, 2021 at 12:34
  • 10
    Many projects that are funded by the military eventually migrate to civilian use: the Internet and GPS are notable examples.
    – Barmar
    May 28, 2021 at 14:28
  • 6
    @thosphor We are talking about academia here. The scales of experimental developments are nowhere close to global. You are completely right when an investment is at such a scale where there is a race between development and destruction of the environment (have a look at the fascinating horse manure armageddon of New York). I also would agree that I not buy the argument that every destructive-exploitative development can ultimately be compensated by technological advances. However, I think it is not so much of an issue for an academic environment which is prototypical by design. May 28, 2021 at 15:09
  • 3
    @lucidbrot I am a great believer in change from the inside, but one must know what one is doing. It does not work if you entirely disagree with the goals of the undertaking. Someone in the other threads said it very clearly: this will only grind you down. You must agree with the grand goal, then you might be able to grow through the system and enact change. If you disagree, leave and join competing/alternative initiatives that conform to your grand goals. You will rise faster, and, maybe, at some point, reach a decision-making position. May 28, 2021 at 18:46
  • 5
    I mean, goodness, microelectronics research is even what leads to reducing the power usage of microelectronics.
    – Obie 2.0
    May 29, 2021 at 4:40

Ultimately it is up to you to decide how important your values are compared to liking the work, the colleagues, and the workplace.

Anyway, here are some thoughts. As was mentioned before, it probably gives you a good potential to do good and valuable things according to your values to become a PhD with strong research skills, so one justification for doing what you currently do is to try to get there.

I'd advise you however to think through for yourself as good as you can the potential impact of what you are doing, your role in it, and what would happen if you didn't do that. Obviously you can't know these things for sure, but you can use imagination and all the information that you have. Working on different projects, the outcome may differ and you may decide that some things you're working on are better to justify to yourself than others, so that you can become more "picky" when it comes to what you're working on. In may turn out that you can justify enough to yourself that you can go on working but may drop or decline the odd project. Or it may not - ultimately it's for you to evaluate. (I recently read this book on values in science: https://upittpress.org/books/9780822946267/)

Another thing is communication. Have you talked with colleagues/fellow students about this? Raising consciousness is surely a good thing. You may even find the odd person agreeing with you and you may want to start together something like an initiative for more sustainable microelectronics research, more awareness for these issues etc., aiming for consequences to be drawn at institutional level or at informing the general public better. It is hard to predict how this could affect your work and your relations to colleagues, it depends on what thoughts they have and what kind of people they are, but surely on the bigger scale such things these days are needed, this is generally well known and appreciated, and may actually be well in line with a good career, grant opportunities for sustainable developments and the like. And actually, we also need proper experts making the point, from within the research world, which could be a reason to go on, with open engagement in these matters.

I also add (prompted by a comment) that continuing you may at some point be in a position to influence or set departmental (or even further reaching) policy decisions as compatible with your ethical values.

  • 1
    I think some good points here: something I didn't think about in my answer - perhaps make more clear that in the future of OP's career they may be in position to direct and ultimately set policy by judicious choices of projects they choose to develop themselves in. May 27, 2021 at 15:13
  • @lewian, thank you for the link to the book, i will check it out.
    – Sursula
    May 27, 2021 at 18:05
  • 1
    @Sursula: Also worth investigating could be 80000hours.org. A lot of food for thought and tips/advice there on how to best use your career for good.
    – J W
    May 28, 2021 at 10:04
  • 1
    @JW I find these kind of "countdown" depressing. But thanks for sharin it! I can only give back this countdown (Warning: very depressing): waitbutwhy.com/2015/12/the-tail-end.html
    – EarlGrey
    May 28, 2021 at 12:55
  • 1
    @EarlGrey, I see where you're coming from. Still, if you ignore the "80000 hours" figure, there's plenty there to get one thinking.
    – J W
    May 28, 2021 at 12:59

Another perspective: your current approach to living a life aligned with your goals (goals, that, by the way, I entirely agree with and commend) is to think about your personal behaviour, almost as a sort of "purity". I think you're doing this thoughtfully and in an evidence based manner (for example, focussing of meat consumption and air travel, instead of almost entirely cosmetic actions like bamboo toothbrushes and electric cars), which makes me think that you're doing your research about this.

However, individual actions are ultimately limited in scope: if you went completely off-grid and ate only discarded fruit and wore sackcloth, you might save 10-40 tonne of CO2 a year. That is, objectively, a complete irrelevance. Small changes that propagate beyond yourself are likely to have a much higher cumulative impact than your entire personal carbon footprint.

The other aspect is that if you abandon this academic career, you won't leave an empty footprint: your place will be taken by someone else. So the challenge is: can you, in the academic career you enjoy, make the world better (according to your aims) than if you were replaced by a person who doesn't care about these aims? The answer really depends on whether you put your principles into action. Here I can only speak in general terms, because microelectronics is not remotely my field:

  • Can you identify academic groups or companies that do environmentally sound work and align with your expertise? This could mean (I'm guessing here)
    • Reduce the use of rare metals or other unsustainably sourced materials
    • Improve the lifespan of devices and components to reduce waste
    • Build equipment directly involved in the production of e.g. sustainable energy

Get in contact with them, get ideas about possible joint projects or discuss postdoc/job options. A PhD isn't forever; the next step of your career is much more important to define your trajectory. To give you my personal example, I left my postdoc in a very prestigious neuroscience lab for a data analyst job in a national public healthcare body. My scientific career has not been wasted; in a way, I have "donated" my science expertise to a purpose that is much more aligned with my priorities. Can you find a similar path? It can be outside academia, like in my case, but also within.

  • Can you leverage your position within your institute to bring about positive change? For example
    • Many Universities have active divestment campaigns, some of which have resulted in genuine changes in investment priorities; look for one and get involved
    • There are movements in many disciplines to reduce emissions associated with conference air travel, such as organising virtual and "semi-distributed" conferences (local in-person hubs with remote connections to each others) and supporting alternative modes of travel; now is an incredibly good time to get into this (bonus, this is also great for inclusion given that not all institutes have the budget for intercontinental conference travel)
    • Find other members of your institute who share your concerns and organise with them to identify and create pressure to change some of the most wasteful practices (some may be inevitable, but I'm sure there are things that are done out of habit and convenience that could be addressed)

Others have brought up much more specific examples; my main suggestion here is to link with others and not focus on individual action. Climate collapse is a concern that is shared by the majority of PhD-age people. You don't need to reinvent the wheel, and you can be part of a much bigger wheel than you could ever hope to build yourself.

As per the defense stuff, I'm with Captain Emacs on this - if you disagree with it, then the only route is disengagement. If these are specific, circumscribed topics or projects, I think you are absolutely within your rights to refuse to work on them. It's up to you how outspoken you want to be about this, but if you think you can handle it, I would encourage you not to hide your motivation. Others may share your reservations but fear to go against the groupthink that everything is fun and exciting and consequences are for others to worry about. As another personal example, my institute at one point discussed the possibility of expanding into primate research. I was strongly opposed to this and, once I made my position known, quite a few people who'd said nothing before actually spoke up against the proposal. I have no way of knowing if our opposition made any difference to the decision, but the proposal was nixed.

Feeling conflicted is a good, good thing: it means you have ethical principles, you stick to them, and you recognise when you're not abiding by them. However, just experiencing this tension does not "absolve" you and, crucially, won't make you feel better about yourself. The way to address it is action. You have identified one action - disengagement. This solves the problem for you but actually makes little difference to the things you care about. Look for other actions that bring what you believe and what you do closer together. It may be that you come to the conclusion that you can't bridge that gap (a friend of mine who worked in consultancy came to that conclusion and left the industry); but look for other options beyond staying and accepting practices you know are wrong, and leaving altogether.


I'm just answering a small, but crucial part, of this question.

I try to convince myself that what I do is ok because it is better to have critical people working on a topic, that aren't afraid to question the necessity of new developments, than just the ones who blindly think everything is great.

My advice here is to abandon this particular piece of rhetoric. In my experience, that's never true. I say this because it's also been my instinct for a very long time, and I now have very long experience with that hope being dashed over and over again.

Generally speaking, you need to get into projects that you believe in, and that the overall project goals align with things you want to see happen. Being one grouchy cog in a large system is not going to have any beneficial effect -- you will aggravate people around you, and you will be perpetually frustrated and unhappy.

I've heard a military wargame consultant refer to this issue as Command Intent (CI), with the implication that if your goals are fundamentally at odds with the stated goals of the commander, then you're simply going to get run over every time.

Again, this is an instinct that has been very difficult for me to abandon, and I've had to work very hard to convince myself to take action on it, so as to avoid these kinds of always-frustrating and failed situations. Only engage in projects where you share the same end-goal. For projects that you know are misdirected and doomed from the outset, then there's nothing you can do but just let them fail on their own (unless you're an executive who can cancel it by fiat).

This is not to say that maybe you can't decide that you do share the same end goal, ultimately, as your current research facility. Perhaps in the long-term your work really does reduce energy consumption -- or maybe not. Other answers address that in more depth, of course.

  • 1
    Hmmm... I think it's very unlikely in this case that the "commander" writes in their grant proposals "my goal is to pursue the latest energy-hungry fad in microelectronics with no regard to sustainability". Of course, it's possible that the commander's actual goals are different from the commander's stated goals. May 28, 2021 at 17:00
  • This very much depends on you viewpoint of better for whom and what you are willing to do. E.g. a police force that is more heteronomous might well be more resistant to group thinking like racism and the like. Isn't the argument for diversity in companies exactly counter your point, i.e. that diverse work groups are more efficient because more viewpoints are on the table. And even if you cannot influence policy, you can blow the whistle on particularly egregious developments, acting not as an influencer but as a watchdog. It obviously all depends on your point of view. May 30, 2021 at 4:36
  • 1
    Obviously from a military point of view concerned with in-field operations the commander has a point, but that's a different setting - much more hierarchical and with no time to have a discussion or raise an issue upwards the chain of command etc. - and it's from the viewpoint of a military commander: Of course those pesky question askers are just a nuisance and will fall in order. And better not try to leak a war crime to the international press after the fact... May 30, 2021 at 4:37
  • @FrankHopkins: The comment I heard was in the context of research and strategic planning (not in-field operations). May 30, 2021 at 12:16

A few possible measures that spring to mind:

  • for your prototype/test circuits, try using reusable breadboards and pluggable/unpluggable components, rather than etching printed circuit boards and soldering components to them;
  • if the previous suggestion is impractical because the breadboard process is less thoroughly automated than the printed circuit board process, then there's a postdoc project proposal for you right there, improving the level of automation of the breadboard process;
  • maybe your skills would be well suited to research in nanostructuring photovoltaics, to improve their energy conversion efficiency by extracting the higher-energy electron-hole pairs before they can decay to the band edges;
  • you might consider investigating (as a future research direction) the use of thermoelectric layers for partial waste heat recovery in integrated circuits (although as with all demand-side energy efficiency improvements, beware of the possibility that doing something really efficiently may still have much worse environmental performance than not doing it at all).

There is another perspective, I think. This work you're doing now clearly does not align very well with your values. This conclusion is somewhat unavoidable, and it would be a shame to try and twist the truth to make it fit the story we would like. However, this PhD is just one small element of your career, and it may equip you to do things you truly feel are of great value.

To paraphrase Voltaire;

Do not let the great become the enemy of the good.

Sure, it would be great if you could work as part of a really sustainable project for you PhD and then go on to work on technology critical to combating climate change. But if you can complete your PhD where you are right now, then go on to work on technology critical to combating climate change, that is good! Don't throw away the good opportunity just because it isn't perfect.

You sort of suggested this yourself in a comment;

@henning--reinstateMonica I certainly could try [to work in sustainable electronics] (and I even work sustainability considerations into what I do already). But at least for the rest of my PhD I kind of have to keep on doing what I am doing. – Sursula yesterday

You are right. Keep going; it is admirable that you are looking to follow your values, even at personal sacrifice.


You're at the PhD stage, in a field that is close to energy-saving technologies. Remember that the vast majority of people in this world are only in a position to make small personal and political choices on environmental matters. Suitably skilled and experienced you can contribute in a much bigger way.

You can't address your institute's power consumption, though you may be able to plan wisely on a local scale (as I try to with a cryostat that draws about 15kW). Doubts about why you're doing a PHD are also common; yours may be deeper than some, but you're not alone.

I started in a similar position to you. My own PhD was also semiconductors that could be involved in energy efficiency, but are IMO more likely to lead to more capable technologies than to save energy. Some was also funded by government-military projects, but not related to weapons (e.g. communications).

Once you've got your PhD, you will very likely end up working on different projects in a different place. At that stage you have a chance to move into a field that better fits your priorities, especially if you can relocate.


As Captain Emacs said its important to realise that research will always produce waste, and may end up saying nothing more than we can't do whatever we were trying to do/doing this is impossible. However when more efficient methods are found they can be expanded worldwide where even a 1% saving in usage from one result may outweigh the "waste" your entire department produced during your research. If you take computers for example, they were originally expensive and energy hungry but fundamental to climate research, but now you can run a simple climate model on a raspberry pi (though still more sophisticated then the earliest climate models).

However, this by itself is not a very strong argument to resolve your moral dilemma, especially since there are sociological effects where if something is cheaper people can use more of it so the total usage ends up higher. But something you could do is try to fast track your knowledge into research on climate change and bioconservation, keep in mind that while they are experts, they probably don't even realise that some of the things you know is possible exists. So what you could do is to see if there are any climate change/biodiversity/urban planning departments or groups in your university or nearby ones and state your motivation and ask if you can join their seminars/group meetings in the hope of finding an eventual collaboration. In my (admittedly limited) experience, people who work in these fields are quite happy to have other experts with similar motivations join them.

Since your work is in smart fabrics it may be possible to develop a side project to develop or manufacture a plentiful source of unobtrusive sensors for these researchers to collect better/more data to help their research. E.g. perhaps you could provide patches that are placed over a city to get more resolved/continuous data for people studying urban environments/green cities, this kind of data would not only be useful for research but could form the basis for motivating politicians and the general public to do something about climate change for economical/quality of life reasons. Another idea might be that you could provide unobtrusive sensors for studying migration patterns that might last longer and collect more data than what they currently use.

While this might seem like a distraction from your PhD work, it will probably make you more productive when you work on it since you will have less ethical concerns while also allowing you to develop yourself as an independent researcher and find near term uses for the technology your are developing. Keeping in mind that industries, which you probably need to broadly deploy more efficient technologies, don't want to touch anything until prototypes have been developed to a sufficient degree.

With respect to military funding, this is a bit harder since you probably don't have as much control yet on where you get your funding from. One thing that may be worth being aware of is that climate change research originally came from military motivations, things like having better predictions of the weather allows battle plans to be optimised, and the ideas of climate warfare/defense being in mind (I've found "the discovery of global warming" from Spencer Weart interesting for this historical perspective). It might be possible to resolve this discrepancy in your mind if you perform your work purely with civilian applications in mind, if a technology appears in civil life then militaries will co-opt it for military applications. Better/smaller/cheaper batteries have many civil uses, including for transitioning to green energies, but would also be of interest for militarys for soldier equipment. Though you'd have to make sure all your work is published in journals rather then just reports to the funding agency. If you take this route you should have a careful think about how you could feasibly (and probably infeasibly) use what you will develop for military applications. Then you'd need to decide if the civil applications are worth the new military applications (e.g. are better search and rescue algorithms worth better seek and destroy algorithms). The last point from a moral perspective is that if you do all this, funded by military industry, the military will be immediately aware of this and have networks with people with looser morals who understand your work and can help apply this technology. But also in contrast they most likely have many people who will search through published papers for potential new military technologies.

Ultimately it will depend on what your beliefs are and how willing you are to trade off producing technology and knowledge that has military applications if it also has civil applications. And if you want to stick with your current research group you may have to resolve this dilemma in some way, either by deciding the positives outweigh the negatives (and that at least this way the money isn't being spent on more/bigger guns), or excuse yourself from projects that are funded by military. At least until you reach a stage where you can decide on where your funding comes from.


Let me offer perspective that uses a little bit of economics. Economics tells us that any decision involves trade-offs and that rational actors should not choose absolutes but think on the margin.

For example, if you care about environment it is not rational to think about this in terms of either tolerating as much waste as possible or not creating any waste at all.

Rather you should think on a margin and ask yourself what can I do to reduce waste. Since you say switching carriers is a constraint you won't cross, then think about following:

What can I do on a margin to reduce waste at my job?

Can I use less paper by not printing every paper I read?

Can I use my voice in the institute to try to advocate for more sustainable research projects in our institute?

You can always nudge your institute to be more sustainable.

However, at the same time you should not kid yourself, if the institute is pursuing environmentally wasteful research, then even if the research is successful it will have negative effect on environment (unless the technology you work on is some carbon capture or zero net emission technology). If you don't want to switch jobs you should accept that you will be able to just make some marginal changes here (but this is rational so also do not beat yourself too much because of it).


Life is long. It is never too late to change careers

I don't agree with much of your question, but the most wrong is the idea that the train has left the station on changing career. You're a PhD student, at the very start of your working life. Since you're doing a PhD it seems safe to conclude that you already have a strong academic record, the world is your oyster should you wish it to be.

Your skills are in demand in a range of industries, and should you choose to, you could easily move into industry working on something related to your priorities, or into the third sector, or whatever you choose.

You can choose to work on projects that reflect your beliefs

There's no reason you can't move on from your PhD to work on projects directly related to efficiency, sustainability, renewable energy, or the like. Either in academia or industry.

But you need to change something

Work defines you. Perhaps you'd like that to be different, but it isn't. You will be spending most of your available time for the next 30/40/50 years working, and it is not good for your mental health to spend it doing something you believe is harmful. Either you need to adjust your thinking to bring your beliefs in line with what you do, or change you work.

  • although I might be a PhD student, due to my let's call it unconventional life choices, I am in my late thirties and sadly, that leads to the world not being my oyster anymore, but rather my clam or whatever. I am not as flexible as I might have been ten years ago.
    – Sursula
    May 29, 2021 at 9:54
  • 30s is still young. You're not even half way through your working life. I changed careers in my mid thirties. It's not a problem. May 29, 2021 at 10:16

Eliminate the hypocrisy by abandoning either your beliefs or your job.

The bind you're stuck in is that you're feeling like a hypocrite, by doing work that contradicts your personal beliefs. Well, that's because you are a hypocrite who's doing work that contradicts your beliefs. I'm not saying that to attack you personally; I'm just stating the facts, as presented by your question.

So, the obvious solution to this is to resolve the tension by abandoning one thing or the other. Abandon your beliefs about climate change, the importance of sustainability, and anti-military pacifism, or find somewhere else to work and quit your job.

  • 12
    You present this as a black or white problem. There is a lot of grey in the real world. If all researchers who care about the environment quit research on microelectronics how are we ever going to get sustainable microelectronics?
    – user9482
    May 28, 2021 at 5:36
  • 6
    This is unnecessary confrontational. OP's is a real dilemma - people who are as acutely aware of a dilemma as OP are are confronting the human condition - and moral contradictions are unavoidable in life, often even for saints, this is well known in spiritual literature. A true hypocrite would not put forward this moral dilemma in the open, but do the one thing pretending as if the other does not exist. May 28, 2021 at 10:51

It is very difficult to work in STEM academia without contributing (at least nominally) to the military and to the interests of capital. There simply isn't money for research otherwise. I see a few options:

  1. Lie. I know many academics who lie about the probable applications of their research to get grant money. That would be one, albeit dishonest, way to continue to work in STEM academia without compromising your beliefs.

  2. Become a committed radical. Organize other researchers and join organizations so that you can strike or take some other collective action if you're asked to work on projects you disagree with.

  3. Convince yourself that there's nothing you can do. It's true that one person alone can't accomplish much, but positive changes have been brought about by people who pursue option 2. If you choose this option, you'll be lying to yourself, but I know many people who have quelled their cognitive dissonance this way.

  4. Convince yourself that whatever you currently do to resist work you disagree with is enough. If your personal beliefs are what you say they are, this probably isn't really true. If you aren't routinely putting your career at risk, you probably aren't doing much more to resist these things than anyone else would in your position.

  5. Convince yourself that whatever harm you're doing now can be offset by more virtuous work you'll have the opportunity to do later because you kept your head down. I personally disagree with this attitude. I challenge people with this perspective to provide an example of someone who has changed the world for the better by working against their principles until they have the resources to unilaterally work in alignment with their principles. That said, I know many people who have been able to overcome cognitive dissonance this way.

  6. Find a different line of work. With your skills, you will probably have a hard time finding work that doesn't conflict with your beliefs. It is, however, possible. You will likely have to do something less profitable and prestigious.

For what it's worth, I think 2 is the best option. There is very little a person can do on their own. But when people get organized, they can change the world for the better.

You're experiencing a very difficult but also very common dilemma. You can either try to handle it on your own or try to solve it with other like-minded people. Chances are there are many people at your institution who feel the same way you do.

In any case, I don't think you really need me or anyone else to tell you what your options are. You just need help deciding. Unfortunately, only your conscience can tell you what is right. I hope you're able to make some peace with whatever you decide.


You may want to discuss with some fellow scientists that are also religious (or make an introspection if this is your case).

It always mesmerized me how someone can be a scientist (especially in hard science) during the week and religious on Saturday/Sunday/[the holy day in their religion].

I am not trying to be controversial - I personally think this is something that is completely incompatible but there are people who live with that. How they manage to do that could be an indication of how you could deal with your concern.

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