This past week we were invited to Cambridge University for dinner at the Trinity College dining hall (think of the dining hall in the Harry Potter movies and you have a good image) by a graduate student. Our friend is finishing his Ph.D. in Medical Physics and is one of those bright, young (26) people with a mission to help mankind with his intellect and creativity. It was a very inspiring evening, especially for my daughter, Stephanie, who at 13 is vaguely becoming aware of her post high school adventures and curious about what universities are all about. It was also a shocking evening, but more about that later.
For my friends and readers who may not be too familiar with Cambridge University, here are some facts. The University of Cambridge is a public research university located in Cambridge, United Kingdom. It is the second-oldest university in the English-speaking world, founded around 1209 , and the fourth-oldest surviving university in the world. Wikipedia. It is composed a numerous Colleges, each with its own traditions and expertise of study.
Walking around the college on a chilly November evening was much like going back in time; the old buildings, archways, narrow passages, cobbled streets, massive stone gates and thick oak doors leading in to grass enclosed courtyards. Truly magical and inspiring to think that the Archbishop of Canterbury in the time of Henry VIII was a student there, as were John Milton, Charles Darwin, Jan Smuts, CP Snow, Lord Mountbatten, Samuel Taylor Coleridge, Alastair Cooke, Jane Goodall, John Milton Keynes, EM Forster, Samuel Pepys, William Pitt, William Wordsworth, Oliver Cromwell, and even John Harvard. The list goes on and on. We also attended an Evensong mass in Kings College Chapel where 30 boys and young men sang the psalms amid candle light. Definitely moving and magical (but the benches were rock hard).
Being a graduate of Harvard University, even I was awed and impressed by the history, architecture and vibrancy of the ancient seat of education. And the graduate students we met in the dining hall were also impressive. All were young, enthusiastic, bright (obviously), respectful of the education and traditions of the University, and researching ground breaking issues. Our host was finishing his Ph.D. in medical physics and conducting research on a way to early diagnose Alzheimer’s disease. This is critical research because the toll on the health care systems of the world from Alzheimer’s is immense and will only get worse as people tend to live longer and longer. The costs of care are skyrocketing so early diagnosis offers some means of getting better and newer treatments to people earlier and earlier.
As we sat chatting over dinner in this great dining hall I asked a question about the future. What do most of these bright and gifted students do after they graduate? Where do they go? I was expecting to hear something like become professors, join technology or medical companies as researchers, establish start-ups to commercialize their research and make their discoveries available to the world, join think tanks or research institutions.
But what I heard shocked, and frankly, saddened me. My host replied, “A great number, many I would say, go into investment banking!” I sat with my mouth open.
Years of training and study in advanced maths, chemistry, physics, literature, languages, history, even music and countless hours of research and thesis writing, all to become investment bankers, high paid money merchants! Seeing my response, he shook his head and added, “It’s the money!”
What are your thoughts?
Tight Lines . . .
John R Childress