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I read with dismay of today's shooting at the University of Alabama. Firstly, because it was yet another insane example of violence, secondly, because it involved a biologist, a faculty member apparently denied tenure.

The incident highlights the stresses that accompany the faculty career path in science (and indeed in all of academia). Seeking and getting tenure is a difficult, lengthy and uncertain process that can easily assume an outsize importance. My own observations of the process among my contemporaries, allied to the scrabble for grant money and pressures of balancing teaching with research, were a significant factor in my own decision to abandon my own Ph.D. studies and step away from the faculty path and back towards the technical, albeit with a Masters degree. I have never regretted this decision in any way even though I undoubtedly sacrificed earning power by doing so.

I've been very lucky in being able to concentrate on what I enjoy doing most, the actual hands-on work of experimentation. It's been well worth it – I'm still loving it as much as ever, perhaps even more than ever. Science as it should be.

UPDATE: Lots of interesting background emerging about this shooter. Apparently she shot and killed her brother in 1986, an incident that appears to have been hushed-up. No charges were brought at the time.