University of Texas graduate student Joe Hanson has shaped his lifestyle to accommodate the meager salary he earns as a genetic engineering biology researcher. He supplements his income with a job as a college teaching assistant. He and his wife don’t take vacations; they drive a 1999 Ford truck with manual windows. They have even postponed having children.
But federal budget cuts to college research dollars have Hanson, who makes $25,000 a year, rethinking his career choice. According to the American Association for the Advancement of Science, the government slashed an estimated $57.5 billion for research over the next four years under the across-the-board budget cuts known as sequestration, cuts that will hit many as the school year — and annual research contracts — comes to a close.
Federal research grants are used to pay the salaries of graduate students, whose labors are guided by university faculty. A reduction in funding likely means that many students will have their pay cut or possibly lose their jobs. Research projects could be discontinued if local or private dollars aren’t found to close the gap. Professors also are worried that the brightest graduate students and research professors will be lured overseas to countries where research is better funded.
“There are lot of people talking about whether they should stay in the field,” Hanson said. “Even the undergraduates are wondering if they should go into research, if there’s going to be jobs for them.”