Cai Mingjie: Singapore Taxi Driver with PhD from Stanford University

Taxi Driver with PhD, dont play play okay
Taxi Driver with PhD, don't play play okay

Chanced upon this blog written by a guy who professed to be “probably the only taxi driver in this world with a PhD from Stanford and a proven track record of scientific accomplishments”.

The man, Cai Mingjie (as identified via Tomorrow.SG), wrote in his blog introduction: “I have been forced out of my research job at the height of my scientific career, and unable to find another one, for reasons I can only describe as something ‘uniquely Singapore’. As a result, I am driving taxi to make a living and writing these real life stories just to make the dull job a little more interesting. I hope that these stories are interesting to you too.”

The blog was started on 6 April 2009, early this year. In his first blog entry, the man described how he used to a principal investigator at the Institute of Molecular and Cell Biology (IMCB) at ASTAR Singapore, a place where he had worked for 16 years. That was till an influx of foreign talents came in and he got retrenched from his job. Although he was informed of the retrenchment in 2007, he was unable to secure another job even till his termination in May 2008. By November 2008, he decided to become a taxi driver.

The blog reads like a novel of sort, about a scientist-turned-taxi-driver, diligently documenting quirky observations he made while driving on the road – the passengers he met, the various changes coming to our society.

I do not know this guy in person, but I like his 能屈能伸 attitude. I feel for his plight though. It is a waste of human capital when skill sets and academic qualification do not match with the job a person is holding. Definitely not a healthy trend if we see more and more Singaporeans in such a predicament.

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19 thoughts on “Cai Mingjie: Singapore Taxi Driver with PhD from Stanford University”

  1. Google his name and you can even find his thesis information and some records of his at IMCB. Heard of such cases overseas, but now it happens in Singapore. The difference, though, is not an oversupply of PhDs here, but the existence of little foreign big shots at workplaces who do not value loyalty or worker commitment. Go read his blog. I deeply admire this man!

  2. What a waste all the money that went into his education, he is now fighting to survive, working as a cab driver. You don’t need to attend school at all, what you need is a valid license to be a cabby. Leave all these jobs to the normal people. Go and teach, pass on your knowledge don’t flush them away.

  3. He should just migrate and help other states compete. Why drive taxis?

    I’m leaving in about two years. ^.^

    Too much things to do out there than to waste time rotting in Singapore.

  4. Did you know that all the labs closed by IMCB management had asian bosses and replaced with labs by ang mohs? Is this just a coincidence?

  5. What a waste of talent and skills. I hope that the government will find ways to help this man. He can teach in one of the universities here. I bet that he is more experienced and knowledgeable than most of the younger professors in the universities. Also, he can be a good mentor for younger professors and students alike. He can surely contribute to the workforce of Singapore.

  6. If someone is worth his salt, a non-contract renewal is never the end of the career. He or she should be able to seek employment, within or without Singapore. I have friends who have bad chemistry with their Heads and yet found good jobs elsewhere. I am with the research community and I know as a matter of fact on how hard it is to dismiss a “scientist” (trust me research institutes and universities are more like civil service of the old days). Bad chemistry and office politics can never dent a person who is really scientifically productive (other professions differ).

    A more scientific way to find out whether this “scientist” is a good scientist is to find out his publications over the years in scientific journals, and how impact his work is, or is there any ethical issue involved. Such information is readily available from digital library services. Then & only then can we empathize with the complainer.

    I have seen many “talents” that have found their ways to Singapore. Some of them are smart and hide their lack-of-talent well; some simply think that Singaporeans can be taken for a ride till time infinity. Hence there is need for research to find out more background about this “most qualified cab driver in Singapore”

  7. great work ming jie,
    at least you are brave enough to take another challenge
    hope you can email me ,we can exchange more view
    by having a good qulification does not mean
    you are gurantee with a job.
    thank you you are my idol

  8. Dear Dr Cai. Is great to see that you changed your life from one end to another, which displayed your ability to adapt and adjust to situation, although is not up to expectation of most peoples around or with you, but I respect your guts and determination, as a guy in the mid-age is hard to face reality, but is life. Let us do the best to earn a better living for family.

    Best Regards.

    Kosasik

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