Tuesday, September 20, 2011

Mid-PhD Crisis

Like a madman groping in a dark room
Seek the light to burn away the gloom
I’ve lost my mind but my feelings are true
Everything I do, I offer to you.
-- No Turn Un-Stoned (Shpongle)

I am now a mid-career PhD student. That was how my advisor described me during the first departmental meeting of this academic year while introducing his research group to the incoming batch of grad students. Then, I didn’t give much thought to the term he used; mid-career. However, listening to the above lyrics and considering my PhD progress - probably anyone’s for that matter - it wouldn’t be a stretch to say that truer words have never been spoken.

But then, Jorge Cham knew it all along. Nearing 40 in my ‘lab years’, this is probably the perfect time for a mid-‘lab’ life crisis. It seems to have struck me hard. Look at what I am doing right now. I should be working on my thesis. Instead I am procrastinating, penning down my thoughts. I can’t help it. Each time I stare at the word document of my would-be thesis, I can’t help myself getting distracted. On a positive note, though, this time has been a productive blogging period for me, what, with plenty of updates over the last month or so, both here and at Interstate 42.

Newton’s third law of graduation - "For every action towards graduation there is an equal and opposite distraction".

It wasn’t always like this. I got through the inevitable post-qualifiers slump that hit me last summer, obtained some good results and published a paper before this summer began. But now, summer is gone and I have nothing to show for it. I have been coding, compiling and debugging; but I am nowhere near simulating the thermal behavior around laser heated nanoparticles. Guess it happens; it is after all a mid-PhD slump.

Things should pick up soon, if not I should force it. It is time I took Cecilia’s resolve and started working full time on my candidacy report that would later become my thesis. Before my advisor loses his patience, I have to finish the report and take my candidacy examination. But, where are the freaking results? ~Long breath~

In the meantime, I came across a friend’s facebook status - “I TA for a professor whose Erdos Number is 1. Yes No.1 and no lesser. Despite that fact the amount of respect that he gives to other minions like me is amazing! The more I see these people, the smaller I feel in this world. Who said grad school was burden, it is an enlightening experience at every step”. He is a new grad student at RPI and all I can say is ‘enjoy the honeymoon while it lasts. It won’t be long before you end up like this'.

As for the rest, take care and have a blast.

PS: Take note of Jorge Cham’s disclaimer. If you are new to PhD Comics, then remember, ‘reading this entire archive can be hazardous to your research. Proceed with caution and use only in moderation.’


Anonymous said...

"Who said grad school was burden, it is an enlightening experience at every step”
... If someone manages to graduate with this attitude intact then I would say he it was nothing less than a miracle!

Kirklops said...

zendu... a miracle, no doubt.
thanks for reading.

Tanya said...

Brilliant! Where are the freaking results...that's what I keep on hearing..

Kirklops said...

Tanya, if it is any consolation to you, things picked up soon after I made this post.

A Beer for the Shower said...

Egads, grad school was enough for me. Hats off to you for chasing the Piled High and Deep degree! Good luck and godspeed.

Kirklops said...

ABFTS, Thanks. A lot has changed in a month. Looks like I found the light :)

Carol McAllister said...

I think it doesn’t matter whether your young or old, but if you really like what you do, then there is no problems with it. Some people can really have a hard time with their PhD dissertation, and took a longer time for them to finish the paper.

Kirklops said...

Thanks for the encouraging words, Carol. Two more years have passed since and things are looking up now. Hoping to defend in 6-8 months.

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