The Beat Goes On

23 02 2010

Well, not much has changed on the job front since my last post so I won’t bore you all with that right now.

Today, I was just thinking about the Ph.D. process and how it differs between science fields and between universities. My Ph.D. process has been rather disjointed at times. It seems that the profs in my department never really seem to know what needs to be done and when.  When I first started, I would ask someone, “Do I need to take class x or class y?” I would usually get an answer that was either, “Well, we don’t offer that class anymore,” or “I’m not sure, go ask prof x.”  It was very frustrating.  I somehow managed to survive my coursework.  Although, I think I took entirely too many courses, and some that don’t even have anything to do with my field! During this time, you would form your committee.  That was not bad since my boss pretty much told me who I should have on it.  So, after I finished the majority of my course work (usually after about 2.5-3 years), I took my qualifying exams. 

This process seemed to change every year. When I started, you could take them whenever you wanted, you just had to make sure everyone in your committee was on board. However, when it came time for me to take my exams they said that they could only be taken during x, y, or z months! So I waited for x month to come around and I got my committee together and they agreed that I could take my exams.  My exams consisted of 1 written exam per day for 5 days (1 from each of my committee members).  After you have taken all of your written exams, you had to get your committee together again, and have an oral exam.  This was where your committee got to ask you a bunch of random questions…it was insanely nerve racking for me because I tend to get very nervous around my committee for some reason!  However, I managed to survive! I then had my committee sign some forms, and I officially became a Ph.D. Candidate!

So here I am in my 5th year.  I’m in the process of writing my dissertation, applying for jobs, finishing up some lab work, and praying that I can get it all done and land a job ASAP.  I will then have a whole new set of things to worry about!

How was your Ph.D. process?  Any tips on how to get and stay focused enough to write on your dissertation for any appreciable amount of time? 

Have a great Tuesday!

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So Many Things

12 02 2010

     I have so many things that I want to talk about in these first few posts that I don’t know where to begin. I could do one LARGE post, but that would be to time consuming on my end and too boring for you to read on your end. I think that I will start by talking about graduate school, and what my journey has been like the past 5 years.   I got accepted into a graduate program straight out of undergrad. I decided to go in straight away because I was afraid that if I took a year off, I would never go back…and I probably wouldn’t have. My time in grad school has been good overall.  Just like life, it has had its ups and downs.  For starters, I am not in a “traditional” graduate program. I am at a professional school where the only programs on campus are graduate programs (i.e. Medical School, Pharmacy School, Dental School, and other health related fields).  My program is rather unique on the campus in that it grants Ph.D.s rather than professional degrees. This was initially a great things as my wife was going into a health profession and was accepted in her program at the same school. It started off great, but as time went on I realized that this may not have been the best choice for me.  My particular lab in the department was far and away the best and it has afforded me many great opportunities.  For that I am truly grateful!  One thing about my school that I REALLY dislike, is that it is not a traditional college campus.  It is a stand alone branch and does not have the feel of a traditional campus by any stretch of the imagination!

     If it was not for my lab, I probably would have left that particular program. It has been on the decline since I joined that program…not my particular lab, but the program as a whole.  There are probably only about 7 true graduate students left in my department. That is down from around 15 when I started. While this seemed to be a nice fit for me when I started, at that time I didn’t know what my career goals were. Now that I know I want to become a professor at a primarily undergraduate institution, I realize this was not the best choice.  I have had the opportunity to be a TA for some of the professional students, but it is not the same as getting to TA/teach an undergraduate course. That is a really big why sometimes I wish I had gone to a larger research oriented university with a large undergraduate student population.  In the long run, it would have made me more desirable for my current ambition.  I do feel that in my lab, I have done some great chemistry…well some was only attempted, but hey whatever counts right!  So I have no problems with the level of bench work that I have done, and I actually could have done better work if I had pushed myself harder.  However, I am the type of person who enjoys life outside of the lab, and decided from the get-go that I was not going to live in the lab.  That did have an impact on my work at times, but I am very glad that I haven’t spent the last 5 years of my life locked in the lab.  I know that many graduate schools, and their professor, have different feelings on this subject, it was something that I was not willing to compromise on because I was already married when I started grad school. 

     While my graduate school situation may not have been ideal, I have made it work for me. I think that I have gotten a good education and some great research experience.  I know that I have missed out on some experiences that most graduate students get, such as teaching undergraduate classes, but I also know that I have had some experiences that most graduate students don’t get.  I think it has been a pretty even trade-off.  I know this is probably pretty roughly thrown together, but I have so much more to say….I just had to start somewhere.  I have plans on writing about the dissertation process at my school, my job search and all that entails, and many other things! I hope that you can get past the rough grammar (I will usually type these rather quickly just because I am so busy now) and stick around to see what I have to say!