Wednesday, February 17, 2010

Senior Grad Student Invisibility

When I was a wee baby grad student, I noticed that the vast majority of students that showed up for journal clubs, workshops, seminars and social events were third year or under.  "How terrible!" I thought, "When I'm a senior grad student I'll be sure to participate!"

Now, as a senior grad student, I find myself showing up to less and less of the grad school functions.  First to go were the unnecessary social events.  Then the seminars.  Workshops became spotty, though I still try to attend journal clubs (and my institution is fond of nannying us taking attendance).  Increasingly I justify this absence to myself with "This is a waste of my time!  I could be at the bench!" or "I have too much to do today!" or "The kids these days suck at presenting a journal article!"  My favorite justification for the social functions is "Bah!  Kids!  I'm too old for this crap!"  (I have grumpy old man syndrome at 28, and female).

Now, some of this is certainly just excuses (although the kids these days do put on a terrible presentation, but I should probably show up to heckle give constructive criticism). But I did fail to realize in my early career just how time-consuming full-time bench work is.  If there's a seminar at 11, but I have to submit a 6-hour stain to flow lab by 2PM, well chances are the seminar will get skipped.  As a young grad student in classes, your eyes are constantly on the clock so you can maximize your lab:class time ratio.  I also failed to realize how one can lose track of time during a busy workday when you get in the groove.  "Crap!  It's 5?  I'm going to miss the bus!  I swear I looked at the clock an hour ago and it said it was noon!  CLOCK, BANE OF MY EXISTENCE, YOU LIE LIKE A LYING DOG!"

Hoo, back it up there QR, breathe.


I get the feeling a research career is like this; early on, you have a lot of time for non-bench stuff, so you go to more non-bench stuff.  Then you get busy at the bench and forget that the world around you exists.  Then you get tied to a computer paper or grant-writing and get bored out of your mind with the constant streams of text so you show up to seminars and heckle constructively criticize baby grad students with terrible presentations.  I'm hoping to move to this third stage quite soon, provided the luciferin cooperates.  Mwuahahahahahahahahahahaha!

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