Grad student/finshing PhD

lappel at eagle.wesleyan.edu lappel at eagle.wesleyan.edu
Tue Jan 25 13:10:59 EST 1994


In Anne Savitt's response about long tenures in grad school without "enough"
research for a degree, she points out that part of the responsibility of the
research director is to see to it that a PhD candidate does do enough research
to get the degree.
	Clearly, there are different mentor styles, and different expectations
at different institutions, but it is not at all uncommon for grad students to
be left floundering, often for years.  Some people think this is part of the
educational process -- learning how to direct yourself.  Sometimes is happens
because the research director is just not good at directing grad students
(or even research)  And sometimes a research director is just unwilling to lose
a productive grad student, and so won't admit to him/herself that the student
has done sufficient work for a thesis.   Sexism can enter, also, and make the 
situation worse, but plenty of grad students flounder just because of the way
the system works.
	I second Savitt's suggestion to go to other people.  I didn't finish
until I called my committee together, and we sat down to discuss "What is a
sufficient body of work to call a graduate thesis" instead of "what would it
take to do a complete characterization of the gene I have already taken several
years to clone."  In the end, the rest of my thesis committee pushed my
research director to agree that I had done quite a large amount of work (others
on the committee said more than enough) and if I did a small amount more (as
appeasement, really) I should be allowed to write up and go.  I know of other
people who actually had to call their thesis committee over the objection of
the research director to get similar results.  And then there was a flounderer
who really didn't have much results, but came out of a "I've had enough
floundering, what will it take to get my degree" meeting with a clear outline
of goals and timetables, and got out with the degree about 6 mos later.
	These sorts of thesis committee meetings tend to be painful for
everyone involved, but very effective.  So do it, and good luck.  It's in
nobody's interest to have a floundering student get nowhere, and merely have
wasted their own and other people's time and resources.  Also makes the
departments productivity figures look bad.
	Laurel F. Appel
	Dept of Biology
	Wesleyan University
	Middletown, CT 06459



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