It can be too late

nishir at nishir at
Thu Jan 27 12:23:59 EST 1994

In article <2i7hk7$fer at> pfoster at (Patricia Foster) writes:
>   I feel that I should make a contribution to this discussion.
>I entered graduate school at Harvard in 1968 (what a year).
>I dropped out with a MA in 1969.  I then spent 5 years in
>industry, followed my significant other to England, and got
>my Ph.D. from Cambridge University in 1978.  I am now a
>reasonably successful scientist at a reasonable institution.
>I have carved out a niche for myself and am, on the whole,
>reasonably satisfied with my life.
>    What is wrong with this picture?
>    Had I succeeded at Harvard, I would probably have been a far
>better and more successful scientist than I am now.  Why?  Two
>reasons.  First, those egomaniacs that walked the halls were, in
>fact, great scientists.  Those aggressive, obsessed graduate
>students were, in fact, the next generation of greats.  The minds
>and the abilities were all there, and I couldn't take advantage of it.
>Second, I spent years recovering from my feeling of failure.  This
>feeling affected everything I did, and, sadly, probably was fatal to my
>relationship with the significant other.
>    And I did fail.  Sure it was hard, unfair, etc. etc.  But, the reality
>is that had I had what it takes (the "right stuff") I could have made the
>situation work for me.  And I didn't.  And the importance of this is
>the following.  The same qualities that are required to succeed in
>graduate school -- smarts, aggression, dedication, self-confidence,
>inner direction, sacrifice, and just plain pig-headedness -- are also
>required to succeed in science.  And that is just the way it is.
>    Do not give up a cherished goal lightly.  The consequences to your
>self esteem may be greater than you can now realize.
>Patricia L. Foster
>Boston University School of Medicine
>Boston, MA USA
>pfoster at
More important than your "failure" at Harvard is the fact that you did make it
back again.  I wouldn't sneeze at Cambridge Univ.  That's a very fine
institution as well.  I turned down an opportunity to go to grad school at
Harvard (and Yale) and went to Univ. Calif. at San Diego instead (in 1975).  I
don't regret it at all.  Sure, Harvard is full of smart people, but that
doesn't exclude their existence elsewhere.  I postdoc'd at Harvard Med School
and I met some very bright grad students; but I also met a number of very
messed up people.  On the whole, I think my classmates from UCSD did better
overall than all the grad students I met at Harvard (and they're ALOT more

Rae Nishi
Oregon Health Sciences University
Portland OR
nishir at 

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