grad student connections

Mary Jane Nather natherm at
Sat Apr 1 00:02:38 EST 1995

On 30 Mar 1995, Karin E. Rengefors wrote:

> In article <3l956q$hk at>, neuronn at (Neuronn) wrote:

> > I found that there are two types of students-those that absolutely
> > love what they are doing, and those who are doing it for who-knows-why.

> Unfortunatly things are not as simple as you seem to belive, that there
> are two types of students; either those who love what they are doing and
> those which don't seem to care at all. There is also the group of people
> who were very enthusiastic in the beginning and who love the field but
> have become unhappy and frustrated along the way. This is a very common
> situation at my department (Limnology). I "knew" long before I started
> that I really wanted to go into research, and that I loved my field
> (limnology). However, after two years of unsuccessful research, an advisor
> who doesn't care, thesis projects which don't work (I've started on my
> third by now), a department which seems more like a museum than a research
> laboratory, I've become a "not so passionate" graduate student. 
> I work really hard along with some of the other students to improve our
> situation by organizing seminars, classes et c (which actually is the
> advisors' responsibility) and by bringing in a psychologist/consultant who
> can help us improve the situation at the department (by discussing with
> and teaching our advisors on how to function as good advisors). 
> Despite this I'm extremely unhappy working with my research even though
> I'd like to love it. I have seen enthusiastic students who've started both
> before me and after me, who've ended up just as frustrated and
> disillusioned. I also know that I really can enjoy working hard on my
> research ( I recently spent 3 months at Woods Hole Oceanographic
> Institution) if I'm in a supportive and inspiring environment. Maybe your
> (Neuronn's) "not so passionate" fellow grad students have run into these
> kinds of problems. I don't know, but maybe you shouldn't be so quick to
> judge. As for my own situation I really don't know what to do anymore.
Look into another lab!!  When I entered graduate school, I thought I had 
it made--I made great progress in classes my first year, got exciting 
preliminary data on a project that really sparked my imagination, loved 
everyone in my lab, and was working for (I thought) a great person.  
I even got a fellowship for 3 yrs of funding.

Within 9 months, all hell broke loose.  Due to some very difficult 
personal problems, my advisor became extremely difficult to deal with.  
She was nasty, paranoid, and back-stabbing.  Last summer was truly one of 
the most difficult times of my life.  There I was in what was otherwise 
an ideal situation, but I was scared to death that the person I was 
depending on to be there for me through the long haul would flip out at 
any moment.

After much agonizing, I finally discussed the problems with the 
department head and graduate student contact.  They bent over backwards 
to find someone on campus with research interests in my area that they 
knew was stable, did good science, and treated his students well It's a 
much better situation.  I feel like I've lost some time, and it's been 
hard settling in because I still think about that other project, but I 
agree with you--the environment is everything.  I don't go home dreading 
the next morning any more!  It may not seem practical, but it could be 
worth the effort of investigating other options.  (maybe there are some 
at a different institution?)

Good luck!

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