length of grad. student careers

Mary Songster-Alpin Mary_Songster_Alpin at ncsu.edu
Thu Aug 1 10:12:04 EST 1996

Sarah Boomer wrote:
 > How do other dept's perceive issues like weeding the garden (masters
> doorprizes), equalizing committees?
I guess that is what has happened to me.  I entered my Ph.D. program
in August of 1994 and I have performed poorly from the onset.  I entered
a molecular virology lab with no molecular skills yet seemingly excellent
credentials.  I graduated with a bachelor's degree in biology and a 3.9 gpa
from a small college in upstate New York.  I had worked on different research
projects during my sophmore, junior, and senior years with one project cummulating
in a first author publication.  Yet, I've felt behind from the onset in my
graduate program.  Classes aren't a problem at all - I have one B in 36 hours.
However, when it comes to original thought - I suck.  Basically, I've been
here for two years and have no research to show for it.  My lab notebook
consists of a semester's worth of cloning attempts and a year's worth of
a failed expression system.  My boss has advised me to pursue a masters
on an entirely different project within our system (I don't have meaningful
results on my original project).  I've been trying to
design experiments to run through Dec. to make up a meaningful thesis and I'm
having a difficult time.  I see alot more interaction going on between other
students and their advisors so I'm not sure whether it is all my fault but I think 
it is.  It really worries me because my ultimate career goal is research.  It
it possible to learn original thinking or are some people always "book
learners"? I don't mean to criticize my advisor - he's a wonderful guy - but
I'm not sure where the line between hand-holding (meaning he sets up all
the experiments) and advising (where he assists me in my project) is.  He
blames my heavy course load and extensive teaching assignments (a TA and
an entensive teaching mentorship required for my fellowship) for my lack
of progress but I think he realizes what I fear - that I don't have the
ability to pursue a PhD.  I have a committee meeting 
soon so hopefully things will improve.

Mary S. Songster-Alpin	   
Dept. of Micro., Path., and Parasit.
North Carolina State University
College of Veterinary Medicine
Mary_Songster_Alpin at ncsu.edu

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