length of grad. student careers

Karen Allendoerfer ravena at cco.caltech.edu
Sun Aug 4 07:13:35 EST 1996

In article <3200C944.7F62 at ncsu.edu>, Mary Songster-Alpin
<Mary_Songster_Alpin at ncsu.edu> wrote:

> Yet, I've felt behind from the onset in my
> graduate program.  

I felt that way too, the first year in grad school.


 Basically, I've been
> here for two years and have no research to show for it.  

Two years is really not that long.  Many people don't have anything to
show for their first two years.


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. 

You might want to reconsider whether you're happy in this lab.  Changing
labs doesn't reflect poorly on you or on your advisor.  Someone can be a
"wonderful guy" but still not be the right advisor for you.  


> 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 

His interpretation sounds quite reasonable.  Many people don't get much
done in the lab when they have a lot of teaching responsibilities--even
faculty don't!

It sounds like you're going through a tough time.  I think we've all been
there (or at least many of us have).  But you say your ultimate goal is
still research.  If you mean that, and really want that goal, then hold
onto it and don't give up.  There's nothing in what you wrote that
suggests to me that you're somehow "not cut out" for research.  In fact,
quite the opposite.  
   One thing that helped me in grad school was talking to a respected
visiting scientist who now has tenure at Harvard.  We were discussing
"difficult" vs. "easy " Ph.D.'s. She said that it didn't help to have an
easy time of your PhD.  Sooner or later, everyone comes up against the
project from hell, or the experiments that seem to go nowhere.  Graduate
school is not a bad time to learn to deal with this.  There are fewer
consequences for your career than if you were, say, an assistant professor
looking for tenure, and you learn valuable lessons about tenacity and

Good luck and hang in there,


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