length of grad. student careers

S L Forsburg forsburg at salk.edu
Sun Aug 4 15:12:31 EST 1996

Karen Allendoerfer wrote:
>....(stuff deleted)......  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
> problem-solving.

This is an EXCELLENT point.  Science goes well about 10% of the time...
you can really get spoiled and not learn the essential skills if 
everything is going perfectly.  A real test of scientific creativity
is the ability to get something positive out of the "project from hell"
and know when to let it go, build on it, move on, and maybe with time
and other information, come back to it with a fresh approach.  That
hotshot student who steps into an up-and-running project, scores a 
couple of papers and defends is not well prepared for the real
life of science (and probably doesnt realise the role luck had
in his/her success!).  It helps to be able to step back and take the
 long view. Of course, none of us is very good at that....

susan, now ready for some luck!  ;-)

Susan L Forsburg PhD
MBVL, The Salk Institute
forsburg at salk.edu

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