Julia Frugoli jfrugol at CLEMSON.EDU
Wed Jan 31 12:00:13 EST 2001

Paul commented on my statement

> The comment was made that "the old school idea is to teach the 
>process of science, and let the personal take care of itself."
>I would agree in part with this statement.  Whilst not totally 
>advocating a "leave your troubles at the doorstep, you're a lab 
>robot now" approach, I feel there is a definite need to separate 
>personal and professional life which applies equally to students. 
>After all most grad' students are at an age where, only a generation 
>ago, they would have been in full time work.  Many (both inside and 
>outside science) see a graduate education as a luxury, and a 
>delaying tactic to avoid getting a "real" job.  Thankfully they are 
>few and far between, but that does not change the point that just 
>because you are a student does not give you an excuse to be any less 
>professionally minded than if you were working full time.

Thanks, Paul for fishing the meat out of a longwinded post in order 
to focus the discussion.  I'm afraid my reply is also longwinded, but 
hopefully more focused.

Are graduate students "students" or "employees"?  How you decide 
makes a difference in how you handle the situation.  If they are 
students, then my university and others tells us as faculty that 
these personal things matter and are intertwined.  We shouldn't be 
counseling psychological problems, but we ought to be aware of the 
things that make each student's situation unique and help where we 

Even if they are employees (which in the US, the legal system has 
started to agree with-resulting in graduate student unions being 
recognized), a good employer is cognizant of the personal life 
situations that effect performance.  When we argue for tenure clocks 
that reflect life situations, aren't we arguing that no one is immune 
to personal situations affecting performance?   I don't feel my 
tenured colleague who took a week off to be with his mother in law as 
she underwent surgery was unprofessional, and neither does my 
department,  but I've met people in science who would say that. 
Luckily, they are getting fewer and farther between. IMHO, people who 
say that their personal lives do not affect their professional lives 
at all are kidding themselves, or they've never had a major life 

I have to laugh at Paul's comment that "most grad' students are at an 
age where, only a generation ago, they would have been in full time 
work."  Grad school is not full time work?  I came to graduate school 
from full time work in a government lab-I added 20 hours to my work 
week for the next 6 years. The more non-traditional graduate students 
get, the more personal life they bring with them.  The point is not 
to learn how to ignore your personal life, but how to balance it with 
your work.  Just like people make mistakes learning to do 
experiments, they will make mistakes learning to balance parts of 
their lives, and sometimes graduate students will let the personal 
get in the way of their professional responsibilities, not always on 
purpose.  But some departments or advisors set define professional 
responsibilities in ways that are unreasonable. If the people around 
them set up the balance in such a way that it eliminates the 
personal, those students who know that balance is not a healthy 
option are going to drop out immediately.  I see this as a problem 
because (a) those people are usually women and (b) it doesn't have to 
be that way.  I've found many good scientists who balance their 
lives, I think because I actively seek them out.  But as a beginning 
grad student, that kind of perspective is hard to get unless someone 
actively works to give it to you.

I just want to add that my long story about my graduate advisor and 
my departmental talk was meant as the first example that came to mind 
of a situation I was familiar with where holding on to the principle 
of "no exceptions" probably wasn't wise.  My graduate advisor and I 
get along just fine now-as a person I have no ill will toward him at 
all.  And he taught me some very important things about science and 
how to think.  There are just some "people handling" mistakes he made 
with me and others that I don't want to repeat myself.  No experience 
is wasted if you learn from it.  And I hope to learn when to bend.

Julia Frugoli
Asst. Professor
Biological Sciences
Clemson University
132 Long Hall
Clemson, SC 29634

PHONE (864) 656-1859
FAX (864) 656-0435
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