What I Learned After One Year In Graduate School
I'm getting a PhD in pharmacology at University of Rochester. I've learned more about science in this past year than I ever could have in all four years of my undergraduate education.
- •Classes are minimally helpfulNo one wants to teach them, no one wants to take them.
- •No one understands what being a graduate student is"So you're going to be a doctor?" We'll, kind of... "You're still in college?" No. "Must be nice having summers off still!" Nope, graduate school is a full-time job. "You can afford graduate school?" They actually pay me...
- •University politics controls everythingYour stipend, what classes you take, the direction of your research, how labs carry out their research... Everything. I had to switch departments from biochemistry to pharmacology purely for political reasons.
- •On-the-job learning is amazingYou learn fast, and you learn a lot.
- •Using laboratory equipment correctly is harder than you thinkIt takes a lot of practice and incredible patience.
- •Science is EXTREMELY socialThe notion of scientists being antisocial weirdos is absurd. In order to be successful you have to be charismatic, outgoing, self-promoting, etc. I don't understand where the stereotypes of scientists came from after living in this world for a year, because those types of people would not be successful at all, like in any job.
- •Becoming a scientist is not different from becoming a mechanic, or any other tradesperson.Other than spending college learning the language of your science field, graduate school is simply learning a trade during the first year.
- •Doing science takes a LONG timeYou see people's entire careers go by, people go gray, people give up and change fields before their research is successful. The payoff of doing science is not immediate, and you get used to the idea that the enjoyment comes from the community and journey rather than success of your work and changing the world.