A Few Words of Advice For Ph.D. Candidates

Dr. Robin Tanamachi:

I’m thankful for having had the pleasure of watching several of my classmates pass their general examinations this semester. “The general” constitutes the last major hurdle before the dissertation defense, and a successful examinee becomes “A.B.D.” (all but dissertation). As a recent Ph.D. recipient, I have aggregated a few nuggets of advice for them. Some of these items may seem self-evident in hindsight, but may not be to those upon which the stress is piled higher and deeper. … Some of your biggest stumbling blocks may be internal. There will be days when you simply don’t feel like writing. You will suffer setbacks. There will be days you feel like throwing up your hands and walking away from the whole endeavor. Always remember that you are not the first Ph.D. candidate to feel this way (although many of us think we are).

As one of Robin’s classmates who passed the General Examination this semester, I found these valuable. As I enter the final year of my Ph.D., the advice on internal struggles especially hit home with me. There are days I want to quit. There are days I ask what the hell I am doing. There are days I struggle accepting the menial impact that my current work will have on science or humanity. There there are days that I have a razor-like focus and an unequaled motivation to do great work. It is always comforting to know others have shared these seemingly scattered feelings.

Also, if you are not following Robin’s blog, shame on you.