Wednesday, December 13, 2006

Humor, Then Angst

Quiz: Which of these journal titles are fake? (Hint: 3; answer at bottom)

a. Journal of the Less Common Metals
b. Cretaceous Research
c. Journal of Veterinary Anesthesiology
d. Journal of Minimally Invasive Gynecology
e. Plasmid
f. Chemometrics and Intelligent Laboratory Systems
g. Computers in Animal Behavior
h. Journal of Arid Environments
i. Jurassic Research
j. Parasitology International


Mr. S had a committee meeting last week: several professors get together to tut-tut over your data, ignore what you've said, and tell you when they were in grad school, they worked TWENTY hours a day. One nods her head in perfect zombielike unison with your advisor; one has overdosed on either caffeine or cocaine; and the senile one forgets to show up.

No, wait! That's my committee! His committee plays well with others.

Mr. Scientist has the Best Advisor Ever. She's famous, brilliant, makes grown scientists cry, and still truly cares about her people.* So at the end of the meeting, she announced, 'Well, I think he should defend in the spring! What do you think?'

Since she's quite hard to contradict, they all smiled and nodded.

On the one hand: HURRAH! Happy dance! With a postdoc's salary, we could even buy a TV with a remote!

On the other hand: WAAAAH! My desire to run away screaming (i.e. from Snooty U and the rest of my PhD) is increased by it becoming possible.

To add to the joy, the fellowship clock starts ticking the day he becomes Dr. Mr. Scientist. So after that day, I have exactly eight months to finish, or else a) we can stay here another four years, and get mugged again, or maybe even shot!** b) he can move without me, which is Not Okay, or c) we can starve on the street. Because, y’know, this wasn’t stressful enough! Just what I need! Total uncertainty combined with the threat of penury! High-stakes, divergent, complex plans based on things I utterly cannot predict! Careers hanging in the balance! Fun!

When poor Mr. S asked me when I thought I’d be done, I cried through two stores, a highway trip, dinner, and three cups of tea. Because I don’t know. How can we make plans together when my whole plan is ‘I will not quit yet’? How can I ask him to make decisions based on bad data?

*Speaking of things that make me want to cry. What I would give to go back and pick an advisor who's capable of supporting education and professional growth. Or even of advising.
**Mr. S was mugged in broad daylight, a year and a half ago. And three weeks ago, someone was shot across the street. Plus there were five murders in November!

(C, G and I, I made up. But the rest are real.)


  1. Anonymous12:55 PM

    Mr. Blue was also mugged while attending graduate school at Snooty U.

    Hugs on the rest of it. I know too many women in your branch of teh sciences with similar stories. When will the cluestick finally hit these lab emperors?

  2. I don't know enough to give advice, just sympathy. Sorry the pressure is so intense!

  3. Anonymous1:39 PM

    Hugs JF! I'm sorry it's all so hard! Pressure sucks. Good luck!

  4. Anonymous2:06 PM

    Hmmm, my sister watched a mugging from her front window while in grad school at Snooty U too. But I don't know if it is the same Snooty U, but I am guessing yes.

    I'm so sorry about all this pressure - both internal and external - to finish. It's the worst. Hang in there- and if it's any help to know that you are not the only one to have cried for two stores, a highway trip, etc., well, yeah, I've done that too! hugs.

  5. Ah, the muggings! It's our favorite part of living here. We think they should mug the undergrads; the grad students are BROKE.

    Thanks for the hugs. Yarrrrr. No good very bad day.

  6. Anonymous5:50 PM

    We hates bad days. So sorry you're feeling blue. Hope today is better...

  7. Anonymous8:09 PM

    Wow, this is bringing back the memories for me! My husband and I were trying to finish our Ph.D.s in the sciences at the same time ... we ended up doing it (2 weeks apart!) but it was a helluva last couple of months. We even got kicked out of our apartment there at the end (not our fault), so we rented a little studio, set up two computers and a bed, put the rest in storage, and spent every day and night writing until we finished the dissertations. Ah, good times. Not so much, actually, but it was good to be finished.

    Best of luck to you and Mr. S!


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