A graduate student in dire need of advice


by /flūks/
Tags: advice, dire, graduate, student
chill_factor
chill_factor is offline
#19
Mar14-12, 04:16 AM
P: 886
i don't think you should enjoy pain though. not many do. the few who do make it through theoretical astrophysics PHDs.

i wonder why you don't like lab work? what were you doing before? seems it'll be a bit easier, at least you'll have time to relax and there's "guaranteed" results.
daveyinaz
daveyinaz is offline
#20
Mar14-12, 11:37 AM
P: 225
Quote Quote by /flūks/ View Post
Thank you everyone for your input.

Daveyinez, I don't mean to say that medication is useless, or that they are to simply make you happy. I was purposefully making a cynical remark toward the state of society and its desire to have a quick fix, a "happy pill," for everything. For such treatment to work the person being treated must want to change, and it is a lifestyle change, a shift in the thought process as well the self-image. Someday I will figure it out.

I like "pleasantly eccentric."
Well they say that the first step in figuring out a problem is understanding it and you seem to have a good grasp on things so I have no doubt you'll figure things out. Good luck.
twofish-quant
twofish-quant is offline
#21
Mar17-12, 08:26 AM
P: 6,863
Quote Quote by /flūks/ View Post
Daveyinez, I don't mean to say that medication is useless, or that they are to simply make you happy. I was purposefully making a cynical remark toward the state of society and its desire to have a quick fix, a "happy pill," for everything.
One important note is that a "happy pill" does not exist, and one can argue that that philosophically it can't exist. There are drugs that create euphoria, but while opiates create euphoria, your typical crack addict is far from any reasonable definition of "happy" even when he or she is shooting up.

The drugs that are used in treatment of depression and bipolar disorder don't immediately change mood, and if the average person took a dose of a mood stabilzer or anti-depressant they wouldn't notice any immediate change in mood. For a lot of people, the point of medication is less to be happy than to be productively unhappy.

For such treatment to work the person being treated must want to change, and it is a lifestyle change, a shift in the thought process as well the self-image.
It depends on the situation. There are medical emergencies in which the brain seriously malfunctions, and in those situations medication with minimal supportive psychotherapy is the way to go. There are times in which the neurochemistry is so out of balance (i.e. when thoughts become suicidal or when one is actively having psychotic hallucinations), that psychotherapy is just out of the question, and sometimes causes more problems than it solves.

This comes up with physics Ph.D.'s and other people in professions in which you have to constantly use your brain. There is a very fine line between "good crazy" and "bad crazy." Many astrophysicists have a voice in the back of their head that says all sort of things that the average person would consider totally bonkers (i.e. God is speaking to you about the beginning of the universe), and keeping that voice under control is part of what separates "good crazy" and "bad crazy."
Mépris
Mépris is offline
#22
Mar17-12, 10:41 AM
P: 826
Quote Quote by twofish-quant View Post
The way that I think about moods is that it's not an "illness to be cured" but rather a "personality quirk that needs to be managed."

Also taking mood stabilizers are sometimes like wearing glasses in that they help you to see reality more clearly. Someone that is in severe depressive or manic state is not seeing reality very clearly, and that can be dangerous. A lot of "social reality" involves figuring out how others perceive you, and being severely depressed or manic causes that to go bad.

If you need to drink a cup of coffee to get yourself out of bed in the morning and vitamins to feel good, then do it. If you need to take lithium to do the same thing, then do it. I don't see anything really different between SSRI/Lithium and caffeine. For that matter, lots of people take alcohol to relax, which is something I've never understood, but whatever works for them.

For a lot of people the goal is not happiness but productivity. If you are a writer or scientists, then strong moods helps you write stuff, but if they are so strong that you can't get out of bed, then it's not helping.
Thanks a lot for this post and the one with "anecdotes about professors/scientists". It's cool to know of "others"! :-) :-)

To add to what Twofish said, I find that as a writer, one has to always keep on learning new stuff. One cool way to learn new stuff is through adventures and meeting people and learning about their adventures. For scientists, replace "adventures" with "learning about discoveries in science".

Anyway, apparently I have some kind of mental disorder (in the process of being diagnosed) and I agree that "heavy moods" can really get one to be creative. I have had days where I couldn't even fathom of getting up or going out. And you're really in trouble when that happens.
On the flip side though, I've had days where I have some pretty cool thoughts and conversations (with other people too) and I strongly suspect that the best of my written work (I write short stories on occasion - if anyone's interested in reading anything, send me a PM) - was largely due to my "peculiar" frames of mind.
mal4mac
mal4mac is offline
#23
Mar17-12, 12:19 PM
P: 1,036
Quote Quote by twofish-quant View Post
For a lot of people the goal is not happiness but productivity...
Why do people have that goal? What's so great about productivity?

Imagine you are given the choice of a lifetime of unhappiness + 100 published papers + a professorship, and a lifetime of happiness + no papers published + a lifetime in IT support, which would you choose?
mal4mac
mal4mac is offline
#24
Mar17-12, 12:25 PM
P: 1,036
Quote Quote by /flūks/ View Post
Thank you everyone for your input.

Daveyinez, I don't mean to say that medication is useless, or that they are to simply make you happy. I was purposefully making a cynical remark toward the state of society and its desire to have a quick fix, a "happy pill," for everything. For such treatment to work the person being treated must want to change, and it is a lifestyle change, a shift in the thought process as well the self-image. Someday I will figure it out.
What's wrong with a quick fix if it works? Medical scientists are looking for things that *work*, not things that are a quick fix, per se. I've read that CBT works as well, maybe worth looking into (with medical advice)... if you want a "harder path", or to give up the pill...
/flūks/
/flūks/ is offline
#25
Mar17-12, 06:11 PM
P: 9
I used to work in a chemistry lab, and I liked it but got bored repeating the same measurements and analyzing that data. I felt that there was no room for creativity (granted I was just an undergraduate working under a postdoc and I know that it will not be that way as a grad student). Later I did some stuff with granular materials, but felt that I had too much freedom and no direction, since there was no solid theory to guide my experimental exploration. I don't want what's easier, I want to challenge myself.

I know there is no such thing as a "happy pill" just as there is no such thing as a quick fix in my opinion. Productivity in my case is key to raising my spirits, helping me feel more satisfied with myself rather than wallowing in self-loathing and lethargy.

Once again, thank you for all of your advice, I really had no one to turn to.
chill_factor
chill_factor is offline
#26
Mar17-12, 06:31 PM
P: 886
whats wrong with chemistry or materials?

granular materials is pretty new, you can perhaps do something really big with this.

from what i know, in industry its not what you know, its what you can do with it (and who you know but that has nothing to do with academics).

if i was in your situation, i'd LOVE to keep doing what i was in the granular lab. no theory to guide you means you're doing something absolutely new and perhaps you might be part of the theory later. perhaps you might get a dimensionless number or even a coefficient named after you.
/flūks/
/flūks/ is offline
#27
Mar17-12, 06:52 PM
P: 9
Well what's wrong with biophysics? I don't want let my feelings of inadequacy and depression hold me back anymore.
twofish-quant
twofish-quant is offline
#28
Mar19-12, 05:04 AM
P: 6,863
Quote Quote by mal4mac View Post
Why do people have that goal? What's so great about productivity?
That's a good question. The trouble with good questions is that any answer leads to another question. For me, it is the case, that this is the environment that I grew up in, and I've never had a reason to seriously question it. On the other hand, that answer leads to a lot of other questions.

Max Weber tried a stab at answering this with "The Protestant Work Ethic". The idea is that working hard signifies that you are likely to be one of the elect that goes to heaven.

Imagine you are given the choice of a lifetime of unhappiness + 100 published papers + a professorship, and a lifetime of happiness + no papers published + a lifetime in IT support, which would you choose?
Curiously, I think I'd choose the published papers. The thing about my environment is that if I do something spectacularly good or bad, people will be talking about me for the next 1000 years. I'll be dead in a few decades, and having published papers in the database means that I get to live on for another several centuries, and that's assuming that I become worm food.

Also, one has to be because about choose X or Y, because often that isn't the choice.
atyy
atyy is offline
#29
Mar19-12, 08:47 AM
Sci Advisor
P: 7,998
I don't know about biophysics, but in many fields of biology, how well one does in classes has nothing to do with how good a researcher one is. So you shouldn't take doing badly in classes as a sign that you'll do badly in research.

That said, interest is the most important factor. So if you haven't got any more interesting questions that you want answered (at least not to the point of putting up with bad lab equipment etc), then it could be wise to move on to something you might enjoy more (but still get your masters or whatever so you have a piece of paper that's helpful for job hunting).
chill_factor
chill_factor is offline
#30
Mar19-12, 05:38 PM
P: 886
Quote Quote by /flūks/ View Post
Well what's wrong with biophysics? I don't want let my feelings of inadequacy and depression hold me back anymore.
nothing wrong with biophysics but as you said this was a theoretical group, and since you're not enjoying or doing well in classes, in a theoretical group that might have a very direct impact on your research since you'll actually be using alot of the knowledge from classes in the research.

i mean, think of it this way: you're solving problems in class. you'll be solving problems in research too, but since this is a theoretical group, you'll be solving them on paper and computer, just like in your classes.


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