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Surviving Graduate School

  1. Feb 2, 2005 #1

    ZapperZ

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    Robert Crease has compiled a few anecdotes on some of the valuable lessons one learned in doing research as a graduate students. While there are some elements of truth to these stories, they are still hilarious to read.

    http://www.physicsweb.org/articles/world/18/2/3

    My own contribution to this has already been posted in my journal titled "It May Be Interesting, But Is It Important?" That was the most important lesson that I learned as a graduate student.

    Do you have any?

    Zz.
     
  2. jcsd
  3. Feb 2, 2005 #2
    your work is good, however it is not ingenious :) :)

    marlon
     
  4. Feb 2, 2005 #3

    cronxeh

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    Remember kids.. Dilbert is not a comedy, its a documentary
     
  5. Feb 2, 2005 #4
    a prof in my dept (john wheeler's last student, i think) said when he was in grad school all the grad students looked unhappy & stressed out, etc. he never felt that way though because he started publishing early on, so he had kind of established himself. the others hadn't, so they were always stressing about it.
     
  6. Feb 2, 2005 #5
    Another thing i learned is this : when doing stuff like QFT you can use many very expensive terms. Hell, it even is a language on itself. this is all good, but beware that when someone asks you where the spin-quantum number comes from or what is a mass tensor? Be sure you know the answer...It is very difficult to explain something difficult in common understandable language.

    regards
    marlon
     
  7. Feb 2, 2005 #6

    Gokul43201

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    Some words of advice for experimentalists, based on lessons I've learnt :

    1. Do not get professional HVAC people to design cleanrooms for you. They will just muck it up, and you will spend the better part of a year tearing things down and rebuilding it yourself.

    2. If your cryostat needs x feet of vertical space, your new lab will have exactly x-1 feet in it - this is unavoidable. What you must then do is find the group that works in the lab above you; take them all out to dinner; pay for their dinner and drinks; generally treat them like kings; then ask them whether they'd mind terribly if you made a large hole in their floor.

    3. PVC will hold medium vacuum (~10^-4 torr) just as well as stainless, at a tiny fraction of the price.

    4. Your magnet will quench. It is inevitable. About as probable as the sun rising the next day and less avoidable than having a coin land heads or tails. It is your job to prevent this from happeneing.

    5. If you are likely to be walking around anywhere near a strong magnet, leave you keys and wallet someplace safe. The customer service rep at your credit card company will not understand what 16T is ?


    As an aside, I strongly recommend Crease's book The Second Creation.
     
    Last edited: Feb 2, 2005
  8. Feb 3, 2005 #7

    ZapperZ

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    I'm glad to know that I'm not the only one who has this problem. :) It is also the main reason why I only wear cheap, 100% plastic watches. Cheap because I kill them every few months, and plastic because I have to do laser allignment often and metals reflect high-powered lasers too well into one's eyes (not good).

    Zz.
     
  9. Feb 3, 2005 #8

    Dr Transport

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    Also remember for the theoreticians out there:

    "A good model with estimated parameters will help you get your degree, a halfway decent model with great parameters won't".

    No matter how many computational cases you run, your comittee will ask for one you haven't.

    Don't let your red/green color blind friend help you align your Argon ion laser, or for that matter your Ti:Sapphire either.

    Never let anyone trouble shoot your code, they'll find all the mistakes that you have hidden as undocumented features.

    If your advisor is still programming in Fortran IV, don't let them turn a subroutine into a program by adding a main statement then tell you the code stinks.

    Sweat the little things, they'll always come back to haunt you latter.

    Bring donuts or bagels to a committee meeting, if their mouths are full, they can't ask questions.
     
  10. Feb 3, 2005 #9

    ZapperZ

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    Oh, now you're really stretching it, Dr. Transport! When was the last time you see a theoretician having to allign a laser system? :)

    Zz.
     
  11. Feb 3, 2005 #10

    Moonbear

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    Ah, but then they're too well fed. It's better to provide only a light snack, like cheese and crackers or a small tray of cookies (never make the mistake of NOT feeding them at all, then they are grumpy because they expect food). Be sure to also bring a LOT of coffee, and make it strong. If they have to pee really badly a half hour into the meeting, they won't want to spend a long time asking questions. And as extra insurance, hold your meeting at 11 AM or 4:30 PM so the committee members either want to get to lunch or get home.

    The best way to avoid spending a long time making extensive revisions to your disseration is to have a post-doc position already lined up to start 2 weeks after your defense date. Even the toughest committee member will cave in and sign off if you already have the post-doc started (it doesn't hurt if you have all the chapters already published either, but that might be too serious of advice for this thread...your committee members can hardly recommend too many revisions if you've already gotten the chapters past peer-review).
     
  12. Feb 3, 2005 #11

    cronxeh

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    Is there much difference between a defense in science field and an engineering one?

    If there are any engineers out there with a Ph.D, can you please describe how your viva went, what was your thesis on, your major, etc
     
  13. Feb 3, 2005 #12

    Dr Transport

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    I'm a reformed experimentalist..............I unlike many theoreticians, know which end of a laser not to look into. My experimental downfall was that I couldn't figure out how to really set up an experiment, to this day I can't work a lock-in amp or many other what would be considered basic experimental techniques.
     
    Last edited: Feb 3, 2005
  14. Feb 3, 2005 #13

    Dr Transport

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    The best lesson a person can learn in graduate school, it also translates well into the business world......
     
    Last edited: Feb 3, 2005
  15. Feb 4, 2005 #14
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