Wednesday, April 3, 2013

Why am I here? PhD Year 3

Over the past 3 years pursing a PhD, many times, I have asked myself life questions such as 'Why am I here?' or 'What am I doing?' or 'Am I happy?'. Along the way, there have been many lessons learned and there are many more still to come. My most recent discovery is that everyone struggles at some point. Whether it is with life in general or PhD specific, it happens. I henceforth decided to share my experiences via timely reflections of my experiences through this blog. Here's to hoping that these reflections will help someone (including myself) avoid making the same mistakes. 

I can now return back to the pressing question of 'Why am I here?'.

As a PhD student, I have dedicated alot of my time to research - with social occasions few and far between. During deadline phases, I have worked my butt off - often more than 12 hours a day (including most weekends) with little time to go to the gym or god forbid socializing. To be clear - this was not because anyone was forcing me. I choose to work this hard to reach self-set goals geared towards obtaining a PhD in reasonable time frames. But, why do it in the first place?

Besides loving my research and my co-workers, my answer stems from the fact that I am still learning. And, more importantly, I have people around me who are willing to correct me and help me learn. I can enjoy going to work, and busting my butt with next to no sleep, because at the end of the day, I feel like I am still growing. I do not ever expect to stop growing and learning, but thus far, the pursuit of a PhD has helped me grow in many areas (coursework, mathematical background, software, hardware, writing, management, to name a few). Eventually, I'm sure I will get tired of this routine and crave a new form of growth, and at that point, hopefully I am close to graduation :).


  1. I agree with the growing and learning. For me coming back to graduate school was tough in the first year: going from a corporate life back to a full schedule juggling classes, homework, TAing, and learning how to work in lab. I did the Yes+ workshop with Art of Living and that helped tremendously with stress, but a key part of getting through and have something to smile about was a vision of growth. I though of my desk as a place where I would mature and work towards my potential, and that was what motivated me.

    However, gradschool will try to overwhelm your goals and vision, and this comes in waves. We will all go through times that are filled with misery, and if it's hard to see the end then grad school becomes not fun. Here is when we need a break and step back to see where we're going. Get some perspective- we're always learning and even the bad days are not so bad in retrospect.

    Conversely Rob you have to kick my butt if you see me slacking, as having fun and wasting time is not the same thing. Thanks for the post bro.

  2. Yes, we are all still learning. At the end of the day, we will appreciate those tough and stressful times, because they made a better you and me.

  3. I am 100% with you on the learning and growing aspect of it.

    When done right, graduate school offers opportunities to advance nearly any skill one wants to work on. It offers a combination of a relative freedom of working on what you want and approaching it how you want, and at the same time having experienced mentors ready and willing to help you learn how to approach things best.

    By "done right", I mean, specifically, the following two things, both absolutely necessary to make the best out of the time spent in graduate school:
    -- Proactively seeking out the opportunities and pursing them, at times aggressively; never assuming that if an opportunity was not offered to you, it does not exist, or it is not for you.
    -- Actually doing the work, and doing it the best you can -- only people who put in the work get the benefits of mentorship; they are the only ones who are worth mentors' time and energy.

    I sincerely hope I will get a job that will offer me as many growth opportunities as graduate school did.