Life as a PhD Student – Weekly Journal 6

Recently, my girlfriend sent me a PDF entitled “A PhD Thesis without Tears” focusing on helping current or soon-to-be PhDs identify potential challenges, sorting out some common misunderstandings, making reasonable research targets, and eventually earning the degree with a well-organized dissertation step by step. My girlfriend, Lili, find this paper really helpful for her as she is preparing the PhD proposal and incoming proposal defence. Research, at the stage of PhD study, is never easy. It is definitely a rewarding experience to construct novel systems, build  fancy models and explore new facts. However, startling findings do not always come at the end of a tedious research or on a daily basis while anxious and pressure will accompany you all the way, and may wear you down in one moment that you have to question yourself why choose this lonely and miserable life.

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After reading the whole paper, I find the section 4 “Life as a PhD student” really intriguing. It first discusses the cost-and-benefit of a PhD life. As both a young scholar and a student, PhD have the academic freedom to perform diversified research without the burden of employment, and the life on campus is convenient and cozy. For myself, although the research work is mechanical and dull, I can always spend time on weekends to see a movie, watch football game, or get together with my friends to ease my nerves. I can spend the weekdays on literature reading, designing experiment, and conducting quantitive analysis, all planed base on my own schedule. However, as indicated in this section, the sacrifices are once in a while sleepless nights and moderate headaches, especially when experiment does not proceed as expected while the deadline for individual meeting with supervisor is approaching. With great pressure, the joy and excitement followed by overcoming these obstacles are unforgettable, and they usually can last for days. The PhD life, especially in the research aspect, can be concluded with one proverb, “no pains no gains”.

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Another great experience of being a PhD student is numerous chances of meeting different people from academia and industry, especially during a conference or a symposium. Knowing more people not only expands your own social network, but also offers a great opportunity to exchange fresh ideas and conduct brainstorm while receiving constructive suggestions and critics for your projects. People from academia and industry tends to be kind when offering advice to graduate students since no competition of interests exists. These advice may reveal a clear link between broader and practical applications with your current lab work. Most importantly, when your original research work is presented on conferences or get exposed on social media, a sense of proud will certainly provide you a boost for achieve more results at a higher level and fuel you up for future exploration.

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At last, the most valuable memory during the PhD life is your labmates. All of the graduate students share the same kind of dream for seeking the true facts and shaping the world with research and advanced technologies. The existence of your labmates greatly eases your loneliness, and after 4-5 years, they are just like family members who cares about you and becomes an important part of your life. The friendship during PhD life is more mature than that fostered during college times, and just like a campfire, it warms you in sleepless nights, especially for an international PhD student.

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