Thursday, April 15, 2010

A Day in the Life... Or rather a year in the life... of a PhD student

PBS recently aired a film that followed 3 graduate students in a molecular biology lab at Columbia University.  All I can say is, "finally, reality television I can get behind."  If you have any interest at all in knowing what it is like going on this journey we call getting a PhD, or, better yet, if you know anyone considering going to grad school, check this out and get a better understanding of the trials and tribulations of fledgling academic scientists.

Some of my personal favorite moments from the film are when they finally get good data and talk about how they are the only people in the world to know the answer to the question they were asking.  To me, this is one of the coolest things about being a scientist, and definitely one of the things that helps to drive me in my own work.  Also, I liked how they showed that most of the time, doing science is actually more troubleshooting and dealing with failures than anything else.  To a large extent, getting a PhD in science requires looking at a set of problems from every possible angle, and then by trial and error, attacking those problems using several different approaches.  Most of them never pan out, but if you get a couple things to work out, you can consider that success.  It's kind of like the old saying: if you throw enough shit against the wall, eventually, some of it will stick.

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