Saturday, July 31, 2004

That wonderful feeling of nothing...

A friend of mine just defended his Ph.D successfully (congratulations, Nabil !), and sent me this excerpt (extracted from here) in response to my email congratulating him:

In February 1995, on a beautiful sunny day with clear Carolina blue skies, I turned in the final,signed copy of my dissertation. The graduate school staff member did some last-minute checks on the document and pronounced it acceptable. After six and a half years of toil and sweat, I was finally done! While walking back to the C.S. department building, I was sorely disappointed that the heavens didn't part, with trumpet-playing angels descending to announce this monumental occasion. Upon hearing this observation, Dr. Fred Brooks (one of my committee members) commented, 'And the sad fact is, you're no smarter today than you were yesterday.'"

Another amusing take on graduate student life, from the same article:

Being a graduate student is like becoming all of the Seven Dwarves. In the beginning you're Dopey and Bashful. In the middle, you are usually sick (Sneezy), tired (Sleepy), and irritable (Grumpy). But at the end, they call you Doc, and then you're Happy.


  1. Another quote from (referenced in your posting):

    "The Ph.D. is the beginning, not the culmination, of your career."

    Interesting. As a CS Ph.D who went into industry afterwards, I feel as though my intellectual life ended with my defense. In fact, two years later, I feel dead. I guess life is more interesting with the prospect of tenure hanging over your head. It gives you something to live for.

  2. I am sorry to hear that. Although being in a research lab has its challenges, there is still a lot of intellectual stimulation to be had here. I had the choice of going into more mainstream industry after my Ph.D and I think the prospect of not being able to do research scared me off !

    However, as with anything, I don't know how clear cut the issue is with academia and being part of an intellectual community. I know of people who have day jobs in completely non-research environments, and are able to maintain their research pursuits in their own time. It's like the difference between being a professional musician and an amateur one; it all depends on what one wants.


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