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Sunday, 15 March 2009

Professor Georgia Chenevix-Trench (Reminder 1)

Reminder for me, again and again!
Guide for PhD students (and post-docs) aiming for a successful career in science
Note 1:
Doing a PhD should be fun, rewarding and be seen as a privilege. It's the only time in your life that you can spend 100% of your working time learning to do research, finding out new things, having freedom to pursue new areas and getting paid for it, without any administrative or other responsibilities. Those who stick it out do so because, despite the relatively poor pay, long hours and lack of security, it is all we want to do because of the intellectual satisfaction it brings, the excitement of discovery, the freedom to make your own work schedule, the opportunities for travel, the pleasure of being in an international community of like-minded people and (for some people) the possibility that we might actually help the human condition!
Note 2:
Work hard. Don’t think you can get away with a 38-hour week. You will need to work long days all week, and for part of most weekends. That gets you to closer to a 50-60 hour week, which is what you need if you want a successful career in academia (or indeed in any professional career). If research is your passion, this is actually easy to do, and if it isn’t your passion, then you are probably in the wrong field. You should be going to work because you want to, not because you have to. Of course, ultimately, the number of hours doesn’t matter - the only thing that matters is productivity, but unless you are a genius, and very organized, and very lucky, you will need to work this hard to get out enough good papers to make a good start in a scientific career. A three year stipend might seem like a long time at the start of a PhD but three years goes very, very fast and it might be difficult or impossible (depending on its source) to get an extension into a 4th year. The people who go home with a full briefcase of work to do at home are the ones most likely to succeed. Note who around you does this – aren’t they the ones who have ‘made’ it? The extra hours are the cause, not consequence of success!
Note 3:
Plan your days and weeks very carefully. If you are in the lab, begin the week, and each day, by carefully dovetailing experiments so that you have the minimum of down time. Make lists of what you have to do tomorrow at the end of each day while today’s work is in your mind. This also allows your mind to think about the next day’s work while you sleep. Unless you have domestic constraints, be flexible about what time you go home to cope with unexpected changes to this schedule.


Eridzhuan Zhaieno said...

phd for me look like producing a movie, always enjoy with hundress smiles and cry with thousands sadness.

Khalid Isa said...

This is a good reminder..very it.