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Regina Caputo | USLHC | USA

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grad student disappearance

Rumors spread like wild fire for wee little grad students (1st and 2nd years) and one thing we would chat about around the chalk board was that grad students for some “unknown” reason disappear during their third year in grad school. Sometimes they return, sometimes they don’t… and they’re never seen or heard from again. What happens during this time? Do they turn into trolls… get eaten by trolls… go off to fight trolls… (and why am I talking about trolls)? Having just finished my third year, I thought I’d reflect a little on this.

Ha! you caught me, I just liked this picture :)

Ha! you caught me, I just liked this picture 🙂

It’s an important time in any young grad student’s life because you’re growing into a little scientist. Like teens finally getting the keys to drive, you’re finally out on your own… in that your parents still mostly cover for you, but now you can drive yourself to school.

students first keys

students first keys

You start to answer your own questions about research, realize that sometimes you have to figure things out for yourself, and that sometimes your advisor isn’t going to answer his/her email as soon as you’d like.  It’s weird because in essence we’re in 19th grade (20+ years of school) and we’ve done pretty well with that, but research is different. There’s no more 8 am classes to go to or tests to study for. And finally you also are able to help other people – those now pesky younger grad students who joined the group a year or two after you did.

I have to give the disclaimer that I’m speaking mostly for myself and the friends I’ve spoken to, but at least in my circle this is a pretty common. I know my postdoc buddy, and fellow science blogger, thought that my naiveté when I first arrived at CERN was (I hope) endearing. I eventually learned better ways to fit functions, found more efficient ways to write code, updated my operating system (yeah, got lots of bad times about that), and had more realistic ideas about experimental research. Although I still have child-like innocence to shed before I become a grizzly post doc (probably a couple more years worth), I hope one day I too will be a wise learned scientist who with a mere glance can force code to compile, grants to be granted, and students to work harder.

-Regina

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