Saturday, May 8, 2010

Why a PhD?

Defrosting some shrimp, but while I have some time, I want to address something.

Why a PhD?

Very good question. After all: they are a lot of work, can be a really big pain, and often don't end up how you plan them too.

I wasn't sure I wanted to do a PhD, and I flip flopped between feeling like I could do it and that I couldn't. Some of the hesitation was because of the major changes that had happened in the past couple years. Dad died the first year I was in grad school, I was engaged to someone who pressured me to come home, and that relationship ended. I was also given advice: a PhD isn't something you do because you don't have any other plan, you need to want to do it. So, with all of the above, I was nervous and confused about staying in school.

After some time my life evened out, and I got refocused on what I was doing, academically. This was good because it meant I could actually graduate. About a week before I defended my research I was having a meeting with my adviser and we were talking about all the neat directions my research could go. However, I was leaving and hadn't applied for any PhD programs... which is what I would have to do to ever answer the dozens of questions I had about the topics I was interested in.

In short, I concluded I wanted to do a PhD because I was curious and really wanted to know more about all the stuff I had been working on. I quickly found some programs I was interested in, made contact with people, and applied to three programs I was really interested in plus an additional one as a back up. Thankfully, all the people who wrote my letters of recommendation were really helpful and got them out quickly. I put off finishing my thesis to work on applications, and got them all out in a couple months; a very good decision.

I spent the last semester casually finishing up my thesis, took classes, and taught a geology lab. Better than worrying about finding a temporary job to keep my house!

I decided I like school, I couldn't see myself doing anything other than academia, and so I took the dive. No regrets. I could have forced myself into some kind of industry job, but I hated the idea of it, and really, my studies only really set me up for a university type job. I used to feel bad about that, but not anymore. I get to go on an adventure in a couple months, which I think is pretty cool!

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