Monday, June 7, 2010

Finding Guidance from Older Peers

James O'Dea - Grad Student, University of California, Santa Barbara

Well, here I am, three months out from my thesis defense, and finally, in the last nine months or so, I’ve felt like I have things under control. In some regards, that took way too long, in others, that’s probably why it takes more than a few years to get a Ph.D. It’s funny to look back on how your approach to research (and life in general) changes over the course of graduate school

Personally, I was way too uptight at first. Data had to be perfect, I tried to keep current on way too many journals, and I even thought I was so busy that that I had to turn down the older guys down the hall when they asked if I wanted to go out to lunch. I thought I couldn’t spare an hour for a leisurely meal and would instead just plow through lunch, dinner leftovers in hand, while I tried to get some work done on the computer.

After a couple years, I finally got sick of my cooking and started going out with the guys, who at that point were getting close to finishing. I quickly realized that in between small talk and jokes, I had been missing their conversations about thesis writing, postdoc searches, and research ideas. As I approach the end of my graduate studies, I can only imagine how much harder it all would have been without the unstaged guidance I’ve received from some older friends.

James O’Dea is a senior graduate student at the University of California, Santa Barbara and is wrapping up his dissertation on scanned probe techniques to study proton exchange membranes.

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