I'm a postdoc physicist with interests in books, art, vinyl, photography, jogging and the Private Eye cryptic crossword.
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I'm not sure how the last sounds so fresh, after so many years.
I was traveling for work for a couple of weeks, so I've only just seen your reply now. I agree completely with your comments -- graduate training can increase how good you are at other jobs and be character building. I don't think it's a particularly good sole/major reason to go to grad school -- one would probably be better served by working in a particular industry instead, where one can character build and obtain relevant skills.
I sometimes have to program as part of my work. As with any coding, if you're not careful (or, even if you are) you end up with bugs in your code. As I'm often doing coding to get numerical answers, an oft-encountered bug is the NaN (Not a Number) error - something that should be a number is not, usually because you've accidentally divided by zero. I like bad puns -- like the kind of things you'd come up with for a themed bar trivia team name -- and at some point I figure NaN error could just as well stand for "Not another Neil" error (as Neil is my name, and I'm the one making the damn error).
I agree that in general, expanding career opportunities is a big part of education at all levels. However, I don't think that this is a particularly good sole reason for pursuing a Ph.D. -- my general impression from colleagues is that having a Ph.D. can be a hinderance on the (outside of academia) job market. I'd think in general (and of course, your mileage may vary...) that if improving career prospects is your main aim of graduate school, you're better off leaving with a M.S. and getting relevant job experience, instead of spending the additional 3-5 years on a Ph.D. (which is what I usually think of as "graduate school").
Another point to bear in mind, I think, is that if you're interested in academic jobs, it's also really worth being realistic at all stages of your chances. Very few Ph.D. students make it through to full-time academic positions and there is really no shortage of extremely well qualified candidates. I'm not advocating against this path, just it's worth having some back-up plan and gathering "transferable skills" for outside careers whilst in the academic pipeline.
- 1. Why did you go to grad school?
I liked doing research -- I'd started as an undergraduate and wanted to do more. And I wanted to learn more quantum mechanics and apply it to models to understand some (approaching...) real world problems. I liked the place, the research and the atmosphere and fellow graduate students.
- 2. When did you go to grad school?
I went straight after undergraduate, age 22. Finished just over a year ago.
- 3. What is a good reason to go to grad school?
I think about the only reason to go to grad school is that you like doing research and/or learning the subject to greater depths whilst on the front lines, worry about and performing the nitty-gritty side of things.
- 4. What is a bad reason to go to grad school?
Expand career opportunities. To stay a student. To get "Dr." in front of your name.
- 5. What is the best state of mind to start grad school?
Be open minded about what you're researching and focussed on the task at hand. Treat it like a job: when you're in the office/lab/library, don't procrastinate and waste time. Do stuff. Take time off; go on vacation. Watch your mental and physical health. Both of these things can suffer in grad school -- if they are, take a step back, take some days off, make time to do fun stuff. Don't work yourself to the bone -- life is short and you should be doing fun stuff and enjoying some of the freedoms that grad school gives you.
- 6. What obvious and not so obvious things should I look for when choosing a program?
Assuming STEM, as this is my background: supervisor is the most important person. Try to find someone who you get on with; a strained relationship with supervisor definitely makes life more difficult (I had some experience here). Find out about money for traveling to conferences etc. Work environment (will you be in cubicle farm? small shared office?) and atmosphere (is everyone in 14hrs a day, 7 days a week? are people happy? do people look permanently tired/ill?). Talk to grad students 1-to-1 away from faculty to get some honest perspective on pros/cons of the place -- most will be happy to give you the low-down. If profs don't give you time/space to talk to grad students whilst at interview, take this as a bad sign.
- 7. How on earth am I supposed to generate income while simultaneously committing enough hours to my studies? During the school year in undergrad I worked usually less than 10 hours a week.
Again, from a STEM perspective, you'll be earning money. Probably not great money, but enough to live off. Many places (if you're a full-time grad student) won't allow you/be at all happy with you having another job. I know in my contract that I signed, it explicitly stated I couldn't have a second job. Often you can make some extra money teaching/TAing for classes, although the hourly pay is rough in reality.
I'm reading a graphic novel adaption of Swann's Way by Marcel Proust. I read the book a few years ago, and I'm using this as a reminder before starting the second book in the series. Quite liking it so far, the book is beautiful, both visually and in terms of tactile/quality.
Thanks for letting me know about the members and their other projects -- I'll definitely have to check them out as I've been really digging the American Football album. And I completely agree that this album is so far ahead of its time -- it sounds so fresh, it could have been released last week and I'd never had known any different.
I've been listening to the self-titled album by "American Football", which was released back in 1999 but is new to me.
I'm about 200 pages in to the Man in the Iron Mask by Alexandre Dumas.
I read the Count of Monte Cristo last year and absolutely loved it (it has to rank up there in my top 5 reads), and so far I'm really enjoying the TMITIM, although it took me a fair few pages to really get in to it. I've not read The Three Musketeers; despite some of the same characters cropping up, I don't think I'm massively missing out on a lot of the story.
Thanks for the specific recommendations for albums, I checked out both the Hank Mobley and the Sonny Rollins & Theolonious Monk albums and will definitely be listening to both again, as well as checking out some of their other stuff.