Is Grad School Really a Stupid, Stupid Decision?
Hello JAEP readers! I have to apologize for things being pretty quiet around here recently. I, and my co-pusher Glen, will be picking up the pace again with electron pusher goodness in the weeks to come.
But to start, I wanted to let you all know about a book I recently finished. The title caught my eye, so I had to check it out:
Surviving Your Stupid Stupid Decision to go to Grad School, by Adam Ruben (PhD!).
In a nutshell, this book is not worth your time. If you want to know more, keep reading!
I can summarize each chapter in a single sentence and spare you from having to read the entire book yourself.
Chapter One walks the reader through the decision process: Do you want to ruin your life? If so, go to grad school.
Chapter Two explains how to choose the right grad program. There are tradeoffs based on geographic location, cost of living, academic rank, but no matter what you choose it will be a bad decision.
Chapter Three is all about grad student life: You will live in squalor with no time to sleep or tend to personal hygiene, and will need to depend on the free seminar donuts for daily sustenance.
Chapter Four gives you awful advice on how to fudge your way through your research: Tips for choosing an adviser, writing grants, and how to cherry-pick your data to look more impressive than it actually is.
Really, are you really turning data fabrication into a laughing matter in light of recent research scandals??
This book seemed like a good read. Turns out, it wasn't. Credit: amazon.com
Chapter Five is about how to deal with undergrads: the common undergrad stereotypes, how to handle liars, cheaters, and plagiarizers.
Chapter Six is about non-PhD grad programs: If you go into law, medicine or business, you will pay more but also make more than a science PhD, and also make your Jewish or Asian mom proud.
And finally, chapter Seven is all about how to defend, deposit and “get the #@%$ out of grad school,” including tips on how to make your thesis longer without adding content, and making the choice between the miserable tenure-track life and “the dark side” of industry.
Come on, no mention of non-traditional career paths? Have you never heard of this blog??
The book is meant to be funny. The author, after all, is a PhD-molecular-biologist-turned-stand-up-comedian, who is also into writing, storytelling, and has a day job as a scientist.
But I did not find it very funny, frankly.
Maybe I would’ve found it more funny if I was into encountering the f-bomb every few pages and reading crass jokes that reference female body parts and compare the lab to a brothel. Seriously? I simply wasn’t a fan.
One more thing—the tone of this book is just so whiny.
In grad school, you will become an expert at spotting free food, like the donuts at seminars. Photo credit: flickr use sgstarling.
I’m a poor, poor grad student. My life is miserable, I hardly make enough money to buy ramen, I have no time to even shower, waa, waa, waa…
The easiest thing to do as a grad student is complain about being a grad student. That gets old after a while.
Perhaps it’s because I have survived grad school and don’t think that it was a stupid, stupid decision at all.
One thing’s for sure—if you’re actually looking for real, practical advice about grad school, you won’t find it in this book. So, don’t read it.
And if you’re not looking for practical advice and are just so curious you have to read it-- okay fine, give it a shot, but don’t say I didn’t warn you.
So what can you expect to see in upcoming weeks on JAEP?
Well, we’ve got several profile posts on chemists with nontraditional careers in the pipeline, including the fields of chemometrics, medical sales and government. Also, Glen will be bringing us an update about life as a commuter chemist, and all the challenges that come along with that. Stay tuned!
Update, 6/22/2012, 6:30 pm: A friend of mine just gave me a great idea-- I'll be preparing a post on books that are actually helpful for navigating your way through grad school. Post a comment below if you have a suggestion for a book that should be included in this follow-up post!