arrow8 Comments
  1. Brandon the Engineer
    Jun 23 - 10:17 am

    I could see going to grad school with a degree that isn’t useful would be a big waste of time and money. I wonder what caused the author to sound so whiny, since they are supposed to be a comedian.

  2. Phil
    Jun 25 - 12:20 pm

    I guess Jason Altom was a whiny grad student too. Leave it to the ACS to come out with a defense of this broken system!

  3. Christine Herman
    Jun 25 - 12:36 pm

    @Phil: I agree– there is a lot that is broken about the system, and this is a complex issue. Some advisers exploit their students, and there are no repercussions or penalties for the abuse. Sometimes it’s even rewarded. This just isn’t right. What do you think needs to be done to fix this?

    I just didn’t enjoy the style of the humor in this book and didn’t find it worth my time. I personally have found grad school to be a rewarding experience, but I also was fortunate enough to have a good adviser. I know many, if not most, people who have survived (or not survived) grad school can’t say the same, and that is really sad.

    Also, the views expressed here are my own and do no necessarily reflect the position of the American Chemical Society.

  4. Phil
    Jun 25 - 7:13 pm

    Maybe hiring some ex-industry folks as professors would help change the culture, or having an HR department with teeth. As much as I dislike HR folks in industry, they do perform a valuable function of keeping bosses from going over the line, like cursing someone out (which at least one PI at my graduate alma mater was known to do). In industry, this sort of thing usually gets nipped in the bud before it rises to a Corey-Altom-like situation, and there are plenty of ways to correct someone’s behavior short of outright dismissal (either abusive bosses or underperforming subordinates). In academia, not much can happen to a tenured professor unless he/she does something truly outlandish, so abusive behavior is allowed to continue and worsen.

    You probably wondered why Ruben didn’t just quit if he was so miserable, but it isn’t as easy as it looks. I was miserable for a long time before I quit with a master’s because I didn’t want to face people back home and admit that I quit. Suicide seemed like an honorable way out, and it scares the hell out of me today to think of how close I came.

  5. David
    Jul 06 - 2:23 pm

    Graduate school can be a very good or a very bad decision, depending on exactly what you want to do. If it doesn’t get you where YOU want to go, it isn’t worth it. I got a lot out of grad school, with a so-so adviser. I did see people abused and exploited (not by him) The system often seems more designed for the professors than for the students. Choose your program well!

  6. Mark Darey
    Jul 12 - 2:53 pm

    Two books you might consider reviewing are: “A Ph.D. is not enough” by Peter J. Feibelman, and “How to get a Ph.D.” by Estelle Philips (the latter covers the British Ph.D. system, but is probably relevant to the U.S. as well). I discovered these books after completing my Ph.D., and wish I had read them whilst I was still a graduate student.
    Another book that looks promising is “The smart way to do your Ph.D.” by Dora Farkas. It’s based on interviews with 100 graduates. There are plenty of other suggestions available on Amazon, but these three would be my choice.

  7. Christine Herman
    Jul 12 - 3:02 pm

    @Phil: Thanks for sharing about your experiences. Your ideas about bringing people in from industry are interesting. I agree– I’ve seen grad students get treated in a way that would NEVER be tolerated in a “real” working environment.

    @David: Totally agree. Lots of incoming grad students say they came to grad school because they weren’t sure what else to do, and their undergrad research advisers recommended grad school. This is my story too. But now I tell undergrads that grad school’s not for everyone, and they should really think about what their goals are for coming before signing up.

  8. Christine Herman
    Jul 12 - 3:03 pm

    @Mark: Thanks for the book recommendations– I will definitely check them out!

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