The ugly, ugly side of graduate school

I have been in summer mode for a while, so this morning I woke up late. Yet, the first thing I proceeded to do automatically, was to check my social network accounts. I checked my Twitter first, and one of the tweets that caught my attention right away was a retweet from biochem belle. Not good. Actually, it was so bad that I was upset the entire morning.

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Very few things push my buttons to the extreme. And what you see above, really does. We, the naive graduate students, come to grad school with many fantasies in our unpolished little intellects. We are attracted by the promises of great science, publications, conferences, ah, the semi-professional student life, while still not being full grown-ups. And it is perhaps our naivety and our desires to be  god-like to resemble our supervisors that let us put up with so much s…tuff.

Graduate school can sometimes strip you away from the most basic form of self dignity. You lose sight of who you are to become a stranger to yourself, and to the people surrounding you. Work becomes your master, and the most abundant feelings of guilt surround you when you are not at the bench/computer/library, you name it. You pull early mornings, late nights, weekends; all accompanied by a steaming cup of your mild source of awakening. You neglect your poor body when you’re sick, ‘forget’ to eat at your hours, sacrifice time with your loved ones, all while you watch life happen right in front of you. All in the name of science.

Some people say that in losing yourself to the things you love you will find yourself. I disagree. Once you don’t know who you are anymore, there is no going back. You become part of the vicious cycle, and eventually turn into the person you hated the most.

This issue hits home hard, as I’ve seen many cases of abuse in people close to me, and I’ve been a victim myself. I don’t know what to do to stop it, but I do know that if I sit here and not say anything about it, things will only get worse. I wish I could prevent this epidemic, which seems to be more and more common.

In absence of solutions or uplifting words to attempt to make it all better, I leave you with one of my response tweets to the thread above. Oh, and regardless of whether you are PI or grad student reading this, please remember this: WE ARE HUMANS.

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3 thoughts on “The ugly, ugly side of graduate school

  1. Part of the problem is staying silent. My 1st horrendous PI had 14 people leave his lab in less than a year (I was the 1st). Then 6 of us actually made something so the University would take action. He was denied tenure and had to go someplace else.

  2. True. We are often too afraid to say anything in fear of what will happen. But like you said, that’s probably the biggest part of the problem. I’m sorry that you had to go through horrible PIs. There should be a constitution or some sort of contract against abusive PIs.

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