December 2, 2020

Graduate education, Five F-Words, and the hindsight of an early-career researcher


Dame Zaha Hadid, DBE, expressed an interesting observation of her fellow architects and their habits:

“When you are overworked and exhausted, there is a sense of kind of delirium and that's why I think architects do all-nighters and they kind of do those deadlines.”

The same could be said of anyone in higher education. Graduate students, myself included, are all delirious in some way. As a bonus, higher expectations of academic progress come with complementary sleepless nights, hours of crying, thousand-yard stare, and 90 second lunch break to question your life decisions. Nothing will eliminate the personal challenges we face in graduate education. In contrast, our common experiences create learning opportunities from the challenges of others. Through the following series of blogs, I’d like to present some information to help in your own academic journey. Throughout this series I’d like to cover five f-words (failure, fear, frustration, futility, and focus) that every graduate student faces, give context through my own experiences with each, and examine how each experience shaped me as an early-career researcher. Hopefully you find something useful in this series, know you are not alone when you suffer in pursuit of greater knowledge, and enjoy a bit of schadenfreude at my expense.