Mental Health in Graduate School

crazyChemjobber and Vinylogous just put out a second dialogue on seriously discussing the issues of mental health in graduate school (and industry), if you should go to grad school, and if it’s okay to quit.

First round: Part 1, 2, 3, 4, 5
Second round: Part 1, 2

You should read these to gain some insight if you’re:
1) In grad school
2) Thinking about grad school
3) Did grad school
4) Have friends/family who are/were in grad school

Essentially, you should just read these; it is really important insight. Grad school is nowhere near the same as college. Personally, I have no disillusions as to how easy I had it. Luck played a role for sure, but the right approach, putting myself in the right circumstances (in and out of lab) made all the difference.

I had an amazing PI, group, and friends. I worked hard, but avoided burnout. I played hard, but avoided slacking off too hard. Everything really just worked out, so I loved grad school. Would everyone? No, hell no. Could I do it because I was smarter, more dedicated, or some other arrogant reason? Hell no.

Go read those posts, and hopefully you can think a little differently of anyone who started/is in/finished/quit/didn’t go to grad school.

[Photo: Christopher Lange]

LinkedIn is mean

mean linked in


When someone is a grad student, this is mean. 6 years is fine, but it’s at the point you probably don’t want congratulations on still being there. If this number gets to 7 or 8, that’s when I murder anyone who says “congrats”.

Doctor Will

Defense Date Scheduled

Thesis: Done’ish

As I’ve said, thesis writing is slow, but now mine is mostly done’ish. Still going through a few rounds of revisions, but the bulk of the work is done. Writing a thesis isn’t hard, it just takes a long time; you’ve done all of the work already. Hopefully you’ve published along the way, then you get to do some fun copy/pasting “with permission from the author” of course. (Cause that’s you!)

thesisAlong the way, you’ll think of some new experiments to do, more figures to make. Some of those you’ll be excited to do. Some, you’ll grudgingly do. Others, you’ll think of, but say fuck that, only if my committee tells me to. But the writing isn’t hard, it just takes a long time.

Motivating yourself to write a thesis? Harder. (This obviously depends on your circumstances, but I think…) Grad school is fun; there’s definitely a part of me that doesn’t want to leave. On one hand, I’ve done the work, I’ve put in the time, I’ve earned this. On the other hand… school is all I know. As such, forcing yourself to write when it will result in you leaving sooner? Exactly.

Somehow I managed to force myself to do a lot of writing while I was job searching, long enough before anything was remotely an option. I really wanted to have a stress-free writing experience. What I didn’t want was to get a job offer, have a start date in place, and be frantically writing up, and having to talk my committee into letting me defend with short notice.

It worked out that way. At this point, the only stress is figuring out what to do with my life, but more on that later.

[Photo: Flickr]

Thesis Writing

This is how fast it feels.

Aqua regia


Because we work with a lot of different metals, to avoid contamination, we normally clean our stirbars with aqua regia. But we also use normal stainless steel tweezers for retrieving them.  Here’s what happens if you accidentally leave them in solution…  We should really start using teflon tweezers for this.

(This was from a while back; I wish I had a less fuzzy picture, but those tweezers are missing about 2 inches…)



That’s a great technique for washing your forehead and nose at the same time I suppose…