Grad school pep talk: tales from the other side

Making it all worth it: Kyle's thesis work on hydromthermal vent snail reproduction makes the cover of Biological Bulletin

Kyle Reynolds

by Kyle Reynolds, Benthic Ecology Lab

In the midst of all the daily rigors of grad school life (endless sample processing, data analyses, literature reviews, etc.), forward progress seems sometimes to move like a snail through molasses.  One rarely gets the chance to step back from it all and gaze upon the big picture.  Instead, you’re usually so exhausted after yet another 14 hour field day, 8 hours of microscope work, or weekend spent studying for exams that you tend to forget that there will in fact be fruits of your labor…

Well, my bug-eyed, brain-frazzled, bone-weary grad school friends (and those of you students-to-be), I’m here to remind you to keep your eye on the prize and enjoy the ride.  Science is one of very few professions that encourages pure creative thinking, allows for raw discovery, and, in the process, envelopes you into a tight-knit community of passionate, like-minded people.  Brick by brick, its process and results expand and add to the conventional wisdom of humanity.  Of course you know this… it’s what attracted you to this pursuit to begin with… but I know how easy it is to lose sight of this fact during the day-to-day ‘drudgery’.  Well, let this be your public service reminder:  you are so lucky to be part of this!

Grad school got you feeling bug eyed? You'll get to do other things you love again - when you graduate. (painting: K. Reynolds)

I can say this now, one year after graduating from Moss Landing Marine Labs.  Now that a chapter of my thesis has been published and become an actual contribution to our knowledge of how the world works.  Now that I’ve had a chance to slow my pace, get in some painting and gardening and realize…  Hey!  Wait!  I need another fix!  I’m not ready to get off this ride yet (or ever) – this stuff is addictive!  There really are no words to describe the feeling of finally seeing your hard work published and, yes, even referenced by others in your ‘community’.  This must be why there are very few ex-scientists out there.

And so, here I go, back into academia to get my next fix.  Much like Michael Corleone, “Just when I thought I was out… they pull me back in.”  Only willingly… very willingly.  Don’t look at me like I’m crazy.  You know you’ll do the same thing.  Keep your eye on the prize.

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2 Responses to Grad school pep talk: tales from the other side

  1. Danna Staaf says:

    Hehe, thanks for the post, Kyle. Are you going for a PhD now? I’m glad you’re doing what you love! I, on the other hand, finished grad school with more of a Fleetwood Mac “Never going back again” sentiment. =)

    “This must be why there are very few ex-scientists out there.” –I’ve met quite a number, actually. They tend to identify with their new career (writer, teacher, parent, etc.) rather than as an “ex-scientist.”

    Like

  2. Kyle says:

    Hey Danna, it’s great to hear from you and congrats on finishing up!! Your story is a bit different than that though, no? You seemed to have always known you wanted to be a writer – science writer, or otherwise, so it’s not as if you’ve decided to change your path. In fact, I don’t think I ever met a person more passionate about science than you!! Your passion for communicating science is downright inspirational! One certainly doesn’t need to become a career researcher to still be considered a scientist.

    I’d venture to bet that those writers, teachers & parents who had enough fire in them to pursue their PhDs, still carry that torch. They’re anything but “ex-scientists”.

    Like

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