Archive for January 11, 2014

Reflection on Doctorate Journey Part 1: Do or Die

“ Listen to me, all of you!  There is no way home for any of us, save through victory!
In this land we will stand or fall together.  Now, return to the base and man your posts.”
-Arthas Menethil-

A side story from Warcraft III:
Arthas and his men decided to pursue the enemy. They went to the enemy territory by ship.
Upon arriving at the coastal area, the king ordered Arthas and his men to return.
Half of his men wanted to return.
Arthas, angered by the king’s command, decided to stealthily burn the ships so there was no way home.
Hence, he told his men, “You want to go home? Make sure you win this war first.”

Many times, doctorate journey does not leave one with many choices.
In fact, there are only two alternatives: do it now or risk wasting time.
Examples include:
– You only have that one 2 a.m. time slot to use the equipment. The rest of the time slots have been fully booked.
– Your final sample is way too precious since it is expensive/it takes ~30 steps to synthesize it.
You have to characterize it in 30 minutes time or risk losing it as it decomposes easily.
– Your supervisor is way too busy. He only has that 9 pm slot on Valentine day to discuss project with you.
Either you meet him and reschedule your Valentine date or you go for Valentine date and arrange another appointment with your supervisor 3 weeks later.
– You carry out the experiment 20 times (each experiment, with variation here and there, takes two days to complete) but the experimental yield is only 50% at most.
Yet your supervisor still insists you do more experiment to get 95% yield.

Well, examples above are clearly exaggerated. Yet, I believe you get my point.
“Jefri, do you want to go for outing with us?”
”Sorry, I can’t. I have to work. No choice.”
”Jefri, you always have a choice.”
Yeah right! I have a choice either to work or to join you all for an outing and get scolded by my supervisor later on.

Doctorate study can be full with teeth gritting as you may be stuck in a do-or-die situation.
Anyway, I believe even undergraduate students may experience this kind of situation.
Tomorrow at 10 am is your exam and until 1 am you have only covered 40% of the topics.
What will you do? Keep studying while taking caffeine? Give in to sleepiness and prepare to fail in exam?

A friend equated her PhD as slavery.
A professor commented, “My PhD sucked!” He equated his post-doc work with slavery too.

Do-or-die situation is basically a test of determination and stamina.
If you are determined, you will just do it. Just do whatever your supervisor asks you to do in your project.
It can be tiring at times too. Hence, it tests your stamina.

Anyway, I found a way to comfort myself as I grit my teeth.
Doctorate study comes with scholarship. Not bad, at least there was monthly income.
Well, some may argue PhD allowance is very little. But nah, I don’t care with that.
In my time it was difficult to find a job.
Hey, not bad, at least I received allowance!
Do-or-die. It was tough but at least I was paid for that!

My teeth gritting skill has been polished times and again due to this do-or-die circumstance.
I will not say the skill is perfect.
But at least, I become more confident for future challenges.

Posted January 11, 2014 by Jefri Yue Fei 吴岳飞 in Doctorate, Thought