For a PhD student

This is from the book, “My life as a Quant” by Emanuel Derman.

” I spent seven biblically-lean years in the physics department.
One friend spent ten.We both got out alive.
Some didn’t. It wasn’t long before we had all heard the legend about
the graduate student who had shot his PhD advisor. Several years ago I
read a New York Times article about two graduate students who committed
suicide while studying in the Harvard laboratory of Nobel Prizewinner
Professor E. J. Corey. In a subsequent letter to the Sunday New
York Times magazine of December 20, 1998, Linda Logdberg of Upper
Nyack, New York, wrote in to comment on life as graduate student:

. . . Perhaps even more now than then, graduate education is an
extended adolescence during which highly intelligent young
people see their world shrink to fit the dimensions of their advisor’s laboratory. . . . With their identities bound to the outcome
of the thesis project, graduate students are socialized to view
other options (teaching, industry, even changing to another type
of work altogether) with contempt.Wanting a decent wage and
meaningful work that occupies, say, only 50 hours per week are
considered signs of selling out.

From, ‘My Life as a Quant’ by Emanuel Derman, PhD (Physics, Columbia) who headed
Goldman Sachs’ Quantitative Strategies group.

At IISc, I met a few of ppl who reacted almost violently to the idea of going on to do a mgmt degree and to
the idea of wanting to make more money. I thought I knew what they were thinking and this describes what I thought I saw perfectly.


11 thoughts on “For a PhD student

  1. Bastet says:

    Saw your mail too. Reminds me of one particular ass at IISc who told you that money was trivial. While Money may not be The Most Imp thing, it is stupid to say it is not imp. Nobody is giving us our necessities of life and comfort for free 😛

  2. Abhishek says:

    Someone actually said that???How much time has he actually spent struggling for it??

  3. Nissim says:

    someone did…that person claimed to prefer IISc and earning less to working and earning more (which may be an acceptable tradeoff) but to say money is not at all imp. was too much.

  4. Tallur says:

    Sorry, but me also agrees that money is trivial… well it may be ’cause I haven’t really struggled to earn it while I have… but some things I perceive to be far more important than money, and hence some decisions that I have taken.

  5. Nissim says:

    may be that is it…it really hurts when you think it is OK to forgo the money coz what u get in return is more valuable and it turns out not to be that way. then you get the 4th alternative in any MCQ exam :None of these.takes a dream or two given up for the want of money to realize how badly you want it.Best of luck with what you are doing having given up the quest of money for.

  6. Abhishek says:

    There is a threshold to it I guess. Its not the most important thing in the world till you dont have it. Try asking the guy in IISc whether it would not be important to him if the funding to his research stopped.

  7. heliophile says:

    The paradox is, actually most of the IISc-ians get decent wage and hopefully meaningful work after they pass out.And I think there is nothing wrong in aiming to earn money provided you earn it by right means. Nothing wrong in wanting to live a good life. Its a personal choice to make trade-off between priorities such as work/money/satisfaction. Better lets leave it to the individual to decide it rather than generalizing it to some righteous sounding principles.– Onkar (IISc 🙂 )

  8. heliophile says:

    I wrote IISc in the bracket after my name in previous comment to prevent somebody formulating some mistaken generalized notions about the mentality of IISc-ians.

  9. siddharth says:

    we are glad to have had you at wimwi, iisc’s loss 😛

  10. minhan says:

    Hi,I am from China,welcome to my space.

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