As February nears its end, and we move ever closer to an invigorating Spring, I can feel the dreariness of winter grad blues lifting off of my shoulders. Another year gone, and the new year off to a running start – do I sense the desire to pursue doctoral studies budding in my mind? But this renewal in spirit has also made me look back upon my time here so far, and, putting the work that we all do over the course of our studies into perspective, I have come to realize that there is a lot more to grad school than cell culture and literature reviews.
Grad school can be extremely rewarding, both in the work we produce and the people that we become. When we step back from our toils in the lab or in our offices, we realize how relevant what we are doing is, on a bigger scale. Our work contributes to the core of knowledge that translates to both tangible and intangible human advancements. Take, for example, a developmental biologist, studying the mechanisms underlying development of motor neurons. His or her work leads to a better understanding of the molecular basis of the generation of neurons, the development of the motor system, and the different steps required for this orchestra to be conducted smoothly. His or her work will mean that those key steps that go awry in debilitating diseases like ALS can be targeted, and therapies targeting these steps can be created and used to cure incurable conditions. And this is just one of literally hundreds of examples in all fields of study – the implications of graduate work are too often undersold, and we must take pride in the great work that we are actually doing.
Don’t get me wrong; there are plenty of hurdles that we have to overcome on our way to achieving our research goals. Graduate work is full of dead ends, disproven hypotheses, scooped data and a plethora of general day-to-day stressors. I for one can name dozens of instances where I have been frustrated with experiments that seem to be going nowhere. But taking a look at the bigger picture, the reality comes to light: our studies are giving us an incredible work ethic, determination, perseverance, of course, an immense wealth of knowledge. This is a huge asset, not to be undervalued, whether we stay in academia or choose a different path. At the end of the day, the time we have spent here is will have given us the invaluable insight into ourselves, both as scholars and as people. We are moving forward, steadily, and by graduation, we will be light years ahead of where we started.