As it was Thanksgiving, and hopefully the last Thanksgiving I’ll spend as a grad student, I thought I’d take a moment to reflect on the things grad school has made me thankful for. I figured I’d try and find 7 things, one for each Thanksgiving I’ve spent as a grad student!
- The People: This is always bold and top of the list for me. In my first post I talked about how thankful I was to have such wonderful people in my lab. But this extends further, to all the amazing people I’ve met through out grad school: the other grad students, the undergrads, the professors and staff and the larger scientific community I’ve encountered. Had I not come to grad school I never would have met people that have become such great friends, or excellent mentors, or even the critics who have made me a better scientist.
- The Ability to Fail: It has been an important life lesson to learn and while it doesn’t feel great at the time, all those failed experiments and rejected scholarship applications have made me a stronger, more capable person. I’ve learned from my mistakes but also to be okay with a certain amount of failure. You just need to pick yourself up and keep toiling along. I learned this lesson early and often in grad school but I’m thankful I did.
- Flexibility: The flexibility I’ve had in grad school has been such an advantage. It might not apply to all labs, but in my lab I have control over my own time and over my own experiments. As long as my work gets done, I can alter my hours in the lab to fit my schedule or even work from home some days. Time management was an important lesson to learn, but once I did, being able to shift things around as I need to is something I’m really lucky to have.
- Funding: It’s pragmatic, but I’m thankful I’m in a well-funded lab. We’re not swimming in money, but I’ve never been told I couldn’t do an experiment because of the cost. So many labs have been hit with funding issues and that uncertainty can be hard to deal with. So yes, I’m thankful that lack of funding has not been an impediment to my research.
- The Opportunities: Grad school has provided me with a lot of opportunities I don’t know I would have had otherwise and a lot of them have come outside of the lab. And thanks to the flexibility I’ve had, I’ve been able to avail myself of many opportunities to improve my skills or explore my interests. For example, I wanted to improve my writing, so I joined this blog. I’ve been part of my PGSA and learned many important management and leadership skills through that. I’ve had the opportunity to travel by going to conferences and discuss science with people from so many different disciplines and backgrounds. The opportunity to teach or TA if you want to. Grad school really does open a world of opportunities to you, you just have to look for them.
- Learning how to think: It’s the most important lesson I’ve learned and in my opinion is the real purpose of grad school. It’s a slow process and I didn’t even realize it was happening. But if I look back at who I was when I started grad school, I was less critical of the science I read and took things at face value. I didn’t really have ideas of my own, couldn’t design a good experiment or trouble shoot my own project, never mind offer advice on someone else’s. Now I’m still not perfect and I’m constantly learning new things, but I can have a discussion about science that transcends my limited field of expertise. I can ask questions that provoke thought in others. I can even, on occasion, win a debate with my boss. And maybe equally important I now have the confidence to do so. Grad school taught me that and it’s one of the things I’m most thankful that I learned.
- It’s almost over: Yep, the end is near for me. As much as I’ve enjoyed my time here, I’m glad it’s almost over. I feel like I’ve learned what I needed to over this (almost) 7 year journey and it’s time to move forward, on to the next adventure. I am not the same person I was when I started grad school; I’ve grown so much as a person. I’d do it again, but it needs to come to an end at some point. But thank you grad school, for everything!
These are just 7 of the things I’m thankful for this year. What about you? What things has grad school made you appreciate?