You’re a graduate student?

15 January 2008

I am quite amused at times at how people look at graduate students. Especially when their opinions concerned me.

Whenever I tell someone, layman or not, that I’m pursuing a Ph.D. in Genetics, I inevitably get varied responses from one to another. Compound that to other information that they know about me, well, it gets funny.

Sometimes the response is a reaction to how I look, sometimes my gender, sometimes my field of study (involving mammalian genomes), sometimes my characters and behaviours. Or even my hobbies. Does my choice of graduate course somehow should reflects on who I am/ should be? Let’s see…

  • You are too young to be graduating this year with a Ph.D.! Why, you don’t look a day over 21! (Thank you kind sir/madam, I am definitely older than 21. And as flattered as I am, I’d rather be able to buy wine without having my ID checked.)
  • That is so cruel that you’re using animal for research! (Errm, I only download their genomes from available databases, and I don’t do animal testing really.)
  • What can you do with such a qualification? Are there jobs that you can do after graduation? (Of course there are, plenty of them really.)
  • Do you believe there is a future in what you do and why aren’t you pursuing these projects in bigger and well-known lab? (Yes there is a future in what I do, and I happen to like where I am, thank you very much. I get amazing support from my supervisors that I simply couldn’t ask for more.)
  • You are too bubbly to be confined in a lab all day – you should be a PR executive or works in advertising and marketing. (Honestly I suck at selling myself despite my ability to chat easily with anyone, and I am not all that good in convincing people to part with their monies.)
  • You love arts and culture? (Just because I am in science it doesn’t mean I can’t like arty stuff. In fact lots of people in science are even involved in the arts world. It’s not something exclusive to, say, hippies and literary writers.)
  • You are multilingual? (What is wrong with that? Even may be the most used language, but the knowledge of others come in handy for day to day living. We may have our head in some abstract experimental ideas sometimes, but we do live in the real world. I love learning languages. Don’t you see, it’s structured learning. We scientists are pretty good at that you know.)
  • There are not a lot of top female scientists so why are you wasting your time? (It may seems so to you but it is not to me. I may have my days when I wish I am not doing what I am doing, but they are rare. Often, I do enjoy my work and every little contribution counts. It’s not time wasting. Nor resources.)
  • You must have lots of holiday time, being a student – lucky you! (Yes, my holiday time is very flexible, but it’s the same amount like what everyone else gets. Graduate students lives are less constraint by time, but we also have our busy periods when we work non-stop in order to meet deadlines etc. Work hard, play hard.)
  • Can you trace my genealogy or analyse my personal genome? (Well, not in my scope of study really, but if you have money, there are companies out there who would be more than happy to help you with these.)
  • Have you found a cure to cancer or HIV yet? Or any other disease X, Y and Z. (Again still out of my scope of study – we don’t study everything – although I do hope my work will have some real life applications. However, I must say, a lot of research is done under theoretical sense and doesn’t translate that well to applications, unless that’s what the project is in the first place.)

So, what kind of questions do you get asked? Assuming that the perceptions of the person asking the questions are not too far off. There are some too weird ones that I don’t even know what to say. And that include someone who wondered how well I know the anatomy of reproductive systems.

What has that got to do with me? I know what I learned from Biology classes, just like everyone else. Anything further, you should be talking to an anatomist or those in medical profession. Or whoever relevant.

Just not me. I am a simple graduate student.


One Response to “You’re a graduate student?”

  1. […] influencing the decisions of record companies, directors, and TV networks. Join Hey Nielsen! You’re a graduate student? saved by 1 others     metalskater2 bookmarked on 01/16/08 | […]

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