it’s so hard to say goodbye…


So I went to see all of my committee members last week to give them final copies of my dissertation and thank you gifts. I had a nice long talk with Dr. Happy Surgery Collaborator and he genuinely complimented me on my work and how much skill I must have to have been able to rewrite my dissertation so fast. He’s always been nice to me, from when my experiments totally failed to going over my dissertation and helping me make sense out of the nonsense my major professor made me write. He was probably more of a mentor to me than my major professor ever was and I’ll miss working with him.

My other committee member was out-of-town, so that saved me plenty of awkwardness.

And finally, I had to go visit my major professor. I set up a specific time and everything with him, but when I showed up, I was told that he was in a meeting. I was surprised and asked what sort of meeting this was that he hadn’t told me about and learned that he was just bragging away to the poor new research associate in the lab next door. He likes to snag the impressionable ones early on to start his brainwashing. I figured that he would kick the poor soul out of his office once I showed up, but he didn’t. He just kept talking to her while I stood outside waiting. After awhile, he finally paused and asked me, “You have something for me?” without even getting out of his chair or ushering the poor soul out. So I just handed him my dissertation and left as he resumed his conversation with his victim. That was it. No “good job” or “congratulations” or “let’s work on a manuscript of your dissertation.” Sure, I wasn’t expecting much, but what he did was just shameful considering the hell he put me through. And I guess a fitting end to my ten years with him.

Throughout the whole process of writing my dissertation, he did not even manage to read my dissertation in its entirety once. He never made it past the introduction. He left all the work and editing to Dr. Happy Surgery Collaborator. And while both of my other committee members eventually commended me on a job well done, my major professor never uttered any such praise. All he managed to say was, “I’ll sign it. There are things I would have written differently, but I’ll sign it.” None of this makes me sad at all because it’s not at all surprising. His praise doesn’t mean anything anyway. I’ve actually found myself reading Dr. Happy Surgery Collaborator’s email in which he praised me over and over again because his praise means so much more because I actually respect him and I’m glad that I managed to live up to his expectations.

In the end, the path I’ve taken is one that I would not recommend to anyone unless they know exactly what they’re getting into. It sucks to no end and if you’re just a tad meek and non-outspoken, you will get lost in the shuffle and then be punished for it. Maybe it’s just my program that needs improvement. Maybe I’m just not cut-throat enough. Whatever the reason, let’s just say that if I knew then what I know now, I would have been perfectly happy with just an MD. Although, I still have to admit, the bragging rights are nice. And will be used to their fullest extent.

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  1. on second thought…I'm kinda screwed. Let's count the ways: 1) My hypotheses suck. In my defense, I knew they sucked and I didn't want to go with them, but my major professor made me. And now I get to look like an idiot when my committee member calls them "naive." 2) My results suck. It's not good when your baseline measurements are significantly different from each other. 3) My discussion sucks. That would be because no one told me how to write a dissertation discussion. And also because my hypotheses and results suck. So yeah, I spent a week sulking over these sad facts. I finally got off my ass and started working on my revision today. And it's not fun....
  2. as the (lab) world turns (episode 5)Super Bored Grad Student is sitting at her desk working hard on trying to come up with a new idea for her PhD project since her experiment last week so clearly showed that Dr. Grumpy Old Major Professor's miracle treatment that she is supposed to test for her thesis is a miracle dud. In pops Dr. Grumpy Old Major Professor (which is never good). Dr. Grumpy Old Major Professor: So have you scheduled more experiments in the new animal species we're going to use yet? Super Bored Grad Student (shocked): No...Why would I continue the study when the stuff we're testing doesn't work? It doesn't matter what animal model we use when the stuff just doesn't work. You should talk to Dr. Happy Surgery Collaborator. He doesn't think it works either and I don't think he wants to continue the experiments. Dr. Grumpy Old Major Professor: It has to work. Dr. Probably Fudges Data at Other University uses it and it works. Super Bored Grad Student: You told me he wasn't using the same stuff. Dr. Grumpy Old Major Professor: He is. Super Bored Grad Student: No. His stuff is produced somewhere else. Dr. Grumpy Old Major Professor (so clearly lying): No. I checked with him. It's the exact same stuff. It works in his rodent model. Super Bored Grad Student (sarcastically): And rodents have the exact same physiology as the much larger closer to human physiology animals we're using. Dr. Grumpy Old Major Professor: Well, you have to do...
  3. a phd down, only an md to go…Rejoice! I submitted my dissertation and received my temporary degree! Yes, that's's doctor to you now! :P After the hours and hours of agony that it took for me to finish my piece of crap dissertation, it was almost a let-down how easy it was to turn it in and get my degree. I almost wanted to scream, "That's all?!" at the poor guy in the Graduate Studies Office as he handed me my temporary degree and alumni pin. All of that hard work boiled down to checking off items on a checklist, making sure my page numbers were in order and going in the same direction throughout, and random checks of my page margins? It almost made me laugh out loud. And I do laugh now, when I look back at how wonderfully trying my whole journey has been. In fact, my journey has been what a substantial portion of this blog has been about ever since it came into existence. And now that part of me is done. I am a PhD. I'm halfway there. What does it feel like? Strangely empty, I must say. Nothing changes, really. I still clean up my husband's mess. I still do laundry. I still have to see the in-laws for the holidays. But now, I suppose they'll have to call my Dr. Bitch. :P All joking aside, it was really bittersweet to finally be done with this nasty journey that has taken up my life for 4+ years. And while...

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2 Responses to “it’s so hard to say goodbye…”

  • drevolutionary1

    I’ve followed your blog for a bit, but this is my first time commenting.

    First of all CONGRATS!

    Wow. I’ve always heard that having a good advisor was key. I am pretty set on doing MD/PhD (doing post-bac apps now). Any words of advice on how to find that good advisor or determining the warning signs of a bad advisor (besides an affinity for Fantasy Sports and not listening… lol!)?

    I bet you can wait to get back to med school!

  • See my latest post for some tips on choosing your advisor and best of luck with apps!

    Yeah, I can’t wait to go back, but that excitement is mixed with some trepidation since it’ll be quite a change…

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