My thoughts on a PhD

Clare and Wendy have blogged about what a PhD means to them, which made me wonder what it means to me.

For me, becoming a PhD is about having the freedom and support to do research that interests me and makes a difference to my field. I want to be a good researcher. It’s not about the letters after my name, the money, or the teaching, although many of my acquaintances who are not academics assume so. These things may be a part of it, but it is more about being able to work in the liberal, as in the tolerant of ideas, academic community.

My parents weren’t academics. They had some academic friends, I suppose, and I do recall a couple of American university or graduate students staying with us from time to time. Growing up, though, I didn’t really know what a PhD was until I was in high school, when my brother talked admiringly about his professors and piqued my interest in someday becoming one. During undergrad, I had plenty of formal interactions with my professors, graduate students, and peers in classes, labs, and research group meetings. While I was a good student, I felt pretty peripheral and didn’t have a lot to say in informal communications with faculty and TAs. In my masters degree, I began to see my professors and PhD students as approachable people who shared my interests, and began casually asking them about their own graduate school and faculty experiences in frequent social gatherings.

Now as a PhD candidate, I thrive on informal exchanges with faculty and other doctoral students. Often, these informal discussions focus on more formal communication, such as published journal articles or literature. I like what Latour (1976) and Latour and Woolgar (1979) have written about this, so I’ll blog more about this in another entry…


Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *