IT’S CHRISTMAS!!!! I took the procrastinator in me and murdered her so that I could study hard for finals and turn in my take home early. Why the bloodthirst you ask? Because I was in a rush to get home. I’ve got three weeks of bliss and I plan to capitalize on my time at home like any person with a type A personality should. Based on my calculations I needed an 88 on my Biochem final to get a C in the class (graduate credit, yippee!) and an 80 on my neurobio final to get a B in the class. Isn’t that the worst? Where I was once one of the smartest people in my classes, I find myself at a loss for answers or critically sound responses to questions. I’ve discovered, and please don’t take this the wrong way, that first year grad students are expected to be dumb. I know this isn’t the case for every first year student, but many of the second and third years have shared their stories with me. In many of them, they experienced the same things I am experiencing now. Mostly, I feel out of place. In class I can’t answer a lot of the questions some of my teachers pose. In lab, I’m constantly asking questions to the point that it borders on annoying. In lab meetings and journal club, I find it hard to draw conclusions about the presented material, or even critically analyze the data of some articles.
I’ve shared this with my mentor and members of the labs I’ve been a part of thus far – mostly those of my second rotation – and I’ve found that most people feel like this during their first year. I’m starting to realize that I’m not incompetent, just that I’m not a scientist yet. I’m a baby scientist, so I’ve got to take baby steps. I’m still learning how to critically analyze articles and data and I’m not expected to have brilliant answers to questions while in class – I’m still learning. So, dear reader, remind yourself of this everyday while you are in graduate school. You are still learning, and this learning continues outside of the classroom and outside of the lab. You aren’t expected to be a brilliant thinker in the first semester of your first year! You’re a scrub! The bottom of the pyramid! I recognize this now, at the end of my first semester, and it makes me feel slightly better about not knowing as much as those around me.
So, I will move forward with this information next semester, and work smarter – not harder. I already work hard enough. I will know more next semester than I did this one and I’ll grow as a student and a scientist. I think the most important thing that anyone needs to remember is that whether or not you’re in school, there’s always something you need to learn – most especially in the realm of academia. I signed up for graduate school because I want to be a teacher and a scientist. Somewhere along the way, during my one year hiatus, I forgot that science is all about learning. Science is all about finding, gaining and expanding knowledge. To adequately do something like that requires years of preparation. Those years start with undergrad and, well, they never really end. I tried to shed my student skin too early. Onward and upward, as they say; the second semester will be better than the first.
Until next time!
Update: I clearly forgot to post this before Christmas as intended, and, now it’s 2 days after Christmas so…MERRY 2 DAYS AFTER CHRISTMAS! Purdue posted grades a few days after I originally wrote this post and I discovered that I pulled a B in neuro and a C in biochem (the highest grade I could’ve achieved after my dismal performance on the first two exams). I'm just mentioning my grades because I want you to know that the hard work does actually pay off. A 'C' may not seem great, but I was still able to get graduate credit for the course. I feel that I learned what I needed to learn. The grade, for me, isn't that important.
I hope everyone had a wonderful Christmas and I wish everyone a safe new year!