Wednesday, May 25, 2011

Monday, May 16, 2011

Why am I doing a Phd?

This is a question that many people ask me. And one that I ask myself, in those wee hours of the morning when I am trying to finish writing a paper before a deadline.

(I'm sure you're wondering what the Heath Photos at the top has got to do with any of this. No I'm not a crazy fan. Well. I am. Just not crazy. not that much. Anyway I'll get to that at the end)

I know that some people do a PhD just for the sake of doing it - as in a pay raise or a promotion in the academical career. But in my case I did not even have an academical career, being employed in the industry for more than 2 years before I started on my doctorate.

So why? Well, I got bored in the industry. And I wanted to do research. To have a career as a 'Researcher', you need to prove to your prospective employers that:
a) you are capable of spending months tackling an interesting yet difficult problem
b) you have patience and perseverance to learn from failures
c) you're disciplined and focused enough to work hard even when the target is pretty abstract
d) you are not afraid to stand your ground when confronted with criticism on your idea, while at the same time, open to take feedback as well
e) and, last but not least, you enjoy problem solving.

Now, I'm not an expert on PhDs, seeing as I am yet to earn one, but I think e) is pretty important. IMHO pursuing a PhD just because it's a good career move is not such a good idea, if you don't get to enjoy the ride. That being said, I'm in no way saying a PhD is a joy ride! In fact, people who have completed say that it was probably the hardest thing they did.

What I am trying to imply is that, you should be passionate about what you do. The problem that you're trying to solve should make you excited, not make you yawn.

Seriousness aside, here's a funny story when I seriously wondered why the hell am I doing a PhD:
I was walking to uni while talking on the phone in Sinhalese with a friend, and there was this guy walking beside me who looked as though he could have been what Heath Ledger looked like when he was 20 (*sigh).
So after I finish the convo, the guy asks "Hey could you tell me what language you were speaking there?"
Me : "Sinhalese"

Heath Ledger Lookalike : "Oh wow. I thought it was Indonesian"

Me : "Um...Its spoken in Sri Lanka"

HLL : "Oh yeah. Isn't that funny! So are you an exchange student?"

Me : "No I'm doing my PhD. What about you?"

HLL : "Aw. I'm in my first year. Undergrad"

Me : "Aww... you're a baby!"

HLL: "Yeah.. oh well're out of my league"

*Sigh. *Cringe
Definitely a drawback of doing a PhD....

Anyway RIP Heath.

Images from here and here