Seven Last Words, PhD Student Version

It’s Good Friday here and the Easter spirit is in the air. Before we celebrate Jesus’ resurrection, we first commemorate his passion. Back in my pre-teen acolyte/sacristan/altar server days, I used to participate in this The Seven Last Words or Siete Palabras service at Good Friday noon.

Now that I’m a graduate student, I thought of coming up with our own version of the seven last words:

  1. My TA self, forgive them undergrads for they do not know what they are doing, or what they even have to do.
  2. I say to you, today you shall be with me in research funding paradise.
  3. PhD student, behold your postdoc. Postdoc, behold your slave.
  4. My God, my God, why have you forsaken me? — yes this one’s still the same haha!
  5. I thirst for positive results.
  6. It (my experiment) is finished — oh wait it isn’t yet.
  7. Thesis committee, into your hands I commend my doctoral dissertation.

This is just for laughs and I don’t mean to offend any religious feelings! I’m an observant Catholic and Holy Week for me is an amazing celebration of our faith.

Lessons from First Semester 1112

[UPDATE: Okay, I just remembered this entry was still in my Drafts. I sort of just remembered. What have I been doing during those past three weeks haha. Anyway, deleted the first sentence anymore as it’s not applicable already.]

Unlike my undergraduate days, schooling was a lot different this time, as I have to work before I go to my evening class. I’m also paying for my own tuition fee and other boarding rents. I guess what people from the higher batches have warned me/us is true — graduate students have little to no social life. (What more for part-time, industry-based grad students like me?)

Such is the stress grad school brings that there’s this notice from the University of Massachusetts – Amherst. I have no idea of its authenticity but this is an epic win!

But against all odds, I managed to survive my first ever grad school semester. It was at the State University, take note. I am an Atenean after all and the culture at UP was totally new to me. I was baptized with fire  in a process called the sacrament of rude awakening. Such rude awakenings included simple things from walking in-between distant buildings (example, the Computational Science Research Center (CSRC) to the Office of the University Registrar (OUR)) to the lack of spoon-feeding inside the four walls of the classroom (something, I have to admit, we Ateneans are most talented at). Despite the regular industry shift that I have to do everyday, I was able to pull of a above-average grade. Heck, I can be magna cum laude already hahaha, too bad I graduated with two Bachelors degree already.

So lessons. Just a brief backgrounder, I am taking up MSc Environmental Science at UP Diliman as my research interests as a chemist are those concerning the ecotoxicology and environmental fates of engineered nanomaterials. But no, I am not going to bore you with those science lectures. You might never get to understand them. Hahahaha semi-joke. So anyway, here are the top ten things (not in order) I learned from my first ever semester at graduate school.

  1. Science is ever evolving. What is right for today can be disputed tomorrow. And that’s the beauty of scientific research. Look, now they’re redefining the kilogram already. If you can think of a test that could disprove a statement, then that statement is scientific.
  2. The world acts like a system and science is the system which analyzes it. Events in the natural world follow patterns which can be explained by careful observation and proper scientific analysis. Science on the other hand follows a cookbook called the scientific method. So don’t just mix acids and bases if you have no idea what you’re attempting to achieve.
  3. Develop a culture of science. You’re a hypocrite if you keep on harping “save the environment” but you still use a styrofoam cup for your Starbucks hot beverage. Do what you say. Mean your principles. In the promotion of anti-smoke belching, don’t ride smoke-belching jeepneys, even if that means you have to be late at work.
  4. Science is a way of life. Come on, stop believing in fairy tales and superstitions already. What you observe with your five senses are just what matters and thus needs attention. Shut that stupid third eye of yours already. Develop a critical mind. Be always inquisitive, don’t just accept things for what they are.
  5. Management and research are two separate entities. Simply put, our government needs true-blue scientists in science posts — not soldiers, not attorneys, not congressman. Not even the president’s current girlfriend. Or sister.
  6. DON’T BLAME EVERYTHING ON CLIMATE CHANGE/GLOBAL WARMING. For one, climate change is actually a naturally-occurring phenomenon. Had it not happened, the Earth would have been like Venus or Pluto, ergo not livable. Blame instead those poorly built construction buildings and highway pavements which have caused the decrease of underground rain water runoff. Blame instead non-complying factories which continue to emit acid-rain inducing gases. Blame it on the alcohol, but never on climate change. Stop it please, local media.
  7. OVERPOPULATION is the main culprit of ALL the world’s environmental problems. Seriously, I’m appalled at how celebratory the world seems with the birth of the seven billionth human being. In another decade, we will have another one billion mouths to feed. Pass that RH bill already okay. Otherwise, please send engineers and architects to Mars already, have them build high-rise buildings there.
  8. Small actions affect the environment. Make sure your candy wrapper shoots inside the garbage can. Imagine if all seven billion Earthlings are unable to do that. We would be expecting Hurricane Gummy Bears all the time. (Recall creepy what-if-they-were-in-real-life scenes from Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs.)
  9. Evolutionary rather than revolutionary. Inclusive, not exclusive. Proactive, not reactive. Attract, not attack. Assist the disadvantaged, instead of taking advantages. Okay, these things were lifted from my Environmental Science: Earth as a Living Planet book by Botkin and Keller. Self-explanatory.
  10. Keep the flame burning. Not literally of course, we have a surplus of carbon dioxide in the stratosphere already, thank you very much! Talking of figurative acetylene here. Always be passionate in whatever you do and keep that passion living, even after your death and the death of your passion’s heir.
  11. Walking. YES, I said that this is a top ten list. Thus, this shall be a separate entry. An outside-of-the-classroom topic, this involves me discovering the beauty and pains of walking long distances, the ultimate rude awakening for me so far.

So there first ever graduate semester done and I survived it with flying colors. (Hello Hurricane Irene!) I am happy that despite my busy working schedule, I was able to do that. Now at least I have proven myself a point: I am so ready to fully mold my Project 480 into reality. Fast-forward to September 2012 please. And then May 2017. 🙂

Meantime, it’s another semester to prove myself again. Hello seven units also known as second semester! You will be awesome. Field works galore! Can’t wait to do them with this wonderful bunch of people.