Why do I love grad school?

Two weeks ago I talked about how I’ve actively chosen to not to live and breathe only grad school (and actually I forgot to do a post last week because I was at a dance convention). But obviously I’m here. And this is absolutely where I want to be. So today I’m gonna talk about why.

First: I’m a question-asker. I have been given multiple nicknames based on how many questions I ask. From several completely distinct groups of people. I ask a lot of hows and whys. Which pretty clearly lends itself to scientific research. I just really like figuring out how things work.

Second: I’m a learner. I’ve always been that kid who enjoyed classes (yes, I even enjoyed high school). I love learning new things, and much of my free time is spent doing just that: I have historically jumped from hobby to hobby fairly often, and I think a lot of that is that I like picking up new things because there’s so much to learn when you start something new (For instance I’ve taken lessons in 7 instruments and mastered exactly none of them). So to basically get to spend 5 years being paid to learn about things I find really interesting and important? Pretty good deal.

Third: I’m a problem solver. I love puzzles. I love logic puzzles, I love crosswords, I even love 5000 piece puzzles of lighthouses. And solving research problems is like all of those things times a million. It’s like having a 5000 piece puzzle where you have to critically analyze each piece to make sure it even belongs in the puzzle and that the manufacturer didn’t accidentally make it the wrong shape. And other people have put together the top left corner, so you have to find that so you don’t redo that whole section that’s already known. And you may have a vague idea of what you think the picture will be of, but you may be entirely incorrect. Which would be an incredibly frustrating puzzle and would probably sell terribly. But while research is absolutely frustrating (guess who gets to redo two thirds of what they did this week because it didn’t work??? me!!!), I can get bored easily, so having a difficult problem with twists and turns is pretty much perfect for me.

Fourth: I’m a crafter. I actually love the physical actions of doing cell biology research. I like dissecting and I like pipetting. I knit and sew, both of which involve lots of careful planning followed by lots of repetitive, somewhat tedious actions. Which I actually really enjoy. The simple physical actions can be a nice break from the creative problem solving. And the more difficult ones (I keep getting too many muscle cells in my spinal cord dissections) are something I can practice at to get better.

Basically grad school (and cell biology research more generally) incorporates a lot of aspects that really appeal to me. I have yet to hear about a career path that does that as well (while I occasionally daydream about being a woodworker or pattern drafter or dance teacher, they all have 1-3 things I’d love and 20+ things I’d hate). So even though I don’t want it to be 100% of my life, I really love that it’s a large chunk of it.

Also sorry this sounds like a grad school application/interview, haha. It’s hard to talk about why I like grad school without it sounding really cheesy. Also I will say that even though I realized during undergrad that I would enjoy grad school, I didn’t decide to actually apply until I thought more about what career I wanted and whether I needed grad school to get me there. And I eventually realized that I wanted a career where I could be doing the project planning and critical thinking and literature analysis, and that meant I needed a PhD.


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