Post Academic


Interview With Adam Ruben, Author of Surviving Your Stupid Stupid Decision to Go to Graduate School: Part 1

Adam Ruben earned a PhD in molecular biology from Johns Hopkins University while enjoying a side career as a stand-up comic. The outcome of his career is not just his dissertation, but also the book “Surviving Your Stupid Stupid Decision to Go to Grad School.” Adam took the time to answer our many questions. Read on for advice on the proper care and feeding of advisors, including how to handle professors when they are in a party mood:

1. You mention the dysfunctional relationship between advisor and grad student, especially when it is time to get dissertation approval. What is your advice on interacting with advisors or dealing with a bad advisor?

Some advisors will keep you from graduating because they relish the cheap labor, but for others, you’re simply not as high on their priority list as you think you are. Remember that advisors have a lot to worry about in addition to your potential dissertation approval, so the best thing you can do is to keep turning in work. It’s hard to argue with results when they’re written up and proactively dropped on your advisor’s desk.

2. Along those lines, when you’re looking for an advisor or trying to get a reference, how do you successfully suck up to a professor while retaining your dignity?

Remember that you cannot bribe your advisor, because your advisor is rich, and you’re poor. That crisp five-dollar bill doesn’t mean as much to your advisor as you think it will.

In general, sucking up to anyone means feigning awe at their very specific interests. With professors, you have the advantage of knowing exactly what those interests are. (“What a coincidence! I love the lymphatic system of the Florida Salt Marsh Vole, too!”)

“Retaining your dignity” implies that you began with dignity.

More after the jump! And don’t forget part 2 tomorrow, in which we discover what a nice comedian is doing in a place like grad school. Image of Ruben’s book cover courtesy of Broadway Books/Crown Publishing.
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Surviving Your Stupid Stupid Decision to Go to Graduate School: Video 1

Posted in Housekeeping,Surviving Grad School by Caroline Roberts on April 20, 2010
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Did you know there’s a book out there called “Surviving Your Stupid Stupid Decision to Go to Grad School”? Adam Ruben, who earned a PhD in molecular biology from Johns Hopkins University, has written a funny guide to applying and then actually earning your degree within a reasonable amount of time.

We had the opportunity to interview Adam, and we’ll be posting the interview as a two-part series starting this Thursday, April 22. Amidst all the jokes, he has some concrete advice that can keep you sane when you’re in school. Until then, here’s a video that provides a peek into the book’s advice:

On Improving the Relationship Between Grad Students and Professors

Posted in Ask an Academic,Surviving Grad School by Caroline Roberts on April 19, 2010
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Image Source,Photobucket Uploader Firefox Extension Notorious PhD hosted a forum over at her blog to encourage discussion about the relationship between grad students and professors. She summed up the results of the debate, and much of it involved better communications on the part of professors.

I was glad to see one student laser in on one of Post Academic’s chief causes: Helping grad students with a Post-Grad Plan B. Here’s the quotation:

“There should be a system to help those with PhDs get other relevant non-professorial jobs. It’s hard to leave graduate school (with its low but guaranteed paycheck) for unemployment. Make the transition easier, and the graduate students may actually finish.”

More professors need to get the memo that there are fewer academic jobs, but students can definitely use their knowledge in other ways, provided they are trained for it. The catch is that most professors haven’t been trained to be career advisors. So, does anyone have suggestions for how professors can get more involved in helping students with non-academic careers? Perhaps nurturing relationships with other departments, such as education or computer science?

More after the jump! William Hogarth: A Rake’s Progress, Plate 2: Surrounded By Artists And Professors, public domain, Wikimedia Commons.
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