I am a scientist. To be exact, I am working on a PhD in biochemistry with an emphasis in biophysics. Do not be fooled. This does not garner the title of “genius” or “Einstein.” It just means, there is something that I love to do and I am doing it. Just like anyone in any other field who gets to do what they love.
But love it or not, the process is kinda difficult. Kinda (slang for “kind of”) is an adjective that I throw around which is usually a major understatement. Working on a PhD is it’s own version of crossing the burning sands. And on top of that, it seems like it will never end.
One of the things that makes earning a PhD feel very difficult is that one question that I get asked ALL OF THE TIME!
So, when are you finishing?
I always answer with intervals. “On average it takes five and a half to six years to earn a degree in my field.” “Well, once I finish courses, I am thinking two and a half to 3 years.” Sometimes, intervals are the best I can give. Especially considering how much worse it makes me feel to look at a person’s face when my answer is “I don’t know.” I know they are going to probe and I CANNOT, under any circumstances, whip out the cutting sarcasm of a grad student who was up all night working on an experiment that didn’t work. That individual just does not deserve that. But an interval. An interval indicates that there is some light at the end of the tunnel. It indicates that there is some end-point. So, for me, I feel like I am combining optimism and realism. And I am being my own PR person handling the inescapable bewilderment and curiousness of those who don’t understand why I would want to play with proteins at all, let alone do it while trapped in a dungeon for a thousand years.
Trapped in a dungeon for a thousand years? Extreme? Yes, but it makes for a funny anecdote for some of my friends, family, and acquaintances to imagine me as the hump-backed sidekick to Dr. Frankenstein. Extreme or not at least giving a interval means they only think of my being trapped in dungeon for two to three more years as opposed to a thousand. I hope.