Friday, August 1, 2008

Thoughts (2) - PhD

Starting my PhD is like opening up a window to my inner self. Situations at work often occur in such a way that they will stir up the hidden bits deep in me that I didn't know to have existed. They repeatedly make me see more and more of myself - what I value, what I despise, what disturbs me, what I really want, what I really need, etc.

I think my most important experience during my PhD is when I think about life, in general and also my own life. This is something that I don't learn from textbooks, as opposed to techniques or methods of doing things.

People say that military training will change a person's character; doesn't a PhD training do so too?

One thing that comes to mind now is about publishing papers. I know people who talk about publishing in high impact journals the way others talk about buying branded goods, or building a house in an elite neighborhood. I know people who seem to think their careers in science will be unfulfilled if they couldn't publish in those big names like "Nature".

Like them, I always thought about publishing a paper in a high impact journal as a great achievement. It should be EVERY bloody scientist's goal - so I thought. But, one day, it just dawned on me that while a paper in a high impact journal is likely to have a high impact on a person's career, it may or may not have an equal impact on the lives of the ordinary people in the streets.

I suddenly saw that we should first aim for research that actually improve people's life - be it a big or a small way. If it then gets published in a high impact journal, it would be a bonus. But if it doesn't, we researchers should still be proud of ourselves because whether reviewers like our paper are not, we know that the farmers in the field or the pedestrians in the streets have already benefited from our effort. We have served the people. That's something to be proud of.

Is that asking for too much from the scientists?

I know romanticism is my disease. And my PhD might have exacerbated it. But I really believe that the world needs people who reach out to people or volunteer to do things simply because it is meaningful, not because it pays well.


penny stock newsletter said...

when will you go online?

Tzu Yen said...

Well said. PhD indeed is a self discovering journey.
Also about scientists role, or just a person's role in the community. My supervisor Peter always says - if a research is not being used by others, it's simply useless. So he publishes all his research code online for everyone to use. Do a google search on "matlab code" and his page comes up in the first page.

Ah... we need more people like you, who think about life and others.

Anonymous said...

Hi. Mr Chai. Wee Siang here. Nice blog and nice photos! Simply because I like plants ! I find it more interesting than your marine life blog.