Doctoring Philosophy

Wednesday, December 13, 2006

Inhospitable conditions, uninterested students, pompous lecturers.

Future grad students? You bet!

Tuesday, December 12, 2006

-- Partner in Crime

If you're working (or "working") towards a Ph.D., especially in engineering, you're most likely going to attend a conference at some point in time- ostensibly to present your research to a community of peers working in related areas, or more realistically, because the conference organizers decided to shift the venue from dreary Portland to "If I pop a Zanex and get hammered silly, this could get interesting" San Antonio. Besides the research on display; actually, despite the research on display, conferences are particulary fascinating because of the complex social heirarchy at play. Here's our initial effort at
classifying the pecking order:

1) The Entrenched Dons: These are the people who started the field twenty years back but have long since stopped doing active research, and attend to fulfill their desperate craving for attention and adulation. They are usually found sitting in the back benches during the presentations, smiling smugly when the presenter mentions a theorem or
lemma or method or heuristic named after them.

2) The Flavors of the Month: Their last paper created mass hysteria and generated a string of citations. Having decided that they are now too good to actually sitting through the talks, they are usually found in the corridors holding forth while a smattering of junior faculty and senior graduate students nod sagely at their pearls of wisdom.

3) The New Kids on the Block: The tenure track assistant professors, their spirits buoyed by recently received young faculty career awards, are usually found executing Brownian Motion as they flit from one Entrenched Don to another, occasionally stopping by to coo appreciatively at the ramblings of a Flavor of The Month.

4) The Euro-Brigade: They've just flown in from Munich/Delft/Lausanne/Catalunya. Easily identified by their hideous fashion sense (the men seem to have a seventies flower children hangover and the women, inexplicably, think it's cool to look like Goth chicks) and proclivity to greet their stunned peers from across the Atlantic with double-cheeked air kisses. They quickly retire to the hotel bar and watch soccer.

5) The Wannabees: They sold their souls after their doctorates to work in industrial research; now attend conferences to prove to people that they are still doing independent research, and are not, as is popularly believed, vestigial employees of companies that hire want to be able to tell their shareholders that nuclear powered motorbikes are in the pipeline. Appear apologetic for having 'sold out' to the 'Man'.