graduate student definition of a week

week: a period of time in which things may, or may not, be accomplished within.

So, I've been thinking about this difference between undergraduate and graduate studies. I remember being an undergrad and being oh sooooo jelous of the graduate students... no assignments, no tests, no exams... why, all they had to do was research, which is fun anyway right? Right??

Yeah, ok, I'll admit, it's nice not to be going into a frenzy right now about exams (like so many around me on campus), which seem pretty meaningless anyway... but, I find myself evaluating what I've managed to accomplish in this past semester and... well... it's not like I haven't done anything, because man, I've been working my butt off... but nothing is very final. It's more like... I've made some, not easily measured amount of progress. In some ways I miss the finality, and accompanying sense of accomplishment that goes along with things that get handed in... on a due date. The majority of things I've taken on since September have morphed into bigger (though mostly interesting) projects than I thought they would be. That's one of the really fun/frustrating aspects of research... the goal line moves... all the time... you learn something new about your data, and it suddenly gets a lot more interesting... and a lot more complex (not like I'm immersing myself in two whole new fields or anything to interpret the data for my paper... oh wait, that's where the last month went).

Add to that the freedom to have perfectionism run wild need to be certain things are correct before releasing them into the world of science, and it starts to feel like you're riding an asymptote... a really long, gradual asymptote. Remember all those assignments that got handed in with #5 half completed, and you were pretty sure your answer to #2 made absolutely no sense? Or that essay that you knew had some ill-formed chain of logic, but hey it was due and you'd stayed up all night and that was the best you could do? You can't do that when you are writing research papers... it just has to be right... or at least you have to be convinced that it is as right as can be at the time. You can't just say "well, I didn't quite finish the discussion section, but I said it was due today, so I guess I'll submit it anyway"... well, you could, but it probably wouldn't be accepted... or worse, what if it was and you had to deal with it being "out there" and people reading your knowingly crappy work? Same with experiments... when you know there's something interesting emerging, it would be silly to stop just because you'd spent a month on it, and that's all you said you were going to do.

Nope, personal deadlines be damned, if it ain't done, it ain't done.

So at a time of year I'm used to a big build up of stress followed by 2 weeks of blissful relaxation, I'm wondering if I'll even be able to truely de-stress knowing that it's all still there waiting... waiting to be inched towards completion.

As an undergrad I probably got as many as, say, 6,7, even 8 "things" done in a week (assignments, midterms, lab reports, whatever). Lately, it's really up in the air whether I get something "done" in one short little week.

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