21 December 2007

specially dedicated to you, B!

Source: New Straits Times, Saturday May 20, 1989

A Newspaper once called a Ph.D. holder a "special doctor". The University of Santa Barbara in America has a sticker for Ph.D. It humorously stands for "Phinally Done." In Malaysia and in most places when you are introduced as Dr So and So, the usual response from a layman is that you are a medical doctor. Few would think you hold a Ph.D.Doing a Ph.D is a test of scholastic endurance. Many less diligent and less determined ones have dropped out along the way. The pace can be very punishing and the direction at times hazy. The mainstay of your PhD i.e. your research must be original and contribute to the pool of certified knowledge, however miniscule it may be.One mortal being looms large in your pursuit of your Ph.D.- your supervisor. He may be your friend, your mentor, your teacher, your critic, your master and your examiner, all rolled up in one. Dealing with him demands PR skills; he is human after all. His role or presence may be sought or assigned. If it is assigned, count your blessings if the two of you can get along well. He cans a world of difference between you getting your Ph.D or not. Many tales of woe have been told of uncaring and unsupportive supervisors. On the other hand, he may be your hero who inspires you to greater heights.The path to a Ph.D. is usually strewn with frustrations. Half of the time things do not seem to work your way, your data may not seem to make any sense, your computer programme does not seem to run. Your morale is low. It is a trying time and you may feel like quitting. If you lack self-discipline, this may indeed be the point of no return. You just pack and go, without even saying goodbye to your supervisor.To those who never say die, they just return to fight another day. Your determination and perseverance begin to pay off; you can see the light at the end of the tunnel. Success then comes in leaps and bounds. Your very first paper with your supervisor has been accepted for publication by the Journal of Reproducible Results. Your research promises more such joint ventures in the pipeline. Your morale is lifted. You can sense that the Ph.D is within reached. You are a changed man, more confident of yourself and know the direction you are heading.With hard work and luck, you eventually succeed. But do not feel big-headed about your newly acquired success. The Ph.D is just a passport certifying that you have undergone rigorous training in research. It is up to you to prove that you are capable of independent research from now on. Years later, when you feel that you are ready to become a Ph.D. supervisor, it is much pride and anxiety that you take in your first student. You can see in him or her your green self years ago. Initially, he (or she) may not be bubbling with enthusiasm, or eager to please. You tell yourself, wait till he/she meets his/her frustrations and see how he/she takes it from there.

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