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In previous posts I have mentioned how frustrating graduate student life can be. We face criticism from our mentor and committee members on almost a daily basis. But there is another aspect to grad student life that often goes untold – ridicule from friends who are not in Ph.D. programs.

I have often encountered questions and comments immersed in vitriolic, judgmental and offensive rhetoric

“Why do people do a Ph.D.? It must be because you couldn’t find a job.” [Ph.D. programs are extremely selective, and the other way around probably makes more sense meaning people couldn’t get into grad school so they decided to do a job]

“You have been studying for the past XYZ years and you still haven’t graduated?” [Ph.D. programs are not designed to be finished in a particular time frame]

“You’re not working, you might be getting paid, but you are not really working” – [Actually, Ph.D. students are also considered employees]

“You still don’t have a paper?” [well how many have YOU published exactly?]

“So what discoveries have you made in the last 5 years” [followed by ill-concealed giggling]


It’s bad enough that we get slave wages, for seven years, and work 60 hour weeks (often more) but such insensitive comments make grad school very upsetting. It often makes me not want to have friends outside of science or academia anymore.

Let me be fair and not place all the blame on outsiders. As grad students we have ourselves made it seem OK to be the butt of hurtful jokes, thanks to the popularity of PhD Comics. I used to enjoy PhD comics until I realized the content hit too close to home. It also seems to make grad students think it is OK to think their life is shit and for others to mock us. No, it isn’t.

After all of this, people have no shame in using products that are a result of selfless service to science and academic scholarship. Consider the vaccines, cell phones, modern drugs, genetic testing, meteorology, high-yield crops, LASER based technologies… the list goes on and on highlighting important contributions made just by scientists with Ph.D.s, let alone economists and engineers. Nobody appreciates the training in grad school that made these discoveries and inventions possible.

You would think by the 21st century people would appreciate science and scientists. Yet it seems that unless you are Richard Dawkins and have to mock religion, you cannot be recognized as a scientist.

Before you diagnose yourself with depression or low self esteem be sure that you are not first, in fact, surrounded by assholes.

In the midst of my gloominess, I was encouraged by a FB post that said “Before you diagnose yourself with depression or low self esteem be sure that you are not first, in fact, surrounded by assholes.”

I think I am surrounded by assholes and I need to cut a few people off from my life altogether.