Wednesday, October 27, 2010

Supervisor mishaps

Since I’m studying for my Masters degree, graduate school obviously takes up a huge portion of my life. Attending grad school was a decision I made after getting my Bachelors degree, which was a pretty bold, risky move that could have gone incredibly badly.
In fact, it did go incredibly badly for some time. Having never volunteered in a lab, or taken any interest in grad school – until literally a few days before the deadline for late applications were due – I really had no idea what I was doing. I didn’t know what to look for in a supervisor, how to pick a lab, or even what research I wanted to do, except that I had a strong interest in the cardiovascular system. Between the time of getting accepted into the program, and leaving for a Paris trip, I had three days to find a supervisor. And naturally, I stumbled upon the worst supervisor I could have.
Now, how do I know he was the worst supervisor? Well, he was actually quite clever at masking this initially. I thought he was pretty great…we had one on one meetings every day…and things were just dandy. But slowly things began to fall apart…and soon I was under a mountain of crap. Let me tell you, it’s not easy to shovel out from under a mountain of crap.  I’m generally a positive person, and even I couldn’t find a positive spin to this situation. Queue: anxiety, and a complete loss of appetite for fun.
Then came the time to make one of the hardest decisions I’ve had to make: stick it out in this lab, where I could hopefully scrape by, or, try find a new lab and come to terms that I wasted the past 8 months of my life. I’m really happy to say I chose the latter. But, it was a decision that I could not have made successfully without the completely wonderful support system I had. I didn’t confide in many people, but the ones that I did tell were amazing – they made the bleakness seem hopeful. It reminded me of the importance and value of true friends versus the many friends-in-passing and meaningless acquaintances that so often pepper our lives.
It wasn’t easy for me to start in a new lab. It was a completely new line of research, with new people, and new expectations. I felt self-conscious and worried about falling short. But I was happy once more, and that’s what really mattered. Ultimately, you should always do what makes you happy.
Grad school lesson #1: don’t enter a program or take upon a supervisor without doing thorough background research into the whole business. It’s best not to learn this lesson the hard way. Trust me on this.

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