So what exactly is like to be a PhD student at Imperial College? Frankly, I can’t say. I can tell you how it’s like to be an Arsenal-loving, Wikipedia-editing, Abdul Patel-supporting, 1st Year Biochemistry and Applied Microbiology student based in Imperial South Kensington.
Today’s topic for discussion? Supervisors. Before I started my PhD, colleagues at labs that I’ve worked in before had described a student’s perception of their supervisor much like Marmite. You either love them, or hate them. This can be true, but it depends on one major factor: What you are looking for in a Supervisor.
I’ll be brutally honest, this is a list of what I want in a Supervisor:
How AWESOME would it be if there was a WAX ON, WAX OFF equivalent to science. PIPETTE UP, PIPETTE DOWN. CLONE IN, CLONE OUT.
Imagine that you don’t just have any supervisor? Nope, you have the oldest and most wisest of supervisors. There is the problem though that you’d need to spend an hour trying to understand WHAT THE HELL HE IS TALKING ABOUT.
Only because I wish I was ROCKY. And it would be insanely funny to see my supervisor in a massive stars and stripes top hat and boxer shorts.
This one’s easy. Coolest training video EVER. Easily the best scene in Batman Begins, and I wish I could be trained like that.
So if you are looking to start a PhD, heres a little spectrum where you really want to be bang in the middle, or either side, depending on what you want…
Now I’ve analysed my relationship with my Supervisor…and there’s one movie relationship that fits the closest…
DARTH VADER AND THE EMPEROR
OK, I don’t go into his office, kneel down on one knee and go “What is your bidding, my Master?”. I have four years for that to become a reality. My supervisor doesn’t have the wrinkles of the Emperor, but does occasionally seem to spark electricity from his fingertips when there’s no cake and cookies left. We haven’t enslaved the universe, but that’s a work in progress. But hear me out.
Let’s analyse things, Darth Vader is his own man. Yep. He’s doing his project, the Death Star. The Mother Teresa of all PhDs is the Death Star.
1. However, he’s not being hassled every step of the way by Emperor Palpatine. He’s allowed to do his own thing. CHECK.
2. If he ever needs the help of the Emperor, he can always just hologram-call (which is just iPhone Facetime really) or knock on his door, and start a discussion on the blueprints of the Death Star, which planet they’re going to blow up with it, and the occasional shoulder to cry on over him losing his wife. ERM…CHECK. I can always just pop in next door to see my Supervisor when I want to.
3. You frequently see Vader having the fortnightly chat with the Emperor on how things are going crushing the Rebel Alliance. CHECK.
4. If Darth Vader messes up, like for instance leaving a small hole in the Death Star where a young blonde kid can just throw a torpedo down there and blow the whole Death Star into smithereens, the Emperor finds out, and either throws a barrel of insults Vader’s way or gives him that look of disappointment in his apprentices abilities. CHECK, but my supervisor has perfected the ‘raised eyebrow’ look, so I’m sure that’d be fired my way.
5. Darth Vader’s walking into the Death Star. Big Boss Imperial Guy finds out the Emperor is coming down to the Death Star to oversee Darth’s project. The Imperial guy is crapping his pants…”We shall double our efforts”. Sometimes I wish I could tell my work that my supervisor is coming over to oversee it. “We shall double our efforts”? Damn straight! David’s “not as forgiving as I am”.
All in all, I’m still in my early months with my supervisor and there is still time for things to develop…
I shall leave you with an inspiring piece of advice seen in the American ‘The Office’ [Click for 14 sec video]:
Michael (Boss): What was the most inspiring thing I’ve ever said to you?
Dwight (Worker): “Don’t be an idiot.” Changed my life.
Dwight (Worker): Whenever I’m about to do something, I think, “Would an idiot do that?” And if they would, I do not do that thing.
As always you can always click the link below and get a gentle reminder for when I bother to write another one of these blog entries…