Most people don't understand the concept of what I do in grad school. I don't blame them. Not a lot of people are in school to get their Ph.D. so the process remains sort of a mystery to most of our family and friends. To clear up a few things:
No I don't get summer vacation.
No I don't get paid overtime for working late, weekends, or holidays.
No I don't take classes anymore.
No I actually have no clue when I'm going to graduate, although I like to think I have a general idea. Or I did...
This last issue gets to me the most I think. Unlike med school, Ph.D. students have no set graduation date. The average for our program is 5-6 years, but you could actually finish any month of the year. It just depends on when you finish all your experiments and how long it takes to write your dissertation. On that note, I've been having the goal of finishing in May 2013 (a little less than 5 years for me) since that's when Jeff will be done with residency.
However, I guess the Neuroscience gods have decided that I was getting a little too confident, a little too sure of myself graduating in 5 years, shall we say. I have a great, super helpful advisor! I thought. A surefire project! I'm motivated! I said. These Neuroscience gods, they laughed in my face.
The project I've been working on since January (the 2nd experiment out of the 3 planned for my dissertation) is looking like a complete and utter failure. I still have a couple of weeks left before I can analyze all the data and know for sure, but it's not looking good.
I asked my advisor, What if this experiment fails? Hoping for the best, some sort of insightful, optimistic, encouraging answer. Wanting her to say that these past 5 months haven't been a waste, haven't just set me back an entire semester. I don't know, she said.