The destruction and creation of graduate student's confidence
[This is a copy of my blogpost, previously on thespectroscope.com.]
Another beautiful PhDComic called "What you think of your Professor vs. Time". It reminds me of Jasper Rine's joking metric for when a student is ready to graduate, "It's not about a complete story or number of papers, but, 'You are ready when you realize that you are way smarter than your PI.' "
I remember complaining in my third or fourth year, "Graduate school is like the army in that it destroys your self-confidence in the beginning. But whereas the military immediately builds you back up, grad. school just leaves you disassembled." Well, it turns out that graduate training does restore your self-confidence. It just takes a very long time. The act of publishing is a huge boost, but it usually comes towards the end of the graduate tenure.
If only you could remain confident. Alas, this exercise repeats somewhat as you jump from the 6th-year high into a postdoc with new techniques, organism, and literature. Suddenly, after all that time of becoming an expert scientist in your PhD, you are an uncertain and anxious postdoc, way too soon.
The comic inspired me to make my personal self-confidence chart.