Is Research for Me?

[tweetmeme source=”rags2riches” only_single=false] “It was my dream to pursuit a career in research” is a typical reason I hear from software developers going abroad for higher education in computer science—a reason that I fail to understand. Why on earth a person interested in research joined a software services company, in the first place? My next question to the person leaving for studies is “Will you opt for a PhD, given a chance?” They usually say yes.

Google Insight for Search tells that search for the keyword “PhD” is most popular in the following countries: Ethiopia, Malawi, Uganda, Tanzania, Zimbabwe, Nepal, Ghana, Rawanda, Zambiya and Kenya. For the keywords “PhD Education,” Pakistan comes at top with India being second.

I am now focusing on enthusiasts from the above list of countries.

There could be many reasons for going abroad but in most of the cases “interest in research” is not one of them or at the least, the responder doesn’t know “what research in reality means.” More candid reasons for selecting an Engineering Masters program [1] in a foreign university could be

  1. I just want to get the hell out of here, and higher education seems to be the easiest way out; I’ll get a job as soon as I finish my studies. PhD is what I have kept as a backup if I don’t get a job.
  2. The second reason could be, “My Masters would be followed by a PhD; having the words Dr. written with my name looks darn cool; it will open up lots of doors of opportunities.”
  3. The third reason could be, “I believe I can invent something as soon as I enroll in a PhD program.”

If you belong to category 1 above, I wish you best of luck; you are sure what you want. However, don’t think of any backups—just go for what you want and don’t waste time on something which is not your ultimate goal. Do think of your people when you have survived the first few levels of Abraham Moslow’s Pyramid of Motivation.

If you belong to category 2 and 3, you need to understand what you are opting for; most of the guys are terribly misguided as to what academic research in practice means, unless, of course, you have gotten published at undergraduate level.

Paper Submission for The Conference “Piled Higher and Deeper” by Jorge Cham, http://www.phdcomics.com

Paper Submission

There are three extremely important elements of your PhD career:

1. Your Thesis Topic
2. Your Supervisor
3. Your Funding

If you don’t know about the 3 above, you can land yourself in trouble (read “desperation” of several years). Usually, the funding is your supervisor’s headache, and a PhD position is offered only when respective funding is available with the supervisor. Your thesis topic, however, will keep haunting you for the rest of your life.

The Age Factor!

The time you need to spend to earn a PhD degree is something between 3 and 7 years! Let’s say you finish your undergraduate studies at the age of 21, and spend 2 years in the industry when you realize that you are “interested in research.” You will spend next 6 months in applying for admission/ getting the visa, and another 2 years in finishing your Masters—by then, you would be 25.5 years old. When you enroll and complete your doctorate after that, your age would be 29 to 32 years! Consider not having a “career” (as the rest of the world thinks of “careers”) by that age!

Explaining Academic Career“Piled Higher and Deeper” by Jorge Cham, http://www.phdcomics.com

So what do you really do?

Unless you are a real freak, at some point in time you are doomed to get tired. When that happens, the very desire which motivated you to pursuit a PhD becomes questionable, and more so, because of the following reality.

Life of an Academic Researcher“Piled Higher and Deeper” by Jorge Cham, http://www.phdcomics.com

Life of a Researcher

[1] An MBA from abroad, on the other hand, is usually very expensive and hard to get into.

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1 Response to Is Research for Me?

  1. KMan says:

    I believe, the points(approaches) that you mentioned, are really/actually a manifestation of the society in which you live; for instance:

    1. Someone applying for PhD from Nigeria, or Ethiopia, Ghana, Rwanda, Zambia or Kenya(interestingly, Obama’s dad, a Kenyan, also opted west for higher studies 😉 chances are, she falls in the first category. Why? because the state of their society is darn uncertain, like Karachi. Thats what they refer to as “brain-drain”.

    3. Jack, living in NYC who just got graduated from Purdue, believes that he make the water-car(car that runs with water-seawater, so that we dont have to worry about drinking water); and he is opting for the doctorate.

    Alot of times, we come to know, as a surprise, that a friends’ former boss, a gora in USA, head of the Sociology dept, was actually a Chemist; but then during recession he studied and got a degree in Sociology.

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