The Ten Commandments of Graduate School

I am not all that religious. I believe that Jesus lived, and died, and all that. The scientist in me isn’t sure he rose from the dead so much as was put in the cave (wherever he was laid to rest) before his heart actually stopped beating. Maybe he had an efficient metabolism and low heart rate? Hmm…

Anyway, I was brought up in a Protestant family, and went to a very small Presbyterian church every Sunday as a child. I liked to sign hymns and acted as the angel in the Christmas play. I was confirmed, went to a Methodist youth camp in St Louis in high school, and even tried to read the Bible (on several occasions). Although I had all sorts of positive exposure to religion, my desire to attend church every Sunday dissolved and religion never really bedded itself in my brain. As I grew older and went off to college, I found my Sunday mornings better consumed by thought and reflection in a two-hour run than I got sitting in a pew.  The things I learned as a child were arguably learned from my amazing family and the people I surrounded myself with. As with most things learned through religion, it’s best not leaving them in the church or synagogue, but carrying them with your in your every day life.

I’ve translated a few things I learned from my (limited) religious background to my current life:

The Ten Commandments of Graduate School

  • Your advisor is the ruler of the universe
    • yes, some of them have God complexes. deal with it.
  • You shall have no other advisor before them
    • unless of course you are co-advised, in which case have fun trying to deal with two people telling you what to do all the time
  • You shall not make wrongful use of the name of your advisor
    • this is two fold:
      • Your advisor can be everywhere, hear anything, and see all at any time. You won’t be doing yourself any favors by talking smack about them.
      • You better have their name on any paper or proceeding you try to publish. Without them, you are nothing
  • Remember the Sabbath by getting your ass back to the lab.
  • Honor your father and mother by going home for one holiday per academic year
    • but make sure you get back to the lab the day after
  • You shall not murder
    • no matter how crappy they are, undergraduates and labmates are not an exception to this rule
  • You shall not commit adultery
    • in the literal sense of the word, do not alter the work you do as an adult! (ie. your data)
  • You shall not steal
    • it is totally not cool to take other people’s data and publish it as your own
    • it is also totally not cool to attempt to publish without citing your references properly! That’s stealing
  • You shall not bear false witness against your peers
    • for example, it is not cool to reject a paper because its competing research, especially if the paper includes sound and well-designed research
  • You shall not covet your peer’s research
    • even if your labmate is working with stem cells and gets published in PNAS, you’re research is still worth doing, otherwise your advisor wouldn’t have you doing it. no matter how crappy and futile and unrewarding it seems

Guilt is one of the key components of religion, right? As a graduate student, you should feel very guilty, all the time


About megankillian

Assistant Professor of Biomedical Engineering at the University of Delaware. I love biomechanics!

Posted on March 28, 2010, in academia, grad school. Bookmark the permalink. 1 Comment.

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