in situ

It’s been a while since any of us have posted so I thought I’d drop in and say a quick thing about myself.


I am in astronomy grad school, and there are two things I want to say about this.

one: A goal of mine is to remain conscious of the pitfalls and strange aspects of academia as a human institution, and to never forget what it’s like to be a human-who-is-not-an-academic. I think that the pressures and politics of the Academy have a way of warping people into forgetting what’s relevant or meaningful about academic study as it relates to the human condition, and I want to keep my perspective as broad as possible while being able to successfully navigate academia well enough to do good work.

two: Doing astronomy is so, so, so much better of a fit for me than working at LiveRamp that it surprises even me. Most of my complaints about grad school are oriented on (a) the cultural things I outlined above, which I feel sometimes get people to forget why astronomy’s cool or why people would care about it, and (b) how there is a bunch of stuff asked of me (classes, eventually teaching, etc) that gets in the way of me doing new astronomy stuff — the creation of new knowledge and whatnot. I think these are okay problems to have at this point.

Making sure I stay happy and well-balanced, and that my sense of purpose continues to carry me forward, is the main challenge, I think, at this point of my life.  Things are good.


PS — I love this:

2 Responses to “ “in situ”

  1. Kim W. says:

    I like your assessment of navigating astronomy grad school!

    I ponder a great deal about the nature of academia, and how our imposed structure on doing science can both inhibit and enhance the actual pursuit of scientific knowledge. Grad school has been an eye-opening adventure into how, at the end of the day, science is a human endeavor — one filled with all the wisdom and follies of people learning, arguing, competing, exploring, and discovering together. This makes the waters a bit turbulent to navigate at times!

    That’s why I think your focus on maintaining your sense of purpose is so absolutely essential to staying happy and finding fulfillment while traversing your path through academia. It’s a good strategy – one which helps you avoid getting bogged down or exhausted with the details and deadlines, and helps you keep up a sense of curiosity and wonder about this outrageously incredible universe. (At least, that sort of perspective has helped me quite a lot!)

  2. tom says:

    Thanks for the comment, Kim!

    I came across another piece of perspective that, I think, ties into what I’m getting at here:

    “Grad students, despite their immense intelligence, have no idea what their skills are worth. They’re afraid that there’ll never succeed, never find a job, and could never do anything outside of academia.

    This is false.

    You feel stupid because you work with brilliant people all day long. Keep this in perspective.

    You feel helpless because you don’t know what your graduate degree is worth.

    You feel stuck because you’re unsure what you’re going to do once you finish.”

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