Re: Degrees vs. smarts

Amara Graps (
Wed, 6 Oct 1999 01:47:00 +0100

Kathryn Aegis ( Mon, 04 Oct 1999 writes:

>I've been meaning to send a 'hello' to Amara Graps, so 'hi'!


>I made the decision not to reenter graduate school until I could prove
>to myself a true commitment to one particular field. At the same time,
>that will not stop me from writing serious articles and books. Those
>will lead in the future to a more solid basis to acquire a graduate
>degree, if needed.

Oh, yes! And those articles and books would already show a serious dedication. Certainly they'll benefit you, for both your future and your present because you're probably enjoying the process too. That's what I did/do (I write because I have always loved my field(s), writing helps me to learn, and I like to express it in written form.)

>And, already, you seem to have produced a body of work comparable to
>most persons who already have the Dr.!

It looks strange, I know. The physics faculty head at the University of Heidelberg asked me why I want or need a PhD with my papers and experience, and I had to try to explain (mit meiner sehren schlecten Deutsche ...).

Why a PhD now? This is what I mean about a degree having a special meaning if you've been in the field that you love for a while.

I need to truly know what are my abilities. I don't want to be in any kind of safe and secure environment for my work. I want to reach as far outside of myself as I can go and just see what are my limitations (very useful information) and what are my strengths (even more useful information). I want to put myself in a situation where I'm away from everything I know, and see what I can learn about about the Universe and myself in the process. I want to be a real expert in one area, instead of (in addition to?) semi-knowledgeable in many areas. And I want to give myself more choices and options for astronomy work for the next few decades of my life. These are the reasons I chose to get a PhD, after all of these years.

(I'm afraid I didn't explain that very well to the Dekanat, but the University admitted me into their PhD program anyway :-). )


P.S. I'm actually not the oldest graduate student in our group, there's a Swedish fellow 5 years older than I am, that has built spacecraft experiments
for 10 years, works at a well-known ESA research center in the Netherlands (he commutes to our group periodically), has technicians and a secretary working for him, and has more published papers than me.

I think that sometimes there comes a time in a person's life when he/she simply says, "OK, now it's time to do it." And you do it.

Amara Graps                  email:
Computational Physics        vita:  finger
Multiplex Answers            URL:
     "Trust in the Universe, but tie up your camels first."
               (adaptation of a Sufi proverb)