Come back down to Earth

I just came across The illustrated guide to a Ph.D. which really got me thinking. Do we often go into a PhD with grand ideas of changing the world? It’s safe to say that we will come up with new ideas, but reading this post really brought me back to Earth on the likely impact of my research. Thanks to Matt Might for allowing this to be reproduced here.

Every fall, I explain to a fresh batch of Ph.D. students what a Ph.D. is.

It’s hard to describe it in words.

So, I use pictures.

Read below for the illustrated guide to a Ph.D.


Imagine a circle that contains all of human knowledge:

By the time you finish elementary school, you know a little:

By the time you finish high school, you know a bit more:

With a bachelor’s degree, you gain a specialty:

A master’s degree deepens that specialty:

Reading research papers takes you to the edge of human knowledge:

Once you’re at the boundary, you focus:

You push at the boundary for a few years:

Until one day, the boundary gives way:

And, that dent you’ve made is called a Ph.D.:

Of course, the world looks different to you now:

So, don’t forget the bigger picture:

Keep pushing.

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What are your thoughts? Please let me know in the comments below

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3 thoughts on “Come back down to Earth

  1. Love it! Although it’s a bit depressing that your life’s work is going to end up a dent in a very large circle. HOWEVER, I appreciate the context (perspective, work-life balance)

    • Great. Yes to us the work is huge, though maybe not to the rest of the world. However, I think part of the challenge too is also choosing to research a topic that can have a great impact on others and the industry in which you operate.

  2. Pingback: Should you go for a Ph.D.? Most of us shouldn’t! | Data Driver

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