Every once in a while I (as FSP) get a comment or an email from a student saying something to the effect of they wish I were their advisor or they wish their advisor were more like me. That's nice and I will admit that I have a few redeeming qualities as an advisor, but I am actually just as deeply flawed as most advisors. Between grad students and advisors, there can be a substantial gap in expectations and experiences, and this certainly affects my interactions with my advisees.
Also I can be quite sarcastic, may not be as sympathetic as students would like (especially when confronted with what I think is a lame excuse that my students find compelling), and have many of the classic advisor opinions about work ethic, writing skills, and so on.
And here is another reason why you might not want me as your advisor, illustrated by an example:
In the months leading up to the defense day of one of my PhD students, I was struck by his wild mood swings. The empathetic person that is hiding deep within my advisorial soul thought:
Oh no, how difficult life must be for Moe [not his real name] that he is experiencing these extreme mood swings, including wells of doubt and depression in which he questions whether his years of work have all been for naught, leading to non-conclusions and stupid results that no one will think are interesting even though that is most definitely not the case and his research is in fact quite awesome.
The evil scientist that also resides in my advisorial soul thought:
How fascinating. I want to graph this.
So I did. I assigned a number on a scale of -50 (completely freaked out, depressed, nearly destroyed by self-doubt) to +50 (confident, happy, maybe even exuberant) to Moe's mood each day based in part on my assessment, but also using self-reported data from Moe. For the 50 days leading up to his defense, I asked him each day how he was feeling, what his mood was etc. I was checking up on him frequently before I started graphing him -- in fact, we talked every day, typically more than once -- because I wanted to see how he was doing and make sure he was on track, but once I started graphing him, my questions had another purpose: to acquire data for my spreadsheet, and ultimately a mood-time graph.
At some point Moe suspected what I was doing and asked me "Are you quantifying me and making a graph?". I admitted that I was, and he seemed quite pleased and even intrigued. In fact, for a few days after that he provided me with multiple data points/day, and when I was out of town he sent me helpful mood updates by email so that my graph would not have unsightly gaps.
The graph (below) is interesting. Moe never hit what I thought of as -50 or +50, but he got close on the negative end. There were a few -40's (near total freak outs), but these never lasted for more than a day. Moe's mood was more negative than it was positive, but there are some notable positive spikes: e.g., when he submitted a manuscript to a journal.
The most interesting part of the graph is near the end. When Moe submitted his thesis to his committee, he felt really good about that. He turned the thesis in exactly on time, a deadline that for months he was sure he would miss. He worked extraordinarily hard and he produced a really nice thesis draft, part of which is already published, part of which is submitted, and part of which is imminently submittable. It was a very impressive document.
His mood stayed high for a few days, but descended when anxiety about the defense kicked in. He had an excellent academic position waiting for him after graduation, but somehow he feared that his committee would fail him despite abundant evidence that he had had a successful graduate career and was bound for further scientific glory. I suppose it is good that he didn't take the final defense for granted and do a sloppy job, but that was never even a remote possibility for him.
I have left the defense day (D-day) point on the graph blank. I suspect Moe had mixed emotions that cannot be quantified. That's how I typically feel on D-day too.
note: the gaps in the graph are mostly weekend days on which I did not see or hear from Moe
2 years ago