I have a homemade sign hanging up in my office that proclaims “sometimes I’ve believed as many as six impossible things before breakfast” accompanied by a picture of a tipped over teacup, the only thing from Lewis Carroll’s books I was confident enough to draw. I like this quote because it reminds me that scientists aren’t supposed to look at things in mundane ways; we need to be brave and see things differently; we need to tackle the impossible.
I originally wanted this article to show that graduate students can kick back, relax, and stave off the insanity that is just a stone’s throw away from the genius we all aspire to achieve. However, as I wrote the title, I realized this may actually convince you of the opposite, that graduate school does in fact drive graduate students off the deep end. So, throwing caution to the wind, I am sharing two tales of the silly, the frivolous, and the fun that I’ve experienced this summer.
The Internet is littered with quotes about how it’s the great questions and not the great answers that are important and shape history, science, and the universe as a whole. It’s not as if I had never thought about it; really, I had. I had just assumed this was talking about my research questions, the big important questions I could spend a lot of time crafting. I assumed those were the questions I was being judged on.
While the belief was totally unsubstantiated, I had long believed that conferences were a secret academic conspiracy. Yeah, you really need to go to Hawaii to meet with other scientists and share your work — this is something that just couldn’t be done via internet or phone. What a thinly veiled scheme to take a vacation and hang out with academic buddies! On my least cynical days, I thought it was merely a holdover from the pre-internet era when communication and dissemination of ideas would have been more difficult.