Lol My Thesis

Summing up years of work in one sentence.

Pretty much all of these are amazing.

Shooting people makes them unhappy.
International Security, Tufts

Female condoms are cool. Also, Foucault.
Anthropology, Brown

We dug a lot of holes and still don't know if measuring beryllium in dirt is useful, but it does cost a lot of money.
Geology, Amherst College

Looking for a reason to give up on humanity? Study climate change. That shit isn't changing back.
Environmental Studies, New York University

A mathematical theory of discarding irrelevant crap when making a team decision.
Electrical Engineering, Stanford University

Went fishing for proteins associated with cancer... still fishing.
Chemistry and Chemical Biology, University of Melbourne

The way fire risk at nuclear plants is assessed is bad and we should feel bad. Also, someone please pay me to fix it.
Reliability Engineering, University of Maryland

You can turn Mill into an anarchist if you really try.
Philosophy, University of Minnesota

Wild chimpanzees drink when they are thirsty
Biology, University of Neuchâtel

Wild chimpanzees may or may not eat honey
Biology, University of Eastern Finland

When a space rock goes in front of a star, you can't see the star again until the rock moves.
Astrophysics, Williams College

I Know It Makes More Sense To Relate Contemporary Appropriation to Duchamp's Bicycle Wheel but I'm Going to Make My Life Much Harder and Relate It to Nude Descending A Staircase
Art History, CUNY

Moby Dick is the hero of 'Moby Dick.'
English, Northwestern

Vortex currents off a wing have weird effects on other wings AKA apparently helicopters shouldn't work.
Mechanical Engineering, Colorado State

Soon enough, we'll all be wearing smocks.
Fashion Design and Management, Parsons The New School for Design

Your Favorite Color is Your Favorite Color Because You Like Things That Are Of That Color
Psychology, Princeton University

Your burial typology is bad, and you should feel bad.
Anthropology, University of Mississippi

Rich douches use Super PACS to buy elections so screw voting, there's no point.
Political Science, University of California, Berkeley.

Art sucks, it doesn't work
Art History, Florida State University

The freezer was too cold and fucked up my sample DNA, so here is 20 pages of literature review.
Biology, Stanford University

Male friends in Shakespeare were actually sex-radical feminists, but only if you're horny.
English, University of Pennsylvania

My code doesn't work. I have no idea why... My code works. I have no idea why.
Computer Science, McGill University

Emily Dickinson wrote about the clitoris a lot, and maybe S&M; people fail to pick up on this because she mostly narrates it through birds.
English, Fordham

Coding is just really intelligent copy-paste.
Computer Science, Illinois

We told the DoD they could put guns on it so they gave us money to build this robot.
Mechanical Engineering, Harvard

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23 Responses:

  1. King Mob says:

    The fuck does it say about me, that reading these made me regret not doing grad school?

    • nooj says:

      That four seconds of humor can satisfy a craving for years and years of pain?

      Forget grad school. Start a company and spend that time hiring other people to do it. (Use someone else's money.) The drive to provide an actionable (read: profitable) product is a great motivator.

    • Sclatter says:

      I spent 8.5 years in grad school and only sales people EVER call me Doctor. I make less money than I did when I was 20. SO not worth it.

      • James says:

        Dear Dr. Clatterbuck Soper:

        I am writing to thank you for sharing your thoughts over the years on the difficulty of performing gel electrophoresis, which I recently had the opportunity to discuss with Shingo Hisakawa, CEO of Toriningen Co., Ltd. of Tokyo at one of New York University's recent workshops in Shanghai last October 21.

        Please rest assured that Mr. Hisakawa's commitment to the development of follow-on products supporting his line of open source DNA amplification systems is secure and proceeding, but likely would not without the benefit of your insight on these matters.

        Would you please collect your thoughts on the difficulty of gel electrophoresis in an academic publication which I can more easily cite to give you full credit for the expected advances? Thank you in advance.

        Best regards,
        James

      • Lee says:

        If your only motivation of attending grad school is for monetary satisfaction then consider it a waste of your time.

        • sclatter says:

          Sorry, I guess I wasn't obviously snarky enough. Here's the real, depressing situation.

          I went to grad school because I wanted to teach at the college level. Still do, theoretically. Everyone knows you don't do academia for money, including me.

          What I was not prepared for was a job market for PhDs that is so terrible that the number of post-docs dwarfs the number of faculty jobs by several fold, second and even third post-docs are normal, and Science and Nature papers are required for even modest faculty jobs, which are still swamped with hundreds of applicants. I am lucky to be an intramural post-doc at the NIH, so I get paid ALMOST $50k, a princely sum for a post-doc. I support a family of five (soon to be six) on that, because my PhD husband can't find work due to his niche-y thesis project.

          I get to do science. I do love science. But you know what? I loved being able to afford cable, an occasional movie, a meal out, or new clothes (ever), too.

          • nooj says:

            Yup. Every time I teach undergrads, I give them a heartfelt thank you. Because without them, I wouldn't have a job.

          • James says:

            So, why aren't you sending out proposals to set up a lab, hire staff, and develop something new and useful to a dozen potential sources of private funding per month? Would you rather teach college students by standing in front of a classroom full of them or showing up when they do web searches for their assignments? You could easily be making $250,000 by working on the latest fern-based tuberculosis treatment or whatever, whether it works out of not, and if it doesn't work out, it means you probably get enough high impact publications in the mean time to retire to faculty.

            • nooj says:

              Your suggestion is a good one. In a sense, it comes down to the question of whether to work for The Man or become an entrepreneur. There is a lot of good and bad to both choices.

              I tried it, myself. I spent 3 years trying to develop computational medicine projects until I realized my city simply didn't have the facilities or infrastructure to support the endeavor, and no one I could get a meeting with had the ability to help. Things are starting to change now, a few years later. But for perspective, the Presidents/CEOs of every major medical center and University for a hundred miles are now having bitter, billion-dollar fights over how that infrastructure will be developed.

              • Jeremy Leader says:

                "Billion-dollar fights" sound like there'd be an opportunity to vacuum up some tiny fraction of those sums as the debris flutters to the ground, probably by getting consulting gigs writing up studies supporting one side or another. But perhaps at the cost of one's soul?

                • James says:

                  s/one side or another/accuracy/ftfyhth

                • nooj says:

                  Absolutely. And I intend to elbow my way into it.

                  The cost will not be so high; medical centers are not inherently, disgustingly evil like drug companies and insurance providers. In the halls of academia, a little bit of dickish credit-claiming goes a long way. Given time, solid research, and a little luck, even an honest researcher like OP can prosper in this world.

            • sclatter says:

              Yes, I'd rather stand in front of a classroom of college students for $smallersalary than grovel to VCs for $largersalary. I think this is what it means to have a desire to teach at the college level, yes? I am at least a good enough teacher to create assignments that require more than copy-paste from Wikipedia, and when my students DO copy-paste from the web I can tell, and nail their butts for plagiarism if they haven't properly use quotes and cited the reference. (Been there, done that.)

              The idea that a post-doc a year out of grad school with a couple of papers in respectable but second-tier journals can go to a VC and get money is pretty comical. Thanks for the chuckle. No one gives you money without preliminary data, and proof that you have the resources to take it somewhere. Biotech start-ups are typically tech-transferred out of already super-star university labs. What this means of course is that all the entrepreneurism in the biotech world (and let's face it, most other new drugs too, Big Pharma is dropping R&D like it's hot) is built on the backs of NIH R01s. Lessee here, what was the pay-line for R01s from NCI in FY13? Oh right, 9%. Better than 6% at NIAID, I guess!

              My complaint is not so much that post-docs make so little, though I do think it's pretty sad that smart, highly-trained people make less than, say, an auto-glass installer (this was the example given us during grad school recruiting, by way of warning). It's that the system is a Ponzi scheme that RELIES on paying legions of smart, highly-trained people as little as possible, and then has no place for them to go. So the really smart people (smarter than I) see that there are better options, and take them.

              Everyone needs to understand that the entire edifice of biomedical science rests on the foundation of basic research, research that isn't necessarily going to result in a product in a year or five or ten. To the extent that we are failing to fund that research we are driving the smartest people to be hedge fund managers or corporate executives or whatnot. The whole enterprise is set back. To put it bluntly, we are eating our seed corn.

              • James says:

                That groveling feeling you initially pointed out is in fact caused by VCs' influence, not to mention the House Science Committee Chair thinking evolution is a satanic plot, among other things.
                Have you seen the kind of bullshit that gets funded by big agro for biofuels? If you think you can't easily transform that or any other wishful thinking billions floating around into something useful, basic or applied, you are selling yourself seriously short. The kind of data you refer to is usually pathetically thin, even in theraputics. And the idea that VCs expect you to have all the resources to take it to market fundamentally misunderstands what VCs are expecting: They want you to tell them yes, you have the resources but it would take X years, but with Y million dollars up front, it would only take X-3 years and has a 50% chance of being first to market, take it or leave it. They don't want to babysit your work -- they already have plenty of that. They just want money and are willing to spend theirs to try to make it.

  2. nooj says:

    Oh god this is truly perfect!

    I think my thesis can be summed up as

    "This simulation may possibly have some application in certain circumstances to a disease that affects <.1% of humans if a lot of assumptions turn out to be valid and someone spends a billion dollars following up on this work. By the way, in this study N=1."

  3. Vince says:

    Well, here's mine:

    "Most computer architecture papers have really bad methodology, but pointing this out won't make you friends or advance your career"

    • nooj says:

      Hahaha, so true! s/computer architecture//.

      Publicly pointing out other people's bad science is rarely useful. I don't know how many times I have reviewed and declined a paper with specific changed suggested, only to have it published unchanged in another (less prestigious) journal. (Actually, I do: it's 100% of the time. No one wants their article to go to waste. They just resubmit to less and less discerning journals until it's accepted.)

      Not to say that peer-review is poor or that the body of peer-reviewed research as a whole is suspect. Just that only a few papers are seminal; and taken individually, nearly every paper has problems.

  4. Sclatter says:

    Oh, and my thesis:

    Building ribosomes works best if you have all the pieces and tools, at least partly because transcription is not infinitely fast.

  5. Brian B says:

    "The Hayes Code is super interesting and relevant because my advisor didn’t like my other proposals."

    But by the time you've reached this point you don't care anymore, so it's all good. Throw in some Baudrillard? Sure boss.

  6. Brian B says:

    Grad school can be worth it if a) you have a realistic idea of how you'll benefit and b) it turns out you're psychologically suited to the various demands it makes on you. The first is within your control, the second is a crapshoot.

  7. crowding says:

    Being able to post one of these is basically my only motivation for finishing any more.