If you go out there and ask all the PhD students how they feel about their advisors, I am very sure you will get a mixed response. Some will praise their mentors while others will utter curses. Fortunately I fall into the former category, in fact, my advisor was the reason why I choose to stay back after my Master’s degree, forfeiting the chance to go abroad for my PhD. And I gladly proclaim that I do not repent my decision ( yes, sometimes due to work pressure and mental fatigue makes me feel otherwise).
I met him for the first time when he was invited to teach us one topic in a medicinal chemistry course in my third year of bachelor’s class. His teaching, his depth of knowledge and his down to earth personality mesmerised me. Immediately I made my decision to work with him for my masters (wasn’t sure I would stay back for PhD then). But, working with him wasn’t easy because it needed to crack an entrance test that was tough to crack. However, I had made up my mind and there was no looking back. After my final exams, I had only 5 days to prepare for the entrance exam, it was next to impossible that I could finish reading everything. I just read as much as I could and went to write the paper. I was never under so much tension for any of my exams I had taken in the past. But this time it was different because my goals were very clear and there was no plan B. Either I made it or got screwed up. The paper went quite as expected and my calculations predicted that if all the questions I attempted were to be correct then my rank was going to be very high. That obviously did not happen, however, I scored enough marks to be able to get what I wanted. And that was it, I was more than happy. This episode made me realise that in the absence of a plan B, my mind was completely focused on what I wanted and made every little effort that was necessary to achieve it. Next, came another hurdle, the allotment of the master’s thesis advisor, that was to be done on the basis of the rank in the entrance exam I just mentioned above. There was a rumour that he was going to take only one student, which means, that wasn’t going to be me, as my rank was second highest. However, I just hoped that he takes two students this time. The day came when we were called in for the selection process, and again I was tensed. YESSS!!! my prayers were heard and my wish granted; I got what I wanted, somehow I feel god was smiling at me all through the process. Soon after we finished our coursework I started with my research work which was my passion and I had joined the group headed by another passionate researcher. I knew it wasn’t easy to convince this man about the results I got in the LAB unless I had amply supported the observations with enough evidences. The Master’s project was kind of a success as I could identify one good molecule and also my boss was happy that we did it.
Even before I submitted my Master’s dissertation he approached me to join him for PhD, since he had a project funded by a German company and more importantly we were assured two visits to Deutschland during my PhD. Within no time I accepted the offer, and here began my PhD journey. I was always aware that this wasn’t an easy path but I was also sure that under the guidance of this man it would be a bearable journey with many lessons to learn and memories to cherish for the rest of my life. I have and still learning a lot about this man and from this man. He is always composed and calm by nature and seldom raised his voice even if he had to explain somebody something for the 1000th time. Most importantly he is a humble human being and treats everyone with equal respect, this is what I liked about him the most. You will find great scientists everywhere but it is very difficult to find great human being like him, who treats other human beings as human, which is a very rare these days.
As days passed by, I got more and more chances to interact with him on various topics on science, other than my work. And it was fun to look at him while he spoke on matters concerning science because he seemed to enter a different energy level with all his high energy animated explanations. I have often observed, even if he was exhausted, once you ask him any doubts related to science he suddenly got some magical powers to reach the high energy state and soon forgot about his tiredness. This is the kind of passion I want in me, the science you do should make you forget all the worries and pains in the world. Get engrossed in work and show something worthwhile, discoveries will automatically happen. Many times he narrated about his PhD days, when he worked day in and day out. I could see a glow on his face while he narrated stories about how he tackled some of the problems while he was working, this glow indicated how blissfully he enjoyed working around that problem. He always says, “you must enjoy solving the problems during your PhD like a kid enjoys solving his puzzles.” How many of us really enjoy what we do?
During my PhD, all I have learnt is how to keep calm and maintain a sane mind. How much ever angry or disturbed I may be, the moment I start working all the negative feelings should be replaced by the joy of working. I actually tried this, every time I was sad, upset, angry, irritated and even Happy, I focused all my energy towards work and the work made me forget everything else and made me happier.
Try this, do what makes you Happy and you will never be sad again.