Thursday, September 2, 2010

The grad student totem pole

There are certain things about grad school that you kinda forget about once you move on. It's been roughly 6 years since left my grad lab and a lot has happened since then. With the new grad students filtering in around now, I was reminded of one absolute: new students get what's left.

For whatever reason, there is always a known ranking of resources in a grad office. A best desk space, best chair, best coffee cup, best whatever, and every other similar item fits into the hierarchy.  Grad student B has the third best chair, for instance. At times of personnel flux, the perturbation sets off a wave of resource shuffle.

Senior grad students get first choice and will scarf up anything that is higher in the ranking than they already have. The next in line than devour their refuse and so the grad student food chain re-arranges itself with the n00bs getting the scraps.

This, of course, is unbeknownst to the noob, because they are just happy to be starting something new and everything takes some adjusting to. Research, all the reading, the other students, a new place, new surroundings. While they find their bearings they don't notice that their chair has one arm duct taped on and their mouse only scrolls in one direction. The other students, of course, assure them that the chair is the most comfortable one and the loose arm staves off carpel-tunnel. Besides, who ever scrolls up in a document or webpage? All the good stuff is down!

Before long, the noob realizes the deal and starts counting down to the next resource shuffle.    


  1. 100% true, and Im finally on top of the totem pole! I have the best desk (with a window that HAS a view), the nicest pipettes, and the best camera on my microscope lol.

  2. If only we could rearrange things to work the opposite way, it might encourage students to complete their dissertations more quickly! "Oh no! If I don't finish by next month, my chair will be downgraded to the duct-tape-wonder!"

  3. HAha... great observations! I have more recently left the grad world behind than you, but getting a fresh batch of my own brings all of those memories screaming back.

  4. Ah, memories! All of our chairs were held together with duct tape, and either the back listed at an odd angle or the whole thing was dangerously unbalanced. 'Twas quite the adventure to see what happened whenever we sat down.

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