Ten reasons to love academia (and to forget looming application deadlines)

By Jonas Waldenström

It is application times. Again. That period of the year when researchers look even more tired and haggard than usual. That period when the lingering coffee aroma in the hallway seems stronger, even pungent. A time of frantic scribbles on papers, pulled hairs, and the tick-tick-tick-tack sounds of fingers tapping away on keyboards. And in the distance, the muffled sounds of silent sobs from behind the bathroom door.

Application times are gruesome. Competition for grants is fierce – many apply, but few get them. A simple fact. But regardless of the odds, we pour down our souls on paper, weighing each word, trying to convey the message that this application is the best of the lot, the next Nobel Prize in coming. We wish that it reach perfection, but it seldom does. Because life cannot be paused. There is still teaching to done, administration to administer, student manuscripts to read – and a family to feed and care for.

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For more great stuff of Cyanide and Happiness check out explosm.net/comics/

In this time it is good to remember all the good things of life in academia. So for all you weary and tired, here is a list of remembrance:

1)   You are an expert. Of all the snowflakes in academia, you are one unique little snowflake. There is simply no one who is better than you at being you. Your training, all the hardships and struggle has produce your academic self.

2)   Smell the flowers. Stop for a while, go to your pile of reprints and read one of them. Feel that glossy paper and remember the joyous feeling you had when it was published. You wrote that! It is easy to forget the little victories, but you shouldn’t. There is lots of stuff to be proud of!

3)   Fieldwork. Application times also heralds the onset of spring – soon it is time to roam the green hills and collect new data. As I have written before: the fieldwork is one of the best quirks of being a biologist! More ducks to catch!

4)   The grandeur of science. Our job is not just an ordinary job. We are a part of a human movement for enlightment. We are getting paid to find things out – isn’t that awesome?

5)   Friends in many places. Contrary to peoples’ beliefs, science is all about collaborations. We make friends all over the world, we exchange ideas and sometimes we work together. And we get to learn other cultures, new people, and see things.

6)   ‘The pleasure of finding things out.’ There is a beauty to figure out things, to solve a question. The quote comes from Richard Feynman, a multifaceted scientist and Nobel laureate. Also a man that took part in the development of the atom bomb. There is an hour-long BBC documentary on YouTube that you ought to watch.

7)   You are your own boss. Freedom has always been viewed as a prerequisite for science. Freedom to explore ideas, freedom to participate in the discussion, freedom to think. Although this academic freedom isn’t as free as it used to be, life in academia is still very different from ordinary workplaces. Embrace that.

 8)   Science is a lucid sea to swim in. If you feel stuck, open your browser and explore the world from your computer. There are so many awesome studies conducted, in topics you couldn’t even imagine. Go on Twitter, follow some of the great science communicators – read and enjoy!

9)   Embrace your inner nerd/geek. Isn’t it great to know stuff? I can recite the names of viruses, I know where the Mallard flies, and how to find the best pubs in Oxford. All because of science!

10)                  Play the ‘swap professor with X’-game. If you are really down, and think that everyone else are so great and you are just a little pile of shit on the academic floor, then you should play the ‘swap professor with X’-game. It is simple. Imagine the hotshot professor in a non-academic setting. How would professor X do in a lumberyard, in a marathon, in a grocery store? Refreshing, I promise you.

Now go back to your application. Damn it.

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