Maturity 2.0

September 22nd, 2010

I was just looking back at the old blog and found this photoshopped image posted under the heading “We surveyed 100 grad students…”

Graduate School Family Feud Survey


That brand of humor is not something you’ll encounter on the new site.  I’d never post an image like that here.  No, sir.

12 Responses to “Maturity 2.0”

  1. Matt Says:

    I have had two lab-mates now (who shall remain nameless) who have hung up razor-blades with messages attached to them. The first had a razor blade in his hood with the phrase “The Way Out” written on it.
    Another has a razor above her bench on some cabinets that is fondly named “Plan B”.

    Unfortunately there are many chemists who take this past the “joking” level. I think most PhD students are self motivated and very driven. PIs have a “tendancy” to push students past their comfort level. What happens when that comfort level is too extreme to begin with?

  2. Paul Says:

    Taking into account the history in the department, the “intensity” of many of the labs, the demanding personality of many of the PIs, the isolated nature of the research groups, and the fact that the “Altom reforms” were largely scaled back, I was very surprised that nobody in the department committed suicide while I was in grad school.

    It’d be interesting to see grad schools conduct psych evals as part of the admissions process.

  3. excimer Says:

    You have finally sunk to the level of my kind of humor, Paul. I expect pics of molecules fucking in the near future.

    Look, people commit suicide. It’s sad, but it happens, and we shouldn’t kid ourselves that chemistry is the main cause of it. People get depressed and decide it’s the only way out. It happens in every department, in every demographic, in all walks of life. Chemistry grad students are no different. It’s sad that it took a person taking his own life to open people’s eyes about the ways grad students in organic chemistry are treated like rats in a cage. But suicide is extreme even for dealing with monumental assholes like those in organic chemistry. Let’s not forget one of the 20th century’s greatest chemists, an enormously successful one, also committed suicide: Wallace Carothers, the inventor of nylon.

    …ugh, done being morbid. So what’s Number 3? Sodium azide and DCM in a rotavap?

  4. Paul Says:

    I think only one person tops Carothers on the list of greatest chemists of the 20th century to commit suicide.

  5. Paul Says:

    Also @excimer, your suggestion for what might come next reminds me of the first class I taught in grad school. I told my students not to turn in their exams early, and if they got bored, to write a joke that the graders would enjoy before going back to triple checking answers. One of my better students drew two Lewis structures in a state of sexual congress, then labeled the figure with the caption “Paul enjoys Sn2 attack.”. The head TF for the course had the honor of grading that problem, and the student’s response brought the grading session to a halt for a good couple of minutes.

  6. Hap Says:

    I don’t chemistry is alone in mental stress, but the expectation of total and unwavering devotion to a single activity, nearly complete investment in its success, and enforcement by implicit/explicit threat that the advising system fosters would seem to make suicide more likely among chemists (and particularly graduate students) than people on average. Add to that that drinking is generally the only approved method to deal with those stresses (GFs/BFs take too much time, after all) and you would seem to have a recipe for unhappiness. I don’t know if chemistry generally attracts introverts who might be less able to find nondestructive ways to deal with their stresses, but grad school might also magnify those effects. You would expect to see suicide a lot in startups, as well, but I don’t know if that’s the case. In a startup, the risks and environment are well-known, the costs of leaving are lower, and the people are probably less risk-averse.

    I think 6 is “Jump off a bridge”. I don’t know what 3 is, though – about fifteen years ago, I would have guessed “Murder of your committee followed by suicide by cop”, but now, I don’t know.

  7. excimer Says:

    @Paul: who dat?

    Also, put up or shut up:

  8. Paul Says:

    The great Emil Fischer committed suicide, although in that case, I think you can make the argument that chemistry was to blame.

    I also found this. Are there any subjects that chemistry blogs don’t cover?

  9. J-bone Says:

    You should have a contest to fill in #3 and #6. Whoever comes up with the best answers gets a used ACS mug or something.

    With regards to psych evals, I’d be curious to see how peoples’ psych profiles change between the beginning and end of grad school.

  10. Mark Says:

    Would it be better for someone to just ingest a cyanide salt and keel over, or go out with a bang by dissolving cyanide in aqueous acid and embracing the almondy bouquet of such a solution?

  11. joel Says:

    Academia does attract world-class egos.

    And although I do take some pride in my own inner darkness— as a safety officer and person with a conscience I wouldn’t think twice about politely ordering my labmates to see a psychiatrist if they were writing encouraging notes on razor blades. Jesus Fucking Christ.

  12. wolfie Says:

    I never committed suicide, but I gave up my position at teh University.

    Who knows what will come else ?


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