Ph.D. In Physics: 8 Things It Taught Me

How do people decide whether they should do a Ph.D.? Do they dream of becoming doctorates right from their school days? Well, some kids do have a lot of Ph. D. uncles, aunts and even parents. For others, they do not even know what career do they want to opt for. The most hyped question that a person doing Ph.D. faces is - Are you ever gonna stop studying? Well, I have completed my Doctorate of Philosophy in Physics and in today's article I am going to share my experiences while doing a Ph.D. degree. Meanwhile, I shall also let you all take a sneak peek on what a career in science and research is actually like.

In my school days, I was very fond of science. I used to get amazed by the simple laws that governed almost all the mysteries in the universe. I wished to become a scientist. But like many, I did not know-how? So I went on to pursue my Master's degree in Physics where I had my first encounter with research at a summer school in the Institute of Plasma Research, Ahmedabad, India and the first time exposure to research instantly drew me towards research as a career. After completing my Ph.D. successfully, now I think I can precisely comment on what a doctorate degree in science is like.

Here are some of the insights of doing a Ph.D. and on top of that, the following things/skills are those that one may get in their journey to become doctorates :

1)You get a scholarship for doing a Ph.D.

When I was writing my thesis, everybody asked me about what am I going to do next? Apparently, my goal was to do post-doctoral research at a top-notch laboratory or institute. But then people would say- Ohhh what a shame, are you going to study all life and not do a job? But to everyone who thinks the same way, the truth is that doing a Ph.D. is not about studying like high school students and take exams. To me, doing a Ph.D. was like the best job that I could get. Ask me why, and I would tell you that doing a Ph.D. degree in science lets you get paid for studying your favorite subject.

A prospective Ph.D. candidate may apply for various scholarships either by clearing competitive exams or by directly apply to different funding agencies via their websites such as scholarship positions.com. These websites provide links to various scholarship schemes that one can find suitable for them and get their Ph.D. funded.

2) Exposure:

Second-year into my doctorate, and I was selected as one of the Indian delegates to attend the "66th Lindau Nobel Laureates Meeting" in Lindau, Germany. The meet brings together young scientists from all over the globe and Nobel Laureates in the field of science.

Ph.D. scholar Yashika with Takaaki Kajita
Yashika with Nobel laureate Takaaki Kajita

During my Ph.D., I traveled to many places in India as well as abroad and had numerous thought-provoking discussions with the top scientists in the world. My Lindau memories are even today the most cherished ones. After all, who gets to meet a Nobel laureate every day ??

3) Problem-solving skills:

Any person may have an interest in science. But the life of a researcher is totally different. A research profession develops in you the ability to think. It enables a person to realize the potential problems in a particular area and to solve them efficiently. Whenever I used to get stuck at a particular research problem, I used to undertake all N-number of possibilities that might be able to solve that particular numerical or modeling error. Well, don't we need that skill in life? Yes, we do!

4) Persistence:

As a researcher, I couldn't get my mind out of a problem until the problem got solved. I feel that a degree in research also creates the stamina in a person to stay longer at even difficult problems and to hope and believe in oneself that you can solve that problem completely. One can't imagine the ecstasy that comes when you were stuck at a research problem for too long and it gets all sorted out.

5) Patience:

The quality most required in life and still not easily found is "Patience". A degree in research helps you develop this too. There were times in my Ph.D. when my research paper had to go through multiple rounds of peer-review/revision/again peer-review to get accepted in a good-quality journal. The duration of this process would even reach a year or so, but this surely teaches you all the patience in the world.

6) Writing skills

Yes, that too. When you want to make your paper stand out from the others and are trying to make it more readable to the readers, you are actually improvising your writing skills. So, it's not that I was just improving my scientific knowledge, but my vocabulary and writing skills were also getting better at the same time.

7) Networking and collaborations

One of the most important life skills that you can learn only on your own is to know and understand when you need help and to ask for it. This brings the need to have collaborations in research. Science is not local and a single person may not be an expert in all. Hence, one has to meet and network with new people and talk to them to understand their problems and discuss theirs. This helps to find potential solutions to the research problems as a team. Only a researcher can tell how important are the good collaborations in science and research!! Many a time, Professors from other institutes in India or even abroad helped me via emails or phone calls regarding my research problem. I am grateful to all of them for being always willing to help me.

At the Max Planck Institute for Gravitational Physics (Albert Einstein Institute), Germany

8) Gratitude

Having said that, I am now going to end this article with the simplest skill that one may achieve and make a difference in their lives. I used to hear a lot of my friends and peers discussing the irritability and frustrations of their research work. I found that every person in this world is facing some or the other issue. Some issues were many degrees worse than I could ever imagine sustaining. This helped me develop a sense of thankfulness and gratitude. I even realized that after adapting this skill, life becomes even easier and happier.

At Lindau Harbour

I have now completed my doctorate degree in the field of theoretical plasma physics. On top of it, I have also accepted an offer for doing post-doctoral research at a prestigious national lab in the USA. All I can say is that life is a journey of learning. Everyone's journey is different but one should believe in their own journey without comparing it with anyone else's.

Also Read: How to become an Astrophysicist?

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