Wednesday, December 10, 2008

advisor aging

My advisor is close to the end of his career. He's old enough that we have a little "retirementwatch" going. Each time he takes on a new student, we're surprised. On the other hand, I have a friend in the same department with a brand-new advisor - he's the professor's first student. I've seen two big differences between us:

1. Workload

My friend's professor is striving for tenure and trying to make her mark, so she's stressing out about teaching new classes and doing BIG NEW IMPORTANT research. In order to do this, she's piled a massive amount of work on my friend, who is a master's student like me.

My professor has advised generations of students. He's taught classes for decades (and he's quite good). He doesn't have anything to prove; he's already famous in his little spot in academia. So my project is sufficient for a good thesis, but I'm not running around doing massive amounts of extra work. I pulled some 13 hour days, but that was for only a part of my time as a grad student.

2. Money

My friend spent a lot of his time writing proposals and then writing reports to explain the results in order to get continued funding. He had to justify everything he bought and used.

My professor has ridiculously extensive connections, with sources of money all over the place. Thanks to his knowledge of school and money-dispersing regulations, he pretty much spends it as he sees fit. So I'm able to use more equipment. Not that my buddy can't beg/borrow stuff, but it's always better if it's your stuff that's getting lent out because you have first dibs.

We represent extreme cases - most professors I know are less stressed than my friend's advisor and not as detached as mine. Overall, my friend is doing a lot more work, but that means that he's learning more and has a more extensive CV/resume. I would like to think that's just as good as having a big-name advisor, since in my case I have the feeling people are thinking, "that old fossil still has students?"

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