Thursday, March 10, 2011

PhD: A declaration of love - but to whom?

Loved this cartoon shared today by my colleague Marlous who like me is pursuing the final stages of her PhD, while trying to maintain a healthy and meaningful relationship, with an actual person (i.e. not just the thesis). 

It is a 'well-known fact' that writing a PhD is a monstrous challenge, and requires an enormous amount of patience, understanding, perseverance. However, while the PhD candidate applies these characteristics to his/her research, the partner applies them to the relationship. 

So, who deserves the most praise? Well, let's calculate: while the PhD's efforts toward an egocentric ambition Earth-Shattering, World-Changing Science mostly benefit him/herself, the partner is actually contributing to something directly meaningful*, namely the longer-term happiness of the PhD candidate and him/herself (and maybe we even throw some kids into the equation). 

And here's what's funny: real, academic research has shown that the pursuit of happiness actually contributes to more economic prosperity and stronger democracy, at a macro-level. PhDs who manage that are a rarity, at best.

So to my patient, understanding, persevering and very sweet partner I say: when I finally finish (yes, it will happen), I dedicate my title to you.

* with apologies to people who actually contributed to curing malaria or aleviating world poverty through their PhD research.