Letters to the editor
Graduate student journeys
The “Chemistry Grad School Experience” issue (C&EN, Sept. 10, page 16) spent most of its time on negative aspects of a Ph.D. program. But that is not how I remember it.
Getting a chemistry Ph.D. can be a wonderful experience and a special time that is unlikely to be repeated in any career. Once you get past whatever coursework and exams are required, there is an extended period where all you really have to do is research. You have no other obligations—no meetings, no schedule, no one monitoring your working hours. Just come in and do experiments, calculations, whatever, until you are too tired to go on; sleep, wake up when you want to, and do some more research.
It is also a time of being in a close community—your own research group and all the other chemistry graduate students. If you are lucky, as I was, you also develop a very close relationship with your thesis adviser and possibly with other faculty, and you begin to become a part of the larger community of your area of research through attending meetings, meeting visiting scientists, and listening to seminars.
I wish that the issue, which had much good advice, had done a bit more to capture the pleasure and privilege of getting a Ph.D. in chemistry.
Bernard J. Bulkin
I am writing in response to the article by Mitch Jacoby in the Sept. 10 issue (page 20). I was a young assistant professor at the University of Wisconsin, Eau Claire, in 1966 when my research assistant applied to four graduate schools in chemistry: Harvard University, Massachusetts Institute of Technology, California Institute of Technology, and the University of California, Berkeley. He received offers from all four! He asked which one I would recommend, and my comment was they are all excellent. The next day he told me that he would attend Caltech. I asked, Why? He had been watching a popular TV show called “The Man From U.N.C.L.E.,” and it had filmed scenes in labs at Caltech. That convinced him! He earned his Ph.D. under professor Harry Gray in 1971 and never left. George Rossman is now a professor of mineralogy and is a world authority on gemstones. My former student is now a “rock star”!
Allen A. Denio