The Sassy Scientist – A Last Minute Lark

The Sassy Scientist – A Last Minute Lark

Tatiana feels the pressure. A never-ending workload, a busy home life and unparalleled expectations of her own devising leave her with this:

Why does everything have to be last minute in academia?

Dear Tatiana,

Last minute? Don’t know what you’re talking about. Nothing is last minute in case you’ve mapped out your activities properly beforehand. Do you find it difficult planning your to-do list and sticking to that tentative schedule to the best of your ability? Buck up. No really, there’s no proper excuse for not keeping your word to deliver as promised. Simply stop checking you social media platforms every five minutes. Don’t walk down the corridor for that tenth cup of coffee this morning. Devour that sandwich whilst checking your email for that response from your supervisor. Stop talking to your office mates. Why don’t you move a couch up in there; saves you a commute. You do realize that your only option as a scientist is to spend every breathing minute you’ve got working, don’t you? You’ll be laughing on the other side of your face when you find that you can actually slide in some more activities throughout your timetable when you overcome that planning angst. That timetable trepidation will not resolve itself, nor will the foreboding disquietude of looming lethargy. Your thoughts represent a grand, preposterously well-endowed member of the fallacy society and as likely as not a lamentable, terminological inexactitude through proclaiming your frets on last minute activities; a schedule brimming with tasks dictates the ineluctable fact of finishing them in time. Punctually, when necessary. One may call that last minute. I call it achieving your goal with the fervor of a fresh grad student. One untainted by the schedule-sullied souls of tireless yet strained individuals that stravaig the gloomy hallways of polytechnics, colleges, academies, institutes, conservatoires and universities.

I can see it in your glistening eyes, as it’s plastered all over your face, and you exude this little gurgle: “These are the ramblings of a mad scientist. What jibbering fool would utter this drivel of the highest order? Surely the overall level of common sense in this world of exuberant Pointdexterism has led to the conclusion that those within the bounds of civil servantry should not let themselves be mesmerized by the siren call that is workaholism?”. Let me stop you right there. You may snort derisively with blithe disregard of the sticky sitch that is academia. This is simply a manifestation of your inept attempt to characterize the inner workings of research. I’ll pull you back into reality and convey onto you a proper explanation to your question. The simple truth is that there’s no other way. Last minute is the only option. Your research may be eye-wateringly complex. Your resolve to complete your preparations for the upcoming undergrad course may be unwavering. Your sense of duty to perform peer reviews of grant proposals and papers may be steadfast. The satisfaction you get when mentoring students, through your instinct to enlighten those dusky shells of the non-graduate and spark that sizzling fire to explore and discover the many brilliant facets that make up the multidimensional reality of academia, may be unparalleled. Could you do all this months in advance? Could you keep up with the latest proceedings in science, weeks in advance? Could you stick to those lines set it stone when a global pandemic-related surge in extraneous activity arises, days in advance? Could you suddenly homeschool your children, hours in advance? Maybe. Despite your best efforts, you’ll end up finishing your tasks in time. Barely. Just before the deadline. But in time.

You keep in mind your hardships will come to fruition, and you take these words as some feeling of contrition, whilst commenting from a place of ignorance on this undeniable morality, those around you have fallen in that same chasm of supposed normality, though their stance and potency have continued without much detrition.

Yours truly,

The Sassy Scientist

PS: The post was written last minu

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I am currently employed at a first tier research institute where I am continuously working with the greatest minds to further our understanding of the solid Earth system. Whether it is mantle or lithosphere structure and dynamics, solid Earth rheology parameters, earthquake processes, integrating observations with model predictions or inversions: you have read a paper of mine. Even if you are working on a topic I haven’t mentioned here, I still know everything about it. Do you have any problems in your research career? I have already experienced them. Do you struggle with your work-life balance? Been there, done that. Nowadays, I have only one hobby: helping you out by answering the most poignant questions in geodynamics, research and life. I am waiting for you right here. Get inspired.

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