The Sassy Scientist – Scaling the Peaks of Academic Hierarchy: A PhD Expedition

The Sassy Scientist – Scaling the Peaks of Academic Hierarchy: A PhD Expedition

This unstable weather and academia where PhD students are often treated like rare species – elusive, misunderstood, and occasionally overlooked in the grand canopy of academia – always bring me down: I can’t help but feel a bit under the weather (do not throw anything at me, pls). So John asks:

Is it fair to exclude PhD students from staff activities and meetings, and how can I challenge this hierarchy?

Dear John,

Aaah, the audacity of academia never fails to astound! Excluding PhD students from staff meetings and outings? Right, I always forget that short-term contract people are considered to be biodegradable, disposable materials in the academic realm. Utter madness! But, in this scholarly snobbery realm, persistence is your greatest weapon. Use your horns, be a goat or a ram or a moose. Okay, before we get into the advice section, I need to let you know that after a conference full of 20,500-something geoscientists, my brain is battling with a snotty cold. Whatever I’m saying, you need to consider this a dose of questionable advice.

First, go and talk to your fellow early career scientists, gather “intel”, check if other PhD students share your concerns, and discuss potential strategies for advocating for change as a group. Strength often lies in numbers.

This part a bit depends on your relationship with the higher-ups, but try to communicate this with relevant faculty members and maybe, – wait here me out – prepare a powerpoint. Don’t be dismissive, it can be a powerful weapon to make a point. So it might be the time to summon your inner Forest Gnome Druid – at least that’s what I would do – and weave the magic of your slides to illustrate why, for instance, the symbiotic relationship between flora and fauna is essential for the forest’s balance.

If you want to go a bit rogue and if you know where they advertise these events, bring your post-it and pen to leave some comments on it -okay, you see, a snotty brain is blocking the way to logic and diplomacy. REALLY, unsolicited advice-. But it might be okay if this thing has been going on for a long time. Follow the steps above, especially try to communicate this with one of the permanents you think you have a good relationship with. Let me know how that goes, kind of curious to see if it is going to work. If it works you can take the method with you wherever you go as a bonus.

Yours truly,
The Sassy Scientist

P.S. Is there anyone who is not sick after EGU? Because I would like to know the secret. I know I should have used a mask. There is also the cold weather factor in Vienna that hit me so hard AT THE END OF APRIL…
P.P.S. I have been so subtle with my DnD references, I know! And you haven’t started playing DnD?! How dare you?
P.P.P.S. I wanted to use the pseudonym “John” so I could start as “Dear John,” like how Hank Green starts in his videos.

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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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