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The International Writers Magazine: On Science

PhD- An Abstract on the ‘Paranormal Human Disorder’!
Indrani Bhattacharyya
Impossible, this is highly impossible; I threw my hands in despair after going through the 4th DNA sequencing report. It didn’t work this time too!! For last one  a half month I have been fighting to introduce a mutation in one of my proteins to convert it from Flop to Flip form by applying the site directed mutagenesis technique.


I use this  approach every week and it usually works pretty fine. But assuming this mutation as an exceptional case, I came up with every possible manipulation to make it happen since the very first day, off course all my attempts were in vein. ‘Have to think of something new, may be, this is again a ‘Flop-Show’ I mumbled. Though I had no clue at this moment what exactly to be tried next. For me the initial level of frustration after each failed experiment always gets replaced by equal amount of irritation and annoyance till the reformed idea strikes.

 Hiding the enromous clamp of disappoinment, I came back to my desk slowly and immediately got lost in serious thoughts, no, not about the troubleshooting part. I was just wondering why on earth I am doing PhD?!  This is a specific   field where people meet up, break up, wed, divorce, give birth, watch children growing up, start and end up using hair color. The time frame keeps changing but one parameter remains constant, you still continue your pursuit of happiness; well would you call it happiness?!  What’s the need of staying 12000 km away from my own country after travelling half across the globe just in order to get into this never-ending-ever-lasting series of problems? Withstanding the infamous harsh Canadian Winter for close to six months is more than enough to drive away every trace of rationality from an otherwise sensible mind,  above all with this cranky outcome of experiments, you might get into a chronic depressive mood! And its less feasible an attempt to find out the remedy for a comparatively speedy recovery unless you get a solid substancial conclusion for your experiment. My sulking knew no bound and I kept cursing myself for not taking up any job oriented management course right after my undergrads. What’s the use of doing a PhD? The greatest reward you can expect is just PAPER! And the occurrence of which is absolutely dependent on the unique characteristic features of certain creatures called Reviewer!  What’s the justification of working in a dark room hour after hour with some crazy fluorescence when you just end up hurting your eyes?  Moreover my health insurance doesn’t cover  any ophthalmologist’s fees! Even being a true believer of Shree Ramakrishna Paramhansha can’t really console me sometimes.

Who else apart from a PhD student will understand the agony of going into the lab meeting without having adequate data? Before considering myself as a Grad student, my biggest nightmare was what if I am asked to live rest of my life in absence of shopping malls!  Now all my sleepless- night -worries can be attributed to the lack of information in my lab book to be presented on every Thursday!  No earthly horror movie can match up to the intensity of the chilled ghostly sensational atmosphere created by a grumpy supervisor every time he goes through your report. The guilt curve grows in an exponential rate and reading those crappy PhD comics (the only heavenly place where you get to massage your bruised ego by discovering more and more number of stupid!) can act as a recreation balm to give you slight relief.

Last week I applied the highest and weirdest ever magnitude of my scientific aptitude, did the PCR and sent the sample for DNA sequencing with no significant amount of hope left further. Next two days I couldn’t come to the lab following a severe respiratory block. This morning, I entered the lab and ran to check the sequencing result. As I was analyzing it, my heart skipped a beat as if I have just received my first love letter ever, couldn’t believe my eyes, actually it worked! After recollecting myself from the huge shock as well as an ecstatic state of excitement, I decided to start my pending experiment. My body became lighter like a feather and I made a frantic run to melt up my supervisor with the good news!

 Now, this is a set up I work with, often drives me nuts. I hate it to the core; I am sick and tired of playing with it. No matter whatever be the quantity of affection, love, gratitude and displeasure I shower onto him, my set up remains absolutely stoic and indifferent leaving me in a more and more emotionally vulnerable stage. But Trust Me, today the moment I got inside the dark room, I stood standstill for a while. Closing my eyes, for the first time ever, I could feel how much I missed this room and the set up in last 48 hours. It’s not that I work with it 24/7 I do enjoy my share of fun without it.  But I have never spent two long working days in my small hostel room, just lying on the bed, occasionally gasping for breath and staring blank at the walls, all alone.

It was like facing the Moment of Truth, I religiously felt it would be quite difficult for me to live my life outside any laboratory. Is this what we call passion? Is this the reason for which some abnormal-minds devote their heart and soul in research without caring much about money and other material comforts in spite of knowing the end result could be zero?  Is this that intoxicating source of motivation which keeps them going? Why was I so demoralized then? Probably I was wrong in drawing the inference. It’s like considering those two statements of making-love and having-sex. The act is same, only the representation differs. I scolded myself for being a wrong presenter for all these days! This realization took me to a different zone of feeling all together. I started noticing once the initial wall of confusion starts disappearing, it becomes far more comfortable to identify the light source, exactly the way, in cricket, batting on a rough pitch for a long, helps developing better reflex to react faster. Thus making you more seasoned to face the next delivery! Patience is the best key to unlock all the equations coming your way. I felt like spreading those hidden wings with the dreams of flying up-up up there. Its only one life to live for. Why not use my own blocks to build it? I would never mind toppling over the floor of reality time & again while determining my way than being just another brick in the wall!

There’s every probability of having another devastating failure by tomorrow ,quite likely I would again start blaming destiny for screwing me up like this in next 48 hours, .but today is one of those rarest days, when a grad student in one corner of the universe felt from her heart, doing-PhD-is-not-that- bad!

© Indrani Bhattacharyya May 2011

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