11 September 2010

"No, this is not a PhD..."

There are 2 phrases I've had to repeat an innumerable number of times since being back in Cambridge:


"No, I'm not a freshman but a graduate student - your Graduate Resident Tutor."
and

"No, this is not a PhD..."

Oh, the realities of the 3.5 year MArch reality.  Things are not what they seem!  I had confirmation for the second phrase, from my dear friend and former suitemate Vidya, who in astonishment after hearing I still had a year and a half exclaimed:

oh jeez
this is seriously the longest masters program ever
you guys deserve a PhD

(P.S. I apologize for quoting you without asking for permission, but hey - this Gchat conversation was technically on the record.)

I actually did consider those last three words, the idea of "deserving" a PhD.  What actually goes into a doctorate as opposed to a masters?  What this hilarious blog post shared by a couple friends (thanks to Marcus and Clarence) suggests is that it's about specialization, diving deeply into an area and gaining specific expertise through research.  This simplified definition would then not actually apply to what I'm doing now.  Sure, I'm around for a length of time that seems like a short PhD, but considering the number of requirements that fills the MArch trajectory, I'm only now finding breathing room to begin asking the question, what is it that I'm really interested in investigating?  And now with a year and a half, with only the last semester fully devoted to thesis, it's hard to imagine being able to explore any topic in depth.

Wrestle wrestle...  Architecture in practice doesn't value PhDs as much as academia, and I'm not sure if I'm necessarily cut out for the long haul of research divorced from working on the ground with real issues.  (This is where I probably have a more engineering than scientist mindset... although I still revolt against the engineer label.)  To be honest, though, I actually do really enjoy research, but only that which resides outside of labs and in people's lives.  (And that which involves travel, haha.)

To stay in academics or to go?  I'm hoping for a sign.