On Being Smart……Not!

People get this misconception that just because I am a PhD student, therefore I am smart. That’s what I used to believe too. Of course I’d like to think of myself as a smart person because I am doing my PhD. So wrong….!!

Very often, people give me this impressed look when they ask me what I do here in New Zealand, and I say I am doing my PhD. Then they oooh and aahhh when I tell them its in Chemical Engineering.

While its nice to be praised, I also feel very embarrassed and uncomfortable. Because, third year into my doctoral program, I can tell you indefinitely that I am not smart! Seriously, I am not trying to be polite, I really am not that smart!

People who are really really really smart knows better than to go do a PhD. I started my PhD program because I hated my job! I struggle with my PhD program. To the point I ask myself almost daily now, “Tien, what the hell are you thinking trying to do a PhD???”

One of my lecturers from my undergraduate days has this to say on how to graduate with a PhD in hand. “Tien, you have to be stubborn. No matter how bad other people try to comment negatively about your work or results, be stubborn and keep believing that you have what it takes. Just be stubborn!”

The keyword here is stubborn. Not smart, but stubborn! I believe him wholeheartedly!

And then there is this article that discusses how stupidity is important in conducting scientific research. If you’d like to be a PhD student, have a good read at this article, and think long and hard whether you really have what it takes. While being smart helps at times, it doesn’t get the job done, honest!

I am not smart, but I still want that PhD. And I can appear to be smarter. I hope I can make the cut. I am fighting for it. Wish me luck, I need LOTS of it!


14 comments on “On Being Smart……Not!

  1. psharma3 says:

    Thank you. I’m going to be starting a program in the fall and everyone is like wow you must be so smart. No, not really, I’m just trying hard…

    Also I’ve heard that in your third year is when you start really hating life and thinking like you’re never ever going to finish.

  2. D... says:

    Any graduate program is determination and persistence. But you have to be capable too. If you can’t do the work, then that’s a problem. Since you’re on your third year, you know you can do the work. I think it’s hard an in the end and when you present your dissertation you are fighting for it.

    You can do it, and you’ll be so accomplished when you do. But good luck!!!!

  3. 女王 says:

    you are 2nd person who studying PHD giving this kind of advise. I do think you are smart dear, but there is no relation to study phd or not I suppose ?!? Smart girl will need to put a lot of offort to achieve too 🙂 Ganbatte!

  4. Claire says:

    Not necessarily 😛 You were smart enough to skip out of the work force hahaha. I wish I had the opportunity to do that too – unfortunately I don’t have the passion to do a Masters programme, let alone PhD 😛

  5. Haha be stubborn, great advice. But don’t give up, you are smart and you can do it! And hopefully an amazing job will follow!

  6. rossie says:

    like it so much!!

  7. Khanum says:

    And I totally agree with you on this one. I have done terribly terrible recently in my first semester of Mphil due to some problems which people dont get, they jus know oh she was a top student, look shes a top student still but from the bottom!! :@ . WHich means I have jeopardised my chances for Phd. And I wasnt having any depression until my teachers n mates began to make me feel some! so yeah…!! they only count the GPA and CGPA’s. and degrees. lots n lots of it. No one would ask you WHat do you think about life. Are you a free thinker or a slave of old concepts!

    I ont know whats best, to accept failure pay heed so u can excel or to ignore the bad grades so the depression doesnt get to the head.

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