>phd_year(4) = 3

Dear (supervisor),

To an outside observer (you), I didn’t get anything done this week. 

I’m sorry.

Remember a couple weeks ago when I showed you how well the data fit to my theory? Well, I went to write a good copy of the theory for the paper and… I couldn’t reproduce the math.

I took a vacation between then and now, and I must have lost a part of my brain in the surf. Right now, I wish I had lost the rest of me, too. 

Listen, I know I’m right. The theory made sense to me at the time, and the data fits it perfectly. “The theory fits the data so well, there must be something right about it!” Those are your words, not mine.

I know you will understand. At this level, we have to be perfect. We need to be right beyond any reasonable doubt. We have to design and build a house, and the reviewers are looking for one loose floorboard.

I will figure this out.

Yours in solidarity,

(grad student)

Dear (supervisor),

Ok, I did it. It’s not pretty, but I think I found a way to “simplify” some of the really complicated parts of the theory. It’s a lot more cumbersome than the theory I originally had, but I guess when you account for everything, it’s bound to get messy. 

Anyway, I will be writing it up once and for all this week. Maybe we can go through it when you have time.


(grad student)

Dear (supervisor),

Oh my god. I was just writing it out, and I had a revelation! It was like a holy vision! It’s actually way simpler than I had thought, even before my break! Like, seriously, the explanation has been cut in half and the final equation is slim and sleek. I can’t wait to show you!


(grad student)


>phd_year(4) is my attempt to openly and honestly record my final year as a Ph.D student. I am in a position that I believe many near-grads go through – transitioning to life outside academia. However, my experiences are my own. I acknowledge that my story exists within the context of my privilege, and will do my best to not overstep the format of personal narrative.

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