Cruel thing about life is that we cannot learn how to do things in right way but we only pile up cases which should not be. In other words, we learn and grow by errors. This is fairly sad thing to encounter every occasion, but also reveal why experience is so critical in human wisdom. So, for the grand question of how to do PhD - an everlasting question in self-perpetuating world of academia repeating every year - may be answered not from falsely righteous advices, but from bad examples in lamentable memories. Here, I hope to share few common cases that I have seen in grad school (indeed anonymously - nobody wants to hear sad story with name tag). Wish debris from the past be stepping-stones for new comers.
Case 1 - Graduate "student"
This is a fairly common case. Although the word graduate student ends with "student", the position is kind of fairly mixed version of student and researcher in reality. So, the graduate study is continuous cycles of learning something new as a student and then apply it into his/her own problem as a researcher. But, occasionally, there are people who just go half of the cycle, and repeat it - just study as a student. It is fine to do this for Master's degree, but this is most of time quite a big trouble for doctorate.
Case 2 - Tenured graduate student
This is also common but more tragic than the first case. PhD study is supposed to end around 5 ~ 6 years (although depends on disciplines) - starting from basic training from courseworks, qualifying exams, thesis topic proposal, few rounds of committee meeting on progress, and defense - a virtuous metamorphosis from a 1st year grad student just finish their commencement to an young scholar who can study their favored topic more or less independently. For many reasons, this natural cycle goes wile sometimes, generating an unholy creature so-called tenured graduate student (actually not tenured indeed, but just exist too long in the department as like tenured faculty).
Case 3 - Dunno volume conservation
This is kind of recent as multidisciplinary study has been popular in many disciplines. Even for smart graduate student (except truly exceptional ones - yes there are such rare species), one person's intellectual capacity is more or less limited especially during 5 ~ 6 years of graduate study. Assuming a person's intellectual capacity is volume, then depth of it would lower if it spreads too much - which I find analogy with volume conservation. PhD should have certain level of depth in their thesis topic, which is basic requirement in most of disciplines. However, sometimes people spread themselves too much rendering their depth of knowledge way too shallow. It is important to know his/her own intellectual capacity (his/her own - this part is important as intellectual capacity is a quality varies astonishingly a lot between people), and confine their range of coverage during PhD study.
Case 4 - Amateur professional
This is the worst case I say. PhD is not just a degree but a course of training & a process of maturation into an independent professional of his/her own field. There are rarely people who don't have virtue of acknowledging their own level of maturation - most of time confusing other people's contribution to their own contribution. Academia is kind of river in which knowledge and skills flow from senior to junior researchers over generations to keep their own versions of cherished light of intelligence survive. However, due to unfortunate personality disorders, there are people who simply confuse what they can do and what they actually cannot do. I call such kinds as amateur professional - in a sense that amateur but believe themselves as professional. For this bad case, the basic mechanism of PhD doesn't work out at all as they refuse to be part of it. For Case 1-3, good advisors or help from the department may save the situation to finalize PhD. But for this case, there is no remedy. If you find somebody in this case, the best consulting would be finding a better position in somewhere else (although I wonder whether this would be welcome in other non-academic positions or not).
In aiming to become a good researcher, we should pursue the following qualities:
Conference - annual or biannual meetings for academic discussions of a certain branch of professional field - is an essential part of professional research life in most fields. However, more casually speaking, conference is one of the first official academic event most graduate students join as part of their own professional discipline. Reflecting the wide spectrum of academia, each conference boasts truly iridescent facets of academia - from 1st year graduate student to big names of the field in their 70s or 80s.
For every graduate students (or undergraduates if they start research early on), the first conference is full of excitement and nervousness. I also remember my first international conference in hot summer of 2011 at Taipei, Taiwan for IROS. I presented my first research work on bioinspired robot in front of numerous robotics experts around the world (and I went there alone for some reason). I can still recall vivid feeling of the excitement and heart trembling nervousness in hot and humid summer days of Taipei, which in turn have guided me toward a professional research life since after.
As days in graduate study pile up, conference attendance becomes more like mundane events. Excitement on their own presentation or poster session starts to be shared with networking, other people's works, trend of the field, and so on. For me, this evolutionary process has been a great enjoyment. It was like, more dramatically speaking, walking from audience to the stage in play or concert. In first couple of conferences, I felt like being audience of big play or concert even though I presented something in oral or poster session. I couldn't understand all languages and information of vast range of talks and sessions, and nobody really knows me in the field yet (or more or less newbie). Watching famous people's flamboyant talks and active networkings accompanied by numerous handshakes and name-card tossing gave strong another-world-feeling. However, as my years in the field counts 1, 2, 3, and more years, I have gradually walked onto the stage. Famous people's talks are not anymore sound like flamboyant but informative. I can swim through streams of languages and information rather than spinning in turbulence of ignorance. People start to recognize and know me as like I start to know them, and hand-shakig and name-card tossing become my part of act too.
The most remarkable part of our lives is that we all change and grow in many sense. In recent conferences, I saw many early year graduate students with audience's eye - reminiscence of all researchers' early days. It is always grateful to tell them to walk into conference, on the stage.
Love and hatred are two basic emotions in human being, for which most of emotional states are mixture of these two feelings in varying ratios. Extreme love and hatred are rare as the prior one happens when somebody can die for somebody else while the latter one happens when someone can kill somebody else. For myself, I can only die for my family yet and have only handful of persons I can kill if the chance is ripe.
In mundane life, the forms of love and hatred exist in more practical shapes. People love when it is good for them while hate when it is bad for them. Even with the highest mastery of human relationship orchestration, it is impossible to stick to only one side. We all destine to suffer from effort to be loved and courage to be hated. Hence, things become more or less business in daily lives, which is tiresome at best. But, this is for human.
Here, as I get older and more experienced, I find reasons why many people love animals such as dogs, cats, rabbits, hamsters, parrots, and so on. Not a surprise, love and hatred from animals present in much more basic way than between human beings. There is not much reasoning, and sometimes it is unconditional. Some people love dogs or cats, which are popular choices, while some people have minority tastes (like me who is dying for rabbits). Saying rabbits, I truly love them partly due to their cute appearance, and mostly due to their inability of complex reasoning (or I would say "pure" in a nice way). Dealing with people gives a lot of stresses as their background desire, wishes, intentions, situations, even thoughts can be easily readable from all different kinds of ways. When I can see shallowly disguised mismatch between inner part (desire, wishes, intentions, thoughts et al) and outer part (verbal and written expressions, gestures, facial expressions et al), it disgusts me from the deepest heart. Rabbits (and maybe many low-intelligence animals) never give such feeling, as they are intrinsically incapable of doing so.
Life is puzzling, but this is particularly mysterious nature of it. Love comes from incapability while hatred comes from capability. But it also gives lesson. When we need genuinely trustful relationship, it shouldn't be based on business criteria. At least for love and hatred, things become healthier when we get closer to that of animals.