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4th year

Tall Chai Latte


It's been a while since I blogged on the gradcafe. Last time I blogged, I was in the midst of the never-ending rotation streak, and it felt like I would never manage to land anywhere in the program. My program is an umbrella program, I rotated through FOUR DIFFERENT DEPARTMENTS! Well, I did find a lab home to stay, passed my prelim and became a candidate, and now arrived in the middle of my fourth year. Many research-related ups and downs happened, projects initiated and terminated, and time went by really fast -- It only seemed yesterday that I was fretting over how to find an advisor at all.

Over Christmas break, I spent a lot of time preparing application material for a very prestigious university fellowship, as my boss suddenly decided to nominate me for it. I asked around for advice, and the advice I was given was this: don't worry about it too much, whether you win or not all depends on your advisor. If your advisor is a bigwig, then you have bigger chance of winning it. I have long heard about these "unspoken rules" as disadvantage of working with a junior faculty (my boss is relatively junior in the department). I didn't believe it completely at first until I read the personal statements from the past year winners, then I realized how slim my chance would be at winning this thing.

But still, my boss nominated me, and the department agreed to send my application out to Fellowship Office. The secretary was on my back about having everything ready to be submitted by a certain date. My boss tried to spin things in a positive light, by stating how it'll be a great exercise and that my efforts count, simultaneously being critical on my written statement. I didn't want to do it but still being dragged through the whole process, with a very slim chance of getting anything in return. I finished writing the personal statement at the last moment, and then I was eventually rejected. I was pretty bummed about this outcome -- why do it while you know you don't stand a chance? I could have relaxed over Christmas, but instead I was fretting over this thing. Moreover, the rejection letter was totally unhelpful. It didn't come with any feedbacks or comments on the overall application. How would I know what to do if I want to apply again next year? Even R01 rejections give you a score and some comments on your grant proposal!

Well, better go focus on other things.


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