The continued adventures of Dr. PhD

From the top of her ivory tower (well, really the 6th floor is only the penultimate level), Dr. PhD gazes down at the sidewalk below. It’s teeming with undergraduates trying to find their way to their fall classes. They move from their dorms and commuter parking lots in mass migrations correlated with the half-hour chime of the clock tower. This herd pays little attention to pedestrian traffic signals as they focus on the small glowing screens of their smartphones, adjusting their playlists and texting other students also migrating a mere hundred feet away. They are a mix of self-absorption and optimism. It smells like exotic coffee flavors, stale beer, too much body spray and naïve dreams.

Many of them are biology majors intent on one day entering Medical School. But Dr. PhD knows the statistics. If they only knew how much Dr. PhD doesn’t enjoy seeing their dreams crushed. It’s all been spelled out in their syllabi. If they would only heed the instructions, then they could keep their precious points. Despite all admonitions by Tenured PI and Grad Assistant on their first day of classes, the undergraduates only value points once they’ve been taken away. Sigh. Tenured PI approaches, but something looks different. “Why are you wearing a shirt with buttons and pants? And what’s with all the black?” Dr. PhD asks. “To convey my seriousness to the new students and my mourning for their hopes of an easy grade.” he says. “Now where is the revised draft of that manuscript?”

Dr. PhD spins suddenly on her heel and with a twirl of white lab coat she disappears back into the laboratory. She pores over font sizes, line widths and object spacing in her figures. She spends the day clarifying the arguments in the discussion section of her latest manuscript. She anxiously reads it through one last time before sending it over to Research Associate, whose superpower is English grammar and usage. May God have mercy on the comma that should be a semicolon, dangling participles, and the incorrect use of the subjunctive because Research Associate sure won’t have any. Dr. PhD’s manuscript is returned, bleeding with corrections. Once these are fixed, a PDF file is sent to Tenured PI, and it disappears into the realm of peer review. Dr. PhD lets out a brief sigh. “Now we wait.” It will be another few weeks before she’ll have to do battle with Reviewers’ Comments.

When she retreats to her PhD-mobile at the end of the day, something is awry on the street. There are barricades at either end and ‘No Parking’ signs at every spot where the vehicles have left for the day. The PhD-mobile is one of the last on the street. There was an e-mail from parking and transportation earlier in the day. What did it say, again? She double checks quickly… road closures, parking permits, roundabouts, blah, blah, blah, ivory tower street will become a pedestrian-only zone this fall and street parking will no longer be available. “Nooooooooooooooo!” she cries, shaking her fist at the sky. The back-up camera of the PhD-mobile and Dr. PhD’s lack of shame to try-try-again at parallel parking made street parking just outside the ivory tower a glorious time-saver in her quest to rush back and forth in her commute without being late to pick-up Jr. PhD. Someone higher up in the university administration was going to hear about this. Surely, they knew that street parking is a critical family-friendly policy for her.

What is Dr. PhD to do now? The wait-time to get a spot in a gated lot with guaranteed parking is longer than the lab’s current funding for Dr. PhD’s salary and even if it weren’t she’d have to sell plasma every other week to afford it! The other option is to migrate with the undergrad commuters from the shadowlands beyond the ivory tower. Shudder. The next morning Dr. PhD rises before the sun and coerces Jr. PhD to get ready early; they leave the house 15 minutes earlier. Dr. PhD is able to find parking around the corner from the ivory tower. “Victory is mine!” Ironically, while searching for a new parking place and getting on and off campus by a slightly different route, she very nearly runs over more than a couple of migrating undergrads. Pedestrian safety indeed. Let’s just say Dr. PhD and the undergrads will have to agree to disagree about what constitutes a crosswalk.

Stay tuned to find out what happens next with Dr. PhD’s manuscript and life in the ivory tower, next time on the continued adventures of Dr. PhD!


If you enjoyed this installment of the adventures of Dr. PhD, you can find the other episodes by searching ‘superhero’ in the search box on the blog homepage.


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