Posted by: thebylog | November 17, 2009

Reflections on Grad School

I will soon end my time as a graduate student in the statistics department at Penn State. I plan to graduate with a PhD by the end of the upcoming summer. Even before I leave, I’m growing nostalgic about the time I’ve spent here.   Happy Valley is a great part of the world.

The impending ending has prompted some reflection in terms of personal growth on my part.

Academically, there is no doubt that grad school has been transformative. I arrived at the beach of learning as a bright-eyed scholastic neophyte, and venturing toe-deep into the water, immediately experienced a storm. Brilliant classmates, hard courses, unseasoned math skills. It added up to a personal nor’easter.

Given the inauspicious beginning, I probably had little confidence that I could see the program through for a PhD. My working strategy, anyway, was to get a Master’s degree and then reevaluate. When decision time came, I chose to ride the academic wave as far as it would take me and somehow the swell was large enough to sweep me past the major hazards: courses, qualifying exams, comprehensives.

Once I made it to the open sea, where it was not only acceptable but necessary to plumb the academic depths of a chosen research topic, things turned exhilarating. I found thesis advisors well-suited to my interests and aptitude, and at some point I wasn’t clinging to survival in the open sea on a dilapidated life-boat, but using the stiff winds to my advantage and sailing in a handsome schooner.

I found that I loved the research process because it allowed me to become immersed in a particular problem. I’d think about it during the day, then while I was walking to my car. I’d think about it in the shower, on the bus, and even when I was at home with my family (I fight that one). I’d think about it so much that I felt I actually might be able to contribute something to it that no one else had. Working like this on a few problems, and making some progress, has increased my confidence enormously.

I love research for the moments of insight, when I feel something click together in my mind.

God has surely been behind this stomach-turning ocean voyage. “He is before all things, and in him all things hold together.” (Colossians 1:17, NIV). All things work together for good to them that love God (Romans 8:28). “Good” for me has meant successfully navigating this program, and coming to enjoy it immensely.



  1. Hey Byran,

    It was great having you as a classmate and friend here… I wish you luck and I am sure… we will not lose contact when we both get out of here…

  2. You too. Not only am I nostalgic already about Happy Valley, I’m nostalgic about the people!

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