I hope you are doing well as we rapidly approach the end of the semester! I thought I would send you some words of encouragement, support, and advice as you study for final exams, stay up late doing experiments, balance work and personal commitments, write thesis and journal publications, respond to reviewers, and prepare and present conference presentations.
At a dinner with graduate students recently, one student asked a question that really hit home for me, as well as for many other students. The student noted, “Most of us work with professors at MIT who have exceptional records in research, but what should we do if we are not able to produce good results?”
Sometimes it may seem that success comes easy for others, but I would emphasize that failure is something that every researcher faces. The key to success is dealing with, learning from and capitalizing on failures. Please realize that such failures have little to do with your own shortcomings; the research process is inherently a series of many trials and most often a convoluted path of persistence, resilience, and hard work to get to a positive end result. The first time you experience this can be particularly disappointing. I still remember clearly my first year in graduate school when I carried out organic synthesis experiments hundreds of times, over and over again, until they finally worked. Ask any professor at MIT, and you will likely find that we have all had manuscripts criticized, grants rejected, and ideas that just didn’t work.
If you are facing a roadblock in your work or personal life, here are some suggestions:
Starting next month, we are going to introduce a new feature to the Student Life and Learning Digest called “Take care of yourself” where we will highlight wellness and well-being resources from sleep tips and nutrition to yoga classes and beyond.
Please remember that every one of you have what it takes to be successful at MIT and way beyond – and we are here to help you. I welcome your thoughts and ideas on how we can better support graduate students and I would also be very interested to hear your own personal experiences with failures and success in your life at MIT. Feel free to email me directly at email@example.com or, to also include the Chancellor, Dean for Student Life, and Dean for Undergraduate Education, please respond to firstname.lastname@example.org. I wish you and your families all the best over the holiday season.
Dean for Graduate Education
The MIT student life and learning digest presents topics and useful Institute resources with strong student interest. Students receive it monthly throughout the academic year.