Today was good-bye lunch with a good pal of mine, D. My first few encounters with D had been on the bus, (Seems like my social life revolves around the bus ;) ) and the first thing that struck to me about him was how he was always smiling. Later on, we often crossed paths in the building, and I found out that our labs were in the same building. I assumed he was an undergrad kid doing part-time research in one of the labs. We always chatted up when we met on the bus or in the building, and he was always upbeat, always making me laugh. One fine day, I was having a conversation with Dr. L, a professor, who mentioned in passing "Oh, a graduate student in my lab D is working on that". D? While picking up my dropped jaw from the floor, I asked her again, gasping. D is a graduate student?? Yeah, she said. Why was I so surprised?
Graduate students are not supposed to be happy and smiling all the time! Graduate students have to look worried about experiments, papers, and other shit every now and then. They have to have dark circles under their eyes from all those night outs in the lab. They cannot go about being all cheerful all the time! In the umpteen encounters I had with D, I never, ever, saw him down. Bumping into him or talking to him used to uplift me, his positivety was contagious. When I discovered that D was applying some similar techniques that I used, we began meeting often, to discuss ideas and science. Over time we became quite good friends. Like me, D was a foreign student in the U.S. His visa restrictions were even worse, he could never go home to visit his folks in the past 5 years after he got here, nor were his parents able to visit him. He had to have been through similar woes and downs that most grad students go through, especially the foreign ones. Nevertheless, D had a smile, and a very genuine, warm one at that, plastered to his face. He was always friendly, discussed science and life with the same gusto and always had a kind word for you. He was not excessively loud either. Just a simple, smiling guy. :) D recently turned Dr. D. In his defense seminar, his advisor gave him a glowing introduction- she said she wished she could be like him and smile through all her worries. His seminar showed that he had done a massive amount of work. He evidently had his share of night-outs, disappointments, and lows. But as L described him, he never let anything bring him down, constantly maintained high spirits through everything, and produced some wonderful work in his stint here.
How he can be like that remains a huge mystery to me. He is going on to an awesome position and I'm very happy for him. Over the past year or so, we exchanged several ideas and approaches and he was very generous in acknowledging my help during his defense seminar. I may have taught him a thing or two about proteins, but he taught me way much more- about science, and about life. Hats off to D!