Friday, March 02, 2007


So here's a bit of boring background that I was too pissed to write about then. I have been a T.A (teaching assistant) through most of my time in grad-school - 9 out of 12 semesters. It was something I knew I was getting into when I picked my current lab to work in an area that was quite outside of my advisor's realm of interest. For the past few years, my teaching evaluations have been stellar, and a prof I taught for suggested that I should be nominated for a T.A award last year. Each department gets to put forth only one nomination for this University-wide award. The department screwed up my nomination and it didn't go out in time. With more teaching experience than anyone else, and such good evaluations, I was pretty bummed when I realised the goof-up and saw someone else get the award. Anyways, I got lots of apologies from those concerned with a promise that they would make sure my nomination went in this year. When the time came this year, I found out I was no longer eligible for the award, because of some new stupid rule that the University had implemented and that's when I kicked the walls and ranted here.

So much for background, there were other important things to do and I let it go, but not before bitching about it to my advisor during a particularly bad day. She really had no business in this, but took it upon herself to see that my application got a fair chance. She approached whichever committees where involved and explained to them how the new rule was unreasonable, how I missed the boat earlier for no fault of mine, and successfully got my nomination in. Getting nominated itself was an honour and I was really grateful to see my advisor take up my cause, when she need not really have. A couple months later, today, I got a letter in the mail saying I had been awarded the "Outstanding Teaching Assistant Award"! Yeah! am very happy to see recognition for my effort and for all those pains my advisor took.

All of this got me thinking about my advisor. It is quite rare that a mentor-student relationship is the most hunky-dory, especially over 5 - 6 years of graduate school. My closest friends during my early grad school years got to hear the most of my rants about my advisor. At first I was too young and junior to openly revolt, so I stressed out, bitched, cried, and all that. Later on I got more upfront, verbalised my disagreements with her, (which went surprisingly well), but for the most part, I'd still have to be wary and pick my battles, and eventually just developed a thick skin and didn't let things get me down any more. In spite of her being a very demanding person, a perfectionist to an overbearing extent and ostensibly unreasonable on several occasions, I discovered over time that I didn't really have it that bad. For one, I have done really well for myself in graduate school. Her picky nature and absolute ruthlessness was what made me an excellent and confident speaker, and I had some great exposure in presenting my work at several meetings, winning awards each time. She pushed me to my limits, and it worked out to my advantage. While I may not entirely agree with her teaching philosophy, I was beginning to see a method to her madness as I went along. And when downtimes hit, she has always been amazingly encouraging, reminding me to critically evaluate the data for what it was, not what I wanted it to be.

Life in grad-school cannot be dissociated from personal life, and however much I kept the two separate, the one time things spilled over into my work-life, I found remarkable support and direction from her, that enabled me to pull things together which I probably would've never been able to do by myself. Those times she really surprised me, because we never shared much beyond a professional relationship and it was heartening to see her understand and help out in her own ways.

I am not done with school yet, and we still don't see eye to eye on several issues. She is not my most favourite person or my best friend. But she deserves a lot of credit for mentoring me, and doing a good job of it. It's quite unfair, in some ways, that while I will be getting her to write me recommendation letters for the next several years, I don't really get a chance to thank her and express my respect for her in more visible ways, besides the customary blurb in acknowledgments for my thesis etc.

If only every rant had an equal and opposite anti-rant like this. :-)


Neihal said...

I like the last line a lot. Wish the same;)

arrey pehle to - CONGRATULATIONS!!!!
me is really happy :D
this is what I like so much abt blogworld, you make friends with ppl you have never seen and their success and happiness can make your day just as well :D

abhi treat time :P

Rebellion said...

Good Morning Lajjo...
I take the silver :D
Now I go to read the p0st :)

Anonymous said...

:) :) :)

-Sumit Tada

Gems Bond said...

Congratulations re! That's a cool award to get! :D

And a good anti-rant re! :) I am sure your adviser is a nice person...

sd said...

Congratulations on the TA award (and belatedly for all those conference/meeting awards!). With my 2 sem TA experience, I can only imagine the amount of satisfaction this must have given you. Moreover recent experiences tell me how good this will look on your CV and the teaching philosophy statement!

I have been thinking about how to express my gratitude to my advisor when I am done (mera number kab ayega!) - And my thoughts have been just the same - there is no real way. Although, if one gets into academia, it is probably like a life long relationship.

The_Girl_From_Ipanema said...

thanks. :-) and lots of hugs to you, it is nice to have you all share my happiness like that.

treat. sorry- like i was just telling aarti, i finished the cake! ;)

aarti madam,
kidhar gayi? itni bhi lambi nai thi post!


gems bond,
thanks. yeah for a change, i am anti-ranting. :)

kya haal hai? thanks much for the 'grats. yes, it does feel good, i'll admit. and it's true, it is a life-long relationship with one's advisor- i guess it's all dawning on me also as i am thinking about leaving.
aur tera nambar aayega, fikar not. :) good luck.

Sakshi said...

Congrats on the award. And apunko cake nahi daru mangta :P

I completely identify with your last para - decribes my realationship with my boss. You actually have inspired me to do a similar anti-rant ..

And holding a room for you in SD :)

Revealed said...

Here's to anti-rants :D

(If I propose a toast do I get a free drink? Pretty please. Vodka martini since you insist)

Neihal said...

I thought I'll say - cake janne de, daaru aane do....par idhar to dher dher bewde already baithe hai :P
chal me too get in line...Vodka it is for me too ;)

Abi said...

Congratulations on the TA award! And all those conference awards too!

I really liked the way you used this episode to write a wonderful tribute to your boss. It's clear that she is a great advisor; it's also clear that she has one heck of a grad student in you! Congrats again.

Tabula Rasa said...

good show! nice to see a happy ending to these things once in a while.

but once things get this good they can get even better, you know. this week my (ex-)advisor's flying halfway round the world to work with me, and we'll be taking a 5 day vacation together as well :-D

Basanti said...

Congratulations on your winning the award! :-)

shub said...

Hey you could email your advisor this :) soooper post!
And Congrats on the award! You go, girl! :)

The_Girl_From_Ipanema said...

daaru to hai idhar. naan-stap. take your pick. :)
glad to have inspired- anti-rant on!

and yeah- good idea about the room- if not anything, it'll be my little holiday home in san deigo! :-))

a pomegranate martini coming right up for ya. :-)

behti ganga mein haath dho rahi hai? ;)

hey abi,
thanks a lot! :-)

professor tabula rasa,
:-) thanks. you're going on a vacation with your advisor? how cool! that must be something.

thanks :-)

shub,'s an idea- but it's too personal, to be honest. (yeah, too personal so anyone on the www can read it but not my advisor. ;) ) thanks girl.

Gauravonomics said...

Congratulations on the award and the new template looks awesome. :-)

The_Girl_From_Ipanema said...

hey! thanks, and thanks :) yeah, i love my template. :D

Revealed said...

Ty, ty. When can i expect it to be delivered? :D

Duhita said...

Congrats! I haven't been reading regularly but glad to hear the news. Just exploring the new template too, it's nice:) A drink on my behalf to celebrate?;)

Dhiman said...

congrats !! as long as advisor is understanding and a nice person, rest can be lived through.

Anonymous said...

Ur advisor sounds like one tough taskmaster... lovable indeed!
And now... Congrats lady.. where are the drinks ? :)

Perspective Inc. said...

Congratulations Congratulations!! And yeah, where is the drink lady??!

( totally with you on anti rants, if only there was one for every rant!)

Dr.Ismail said...

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Thanks for stopping by and for your interest in reading Telugu blogs.
Coming to your question…yes! there is a Telugu English Transliterator, developed by a Telugu Blogger, Mr.Veeven and the link is …
Try this ‘సుస్వాగతం':-)

Rebellion said...

Why are we so reluctant of showing someone that we care for them or that they mean to us or in this case, you're grateful to her??
That was for your reply to Shub :)

As for the post, its awesome! Congratulations on winning the award dear, you sure deserved it and thanks to your mentor for doing this for you. She really is a true mentor :)

I totally agree with your last line, only if!!!

PS: Sorry couldnt read the post fully last time. PC hanged, had to switch it off!

Small-piece-of-advise: Start opening up with your real feelings dear. Trust me, its not really bad. There are many people in this world who are trust-worthy, just give them a chance :)

Rebellion said...

Yaar Lajjo, your post got me all senti senti :|

The_Girl_From_Ipanema said...

:-) er..gulp. i think there was a mix-up of some sort....

heya! where ya been??? thanks, and yeah, join the bewda bandwagon. :-)

hi dhiman,
yes, indeed. thanks. :-)

what drinks? horlicks to udhar hai.

i drank them all. :D
thank-you, thank-you, thank-you, hic.

dr. ismail,
thanks, and thanks for the link. will explore.

thanks dear. i was wondering where you disappeared. :-)

i just don't share that kind of a relationship with my advisor- it's not a trust issue- like i said, she's not my friend - of course i will let her know, and she probably already knows that i appreciate her efforts and help. just not through a post like this! :-) i guess i draw lines there in professional relationships.

Rebellion said...

Lajjo jee..
The advice I'd given wasn't really confined only to this post. Something just crossed my mind after reading your reply to Shub's comment, hence I said it :)

As far as drawing lines is concerned, its good for professional relationships but, is it limited only to them?

The_Girl_From_Ipanema said...

aarti jee :)

As far as drawing lines is concerned, its good for professional relationships but, is it limited only to them?

you are right, it is not, but it doesn't bother me. i quite like it that way. theek?

Patrix said...

Late to get here. Came via Abi.

It is indeed heartening to read an anti-rant especially regarding advisors. I'm lucky too for having an understanding advisor but it is high time I got my act together and cranked out some real stuff.

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