“Racing on the thunder and rising with the heat”: PhD Superpowers

Saving the world can wait, we first need to finish the thesis. Regeneration, invisibility, teleportation… What are your PhD superpowers?

Recently, I have come across an amusing post by Mark Bennett, in which he compares PhD students to superheroes. I had no problems relating to the image of time-bending masters of disguise, collaborating to save the world from hard-core villains who never learn their lesson. Pondering over it, I could see a few more super-powers I have developed over the last three years.

Hold on while I get my cape….

1) Regeneration

My papers have been rejected, conference abstracts, funding application, even research proposals. My work was torn apart. And yet, I have always found a way to move on. I first wanted to call this power invulnerability, but the truth is these rejections and negative feedback do hurt and leave marks. The trick is to find a way to get up every time, stronger than you were before.

2) Enhanced agility

Balancing my PhD and work, I had to learn how to switch quickly from one environment to another, to handle a busy event minutes after editing my literature review, buying the groceries afterwards, and not forgetting my brother’s birthday. Nonetheless, breaks are good, especially for superheroes.

3) Summoning

Walk into a room full of strangers and mention to one of them you are a PhD, I dare you. Within minutes, you will have received numerous questions and unsolicited comments… What is you PhD about? How come you’ve chosen that topic? Why aren’t doing a PhD on this other thing? When will you get a job?…. Go on, I dare you.

4) Banishment

Time will run out much sooner than you anticipate, especially if there is an important deadline. My PhD made whole months disappear in front of me. The same occurs conference funding and office printer cartridges, the latter most likely when you need to print out materials for your class. I have found this to happen with clean clothes too.

5) Force-field generation

This occurs when you finally crack the problem you have been trying to solve for months. You sit down and type until it’s all out, never mind how long it is going to take. Deadlines might have the same effect. Food can wait, shower can wait, Internet can wait… You possess yet unseen energy and spark of genius. Still, these fields should not be maintained for long; skipping multiple showers will also keep people at bay, and this is not what we want.

6) Power replication

I’ve saved the good one for the end. In the beginning, you know very little and your powers seem lamentably week. But as you spend some time around senior superheroes, you learn from them and replicate their powers of analysis, writing and arguing. Bit by bit, you grow stronger and your own powers become appealing to others.

Which superpowers have you acquired throughout you PhD? Or any from your superhero wishlist? 🙂

Ana Kedveš  (@anakedves)

Image credits: Geoffrey Fairchild / CC BY 2.0

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