Academic treasure Jorge Cham of Piled Higher and Deeper has done it again with a comic that takes me back to my first year of graduate school:
Ah, that lovely first semester. I had never laid hands on a stats package more complex than SPSS, was only just learning OLS regression for the first time, and made the mistake of asking my then-advisor a question about some articles he had me reading.*
“Hmmm… that’s interesting,” he said.
“I thought so too,” I responded, feeling relieved that I hadn’t shown myself to be a moron in my first six weeks of grad school.
“Go ahead and do that analysis with SAS and let me know what you find on Friday,” he concluded.
“What?” I asked, in panic.
“Get the GSS data,” he elaborated, “write a program in SAS. Do the analysis, by Friday.”
“Su- sure,” I stammered.
And then I stopped sleeping for a few days so I could write the most unholy kludge known to man. A program so ugly, so brutally inefficient, that for some insane reason SAS would only deign to execute it when it was stored on a floppy disk. When I completed the analysis I discovered absolutely nothing interesting whatsoever, but I had learned a lot doing it.
And if that isn’t a metaphor for grad school, I don’t know what is.
* In fairness, the following conversation is accurate only in the outlines. I don't remember exactly how the conversation went both due to the time that has elapsed and because I was terrified for a large portion of it.