I am a tenure-track assistant professor at a research university in the US. Academia is my vocation and my bread-and-butter now. However, that was not always the case and the path to academia was not so simple for me. In the past, I have been a PhD dropout, failed courses, disappointed myself and even “broken up” and tried careers outside academia. If CVs let us list only our failures instead of successes, mine would have been ten times longer.
No one in my family has ever been in this field and the path to becoming a researcher and professor was never quite clear to me until very recently (this knowledge and training I owe to my PhD adviser). I envy people who grew up watching their parents as academics and participated in such dinner-table conversations or got early exposure to doing research.
My parents never quite understood what I do in life beyond college (undergrad). With time, the chasm only grew deeper. When I got this faculty position, they asked me many questions the answers to which were obvious to an academic but not quite to someone outside academia. Since my parents had taught me to write my first shaky letters and numbers and were instrumental in getting me educated, I owe it to them to be able to lucidly explain what I do in life. Hence this idea of documenting my experiences was born. Unlike my day job where I write for an academic audience, these posts will be for a non-academic or new-to-academia audience. I will be using daily life analogies and writing as simplistically as I can. One of the best writing advice I ever got was, “If you can explain your research idea to your grandma, you are all set.”
You are welcome to ask me questions or chip in with your two cents. I'd love to hear from you. The ideas and experiences shared here are my own and are not endorsed by my employer. I will spare you the other disclaimers, but you can email me at firstname.lastname@example.org. Happy reading!