“So what made you want to do a PhD?” : Why I’m doing graduate school, what I hope to achieve, and how this could relate to you

“So what made you want to go to grad school?”

  1. I want to formalize the more in-depth answers that I give to people who are looking to decide for themselves if graduate school is something they want to do. Hopefully putting this online will be of help to people.
  2. I’m writing this for myself, as a “pre-graduate school” snapshot of my motivations and objectives — a sort of time capsule to remind myself why I chose to go down this route, something I can look back on down the line as either a motivating reminder, or to laugh at how young and naive I was.

Why I’m doing it

+1. interest

+2. flexibility

+3. learning experience

+4. international student

-1. money

-2. wasted youth

-3. will my research actually be useful?

What I hope to achieve

  1. I want to become an expert in the niche intersection between polymeric materials, computer science (with emphasis in stats, data & machine learning) and bio-inspired engineering design. On their own, each of these 3 interesting fields would take a lifetime to master. I will specifically be focusing on dedicating my life to mastering the overlap between the 3.
  2. By advancing my personal understanding of science and engineering, I hope to better understand the nature of life (super fluffy, I know) through the lens of science. If during my PhD I solve a fundamental “holy grail” of science and advance humankind’s understanding of the world — great. If all I accomplish is developing a better personal understanding of how the world works and along the way contribute a little piece towards our collective human knowledge repository — not bad at all!
  3. While researching and acquiring knowledge, I also want to be constantly thinking of ways to apply the research done by myself and those around me, to solving the big problems we are facing as a society. Here are a couple of issues I’m currently pretty passionate about: waste (both organic & inorganic) recycling solutions, synthetic/sustainable meats & agriculture, renewable energy production, storage & transmission, advancing health technology & medicine, computational & science-inspired art, education, and pushing towards interstellar exploration.
  4. Hopefully over this next period of my life I will gain a better understanding of what it is I want to do for the many years after, when I am finally out of school. Right now, I have a singular focus (career-wise). At the end of my graduate program I hope to take one of the cool ideas I come up with (from Goal #3) and work on it for the rest of my life, ideally in the form of a profitable startup. That being said, who knows what I’ll aspire to do next year, let alone in 4–5 years from now. Maybe I’ll end up staying in academia forever, maybe I’ll end up staying at Berkeley forever…

So should you go to grad school?



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Ivan Jayapurna

Ivan Jayapurna

I’m a University of California, Berkeley PhD student who writes code, makes biodegradable plastics, and blogs about other things entirely.