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Character Info: 10 ways to be a pretentious grad student

When I’m looking for personality traits, background information, or general inspiration for my novel’s characters, one thing I do is search the web. Useful sites get bookmarked in Firefox under my “Character Info” category (a subcategory of “Novel”). I’m actually so obsessively organized that I have a folder for each individual character.

Anyway, I digress. Today I was searching for graduate student blogs (as I have a main character who is related to the academic world) and I found the following post. I find it hilarious, as I have known many a pretentious graduate student that have exhibited ALL of the following (very annoying!) behaviors.

Oh how I wish I had this list years ago! I would have carried it around in my pocket, in tiny print on a business card, ready to hand out to the countless numbers of total bores I came across whilst my husband was completing his PhD. I would have handed it to said bore, then I would’ve walked away, satisfied that I called them on their snottiness.

So now I deliver these to you (via Everyday Scientist), so that you may have the satisfaction that was unduly robbed from me throughout the 1990’s. Enjoy!

10 suggestions on becoming a more-pretentious graduate student.

1) Name drop. How are people supposed to know you’re close personal friends with a variety of Nobel laureates unless you tell them? Frequently. Remember,
you don’t actually have to be friends with them to claim them as
friends – casual acquaintance (meaning you shook their hands once) is
enough. If you are fortunate enough to correspond with one, carry a
copy of the correspondence with you to impress your peers. Feel free
to read it/paraphrase it to friends (by friends, I mean colleagues. If
you’re truly a pretentious graduate student, you don’t have friends).
They may seem like they’re ignoring you/leaving the room, but it’s just
to hide their envy.

2) Use
and sometimes invent big “chemistry” words
in unnecessary
circumstances, especially if it ends up making absolutely no sense. In
order to maximize the aural impact of the communicative spoken word, an
intricate lexicon must be implemented. The principal objective of this
is to confuse the listener into thinking you are some sort of genius
who has quite a grasp on chemistry.
Don’t be afraid to be colligative!

3) Do not be satisfied with only one language. Knowing
foreign languages will make you seem travelled and cultured. The more
languages you know, the more intelligent you seem (and the more
women/men you can theoretically impress – bigger pool of candidates). Try to speak at least four.

4) Don’t be afraid to take credit for the work and ideas of others. Even if you didn’t think it up or work on it yourself, your mere existence probably inspired it.

5) Similarly, make sure you get credit for the work you do yourself. If
someone is publishing a paper on trapping single-molecules between
electrodes using magnetic fields, demand that your work on Fe-Cu
protein mimics is cited. If the author can’t see how the two are related, then just remind him that he’s not a good chemist.

6) Belittle the educational background of your peers as often as possible. If you went to an Ivy-league school, refer to state-schools as “community colleges.” If you went to a state school, refer to Ivy-league graduates as “rich snobs” that have had “everything in life handed to them.” If
you went to a small liberal arts college, refer to the products of all
other colleges as “socially awkward” and “small-minded.”

7) Be involved in politics, but limit your commitment. Feel free to engage in political discourse and debate, but if you are losing don’t admit defeat. Instead, respond that you don’t have time to think about politics, since you’re thinking so much about science. Advise them that if they were “good chemists” and “serious scientists,” they wouldn’t be thinking so much about politics anyway. Treat sports similarly.

8) Don’t be afraid to brown-nose. If an “important” scientist asks you to warm his seat for him, jump at the opportunity. If
you have more than one advisor, decide early on which one is more
influential in your chosen field, and latch on to him like a
tapeworm onto the lining of the small intestine. Other
graduate students may ridicule you for your actions, but gently remind
them that your connections are securing you an assistant professorship
or prestigious postdoctoral fellowship while they will be struggling to
find employment at McDonalds when they graduate. Note – you do not actually need an assistant professorship offer or prestigious postdoctoral fellowship to make this claim.

9) Come up with a few witty catchphrases, such as “have fun” or “get to work” and repeat them. Often. Perhaps use one such as “your mom” as a witty comeback to the insults of others. Example:

Person A) I don’t think your data is reasonable. I just don’t think you can have a negative turnover frequency.

Person B) Your mom thought a negative turnover frequency was reasonable last night!

Although people may stop talking to you and/or ridicule you, they are simply jealous of your unconquerable wit.

10) If
you feel as though someone in your group isn’t respecting your
research, or is starting a project that may be more influential then
your project, then by all means don’t tell them.
Instead,
visit the advisor and say that you no longer wish to collaborate with
your group-mate because he is “not a serious scientist” and “a bad
chemist.” Then, approach the student and tell him that
you talked to his advisor, and that both of you agreed that you no
longer need waste “the time and materials” on the student. Alternatively,
you can sabotage the student’s work (for instance, take down a critical
instrument for maintenance every time the student needs to use it or
hoard resources) to avoid conflict. Remember, only you can safeguard your graduate legacy.

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