Peer competitors

July 15, 2006 at 11:44 pm 2 comments

A week ago, a lab groupmate (as well as my prof) announced that she has been awarded a competitive PhD fellowship by one of the (U.S) federal agencies. This makes three in my own (small) lab group, being holders of prestigious national fellowships. If I include folks from the other lab groups in the department, the numbers go up further.

A year ago, another labmate was awarded the Intel PhD fellowship. As an indication of its selectivity:

The Intel Foundation Ph.D. Fellowship Program awards two-year fellowships to Ph.D. candidates pursuing leading-edge work in fields related to Intel’s business and research interests. Fellowships are available at select U.S. universities, by invitation only, and focus on Ph.D. students who have completed at least one year of study. This is a highly competitive program with approximately 40 fellowships awarded annually. The two-year fellowship is renewable for up to two years pending review by the Intel Foundation.

Two years ago, another was awarded the NSF graduate fellowship.

Even my advisor was given tenure early, after 4 years (instead of the usual 5).

This is so depressing for me, to be surrounded by overachievers. Yeah, a number of my friends’ publications have also been awarded “best student-authored” prizes by various academic/professional organisations.


This takes the cake:

(Soccer-mad) Friend, SMF: You should expect it what. Grad school sieves out the pretenders from the contenders. (Ed: wtf???) Besides, you have been immersed in competitive environments since secondary school. Then JC, army and undergrad. So what’s new?

Me: I am getting tired. I’m always running and benchmarking myself against my peers. It’s so hard to do your work and then you see your peers getting recognised for their efforts while you struggle through with your experiments. Then I see my seniors going places.

SMF: Dude, you are now playing in the Champions League. (Ed: I like this analogy, heh) Undergrad is like the Serie A or Premiership, there are weak teams for you to beat easily and end up in the top 10%. Now your competitors are the US and international champions.


The department secretary sent out this email:

Dear Department Head:

As you know, the National Research Council of the National Academies sponsors a number of awards for postdoctoral researchers at federal laboratories. These awards provide generous stipends ($36,000 – $65,000), and the opportunity to do independent research in some of the best-equipped and staffed laboratories in the country.

We ask your assistance in informing doctoral students in your department of these opportunities by copying this message to each one.

Detailed program information, including instructions on how to apply, is available on the NRC Research Associateship Programs Web site at:
Questions should be directed to the NRC at 202-334-2760 (tel) or

There will be four review cycles annually. Upcoming deadline dates are:

February 1, 2006

May 1, 2006

August 1, 2006

November 1, 2006

Applicants should begin a dialog with prospective advisors at the lab as early as
possible, before their anticipated application deadline.

Thank you for your assistance.

Sincerely yours,
H. Ray Gamble
Director of the Fellowship Programs
National Research Council
The National Academies



Entry filed under: Uncategorized.

Singapore to increase research talent pool The “I am Singaporean” meme revisited

2 Comments Add your own

  • 1. Anonymous  |  July 16, 2006 at 7:12 am

    All the best mate! I know you can do it.

  • 2. Unknown  |  July 16, 2006 at 10:56 pm

    I was recently chatting with a phD student from the Netherlands, who’s a Belgium. He was talking about working on a cure for this one problem. Anyway, my question comes down to is doing research to better the world or to attain an award?

    Good luck btw. 😉


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