Making things

I love researching. Love it love it love it.

For me, there are few things more satisfying than pulling together relevant data and compiling it into some sort of final object.

And the awesome thing about research is that it has so many applications. Building a table? Better take measurements, figure out how big it should be, how it should look–there’s literally so many questions to be answered! I moved into a new house recently, and I designed a bed frame for my bed, to fit in my new room. I cheated and started with this guy’s design, which I then modified it in SketchUp to suit my particular needs. If you care about this kind of thing, you can download my design for a twin bed frame here.

I love taking designs and trying to implement them, see how my level of design skill translates to a practical product, a product that also requires its own kind of practice and skill.

I’m saying all this to get at in a roundabout way why I enjoy grad school so much. There are surprisingly few articles about why you should go to grad school, and the few that exist are dwarfed by search results filled with reasons not to.

So here’s why you should go, if you’re thinking about it: research is awesome. We live in an age that is quite literally overflowing with information–there’s so much out there that’s so easily accessible (especially if you have the internet, a luxury that I’m sure many don’t have). Information about just about anything is only a click away. Today, I found an entire online BA (unaccredited) computer science program cobbled together from a number of Ivy-League institutions. For free.

But the availability and volume of information available is completely useless without research.  From Wikipedia:

Research comprises “creative work undertaken on a systematic basis in order to increase the stock of knowledge, including knowledge of man (poop on this “man” business, -t), culture and society, and the use of this stock of knowledge to devise new applications.” It is used to establish or confirm facts, reaffirm the results of previous work, solve new or existing problems, support theorems, or develop new theories.

Research is creative. First, you start with a problem, or block of some sort. From my table above, my problem is: I need a bed frame. Then, you figure out the possible ways such a problem could be solved, using a number of parameters. In my case, the parameters were: cheap, minimalist. Then, I try to find the best way to solve my problem given the information I have chosen to catalog from my research. It’s all about taking paying close attention to what you need, and ignoring or setting aside what you don’t.

Then I build the friggin’ bed frame.


As you can see here, I screwed up a little bit on one of the slats, but it’s solid, and it doesn’t look too bad. Also, it cost like $30.

In the case of grad school, I followed a particular passion (love of books and writing) and spend time trying to think about and research problems and solutions to those problems. It’s SO MUCH FUN.

I think, if the right mental maneuver is made, this sort of thinking can be applied to many things. When I was building range fences for work out of high school, every single day required careful planning, research, and skill. Of course it was backbreakingly difficult work, but I was still required to think, plan, and design. At the time, I didn’t realize that this was what was happening (in reality, I spent quite a bit of time whining and avoiding as much work as possible), but that doesn’t mean it wasn’t.

I’m working on a much more intelligible and reason loaded defense of graduate school, but but for now, I would say a huge reason to go to graduate school is to have the opportunity to research theoretical/practical things that you are interested in, and be surrounded by people who are also interested in those things as well. Otherwise, go do something else that tickles you in the right way.

Stuff that was kicking around in my head as I wrote this: