What Came First: The Grad Student or the PI?

Dear Dora: What Came First?Dear Dora,

I was wondering if you could settle an argument for me – what came first: the grad student or the PI?

-EJ, grad student


Dear EJ,

That’s an easy one! The PI, of course. Many young professors start their academic careers with no graduate students. In addition to teaching and writing grants, they perform experiments and analyze their own data. With the tough funding environment these days many (even not so young) professors have no students and have to be the PI and the grad student at the same time.

PI is actually a generic term, which is also used in industry for the lead scientist in a project, even though there are no graduate students involved.


Dora Farkas, Ph.D. is the author “The Smart Way to Your Ph.D.:200 Secrets from 100 Graduates,” and the founder of PhDNet, an online community for graduate students and PhDs. You will find links to her book, monthly newsletters, and discussion board on her site. Send your questions to [email protected] and keep an eye out for them in an upcoming issue!


Stay tuned for the next Dear Dora in two weeks!  In the meantime, check a few of Dora’s recent posts:


Submit your questions to Dora at [email protected], or use the comment box below!


Be the First to Comment so far. Join The Discussion

Be the First to Comment

Leave a comment

will not be published