My graduate student days.

My graduate student days were fun — most of the times.

I had 3 different professors — in 3 different semesters, when I was their teaching assistant (TA).

None of them was any acerbic to me ever, even when I would be at fault.

Professor 1:

Guy Indebetow was the very first one. A cheerful person and very friendly. He would say — in spirit, not necessarily all the wording, “I would not interfere in how you grade the students, but wisdom says you give them a little lose marking, if anyone comes with any grievance though, I would redirect them to you.”

It so happened that the only students that would come banging on my doors are the ones who would often just seek some more marks, than “deserve it”. — I am not speaking from their POV though, I wasn’t taking theirs — you see.

I remember two cases.


A student who was originally from Pune. He would come looking for some marks.

Me: I am sorry you don’t deserve more here.

Him: Hey look I am your country man. Please have some mercy.

Me: umm that’s not possible. He would even ply that request often — e.g. when me taking bus and running into him in the bus. I had to warn him to get off off me. He gave up.


An American student.

I once had an undergrad student, who came to vouch for his “incorrectly” graded paper, because his answer for Doppler’s effect was well within bounds of permissible errors.

The answer should have been exactly 3 as it was a simple integral kind of answer according to the formula and his answer was 2.95 due to some spurious things he let into his calculations.

I took a great deal of labor showing why it should be exactly 3.0 — and not 2.95, as per his claim, given to the correct formula, but he was adamant 2.95 was so close — although his steps were bogus.

I did not buzz.

Imagine him being very acerbic against me, but Prof Indebetow not giving him a chance to override me. In none of the cases — including the ones not mentioned here, did Indebetow forced me to recant my own grades, given on the students graded paper. Unless I already agreed that ok, as per our mutually agreed wisdom, probably the student can actually enjoy some more leniency.

Professor 2

Prof Slawney. Yes damn right, you heard me right. His students were filled with grievances against him, when I was doing his mechanics class, for recitation. They were so damn happy with me, they literally gave me a joyful ovation, my very first time of teaching them. They were haters of Slawney’s German accent — and said so emphatically, in my recitation class. I understood the elation they shared towards my teaching.

But Prof. Slawney let me tell you, was a heck of a guy. He was a very very friendly person, bubbling with laughter like disposition, all the time.

So I think it was perhaps (late) Joe Polchinski — or was it Eva Silverstein, both renowned physicists, whose talk was scheduled. Ok it was Eva’s talk because in Joe’s talk I was late by 20 mins. I remember. In-fact this is one of those times you can bring certainty to an initially doubtful position, because some other facts in the story demands it.

I was so happily sitting in the front row — and well in time before the talk had to begin, when Slawney enters the hall. And with a big smile on his face says “hey you did not turn for the proctoring today?” Up until then I hadn’t even formed an iota of doubt that I had slacked my duty and missed my proctoring.

A proctoring would be an hour long help the TA would provide to the professor during an exam the undergrads would be taking. My my, my face turned green in embarrassment, but I said “really, I am so sorry”. Another professor and I was probably running miles and posts to rectify that “slacking of duty felony by a grad student”.

Professor 3

The 3rd Prof was Mark Pitt: he was cool. I was doing lab with him. The students loved me a great deal and drew my cartoon saying this “Dash is cool, — he would tell you: “I don’t know” to a question. They drew my picture saying “I don’t know” as a caption on my face when posed with a question drawing the conclusion from that: “Dash is cool”.

Although I remember I really gave hard time to Josh Barna, for coming late and/or not doing labs properly, etc etc.

Pitt was the guy who had passed me a deeply kept secret about someone, why, what was happening in my professional life was due to that someone’s failure to detach his past from his present.

Any way they were all nice with me —  which is not so much in all my other relations, hence noteworthy to mention this.

Categories: academics, Social affairs, story


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