My dad's Ph.D. thesis

Relationship: Child of im/migrant

In the 1970s, my dad immigrated from Taiwan, a primarily Chinese-speaking island near China, to what I think of as the middle of nowhere, United States: Wisconsin. He had earned a degree in Chemical Engineering and came here for graduate school. I see his printed, bound Ph.D. thesis as a meaningful object because it symbolizes much of how I perceive my dad. He endured the grueling experience of graduate school, but it wasn’t just the research that made it difficult. He has told me about his inadequate advisor and how each cycle of students was forced to fumble around until finally they produced enough results to get out. Out he went, to Ohio, upstate New York, and eastern Massachusetts.

Recently, I learned (from Wikipedia) that Taiwanese Americans have the highest educational attainment of all ethnicities in the US—both a source of pride and reminder of that this story may be unique, but it sounds like many others. I am much less cynical and more daringly optimistic than my dad, but I too can empathize with those for whom the American Dream is far from easy.
When I asked my dad about his dissertation a few days ago, he said, “the content is horrible” and interestingly, the final paper of his academic career, published sometime last year, was his Ph.D. research—four decades later, finally out in the world.

Place(s): Taiwan, Wisconsin, Massachusetts
Year: 1976

– K.H.

Relationship:  Child of im/migrant Child of im/migrant