"Only belatedly did Harvard try to enter the Genome Age by committing itself, as the 21st century began, to becoming strong in systems biology, a discipline so sprawling and unwieldy as to merit comparison to Enron in its limitless expansions before the collapse into nothingness."
Way to undermine an entire field! Actually I partially agree, system biology to me seems like the marriage of high-throughput molecular techniques to physiology. It reminds me of an incident at a cocktail party, where I managed to get the president of Genome Canada to admit that genomics wasn't a field at all, but a tool that is applied to cell biology, or genetics.... Genomics in itself isn't hypothesis driven.
Anyways the reason I need inspiration is that doing a PhD sucks the dreams out of you. I think this is a common phenomenon in anyone who is knee deep in a PhD. At first it's the honeymoon, chances are if you are committing to a PhD it's because you love science. And when you start out there is so much to learn, so many possibilities that it fills your head with dreams about discoveries, publications, fame. And little by little those dreams get crushed. First you find out that your smarts wont save you this time around. No, smarts have little to do with it. What you need is 50% intense hard work, and 50% sheer luck. The hard work, especially at the beginning tends to be in vain. Experiments don't work out, or worse, results are negative. Here you have a choice: keep hammering at it or find a new path. The former may get you stuck, while the latter leaves you unfocused. And there is nothing worst than doing experiments in order to find what question you should be asking. Then there is the stress. The stress that you won't be able to graduate, the stress that your paper will never get published, and the stress that at the end you won't be able to compete with the elite who have top tier publication and ivy league backgrounds. But ultimately you stick to it, because you'd rather be doing science than anything else and you hope the 50% luck will kick in at some point. Ah, the life of a grad student!