If you started your PhD a while back and for some reason, you would underperform, drop out from the programme, didn’t progress as much as your coworkers or found a traditional or non-traditional job outside academia, you would have been labelled as FAILURE! Failing to prove to be successful, failing for not fitting into the culture and ultimately failing to grow tough skin. Basically, you would put yourself into 5y of extra schooling, with lower than minimum wage salary, with no security for your family and future (by no means a comprehensive guide) and then this classifies you as a failure!
This is another long overdue blog article inspired by my followers who keep asking if it’s worth or wise to start a PhD programme. First of all, I want to say that I don’t have the answer for everyone. I don’t know your particular circumstances, your financial or personal situations, so don’t take my advice as gold. I can only speak based on my own experience and those of people I know.
All right folks, long overdue post on how I am getting along with preparing my thesis defence. I know that this process isn’t the same for everyone and different universities adopt different criteria and requirement to earn a PhD degree. In my university and pretty much in many UK institutions, you have an oral exam with a professor from your university and another one from elsewhere. They question you about your work and assess your general knowledge on your field of research and your subject of study overall.
I think I lost count of all the messages I got from fellow students asking for help because they don’t know how to deal or move away from toxic supervisors. I initially wanted to share my own experience only. But I think this wouldn’t have been powerful enough to provide resources, support and motivation. So I decided to ask people to share their own experience publicly or anonymously so that everyone can identify themselves in one of the following cases and act accordingly. I also want to say that I feel incredibly sorry if you are reading this article and you currently going through such a poor mentoring situation yourself. I really hope this can be helpful!
I get loads of questions from my followers asking how I got started with doing science communication and how I got better at it. I think I never really talked about it on social media so I decided to put together this article and tell a bit more about my story and what I learned during the process! I started doing science communication about 3 years ago as this is a necessary requirement for my PhD scholarship. I literally started from scratch as I never heard of science communication when I was in Italy. However, my PhD programme provided a few training on how to get started and how to do it effectively.
I submitted my thesis a month and a half ago, well before my deadline. I was done with my PhD, I couldn’t manage the stress and struggle anymore. I didn’t even spell-check my manuscript. I honestly couldn’t go through it anymore. I just wanted to finish and put it to an end. Feeling numb after submitting your thesis is very common among students, you are supposed to feel proud and happy about this huge achievement, but, in fact, you feel nothing of nothing. You are just glad that it’s all done!
This is a personal post so keep any judgement and unsolicited advice for yourself. Thanks
I have been suffering from eating disorders as far as I remember. I was a chubby kid and people used to tease me a lot because of that. I had low self-esteem and confidence in myself because all the boys were after the cute girls and not after myself. I just accepted that this was the way it was. Family and parents used to tell me “if they don’t see the good in you, they don’t deserve you!”. Fair enough, but when you are 15 that doesn’t serve you well. I lived my whole life thinking that my body was defining me, my value, my worth and what I had to offer to the world.
Then things changed.
Not gonna lie! I am no rich kid. I didn’t have the money to buy all the university textbooks full-price because their cost was prohibitive. And there is no shame in saying that most of my books came from doggy websites or I copied the chapters that I needed for the original version. I wish I could be back in Italy to show all my notes and the pile of sheets accumulated over the years. Feel free to report me for infringing the copyright. I don’t care. None can take my knowledge away from me anymore.
Sophie Okolo, MPH, is the founder and chief editor of Global Health Aging, a web-based publication covering the research and news dedicated to “exploring the implications of longer, healthier lives.” Sophie is a science writer and researcher with a bachelor’s degree in bioinformatics and a master’s degree in public health. She is passionate about creating a better quality of life for older adults through increasing access to preventive care and building public awareness of older adults’ perception and treatment. Her writing has appeared in Forbes, PBS Next Avenue, Massive Science, Philips, IEEE Potentials, and others. An advocate for STEM inclusion, Sophie supports various causes that improve women and minority representation. She is a TEDMED 2020 Research Scholar, and currently serves as an advisor for humanKINDER – a company that shines a light on untold stories, ideas, and solutions for systems change. You can follow Sophie on Twitter or Instagram.
On Tuesday the 27th of August, I submitted my PhD thesis. I thought that this day would never arrive. I had so many dark moments, ups downs, had to change lab, supervisor, research topic, how could one see the light at the end of the tunnel? But I did it. And, although I still feel overwhelmed by the whole process, it’s a good way of being tired. It comes from a sense of accomplishment. Everything I worked for over the last 4 years finally came together.