December 2013. I’m a 3rd year PhD student in biological physics and I just came home from another night in the lab. It’s 2 am, my experiment failed… again. My plans for the weekend? Sleep 6 hours and go back to the lab to try again. Nothing very special here, this is what PhD students in the sciences feel obliged to do – spend their life in the lab. The project I focused on for the past two years wasn’t fruitful, so we decided to change strategy and start from scratch, adding stress on to an already stressful PhD. New project, new unknowns. To produce results and catch up with publications, I’ve been working close to 80 hours per week for the last 6 months.Read More »
It’s 5am, the sky still shrouded by darkness. I feel the cool, crisp air and smell the damp earth beneath my feet. A few cars pass by underneath the overpass. A block ahead, glowing in perpetual wakefulness, the building where I work stands calmly. I always trust its light to guide me through the last stretch of an otherwise dimly lit walk. Still, I carry pepper spray in hand. It’s unwise to assume that every shadow is harmless at this hour.
I reach the building and put on a hand sewn mask that Ma had made for me. Ma and Ba live several states and two time zones away. It’s already past dawn there, and Ma must be preparing breakfast. I press the handicap door opener to avoid touching the door handle, walk into a spotless foyer littered with colorful ergonomic chairs. My shoes echo through the silent halls. Motion sensor lights pave the way to the elevators. I scan my badge to the fourth floor. Time to start another day working alone.Read More »
Academia is undergoing a cultural shift. Research highlighting the “evidence for a mental health crisis in graduate education”1 is demanding we re-examine how mental health and wellness are prioritized in academia. Although this cultural shift is occurring slowly and needs to be adopted by those in positions of power (faculty, universities, scientific societies), graduate students can still take meaningful steps to care for their own mental health and wellness by “managing upward”.Read More »