Thrish Lab Blog – A Personal Note on Mental Health

Dr. Thrishantha Nanayakkara of King’s College is an incredibly successful researcher who runs a great lab. He also happens to practice Buddhism too. In this incredibly insightful blog post for PhD students, he explains how the philosophies of equanimity and responsibility can be applied to a PhD (or any academic career) and therefore find peace within oneself despite the incredible amount of external pressure creating stress and inner turmoil.

In the post, he describes the difference between achievement and accomplishment as applied to publication in a journal, and how one can use rejection from a journal for learning, growth, and ultimately, satisfaction and peace.

We at Labmosphere tip our hats to Dr. Nanayakkara, who, despite the pressures of being an academic, finds the time to work on his inner growth and peace and strives to help students do the same.

Overcoming a Sense of Academic Failure – Event Notes

Two of us on the Labmosphere team recently attended an event here at Oxford University titled, “Overcoming a Sense of Academic Failure.” It was a great discussion with graduates from many fields discussing their feelings of inadequacy and/or failure with highly successful academics at Oxford who, believe it or not, have also experienced these same feelings. Notes were gathered and compiled by Emily Troscianko, who organized the event, and are available for download here. Hopefully some of the thoughts, quotes, and resources that came out of the discussion can be useful to those who couldn’t attend the event, both within and outside of the Oxford graduate community.

Why Do So Many Graduate Students Quit?

Two different people have recently pointed out this article on the Atlantic to us, adding to our growing list of articles addressing problems in the environments graduate students and academics need to survive in. Burnout, mental health issues, and toxic relationships are but a few of these problems:

“Many students are convinced the doctoral experience sets them up to fail.”

As we develop a new generation of faculty and trainers, as well as department heads, we should ask ourselves: Is this really the type of environment we want to develop our brightest minds in? Is the goal of a university ultimately its research and the funds that it attracts, or to train people to develop the capacity to question and perform successful and independent research?

It’s Never too Late to Choose What’s Best for You

This week, I’m grateful to have been sent an article recently published in Science on a topic that some of us have been discussing quite a lot. Coincidentally, HelloPhD’s podcast for today speaks to the same topic:

Is it too late for me to change labs?

In both situations, the women involved felt burnt-out and unhappy by around the third-year mark of their PhD, a time when more than a few PhD students hit their slumps. Both took the road less traveled: they decided to switch lab environments. And both, believe it or not, are currently successful in their academic careers. More importantly though, they are satisfied and happy.

So for those of you struggling and feeling trapped, know that there’s an alternative to leaving your PhD or sticking it out in a problem lab. Seek out advice and help in switching labs, and don’t think of the years you’ve already spent in your PhD as lost or wasted time, but rather as time you’ve spent training your skills and realizing the things you most certainly don’t want. The age-old cliche of better late than never seems to ring true in this case; if your gut tells you it’s time to seek greener pastures, switching labs to a place that will support your personal and career growth will make all the difference.