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  • Her

 

 

Prior to recording our most recent episode of Her Royal Science, my partner and I did something we often do absentmindedly around the house: sing theme-songs from our favourite childhood shows. Immediately thereafter, we began our reflection of the last four years, as I successfully passed my PhD oral examination this month, officially becoming 'Dr Asma' in the process. The month leading up to the defence flew by, but I can't say the same for the four years leading up to it. There were countless moments of exasperation, exhaustion, and, to be frank, sadness. But there were also moments of joy, many of which I discuss in the episode. I personally found the experience of telling my story cathartic, so if you think you might enjoy an hour or two of introspection and reflection (in whatever form best suits you), I undoubtedly encourage you to do so.

After finishing the editing for this episode, I couldn't help but draw parallels between little me and present me. As a child, I loved school (especially biology, mathematics, creative writing, and languages), and I also loved media, playing around with my parents' camcorder to record my own version of the news. I even had a mock radio show for a while. In reaching the end of 2019, I came to the realisation that I have become the young adult my little self hoped I'd be. I am a neuroscientist, a podcaster, a spoken-word artist, a loyal friend, a supportive partner, and a sympathetic daughter. And just as 16-year-old me ritualistically did in preparation for each of my secondary school exams (IGCSEs), I danced in my bedroom to calm my nerves on the night before my oral examination.

Guess I really haven't changed all that much. Listen to 'Still Me', here: https://www.herroyalscience.com/podcast

Peace and blessings,

Asma, PhD

  • Her

Ten thousand tabs open

Synapses overloaded

Research papers, research papers, research papers

A driving beat in the background

*boom, boom*

Vesicles docking

How do I run this code in R again?

Error

Assignment

Email

Rewrite, rewrite

Ugh – I forgot to attach the file again

Assignment

What time’s that seminar?

Oh look – boots on sale

Thankful for a distraction

Instagram:

everyone’s on holiday so why am I here?

Down the rabbit hole we go

 

Back to work

Papers, papers, papers

One more week until the abstract deadline

Am I going to make it?

Exasperated

They still haven’t answered my emails

Google search:

mental health services on campus

No one can know

So I put on a smile

*boom boom*

No more serotonin

It’s getting dark outside

Everyone’s gone home

Oh wait – it’s Saturday – how long have I been here?

Google search:

no cook recipes

Ramen it is

Again

“Hey – can you run this analysis?”

One more tab

And this browser will

Crash

 

-Ariana Cahn

  • Her

 

 

Trigger/content warning: Mental illness.

 

Graduate students are, on average, three times more likely to experience adverse changes in their mental health over the course of their degrees. This finding is not terribly surprising to those of us still in graduate school, but a scary statistic nonetheless.

 

Graduate school can be a mentally, physically, and emotionally exhausting experience, triggering depression and anxiety in some, and feelings of helplessness and isolation in others. We touched upon this topic in this month's episode, where we speak to Sarah Louadi, a research technician and recent graduate from the Experimental Medicine Masters Program at the University of British Columbia. During our discussion, we spoke about the mentorship and support she received from her stellar graduate supervisor, Dr Neil Cashman, the importance of mental health, and balancing one's time and energy within and outside of the laboratory.

 

I was struck by the (relatively obvious, but nonetheless important) realisation that our supervisors can truly make or break our graduate school experiences. Grad school is hard enough as it is, being overworked, underpaid, undervalued, and sometimes overlooked. What Sarah finds helpful is the feeling of support from those around her, especially, from her supervisor. Thus, we decided to call this episode, "The Power In Sum"; as apprentices in pursuit of our personal goals, we often forget that a graduate degree is best completed when well-supported. In fact, the force we yield when we work together can be so powerful - powerful enough to soften some of the blows that we are bound to come up against when things don't go as planned.

 

Visit https://www.herroyalscience.com/podcast for the rest of Sarah's beautiful story.

 

May you find the sum that makes it all easier.

 

Peace and blessings,

Asma