About A Happy PhD
Are you doing a doctoral dissertation and feeling a bit lost, or unworthy, or just not knowing where to start, how to order your ideas and work effectively? Do you feel like everyone else is finding their path “naturally”, but you don’t?
Are you supervising doctoral students, but feel like you are basically “improvising”, or following whatever behaviors your advisors applied with you, and wonder why nobody teaches you how to do this, why there is no handbook on how to give effective advice? (hint: there are handbooks, but they may not be what you think).
Then, A Happy PhD may be interesting for you. Here I will share actionable, practical tips and tools that I (and others) have found useful about the art (?) of becoming a researcher and helping others do so.
I will try to look at problems and situations that many PhD students face, which are not field-specific: from productivity to wellbeing, from conceptualizing your research to writing it up or going to scientific conferences. As much as possible, I will look at what actual research is there on the subject, and propose tips, tricks and tools that may help navigate these situations.
However, do not expect the formal, measured, academic tone of a peer-reviewed publication. This is a blog, not a scientific journal. I hope it will feel more like a conversation with a colleague in a bar, about the everyday problems and solutions that we encounter as we learn to do science and help each other to do it better.
I hope this blog also becomes a catalyst to create awareness about these seldom-mentioned problems and situations. A place for people to come and talk about these issues, to pose problems, ask questions, suggest solutions, or tips or tools to cover.
It is going to be an exciting journey.
I am a relatively recent doctor, starting to supervise my own PhD students. Despite my arguably short scientific career, I am amazed at the variety of supervision styles and workplace dynamics that I have seen in different fields and labs, and the wild variety of doctoral student experiences resulting from it – many of which are not very productive or healthy. I have the impression we are selling our students short, just because we were sold short ourselves.
I am also surprised to find that many of my more experienced colleagues seem to face the same hurdles and issues that I find, and shrug defeatedly when I ask for solutions. Much of the written advice I’ve found on supervision was either too abstract, or too specific to one field or a particular situation or institution. I wonder if there are not patterns, practices, solutions that people have found as they do this for decades and decades. I have found a few that worked for myself and people I know, and I will share them here.
In summary, I am just a beginner on this. I hope to learn a lot by investigating and writing about this, and I will be glad to have you come along.
The advice in this blog (especially when I write about delicate issues like mental health and depression) is not a substitute for a experienced researcher in a particular field, or a professional therapist. However, whenever possible I will point to research or self-diagnose tools that may help you determine whether you need more expert advice.