Challenging my Ph.D. life challenges


I can’t believe it is five months since I’ve started my Ph.D. project on Food Smartphone, how time flies. Since then, I went through a series of the Ph.D. project life cycle phases. It all began with me saying this is the best idea ever. The next phase started when I realized that this is harder than I thought it would be. Now, I start to tell myself this is going to take quite a lot of work. I still haven’t reached the dark soul period, when nothing matters anymore. So, there is still some hope, motivation, and optimism left for getting up every morning earlier than yesterday and work later and later every night. As the saying goes “when life gets tough, the tough get going”.

It’s so easy to say the tough get going, but it’s very difficult to put it into practice. That’s why when my friend mentioned that five months of my Ph.D. already passed, it just hit me, and it was like a wake-up call for me. Although my project is fairly on track, I am nowhere near to be satisfied with myself. It is amazing how much you can learn about your shortcomings and weaknesses when you start doing a Ph.D. I almost find a new one each day, planning, time management, scientific writing, giving presentations, being more proactive and the list goes on and on. It is a hectic lifestyle, you have to learn a lot and learn quickly. It is so easy to get buried under tons of work, being lost and not accomplish anything at the end. I have to think of a way to put it together before it is too late. I have to become the challenger to my Ph.D. life challenges.

I have always considered myself to be resilient enough to overcome any life challenges until now. Soon enough I realized it is not that easy to thrive regardless of adversity and deal with uncertainty and failures which normally happens all the time while working on a Ph.D. project. If I want not just to survive but to thrive in my Ph.D., I have to build up my resilience to the level of Ph.D. challenges. The best way to do this is to remind myself why I chose to embark on this enduring adventure in the first place. I like the struggle to learn new things and new ways. I like the thrill and excitement when my experiment runs and I get good result. I like figuring out things after failing multiple times. The bottom line is that I am satisfied with my decision to do a Ph.D. as it is the most intellectually stimulating, analytical and creative job.

Game Figure Woman Tube Mr Human Man Work Chemist

Now that I know why I am here, love science and hard work in Lab, as nerdy as it gets. I have to become very proficient at seeing things through and tackle the Ph.D. challenges by having a “can do” mentality and being very proactive. As we all know that there is no work life balance in doing a Ph.D. project and my work is my life. I should just find the best way to organize better my workload to fit into the daily working hours which could be 12, 10, even 9 hours would do the job. In order to do this, I have to make many plans, they should be very detailed and very specific. That is why I start to spend a significant amount of time on planning my experiments, as it helps me to prioritize and increase efficiency. Another important and tricky hack is to work on the right task. The ideal case is to work very focused, fast and efficiently on the right task. Thus I have to be very selective in reading papers, attending courses and meetings and even writing emails. At the end, I have to start taking care of myself, that’s why I started doing yoga at home as   my fellow ESR ,Gina suggested. I took her advice since it is the least time-consuming sports and it doesn’t need to attend a gym or any equipment. Of course that I watch the YouTube for instructions.

I feel very fortunate that beside all the challenges, I’ve met very interesting people here in our small group at CSEM, Landquart. They are very supportive, understanding and I never felt isolated or too much pressured. This New Year was my first Christmas in Europe. We don’t really celebrate Christmas back home. Our new year begins the first day of spring and called Nowruz. The happiness and the joy were pretty much the same except that it was in winter which I loved it even more. The CSEM Christmas party was truly amazing, the theme was Copacabana and as you see in the picture, we went as the Brazilian version of Landquart soccer team. In addition, for our special office party, we went for sledging in Grindelwald which has the longest toboggan run in Europe. I have never sledged before and everyone kept telling me it is not dangerous and very easy to learn. Well, guess what it wasn’t very easy for me, I could hardly turn right and left and worse I couldn’t stop. I ended up with my face into the snow and ice several times and at the end of the run, I found myself stuck in a net. Luckily, I had my helmet on and there were no serious injuries. As crazy as I am, I cannot wait to go sledging again.


At the end, as my Ph.D. life gets tougher and tougher each day, I hope I would be able to overcome all this by synchronizing and organizing better and better. As I believe I will learn the most when I am out of my comfort zone and into the happy Ph.D. zone.


Chao, Chao


2 comments on “Challenging my Ph.D. life challenges

  1. Hi Safiye! I can’t help but smile when you defined the ‘dark soul period.’ Your article is a very interesting read. Good luck on your PhD. You can do it!


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