Balanced life as a Ph.D. student: a myth or reality

Hi every one,

IMG-20180324-WA0004After spending the last months of 2018 on a FoodSmartphone secondment in Barcelona, I got back to Switzerland just before the New Year’s holidays. Somehow, I had the feeling of being back home. I was surprised how easily I got used to Swiss life after just one year and now I feel more comfortable here than other places. My new year’s resolution was to start over, start over everything and the timing was perfect. Work-wise, I had experienced the most difficult intellectual challenge of my life so far. I had to fulfill the admission requirement of ETHz by passing the qualification exam and getting the research plan confirmation which I successfully did and now I am officially affiliated as a Ph.D. student of health science and technology department at ETHz. I also had the first milestone and deliverable of FoodSmartphone on the aptamer-based detection platform for aflatoxins. However, amidst all this hustle and bustle, I got the Ph.D. blues.

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New Year, New beginning

When I decided to get a Ph.D., I was totally prepared for the intellectual challenges of a Ph.D. life or at least that was what I thought. I knew what to expect, learning and absorbing knowledge like a sponge at the fastest rate possible, hard work, hard work, and more hard work. I was ready to put some elbow grease into my learning process and get the job done. However, what I’ve totally forgotten was the psychological challenges and how to deal with them which plays a key role in your success. In the beginning, everything was so exciting, new culture, new languages, new people, new experiments, all the new things. Then the shiny newness striped away and everything exciting quickly turned into a dark challenge. My daily life was making continuous little adjustments in order to feel more normal. The increasing workload and dealing with some personal difficulties just added to the pressure and I did start feeling sad and desperate.

Luckily, I was alarmed very early about my mental status while I was still functioning well and I was on track with my studies. As we all know, balanced happy individuals are more productive and conducting a research project needs a very high level of productivity more than anything else. That’s why I decided to start over at the beginning of this year and I had my family and friends support to make the first step. In order to get out of Ph.D. blues, I started with getting back to my good lifestyle. Although I still couldn’t find time to go to the gym, I do exercise regularly alternating between cardio workouts and yoga. In addition, I started to learn German seriously. I learned a lot of words and phrases self-studying last year. Now, I started an intensive A2 level German course and it reminded me how much I enjoy learning a new language. It is the best fun hobby ever.  Finally, I bought a digital piano and I started to learn to play piano self-studying again since there is no time for a course, but even learning the simplest songs like twinkle twinkle little star was such a joy.

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Screen printed carbon electrodes. Among learning a new language, playing piano and other fun activities, still nothing compares to working in the Lab.

 

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Recovered from PhD blues, on the bright side

As the saying by Jonathan Lockwood Huie “The darkest night is often the bridge to the brightest tomorrow”, I could cross the bridge and successfully beat the Ph.D. blues. Now, my energy level and motivation are back. I am happy, concentrated and focused at work finding again the passion for research. I still feel stupid most of the time and I know there are tons of things to learn, but I am ready to plan, prioritize and learn all of them in the most productive way.  One more exciting news is that my good friend Klaudia joined our group at CSEM, starting her secondment in January 2019. We already had the training on the screen printing process of carbon and gold electrodes. We also try to modify the ink to increase the electrochemical performance or change the surface properties of the electrodes. Personally, I am more focused to finalize the aptamer and antibody-based detection platforms design and move on into the integration phase of these platforms into a portable device. Hopefully, the recovery from the so-called Ph.D. blues will speed up the work progress and I will have a lot more wonderful news to share in my next blog. Till then…

Ciao,

 

1 comment on “Balanced life as a Ph.D. student: a myth or reality

  1. Glad to hear you have your energy and motivation back 🙂 Hope the coming year goes better than 2018!

    Like

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