I will continue the ‘Job Search’ series shortly… but we are coming up to interviewing and I have a lot to say about that… so stay tuned… in the meantime …
I had to write a couple of letters of recommendation recently, so I have been thinking about all that these students have accomplished in the last year. I realized just how far they have both come in their projects and development as scientists during this time, and this despite often challenging family circumstances. I remembered a period of time recently when one of them had several big educational milestones to take care of, one of which was her qualifying exam. As usual, everything was crashing at the same time- one of her children was sick, her significant other out of town, and she had the stomach flu herself a couple of times. But she took care of business, gritted her teeth and passed all milestones and with flying colors.
What makes this particular situation even more remarkable is that this student very nearly quit graduate school, thinking that her family situation precluded her from being able to do the work required to finish graduate school. Where did she get this idea- well, she learned it with the help of some less-than-perfect mentoring. When I met her- I realized what a bright, organized, and great student she was- and the prospect of her quitting school was heartbreaking for me. She changed labs, things turned around, and she is learning to balance the challenges of doctoral work with the challenges of home.
Don’t get the mistaken impression that things have been easy for her, and I have seen her come back to the lab many nights after her kids are in bed, when she has a big experiment going. She doesn’t do this because of external pressure to spend hours in the lab, but instead from a genuine desire to see the experiment through so she can know the answer. I celebrate this. She was taught that she couldn’t do it … and she persevered, and proved to herself that despite difficulty she could get it done, and get it done well.
Needless to say, I had the pleasure of writing a great letter for her!