The courageous HDR student

I was very fortunate to have been able to participate in a live, global event this week featuring women in science. The invitation was a result of the network that I had built through the Twitter academic community. (Read more about that here.) It was half past midnight in Adelaide, 11am in the US eastern States, and 5pm in Paris. We had audience signed in from Australia, the US, France, Finland, Turkey, and many others. The panel discussed the many challenges women in science particularly face, but the strategies for overcoming the struggle are useful to any HDR student.

  • Prioritise self-care. Prioritising also means ensuring that you make time for it. If that means, blocking off some time in your calendar, do so. The HDR journey can be long and windy so you need to make sure you don’t burn out. Take a 15-minute break and catch-up with a peer over coffee. Try to put limits on work-related tasks in the evenings, as well as weekends. Apply for annual leave. Try your best to clock off at normal times when working from home. Put in some effort to maintaining the activities you enjoy such as pilates, cooking, playing the ukulele, getting some exercise, and so on.


  • Schedule time for writing. Apparently, procrastination takes many forms, including constantly re-arranging your desk, delaying work until you’ve had the right amount of coffee, and so on. Sometimes as a research student, there’s too much flexibility in the day that we put off writing until we’ve gone through every single email in our inbox, or finished some admin work until we realise we’ve not been able to write for weeks.


  • Learn to ask for help. The research endeavour can feel isolating, but you are most definitely not alone. Apart from supports from the university through services like counselling, you can also reach out to your cohort and your supervisor. Build your support network by joining clubs at uni or volunteering.

As with any research endeavour, the struggle is very real. You’ll find though that the HDR experience and the contributions to the public are truly well worth the courage required to overcome the struggle.

Courage is like — it’s a habitus, a habit, a virtue: you get it by courageous acts. It’s like you learn to swim by swimming. You learn courage by couraging.Marie Daly, the first African-American woman to earn a PhD in chemistry


Tagged in What messes with your head, phd, Productivity