The Sassy Scientist – Bend Or Break. Or Boost?

The Sassy Scientist – Bend Or Break. Or Boost?

Ruggero has travelled a tough PhD journey. Foraging for his last bits of energy to continue onward on the treacherous odyssey of academia, he murmurs:

How can I (re)gain some confidence after it has been shattered during my PhD?

Dear Ruggero,

Ciao bello. Does that help? Never mind. Just kidding. I cannot imagine how badly your confidence was shattered during your PhD. That’s a pretty tough deal, and should not happen to begin with. A PhD is supposed to be a learning experience, at the end of which you should be able to perform your own research, present it, publish it and even apply for grants to continue with it. For that you need an increased skill set. For that you need a productive yet mentally stable work experience. For that you need confidence. Not everyone has that much (professional) confidence to begin with at the start of their PhD, right? I don’t know about you, but this is something I’ve gained throughout my PhD myself. Non ho peli sulla lingua, but having your confidence shattered is vastly counterproductive, and a real setback for the rest of your professional career, be it in academia or elsewhere. As all of us in geodynamics are well aware of the concept of bending or breaking, this concept shouldn’t reflect your state of mind. Our flexural capacity is limited, our point of yielding is ever so close, and we thus cannot afford to break (there’s not that much interesting consequences to observe, only sad ones …). So, let’s boost those spirits.

You finished your PhD. That’s not supposed to be something to cry over. It’s something to be immensely proud of. A real achievement. An outcome of hard work, grasping and absorbing new methodologies, concepts and data, and a proficiency in critical reading and writing. You did all that. Through all the hardships, and yet with enough pizazz that you want to continue in academia. Didn’t you get feedback from others than your supervisor whilst presenting your work (virtually) at conferences or work shops? Didn’t your papers get published in top tier journals? Didn’t you get an interview for those job applications? Your family and friends still love you, right? Surely you can recognise that your academic achievements are the product of a bright and snappy mind. Surely you can rejoice in knowing you’ve built a network of like-minded people who have (at least partly) experienced the same; have you ever met a (former) PhD student without complaints on (some aspect of) their project? É raro come una mosca bianca, no?. Just saying that you’re not alone out there, and you can talk to someone. Maybe you should, and figure out that some of that supposed confidence loss has been unnecessary. Don’t let one pesky supervisor ruin that brilliant future you’ve got ahead of you. You pezzo grosso you.

Yours truly,

The Sassy Scientist

PS: This post was written whilst coasting in first class aboard the HMS Stress-Free-Academia en cruise to a white-sanded Utopia entitled “Tenure” sipping that sweet, sweet Cool-Aid.

PS2: This boost I did not need at all. Not at all. Why are you looking funny?

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I am currently employed at a first tier research institute where I am continuously working with the greatest minds to further our understanding of the solid Earth system. Whether it is mantle or lithosphere structure and dynamics, solid Earth rheology parameters, earthquake processes, integrating observations with model predictions or inversions: you have read a paper of mine. Even if you are working on a topic I haven’t mentioned here, I still know everything about it. Do you have any problems in your research career? I have already experienced them. Do you struggle with your work-life balance? Been there, done that. Nowadays, I have only one hobby: helping you out by answering the most poignant questions in geodynamics, research and life. I am waiting for you right here. Get inspired.

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