Category Archives: Leaving a PhD program


Scientists unite!

Today is technically the day that I “graduate” from Duke with a Masters so it seems only fitting that I cap the experience with some acknowledgements. Given that I decided not to finish what I originally set out to do, my sentiment is a little different than the traditional post-thesis defense slides. Still, today I want to thank my many friends in the triangle area who have helped me be strong enough to leave my PhD program and seek out what is healthy for me, and, perhaps most importantly, helped me realize that I am not a failure and I can have a long and successful career, whether it’s in the sciences or not.

No one wants to ask their friends to prove themselves, but due to an unfortunate series of events over the past year, a lot of my friends were put in awkward positions, and time and time again they have supported me and helped me heal in order to move forward. Every time I’ve been at my lowest, someone was there with a hand and a hug to peel me off the floor. I was worried when I left the PhD program that some friends would take my decision personally and remove me from their lives—PhD ABD blogs/forums discuss this as a reality of leaving a program. However, my friend Ricardo was completely right when he said, “everyone who loves you will understand.” People have gone out of their way to be inclusive and to organize special events to make sure I feel in the loop. Seriously. Now I feel like I have the best of both worlds: all the friends without the days on end of failed experiments! Ironically these same friends who I will really miss, are the people who have helped give me the confidence to take the leap and live in another country.

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Reasons to move 5,000 miles from home


Ok, I’ll admit I don’t have the definitive answer to this, but it did seem like a more compelling or at least relatable title than stealing Fiddler on the Roof’s “Far from the home I love.” I think my dad is the only person who might have understood that one, but I was totally prepared to sing it over the phone to him yesterday when I told him that I have decided to live in Sao Paulo this fall—I mean, there are many clear parallels between Hodel’s choice to move to Siberia to be with her husband, the revolutionary, and my decision to go to a tropical country to learn about a new culture and language.

Given the parents I have, I shouldn’t have been surprised that both of them were extremely supportive and nonjudgmental about my plan, even though it came, as my dad put it, not from left field but rather from “a different ballpark entirely.” I am extremely lucky that I have the kind of parents that have always supported and trusted me to make my own life decisions. It is certainly true that, having lived away from home for more than ten years now, I’m probably old enough to make my own decisions at this point, but it never hurts to have the blessing of the people that matter most. I was going to say the people who have your best interests in mind, but it turns out my dad’s biggest concern was not me being mugged, or hurt, or heck, not finding a job. No. My dad’s biggest concern was that I might end up in jail. Well, Dad. All I can say is that I will try, but I make no promises.

Continue reading Reasons to move 5,000 miles from home