Growth is an honorable award worth mentioning

4 minute read


It is easy to let a tough situation grow into a mental fog, it is difficult to accept change until it is lifted

I am glad to say that I am now in a more comfortable head space to tell this story.

Ticking cogs of my gradute experience have not been immune to wrenches, emphasizing the importance to rethink, reach out, and readapt. I would not be the person I am today without these obstacles. The following is a short recap of a U-turn that forced me to question everything and ultimately try again.

Friday, March 17, 2017 – an unlucky Saint Patrick’s Day

“What is Ekman spiral and how is it tied to the Coriolis effect?” Hundreds of index cards were crammed in the central panel of my 2001 Civic and every red-light was a pop quiz in preparation for comprehensive exams. The one thing standing in my way was a lack of financial support. Transfer documents were signed but stored in the office; I refused to submit for transition out of the doctorate program until the last possible moment. My last chance to continue laid in the hands of the coveted National Science Foundation Graduate Research Fellowship Program. The results were in and I was nauseous with suspense.

An honorable mention… for some is a simple confidence booster in an established well-funded lab, for me a one-way ticket out of grad school and the start of the roughest, yet most informative, year of my life.

The following year…

Rethink – put strengths into perspective

Negative mindset: “Are people like me not meant for science?” Financial instability was not a new obstacle. Socio-economic status felt like a crutch throughout my initial graduate experience; like a trapeze artist without a safety net, it seemed that higher education was designed for an unhindered population. I felt isolated.

Positive mindset: Social aptitude, versatility, and creativity - these are my strengths. Rent and overbearing loan debt forced application of my strengths to the job world. Employed since I was fourteen, I always had a sense of fulfillment joining new teams and solving diverse problems - sometimes the hardest task was remembering to wear the correct uniform.

In the year after finishing my master’s degree I kept two jobs (one related to science and one not so much) to stay fresh with the subject matter I enjoyed, but explore alternative options. Six hours in subways, trains, and city blocks on my daily commute offered a refreshing sense of independence from the academic world and a chance to recalibrate and prepare for new beginnings. I grew to understand what I want to pursue/avoid in higher education and how to craft my own experience.

Reach out - give the dream one last chance

Luckily, the first hit from a google search for “invertebrate ecophysiology” (my favorite research topic) was the lab of a new assistant professor with open graduate positions in a neighboring state! Complete transparency was introduced from the get-go when I opened with prior experiences and plans moving forward. I am currently a student with this PI and extremely appreciative to be able to pursue a doctorate once more – this time with the funding to see it all the way through.

Readapt – from the Big Apple to the biggest burrowing clam

Acceptance and another UHaul van. Home is not a place, it is my partner, dog, family, and friends. Leaving the geographical location of home highlighted what I want most in this next graduate experience – communication. Trust is two-way road paved by transparency and communication - this post signifies an intial step in a better direction.

From the express 2 line of downtown NYC to the misty mountains and endless fir trees of the Olympic Peninsula, life has presented a the need to adapt and acclimate to new obstacles and environments.

Sure my journey has been everything but linear, but the growth along the way defines me.