top of page

Honesty, Clarity and Forthcoming Needed

Here is a brief recounting of my journey before and since my PhD:

To begin with, I was coming off of a BAD breakup – which made me super cynical about everything in general.

To add to that, the lab I joined – although a very good one – was not the right one for me.

The place was (too?) chill, and people like me who fell behind – were left there. It was very much a feed-forward loop – get data, interact more, get more data, interact more, move forward. Needless to say, I was a little behind when I started. But, by the time 4th year arrived, boy was I behind!

“I don’t know if (my student) is uninterested, lost, confused or just plain dumb”

- said my PhD advisor to the other 4 profs in the room during the closed-door chat without the student after a committee meeting.

How do I know this? – I recorded (without their knowledge/permission and definitely without the intent to eavesdrop on the committee) my presentation, so I can go over it – to get over my stage fright - forgot to stop the recording after my presentation was done. Now I have stage phobia and a sense of utter failure underlining, practically, everything I do.

This only got worse. So bad that by the time I was done and was looking for a postdoc job the letter my advisor wrote essentially said “this person worked in the lab for the past 5 years.”

To this day, I think (more like I believe) my qualifying exam committee and my thesis committee let me go through because my advisor was a sort-of-a-big person in the field and on the campus (plus a very nice person too, in general).

At the end of 5 years, I was depressed, with suicidal ideation.

A few years since then, and into my postdoc – I still am not sure if anything I do is right/correct; keep second-guessing myself for the simplest of things in the lab, and at the end feel that I am wasting my (current) lab’s money. I feel like I have no interest in anything – not just science/lab work – Everything. I am lost and would be a misfit at any/all places of work.

My qualms:

I wish my PhD advisor was more involved, not just before/during lab/committee meetings, but more involved with – and observant of – things that didn’t feel or look right. At the very least tell me – that I was far behind everyone else – and maybe, provide/point to resources that would help.

I wish there was more thought – in fact, at least just a bit of it – about “what’s next for the student?” than “how does this make me look in the eyes of my peers?”

I only wish both my committees were more honest with me about my shortcomings – help me get that clearly into my thick skull, or if that wasn’t possible – tell me that I wasn’t made for this. Well, If only!



We thank the anonymous storyteller for their submission!

If you'd like to submit your story, anonymously or named, fill out our google form or email us at


bottom of page