Text: Katrin Heidemeyer
I knew acquiring a PhD would be tough, but there were many challenges I did not foresee when I started. I was prepared for hard work, but not for the little reward I would get for my efforts. I have to deal with failure, solve problems, and continuously adjust my schedule because of unforeseen obstacles. To do this, I need to make decisions on the spot but will only see whether my attempts worked after I have continued my experiments for weeks. But despite all my efforts, many things go wrong, and results are rare.
I was prepared for hard work, but not for the little reward I would get for my efforts
This can put me under a lot of pressure at times, as, what counts most as a scientist are the results I produce. But ‘what doesn’t kill you makes you stronger’, and that is absolutely true for my PhD experience. Luckily, I work in a great research group with good role models, and WUR puts a lot of effort into employee wellbeing too. There are many opportunities for me to learn about stress management and self-development. This has made me more confident and resilient toward the many challenges at work. But I benefit from these lessons in my private life as well.
In my lab, I am surrounded by great people who I can always talk to, either to blow off steam or to receive advice on dealing with pressure. When I first experienced failure in my experiments, I thought these reflected my skills. But thanks to my peers, I learned that failure is a normal part of science. Furthermore, I have learned to communicate better and to work together with people of many nationalities. Everyone is eager to help their colleagues when they need it, but we also come together to celebrate our victories. These experiences bring us closer together, and some of my colleagues have become good friends. I have gotten so much out of the PhD experience and look forward to sharing more stories soon.