27 and a PhD

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Contact Dr. 27

Whether it is to share your lottery prize, or simply vent about life, science or how much Justin Bieber irks you (and me!) … feel free to get in touch at:

stitchick at gmail dot com (substitute the at for @ and dot for . … to avoid spammers)

You can also follow me on Twitter.


  1. Dear Dr. 29
    I am absolutely in your boat. I did PhD in ESR spectroscopy and I was already knowing that this field is not that wide and then went for certification in medical writing (with my own money) while writing my PhD thesis. Then I figured out that for medical writing the jobs I was getting will not provide me the need to get Visa as I was living in a foreign country and being an Indian my visa conditions are stringent. I tried for getting post doc offers in different fields and sam field like my PhD, yes all the different field people politely denied me and I got a post doc in my field. More technical, more expensive more narrow.
    Now I have returned to my home country (my husband has a job here) where this spectroscopy is in very basic stage and it is very difficult to convince people about the benefits of this technique. Also I don’t have that many publications to prove.
    I also have a daughter and I really feel that hardcore academia job is not for me, but what else? I am still searching. In the mean time I am freelancing in medical writing or any kind of writing. I have just got a parenting blog writing offer based on my blog. These are just interim measures. I don’t see any hope in the same city as my husbands so it is time to move again I guess.
    Sometimes I curse to too much studies I have done when I see how much more money and stable life others are having with half of my education. But what to do! Only we can do is not to loose hope and keep trying.

    • Dr. 29 says:

      Oh Chandrima, I’m so sorry …. I do hope all works well so you and your husband and baby can be at the same place and find both personal and career fulfilment. I’m glad you’re keeping your writing skills in shape at least …. but studying a technique that is only widely used in a very limited part of the world sucks … I know this as I was counting the labs in Canada that do something akin to what I mastered for my PhD and I have many fingers left behind on my hand. Some people see the value, they don’t have the funds, and the ones that do have the funds, give the job to others … it sucks. Do keep me posted on how things move and (hopefully) change for good for you and your family.

      Like you very well said, we mustn’t lose hope and we need to keep trying. So far I’m back to job application mode seeing where I can fit, that is rewarding even if it’s not in the same field that I held near and dear my heart.

      Hugs and best wishes!!

    • Dr Satori says:

      Would love to see how many PhDs are out here and homeless. I am a employed, tenured, neuroscientist who prefers living in my van with the associated freedom.

  2. Anthea says:

    I’ve read your blog entries over the past few days and I think that you’re frustration with your thesis project is one that I and many friends of mine feel as well. I don’t know what to suggest other than we’re all sharing your angst..as to why, oh why did we pick the topic that we did for our PhDs or why on earth did we bother with a PhD in the first place. Sadly, hindsight is 20/20 and we can’t go back and under decisions that we made at the time when we thought it was a good idea to do what we’ve done. Perhaps we made some dud decisions but we can’t undo them…plus its a good idea to remember that some circumstances are way beyond our control: who knew the the global economy was going to collapse, who knew that the university system in different countries was going implode….some of us are trapped in countries that we’re not from but we can’t return because we can’t afford to do so. All I’m saying is that you’re not alone..and please, please don’t blame yourself. Sadly, lots of people are affected by this horrible mess. …and really my only advice is to try to be calm and start thinking out of the box as to what you might be able to do.

    • Dr. 29 says:

      Thanks for visiting Anthea! I think my job search has been far more frustrating than my thesis project … Hindsight is 20/20 indeed. Sometimes I’m very glad I did my PhD … other times I wonder if being so stubborn and fixated on getting done with this degree because people will call me a quitter was my curse … it really depends on the day. I do wish sometimes I’d gotten out with just a masters, and maybe I could have negotiated my stay in my PhD lab as a tech … but this only came to mind years after. Thanks for your kind words. I’ll keep your thoughts and feedback in mind. I’m just hoping for a miracle that maybe, just maybe, one of the places I interviewed and I’m still waiting for will give me a call. In the meantime I’ve picked up on the application boat again and I’m applying for any jobs that use any of the other, however limited, skills I have. Will keep y’all posted.

  3. Rahul says:

    Dr. 29, I am at 27 after completing my masters degree in CompSci a year back and now thinking of going for PhD as thats what I always wanted to pursue but keep postponing for one reason or the other despite completing my bachelors degree 6 yrs ago. Many of friends showed a grim picture asking me what will I do after PhD … what if I dont get the right job/position etc…. many of my friends may be well settled by the time I complete my PhD but I am still not able to see any other option as lucrative even if pays me well in my own country because they are nowhere to what I dreamt to pursue/study…. I think what you achieved is commendable …. My best wishes πŸ™‚

    • Dr. 27 says:

      Thanks for visiting, Rahul. Best of luck with your studies! You could also explore the option of working for a company who helps fund your PhD, I don’t know how common this is in your country, but that would give you some job security and would allow for you to pursue your PhD at the same time. Best wishes, Dr 29

    • Fran says:

      Dear Rahul, I saw your comment and i find my self in a similar situation, it will be really nice if we can talk and i can get your advised. Thanks

  4. jsuix says:

    Dr. 27! I’m a budding scientist that finds your achievement of PhD at 27 rather impressive! Keep up the good work. I’m from the Philippines and Canada is one of the countries in which I hope to earn my Ph.D. If I’m ready for that time I hope to have you as a contact there πŸ˜€

    • Dr. 27 says:

      Thanks for your sweet comment jsuix. Sadly, I had to leave Canada (my postdoc appointment finished). But it’s a wonderful country and if you ever get the chance, visit and/or do some science for sure. I’m close enough, so do count on me as a contact πŸ™‚

  5. Hi Dr. 29, I stumbled upon your blog, completely out of the blue, and have not been able to stop reading. I defended my PhD dissertation this past October and have been working as a post doc in the area of medicinal organic chemistry ever since. Thank you for sharing your experiences…especially those concerning your job searching, which is in my near future. Since I was completely consumed with grad school at 25, I seem to be going through a quarter-life crisis now at of 28. It’s so funny to me that I once thought I would get my life together easily after grad school was behind me and now I’m feeling more confused than ever about where to take my career.

    You may have already mentioned this somewhere in your blog…but why did you decide to blog?

    • Dr. 27 says:

      Hi Dr Mazzone. Thank you so much for your comment. What an amazing story. At 25!
      Oh, yes, I did get the quarter-life crisis last year (well, it really started at the end of 2010) and it was tough. I think part of why it was so hard was because all my life I’d been planning to go to college, get a degree and be done. Then I realized it wasn’t that easy, and so I went to grad school. And for 6 years my life was consumed by grad school this and grad school that. And I had a supportive department and PI who took care of me. And I knew I’d be done, but I though “hell, I’ll deal with it when I get there.” That was obviously a bad choice, and I went into the postdoc without really considering my options, and more importantly … asking myself the tough questions about what to do and when and what career path to follow. And it was tough to be facing not only the depression of my failed postdoc, but also facing the tough questions dead on. I still haven’t decided what the next step is, but I believe that finding a lab and a position that I can (sort of) handle and flourish will help me decide what the next step is.

      As to why I decided to blog, well, I was feeling lonely for starters. I also had a personal blog, but I didn’t feel comfortable sharing some of the tough things that were happening and had happened, so I opted for a pseudonym. I think I found the blog of a fellow tweep and that motivated me to write and share with other students, other people what there what grad school and being a student on the verge of finishing feel like. Sometimes you see happy faces when you first go in a lab, and there’s a story behind each person and their success and failure, so I wanted to give a candid account of how things were for me. And so, almost 3 years later here we are.

      Thank you for reading and commenting, and feel free to anything. I’ll try to answer to be best of my abilities πŸ™‚

  6. mohammed says:

    I am doing a masters degree and I just cannot get my head round on how to do critical review of literature. I never had to do this in my undergradute degree. It makes me depressed to see people get on with their studies and not having to struggle. Everytime I see people completing their PhDs it makes me even more depressed and I feel that I will never get there

    • Dr. 27 says:

      Oh yeah, right there with you. That’s part of the reason I failed my qual, because I had never mastered those skills and then, all of a sudden I had to master that and more in a few months. It takes time, it takes practice. My boyfriend took a bunch of methodology classes in undergrad and I did take methodology type-things … but they were all about performing experiments. Beyond reading my textbook, there wasn’t much else to read and everything was so fast because so many topics had to be covered before the end of the semester that I can truly say, no one ever taught us (bio majors) how to do it. My BF, on the other hand, was a social sci major … in which they read forever, so they were equipped with those skills from the first year. I do believe a methodology/hypothesis/analysis class or workshop has to be in place because, sure, you will learn it along the way, but it would make more sense to teach it along reading the textbooks/etc. I’ve always thought that it would be cool to have a class where alongside with the textbook, recent papers on topics which are discussed/presented in the textbook are updated via recent literature. That way students can learn that concepts are shown on books, but analysis and updates happen in labs all over the world, every day, and there’s no textbook that can be updated and published fast enough to really catch up.

      You will get there. Hang in there, you can do it!!

  7. Kano Abe says:

    Let’s stop doing deep science and move to industry, architecture, automotive design, or computer engineering and programming

  8. Arpit says:

    Hey miss 27,

    I am in a really sticky situation. Lemme just star by saying dat I have not enrolled into a PhD program yet. I have got two offers

    1. PhD biochemistry from University of iowa

    2. PhD biological sciences from National university of singapore (NUS)

    If I go by rankings, NUS is the clear choice but here is the catch….

    At UIOWA I am allowed to rotate in 3 different labs of my choice for 10 weeks and do some work under 3 profs of my choice, basically know them better, extrapolate as to who will be more of a human to me during my PhD, plus the department has chosen me after application and interviews. And the department is giving me stipend n tuition waiver.


    At NUS, I am being chosen by a professor, I cannot rotate under anyone else, so basically I can only hope that he will be nice to me and a good mentor. Plu he is choosing me and asking the department to admit me to which the department has agreed and so he is going to pay my stipend and tuition waiver. (This gives him more of a right to be a bitch to me if he wants to).

    I can either go to UIOWA and chose a mentor i.e find a good fit or go to NUS and hope it fits. But the rankings favor NUS.


    M dying here πŸ˜›

  9. Arpit says:

    Dr. 27….Its me again, Arpit πŸ™‚

    I am in love with your Blog. I am reading it and learning what to expect during the course of my PhD (Biochemistry).

    I also had some questions and would love it if you could answer them

    I will be an international student (indian) in America pursuing my PhD. After my PhD I want to work in the industry. You might have been in touch with international students during your PhD.
    Is it tough or easy for international students to get an industry job in the US after getting a PhD in biological sciences ?
    If one does not want to do a postdoc and wants to spearhead his/her way in the industry after PhD biological sciences, do you think they would get a job (considering they r international students)?

  10. Bhavesh says:

    Hi Dr 27,

    I need your favor.
    Which entry is good to get PR as well as good job in canada – come down for phd or for postdoc? I have done my masters in computer engineering and look forward to settle in canada.

    Hows many min years are required to apply for PR in both cases?
    Which one is most preferable from your point of view?


    • Dr. 27 says:

      Hi Bhavesh. I have no idea. I think that it’s a points system and the longer you live there, plus the type of position you hold and other things factor in whether you can apply and get permanent residency. I think that as a postdoc, if you live a certain amount of time, you may have certain points, but to be honest I have no idea as I didn’t live long there long enough to apply for it. The government site should tell you more about the requisites to ger PR. Good luck.

  11. paperairlplanes says:

    Hi Dr.27,
    I am currently a grad student in engineering starting my second year. I came to grad school right after graduating from college as an undergrad, so I am still in my early twenties. I came across a huge problem recently, where an older lab mate, whom I saw as a mentor sort of T.A./mentor. He send me an email telling me that I was the one and so forth. I feel sick and I want to leave my lab. I feel I don’t really look really nice at lab, but I guess more put together than the average person. I feel betrayed and don’t want to have to deal with this, I never thought about it. Did I mention he was 10 yrs older than I am? How inappropriate is that??? Does this mean I have to worry about male mentors? Being a woman in engineering is really starting to make me want to quit. Any advice??

    • Dr. 27 says:

      Hi there. I’m so, so sorry for this situation. It sucks. You should never, under any circumstance, feel like pressure is being put on you, especially from a mentor-type figure. I once dated a postdoc in my department. I wish I hadn’t, and though I didn’t have to announce it to my boss, I did share with her, as this person was going to become a collaborator with our lab. Eventually we went our separate ways and his project and mine had nothing to do with each other.

      I think that if you have a good relationship with your mentor, the PI in your lab, maybe you could start there and mention what happened. I wouldn’t know why a mentor-type figure in the form of another student or postdoc, or staff member, would share something like this with you, but I don’t think it’s fair, especially if it’s affecting your work and/or performance in the lab. You shouldn’t need to worry about mentors making a move, there are clear rules about relationships between a mentors and students, and most universities have a formal policy on what can/can’t happen, most I think, forbid mentor-student involvement, on the grounds of power relationships. Maybe your PI or an academic advisor at your school can give you some perspective. Maybe there’s a history on this guy and him making moves? Who knows, but you could use that policy of power/relationships to try and fend off this person. You could also try to talk to him and say that while you respect his feelings, you do not feel the same and that you’d prefer the relationship is kept professional and interaction to a minimum. Leaving a lab/group (especially if it’s one you like and fit in well) shouldn’t be your first option, especially if there’s a way to deal with it. If it can’t, then by all means, move elsewhere. Please keep me posted on how you’re doing. Big, big hug!!!

      • paperairlplanes says:

        Hi Dr. 27,

        Thank you for your advice, I talked to both my PI and let the other mentor-type grad student know that I saw him as only that and wanted to keep our relationship professional. I also changed desks and stopped working in my office and recently moved lab spaces. I feel I can’t stand to look at him and the worst thing is that we are the only 2 graduate students in the lab. My PI was willing to let me move work spaces to feel more comfortable, but like I said we are the only two students and the entire lab is pretty much set up by the mentor-type grad student. Now I really hate going into lab and its been about 3 weeks. I also don’t want to be there alone in the lab with him so I stopped coming in on weekends (but my PI wants me to go in) and I don’t want to attend social events since I would either have to stand there awkwardly or try to befriend the undergrads. I think they both probably feel I am overreacting but I just don’t feel like I can get over it, I mean its been 3 weeks and I still feel terrible and hate going into lab.

      • Dr. 27 says:

        Pheww, at least you’re getting somewhat of a breather. I hope things improve and it gets less awkward as time goes on. Thanks for sharing

  12. In the same boat says:

    Oh my God, you’re me. I am having the exact same experience.

  13. Fran says:

    Hey, congrats on your blog, its amazing, so glad we can count with the advice from someone that already experiment something like this! beijos

  14. Dr Satori says:

    Would love to see how many PhDs are out here and homeless. I am a employed, tenured, neuroscientist who prefers living in my van with the associated freedom.

  15. meaningless says:

    hello Dr. 27,

    This is miss 28. Long story short, I have spent my last 6 years in the lab as a technician in a hope to search for a PhD position. I did it last month, and i turned it down since I got a job appointment as another RA in some country that I like. Basically I picked here cause of the place and the bosses. Today my boss told me that he inclined to make me into a senior RA and role of lab manager, and cause this lab is a new starter (less than a year) so he wants to get everything sorted straight before we can discuss further about my will to do PhD under him. I am ambitious for a PhD degree and even if i end up my life to be a lab manager I am still desperate to do my PhD. Actually this is the whole and only point for me to stay in University labs. This is how I landed on your blog as I was searching what exactly makes me a good lab manager. I think my character, experience and knowledge could make me into a good fit lab manager and i don’t mind to develop my career in such path. However I would like to ask is that common for someone to do their PhD and be the lab manager at the same time? I really want to do my PhD in this lab if they allow me.

    Best regards,
    miss 28

  16. Kevin J. says:

    I am not exactly homeless as a PhD, since I earned some money from 2 and a half years of teaching English in Japan to help me tide over this period of unemployment now that I am done with the teaching, and have moved over to Australia to try starting a new life. However, part of me suspects that in this tight market, things are not absolute, and if I do not get a decent job to help pay off bills, I might be forced to move out of Australia (where I am a permanent resident) and return to live with my parents in Southeast Asia in between looking for a job somewhere. Honestly, I am starting to understand the whole spate of complex feelings that surround having a PhD which is not seen as something practical in this world, especially because I am a liberal arts graduate.

  17. Akg says:

    Hello Dr. 27.

    I fumbled upon your page as a result of an exercise to help me declutter my mind amidst the agonising PhD I am going through. I frankly felt extremely better after your posts.

    I too, failed my first qualifiers. The problem was that my proposal needed a lot of help since I had a lot of negative data (not supporting my hypothesis). So I really struggled to verbally explain and articulate it. Especially considering that I worked independently on my projects without ANY help from my advisor, it was really hard. However, I passed my qualifiers on the second attempt. In my case, I am the first student of my advisor, and he – although a very successful scientist, failed as a mentor. Like me, others in my lab have struggled, but they quickly decided to quit the lab. But I stayed back, things didn’t change much throughout my PhD, and I practically worked as a post-doc, with minimal support and guidance from advisor. So I would say my phd turned out average, nothing great, but not too bad either.

    The experience of my qualifier’s exam shook my self confidence, self image and anxiety. I am close to my defense in about three months. However, as ironical as it might sound and in spite of my life experiences (and being older than when I began!), I feeling very anxious about my defense, particularly of failure. Could you may be offer some advise on how get over this, what seems like an irrational fear, but hard to get rid off.

    Sorry for this supremely long post. Thank you for your time in sharing your insightful experiences.

    Kind regards.

  18. tripi says:

    You guys are really blessed to have gone on into education so far. And vary brave. Here am I trying to get some form of an undergraduate degree…….and contemplating the time I was in a good uni but finding it really hard. DO NOT GIVE UP!

  19. kanupriya says:

    Hi There!

    A wonderful inspiring blog with a “never give up” take on life. Your story is an inspiration for millions πŸ™‚

    I have a situation here – maybe you can help. I have completed my Masters in Information Systems from USA in 2011. Post that I returned to my country and have been working with a US multinational firm. This August, I would be completing four years at my organization. I desire to become a professor at a reputed university in USA – people tell me that I need a doctorate degree for that. During my Masters, I was a graduate teaching assistant in Physics dept. for first year engineering students and I loved it more than my intern-ship job I had in CPT period.

    However, I have failed a graduate level course in my Masters. Reason – a major confusion led by my mistake which irked a strict professor. After the situation was analysed and I was found non-guilty, the course was waived off for me because I was an international student and paying for an extra course was not possible for me. It shook my mental balance more than my career. My confidence level has dropped to zero – I am not sure if I will ever be able to trust myself with further studies. My GPA is 3.4

    I have started believing that I wont be able to complete PhD in three years. No professor will take me with that F in my transcript. What is your view on this? Will I get an admission/sponsorship?

  20. Stephanie says:

    Hello πŸ™‚

    Thank you so much for this post. I really needed it. I read your comps blogpost an hour after my disastrous comps defense. I just had my comprehensive examination last week, pretty similar to your comps. Mine is completely off topic, you submit an abstract and then a proposal a month after. I am around an extremely supportive environment, amazing PI but my comps defense was just a disaster. I felt extremely stupid and naive! They hated my proposal and they questioned me in the things I didn’t consider important, and the things I knew I was so nervous that I just couldn’t express myself properly or correctly. The allowed me to pass with reservation, and to remove the reservation I have to write a mini proposal of 1 aim in the same topic but using a specific paper (which came out after I submitted my proposal) as a backbone for my new proposal. Depending on the quality of the proposal, I will have to defend it (if its ok) or not (it is flawless). I am really hoping to write a really good proposal so I don’t have to defend it. Crossing fingers for the latter to happen!

    Thanks for your honest blogpost, it really made my day. I was considering in quitting science and baking for a living (that has always been the plan B) until I read your post. After all, I might be able to pass comps and move forward in my program.

    Keep up the good work and thanks for being such a great inspiration!


    • Dr. 27 says:

      Good luck with everything, Stephanie!!! I’m sending you good vibes from my corner of the world. Keep up the good work!!!

      • Stephanie says:


        I think you should know this, because after all your post gave me hope and so much strength! I PASSED COMPS!!! πŸ˜€ I AM DONEEE WITH THAT HORRIBLE PART OF THE PHD! πŸ˜€ I am officially a PhD candidate on my way to a super cool conference (literally writing from the airport). Thanks for the good vibes and your positive outlook at life. Keep rocking your thing! You are making a difference in other people by sharing your life. THANK YOU!


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