Opinion: A scientist opened up about his tough road to a Ph.D. It triggered a wave of responses

A scientist opened up in a recent First Opinion about his tough road to a Ph.D. It triggered a wave of responses from current and former grad students and postdocs.

An “escape from living a normal, mundane life,” is how one reader called her lab research as a grad student. Another mentioned the “moments of wonder that punctuated the darkness.” Yet another “started grad school with enthusiasm and ended, like most people I knew, slightly bitter and just wanting the pain to end.”

The responses to Justin Chen’s First Opinion essay, “Coming to terms with six years in science: obsession, isolation, and moments of wonder,” were as varied and nuanced as the article. Submitted by current and former bioscience graduate students and postdocs, they suggest that Chen’s piece touched a nerve among this large community.

Here is a sampling of reader responses to the article, lightly edited for clarity.

Helen K.

I had just about the same experience — family, friends, and physical/mental health falling by by the wayside — except that I was very lucky to have had an amazing husband who was able to stick it out with me. This is the most honest and captivating writing I have seen on the subject — probably because it mirrored my experience so closely. For a long time, I feared that my Ph.D. journey had broken me — but now that I have been away from the bench for a while, I also feel nostalgic about the “moments of wonder” that punctuated the

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