Few days ago, my supervisor came to me and another PhD student to talk about the group economy situation.

The upcoming isn’t exactly bright: said straight, lab founding is no longer guaranteed and I have to be ready: I may need to graduate before the planned time.

At first, the new baffle me. I felt hurt and betrayed. “What will be of my fab PhD career I dreamed about for so long? The manuscripts? The CVs? This is not enough. I’m not enough. This shitty lab isn’t enough”.

I felt so down I will remember it for long time.

Then she did something unexpected. She took out a single A4 paper showing the budget of the group: the entire career successes of a scientist measured by cold, very very cold numbers put down by someone with a stable job. Pretty unpleasant feeling.

We went through it together. She looked up at us may times, like wanting us to understand what all those numbers were about, what they said, and almost seeking for a mistake in the final sum.

Cards on table. We got into to game.

That unpredictable gesture weeped away what I was cursing before. She shared something very intimate, such as how much she earns, what is the weight of her grants and what are the options to carry the boat on a safe route, encompassing salary makeups and PhDs shortage. No obscure lines, no unpronounced second plans, no dubious sentence.

I felt so honored and speechless for this, that I could have cried.

Projects were cut and shared among us. Focus and productivity became the leading words. We then discussed how to rise more money: the supervisor will apply for new grants and students will do the same. I had the feeling she said something like: now you know what the course is: I’m still the captan, but you are not anymore a passenger. Take the wheel and steer it with me.

I learned so much from that talk. I finished exhausted, but persuaded that my PhD career will bring me into a fantastic road. I’m determined to turn this situation to my advantages. I don’t really know how, yet, but I feel the answer is coming soon.

I will forever appreciate her frankness and the lesson she touched me that day.

One Response

  1. Great commentary on how our advisors can teach us so much more than the basic nuts-and-bolts of “doing science” – the behind-the-scenes stuff can be incredibly important too!

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