Nyssa Boardman, PsyD, on why PhDs are hard

“PhDs are hard”. We all heard this when we were deciding to apply to PhD programs, but even after completing one it is difficult to articulate why a PhD is difficult. In this episode we tackle this question with Nyssa Boardman, a clinical psychologist who works with graduate students at Harvard’s Counseling and Mental Health Services. In our interview we discuss the “five-year itch”, becoming your work, how to spot a breakdown, and what Nyssa would say if she had all PhD advisors in a room.

If you have noticed persistent changes in your sleep, eating, mood, or energy level — or even if you are just feeling overwhelmed — make an appointment with your institution’s mental health center. If you or someone you know has had thoughts of harming themselves or suicide, contact a medical professional or crisis hotline such as 1-800-273-8255 (TALK).

Music by Chris Elliott Link. Track art by Caroline Hu.

Justin Chen on PhD burnout

Ever since we read Justin Chen’s article in STAT news about his experience as a PhD student at MIT, we knew we needed to interview him. The article, titled “Coming to terms with six years in science: obsession, isolation, and moments of wonder” poignantly describes the burnout and mental health issues which are all too common amongst PhD students. During our interview we learn more of the backstory; what prompted him to write the article, how it was received, and what he is up to now that he’s finished with his PhD.

Music by Chris Elliott Link. Track art by Caroline Hu, titled “Loss of function”.