PhD Chronicles: Part III

“Hello there! The angel from my nightmare”

It’s been a while since my last post. One has been busy with science and life – I sincerely apologise for this sojourn. Although, I am happy to say that whilst away, I made huge steps in my PhD program with interesting data.

I have also been opportune to present these data at a number of conferences as well however my first presentation is the one that sticks out for me. It was last year, to the MSc Biomedical Science cohort. One of the students asked me afterwards, Why did you decide to do a PhD? and what are your plans after the program?

These questions got me thinking about different things at the same time. Although I have always had a concrete plan about my life goals since I was 20, it took the preaching of a lecturer to convince me PhD was worth my time when I was at their stage as I’ve never seen myself going down the Professor route (but hey! never say never).

So when I was asked these questions, I was filled with some doubts about the whole process and I had to break my reverie to remind myself the reason(s) why I decided to plough this spiked road. These reasons are myriad that I can’t put them in words here.

However, if your aim of wanting a PhD is for family pride/honour, societal respect and gratification, and status symbol, I am here to tell you that it isn’t worth it. I must admit that in the “third world” like Africa, a PhD degree can propel you to greater heights and open doors for you especially if your aim is to be a powerhouse in politics or your chosen field. However, I believe that you can achieve great things without it.

This is not me trying to discourage anyone from getting a doctorate but letting you know that it will test you in different ways. For example, I am (naturally) an impatient person. I dream about things, plan them and hope everything goes according to any of the plans I’ve set in motion. However, things rarely go according to plan in the lab and life in general, and this can lead to frustration and depression.

As a result, this journey is not necessarily about intelligence nor hard work but patience, persistence and flexibility. It teaches you that patience is a virtue and impatience is not a vice but can be harnessed in the right way.

PhD equips you with a lot of transferable skills that can help you in any sector you decide to go into. A colleague once said, “the good thing about science is that a scientist can work in any field.” I am getting to that stage where I have to repeatedly ask myself what I want to do next – politics, business, academia, industry, research?

Whatever I decide to do next, this phd journey has tremendously helped me to learn, re-learn and unlearn a lot of things about myself and life in general. Prior to now, I liked to tell people negative stories about myself than positive stories and this was for a reason. Sometimes, I even act dumb and naive.

The reason why I do these things is because being a naturally observant person, I found out at a young age that we are all narcissistic to some extent. People feel better when they think they are better than you so I found it easier to read and understand them this way. However, doing this phd exposed me to a lot of experiences that made me realise this was more detrimental to my mental health and sense of self.

Our minds are our gateway to success, happiness and sense of accomplishment. The way you see yourself regardless of external opinions, perceptions about problems or undesirable circumstances and reactions to things beyond your control have an ample effect on our end products.

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PhD Chronicles: Part II

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It is often said that scientists are all serious, intelligent and no fun but I beg to differ. I love to laugh and have a good time. A friend once told me, ‘I am not sure you’d stay in science after this. You are always happy…scientists are often doom and gloom.’

I do understand why many feel this way. Scientists sometimes over-complicate things in an attempt to display their intelligence. Some write and talk in a certain way that confuses the general public with their use of ambiguous words but in reality Emeka, Funke and Musa can’t be bothered at all. This makes them come off as condescending; ‘shoving’ their opinions down on people’s throats (peep the Climate change debate).

However, science does not have to be boring. It can be simplified and infused into so many things, especially arts – music. This will impact the lives of the target audience for the better. If you want people to understand things like climate change, infuse it into things that will impact their lives – not necessarily scare them. We lose the audience when we try to get too technical and complex.

No one likes a ‘know it all’ and you do not have to talk like a genius to be seen as intelligent. In fact, you portray your ingenuity when you keep things simple. Problem-solving is an integral part of science as things do not go according to plan most of the time. Sometimes, you have to improvise and end up solving the most difficult problems with the simplest solutions.

Genius is the ability to reduce the complicated to the simple.” C. W. Ceran

“If you can’t explain it to a six year old, you don’t understand it yourself.” – Albert Einstein

Most of the world’s most difficult problems have been solved with the simplest solutions. For example, erectile dysfunction was solved by a simple solution called Viagra, which was initially intended to solve cardiovascular issues. Instead, the men ended up with longstanding erections.

Due to this reason, I try as much as possible to work hard and definitely play harder via music. We are all in pursuit of happiness so it is important to enjoy every bit of the process. Just like Albert Einstein, unarguably the world’s most famous scientist that ever lived, I see my life in terms of music and live my daydreams in music.

I must admit that my taste in music is quite different from that of Einstein. He was more into violin and classical music, which have been linked to better concentration and meditation. He was able to exhibit the synergies between science and music. This inspired the creation of the Oxford May Music festival, an event that showcases the link between both worlds.

How do we expect to solve the world’s health and scientific problems by living a ‘secluded’ life surrounded by like minds? The simplest solutions we seek are out there so go out, expose yourself to different worlds and have fun with different kinds of people. Then go back to the lab and try to imbibe these experiences into your science and its communication. That way, our work will be more beneficial to the general public.