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169. Change Your Plans, Not Your Goals

Even as a child, Alexandra wanted to study space. She had a Bachelor’s degree in physics from Cambridge University, so she seemed like the perfect candidate to for a PhD program.

But after graduation, she didn’t feel ready. She’d need a Master’s degree first, but money was tight and her student visa had run out.

She found a job prospect at a particle accelerator lab, but was turned down because they wanted more programming experience. So she packed her bags and headed home.

Her goal remained the same – to study astrophysics and earn a PhD. But due to circumstances, her plans had to change.

This week, we hear Alexandra’s journey in her own words. It’s a powerful story because so many of us will find our own experience in the obstacles she had to overcome: impostor syndrome, tight finances, moving and finding a job with a spouse, PIs that ignore your emails, balancing work with family, and so much more.

What’s unique about her story is not that she faced so many obstacles, but that each and every time she picked up and continued on. She always made a backup plan, and sometimes her backup plans had their own backup plans.

She offers some helpful advice to other PhD students and those who aspire to that path. Her experience with networking, skill-building jobs, and getting the inside scoop from current graduate students will be helpful to anyone applying this year or in the future.

Here are a few of the HelloPhD episodes she mentions in the interview:

064: A PhD Internship Will Help You Get a Job

125. Demystifying the Research Institute

135. The Science Training Toolbox with Dr. Andres De Los Reyes.

137. Tools for Finding a Research Mentor

And if you want to support her research, consider downloading the Einstein@Home app to share your compute power in the search for pulsars! If your computer helps uncover a new pulsar, you’ll receive a signed certificate of your discovery!

If YOU have a great graduate-school story, or advice for your fellow travelers, why not email us and join the conversation?

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