Empowering Yourself on the PhD Journey

I left the Nano-Engineering Laboratory for Energy & Environmental Technologies (NLEET) research group at Toronto Metropolitan University (TMU) a few months ago. Looking back, it still excites me to believe that I was part of such a fantastic research group supervised by a great professor, Dr. Hadis Zarrin, with talented, diligent, and cooperative lab mates. My journey at TMU presented many challenges but was also very rewarding, eventually allowing me to become  the best version of myself, both professionally and personally. It gave me life lessons like prioritizing work and time management, beyond making me an expert in my research topics. I also had the pleasure of getting to know many amazing people during my journey, such as the fantastic International Water Association (IWA) team. Working with the IWA got me to the pinnacle of my ambitions, self-satisfaction! Knowing that I am a part of an organization with the main goal of  supporting and educating young professionals who strive for a world in which water is wisely and equitably managed grants me a feeling of fulfillment.

I have a piece of friendly advice for individuals, like myself back in 2018, who are about to start their graduate studies:

Enjoy Climbing the Mountain! Doing a Ph.D. is approvingly challenging. While we do it for intellectual stimulation, sometimes we might feel frustrated and overwhelmed by the excessive workload. Remember to embrace the challenges that you face, and be reminded that not everyone gets the opportunity to work towards a doctorate in a challenging and invigorating field. On those days when I was questioning my choice of pursuing higher education, reading the following quote was always helpful and soothing: .  “Hard choices, easy life. Easy choices, hard life. The choice is yours!” Olympic weight-lifter, Jerzy Gregorek. Remember, It is a remarkable privilege to work in academia in a field where someone cares about your thoughts and ideas! Someone cares enough to examine your Ph.D. and supervise you in setting up the programs you need to complete for your thesis. There are some people who have to work hard for less money than academics and  are  never valued for their opinions, creativity or intellectualism., Ph.D. is  an amazing opportunity that should be honoured by deeply understanding what it provides us. 

Ph.D. is an uphill battle that can easily make you feel overwhelmed at  times. So, it is crucial to set powerful intentions before you start.  Having a deep connection with the work you want to do and the drive to make the world a better place will aid in making the experience as rewarding as possible. Then it’s easier for you to get on board as well as  for your family, who are sacrificing to support you in doing a Ph.D. 

Another intention that can motivate us to get up early in the morning and keep striving for greatness throughout the process is the wish for making the world a better place to live. Finally, try not to underestimate  the work that you are doing because it  will negatively affect the quality of your work. Keep that in mind  that what you are doing is pushing the boundaries of humans and technologies and that your contribution, large or small, will go a long way. 

Written by Shaghayegh (Shaya) Goudarzi

Regional Director of International Water Association (IWA)- Canada

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