Doing Things the Hard Way


If I had to describe my usual way of doing things, I’d have to admit that I always do things the hard way. It would be nice if this weren’t true, but…

Like many (most?) 22 year-olds, I really didn’t know what my career path would be by the time I completed my undergraduate degree. It was 2003 and, as we thought then, the job market had tanked. The things I could do with a BS in my field were not terribly appealing to me and so I decided to attend graduate school. Pursuing a career as a professor crossed my mind and I brought it up to my boyfriend at the time…and he told me I was “too flaky” for such a career. Eventually I settled on a masters program in a related, but different, field.

That first year as a master’s student I taught three 1-credit classes per semester. The teaching bug bit and again, I considered pursuing college teaching. This time, though, I thought I’d do it with a terminal master’s degree. I shared these plans with my mathematics-professor father, who told me to beware – the research bug can bite too.

Then I started my thesis and the research bug did indeed bite.

Around that same time a professor gave me one of the best pieces of advice I’ve ever received. He told me that a PhD is like a marriage and it was important for me to be positive it was what I wanted before I embarked down that path. And so I waited and spent some time in clinical research.

Eventually I was sure that I did in fact want to pursue a PhD so that I could pursue my own research and yes, so that I could return to teaching with some kind of stability. So, in 2008 I abandoned my (not exactly) lucrative career in clinical research and headed back to school.

From there it was a whirlwind. Three years on campus filled with courses, teaching, and research followed by one year as a research fellow at a children’s hospital. When I started that fellowship, I intended to collect dissertation data that year and then return to campus for a fifth year to finish writing. A few months in an announcement for one of those jobs I’d always hoped would open up came across my desk. After several long talks with my adviser and my soon-to-be husband I decided to apply. Accepting the job meant greatly accelerating my research plans and getting married in the middle of it all.

During our final weeks in that state, as my husband packed our house and I frantically wrote the last two chapters of my dissertation, the pregnancy test came out positive. We moved across the country when I was five weeks pregnant and set out on quite the adventure.