Tina, a North American in her mid-thirties, was working as a project agent in government when she began the PhD. Tina chose doctoral work in order to build a career in academia, increase her knowledge of the field, and pursue intellectual interests. When Tina joined this study, she was just about to graduate, and move into a post-doctoral fellowship.
Thor Bear, in his early thirties, completed his PhD in 2009 elsewhere before moving with his partner to Canada for both to do post-docs. He joined the study in 2011. At the time, his main duties involved writing research grants, supervising graduate students, writing reports, and collecting and analysing data. He was concerned about developing a unique research direction, also he and his partner finding co-located research-teaching positions, since each received offers but there was no position for the other person. He and his partner, also in academia, welcomed their first child during his first post-doctoral contract, which led them to decide they would not seek work in a research-teaching university in order to have better work-life balance.
DB, a UK national, completed a master’s degree prior to beginning doctoral studies in 2009, and joined this during his third year of PhD work. TDB initially chose doctoral work in order to increase his knowledge and pursue intellectual interests. When TDB joined this project he had three peer-reviewed publications and held a master’s degree. He was pursing thesis by publication, and hoped to acquire a postdoc fellowship or research position following the PhD. TDB completed his PhD at the age of 25, and went on to work as a postdoctoral researcher with the same research group, continuing to apply for fellowship grants and work toward a permanent position in academia.
What struck us about TDB’s story was:
Importance of small group of friends and family (personal)
High volume of publications, planning research projects based on what would most likely lead to publications that would advance career (work experience)
Focused, consistent desire to work in academia (career thinking)
Storm, an international student in her mid-thirties, was a certified physician in her native country and immigrated to Canada following her partner before beginning the PhD in 2009. Storm chose to pursue doctoral study because she hoped to be a researcher and a physician. When she joined this study, she had completed her comprehensives, dissertation proposal, data collection, and analysis. Storm was married to another academic, and finished writing her dissertation in Australia, where she temporarily relocated due to her partner’s job. She and her partner accepted research-teaching positions at a UK university following Storm’s PhD.
Sophia, a European in her mid thirties, was working as an environmental consultant when she began the PhD, and was in a pre-tenure position at a North American university when she joined this study. Sophia was involved in publications, teaching, and grant applications, and was hoping to stay in North America. Sophia was married with one child, and welcomed a second child during her fourth year of participation in this study.
What struck us about Sophia’s story was:
Balancing childcare and partner’s work schedule (personal)
Receiving large grants (work experience)
Finding position with partner; consistent desire to stay in academia (career thinking)
Say, in his mid-twenties, completed a BA prior to beginning the PhD in 2007 in Canada. He chose to pursue doctoral work because of his interest in research, and he was funded by a national scholarship. When he joined this study, Say had completed his comprehensives and the data analysis for his dissertation, and had 6 peer-reviewed publications. Finishing his PhD, when he and his partner had their first child, he turned down more than one post-doc contract because he didn’t want to do the same work as his PhD. Ultimately, he got a contract he liked which involved moving across the country. Say and his partner had their first child during his final year of the PhD, and second child during the second year his post-doc work. He still wanted a research-teaching position but set a deadline for achieving it.
Sam, a North American in his late 20s, was working in the private sector following a master’s degree when he began the PhD. Sam decided to do a PhD in order to pursue intellectual interests and increase his knowledge of the field. When Sam joined this study, he was in the fourth year of his PhD. He took a researcher position at a non-profit organization following graduation, and remained uncertain about his ultimate career goals, but considered finding work near his long-distance partner.
SA, a UK national, had earned BSc and Master’s degrees prior to beginning the PhD in 2009 when she was 24. She chose doctoral work in order to advance in the field and pursue intellectual interests. SA joined this project in 2011, while focusing on the data collection and analysis phase of her research. She was part of a lab group, and taught master’s and undergraduate students. SA completed the PhD at 26 years old, and then began working as a post-doctoral researcher at a private company. She envisioned herself in a research position, but also wanted to settle down with her partner, and thus ended up expanding her job search beyond academia.
What struck us about SA’s story was:
Changes in thinking over time about settling down and establishing a home base with partner (personal)
Choosing thesis by publication to advance initial goal of work in academia, and managing projects and publications as post-doctoral researcher in industry (work experience)
Change in career goals following the PhD, deciding that industry rather than academia would align with her life goals (career thinking)
What struck us about PhD’s story was:
Marriage, commitment to exercise and trying to maintain a work-life balance (personal)
Issues acquiring grant funding, commitment to teaching & supervision, Promising Young Scientist Award (work experience)
Academic career goals and receiving tenure (career thinking)
PhD, in his early thirties, completed his PhD in 2006 in Canada, and was in a pre-tenure position at a North American university when he joined this study in 2010. PhD had completed two post-doc contracts in two different universities before joining the study. He his partner worked as a researcher in his lab, and helped him to work towards a good work-life balance, a constant struggle. He was granted tenure during his seventh year after graduating, and looked forward to his first sabbatical.
Onova, a North American in her mid-30s, was finishing a two-year post-doc when she joined this study in 2011. Onova had completed her PhD in 2008, and had done doctoral work in order to increase her knowledge of the field and pursue intellectual interests. Following her post-doc, Onova secured a pre-tenure position in which she received major grants and worked on putting down roots in the community.
What struck us about Onova’s story was:
• New partner; building a home (personal)
• Receiving major grants; desire to see students progress; problematic students (work experience)
• Consistent work towards tenure; confidence (career thinking)
Katherine, a UK national, held a BA degree and worked as an auditor prior to beginning her PhD. Katherine chose PhD work in order to advance her knowledge of the field, and pursue intellectual interests. She joined the study during her second year of doctoral work, as she was busy with data collection and analysis. As a doctoral student Katherine experienced a change of supervisors, took an industrial placement linked to her funding, and later interned at an open science organization while completing her thesis. On graduating at age 26, Katherine was working full-time across two positions, four days a week as a research project coordinator in a university and one day at an NGO where she had previously volunteered. She hoped for a job in the field of open science.
What struck us about Katherine’s story was:
End of long-distance relationship, and beginning of new relationship (personal)
Lack of interaction with original supervisor, acquiring a new supervisor when original supervisor left, industrial placement work (work experience)
Desire to work in open science and promote research (career thinking)
Kadyna, an EU national, had attained BSc and Master’s degrees and was working part-time as a research assistant at a UK university when she began the part-time PhD program in 2010. Kadyna chose doctoral work in order to advance in the field and pursue intellectual interests. Kadyna joined this research project in 2011, having already completed transfer of status, data collection, and received ethical consent for her research. Upon finishing the PhD at age 37, Kadyna spent one year in a post-doctoral position before moving to an industrial organization, and hoped to start a family with her partner.
What struck us about Kadyna’s story was:
Family planning and work-life balance (personal)
Balancing full-time employment and doctoral work, conference presentations as enhancing sense of self as academic (work experience)
Change in career interest from academia to industry due to stress of having to constantly look for funding, and desire to establish work-life balance (career thinking)
Julius, a North American in his late twenties, had completed a master’s degree and worked in engineering and for the federal government before beginning the PhD. Julius decided to pursue doctoral work in order to advance in his field, and was in the third year of his PhD at a North American university when he joined this study. Julius was married with three children, and following the PhD, left academia to set up consulting company.
What struck us about Julius’s story was:
Relocation; work-life balance (personal)
Developing his company alongside academic work (work experience)
Developing his company; importance of networking and marketing (career thinking)
George, a European student in his early thirties, achieved bachelors and master’s degrees and was working as a part-time research fellow when he began PhD work. George and decided to pursue doctoral work in order to increase his knowledge of the field, and advance his career. George was in the fifth year of his PhD at a North American university when he joined this study, and had completed his comprehensives and proposal defense.
Funky Monkey, in his early thirties, was in the 6th year of his PhD in Canada when he joined this project. Prior to doctoral work, he held a job as a lab tech, but felt that he needed further education in order to advance in his career and provide for his girlfriend. When Funky Monkey joined this study, he was in the process of collecting data. Data collection took longer than expected due to failed experiments. During this time, he married his girlfriend. Though he initially wanted a career in academia, after being in the PhD he no longer saw academia as a feasible career due to the limited number of positions and poor work-life balance. Still, he took a post-doc contract in a nearby university and experienced the same disillusionment as during the PhD. In the second year, he and his partner had a child which made him re-orient his priorities
Flora, a North American in her mid-twenties, was in her fifth year of the PhD when she joined this study. Prior to beginning the PhD, Flora held Bachelors and Master’s degrees, and decided to pursue doctoral work when she saw a project posted on her supervisor’s website that fit her interests and experience. When she joined this study, Flora was working on collecting and analyzing data, and was considering work in teaching or research. Following the PhD, Flora began a post-doc position at a hospital institute. She and her partner planned to stay in their current city and did not want to relocate.
Epsilon, a North American in his mid-twenties, held Bachelor’s and Master’s degrees prior to beginning the PhD in 2008. He pursued doctoral work because he hoped to work in academia, but over the course of his studies became interested in industry due to the lifestyle demands of academia. Epsilon was in his third year of study when he joined this project in 2010. At the time, he was part of two research groups and held a national fellowship and private scholarship, as well as paid research assistant work. He hoped to find work in Canada, but as he finished, he found a post-doc contract in Europe and took it.
Claude, an international student in her mid-twenties, moved to Canada for her undergraduate degree and then PhD. She chose to undertake doctoral study based on intellectual interest, and a desire to increase her knowledge of the field. Prior to beginning the PhD in 2008, she taught for one year at the college level. Claude joined this study in 2010, and had completed her comprehensives and dissertation proposal. When Claude began the PhD, she intended to work in academia, but due to personal circumstances and dissatisfaction with the academic culture, decided to return home following the PhD and pursue other interests
What struck us about Claude’s story was:
Her mother’s death and relocation to home country (personal)
Issues with collaboration and competition between labs (work experience)
Move away from interest in academia to pursuing farming and gardening interests (career thinking)
Brookeye, a North American in his late twenties, had just completed his PhD with 10 peer-reviewed presentations and 9 peer-reviewed publications when he joined this study. Brookeye initially pursued a PhD based on personal interest and to increase his knowledge of the field. As a post-doc at a North American university, Brookeye mentored students in the lab, and engaged in various projects. By the end of this study, he had welcomed his first child with his partner, also an academic, and was in a tenure-track position.
Albert, in his thirties, completed his PhD in 2008 in Canada, and was in the midst of his second year of post-doc work when he joined this study. Prior to the post-doc, Albert held a fellowship at a biotech company, where he decided that he wanted to pursue a career in academia, as academia would allow him to make discoveries through research. Albert was married, and welcomed his second child during the fourth year of post-doc work.
Alan, in his early thirties, graduated with his PhD in 2006 in Canada and then moved abroad in order to find a research-teaching position. When he joined this study in 2011, he had recently returned having found a pre-tenure position closer to home. Alan was married with two young children, and welcomed a third child during the second year of participation in this study. While experiencing a number of difficulties in achieving expectations, his achievements were sufficiently recognized that he hoped he was well on his way towards tenure.
What struck us about Alan’s story was:
• Struggle with work-life balance; managing three children (personal)
• Importance of grant funding to reappointment; supervision (work experience)
• Consistent work towards tenure (career thinking)
AAA, in his mid-twenties, completed a BA degree, working as an undergraduate research assistant, before he moved universities and began the PhD program in 2009 in Canada, and joined this research project in 2010. AAA chose doctoral study with the initial goal of becoming an academic, and held a lucrative and prestigious scholarship. When AAA joined this project, he was in the process of collecting and analysing data for his dissertation, and had published 2 peer-reviewed papers. He married and had a child during the first two years of the program. After completing the PhD in 2011, AAA moved to the US for a post-doc position, and his second child was born during this contract.
What struck us about AAA’s story was:
Birth of his children and financial issues upon transitioning to post-doc (personal)
Extensive collaboration and enjoyment of supervising students (work experience)
Consistent interest in academia (career thinking)
1319, a North American, was working part-time at a multi-national corporation in North America when he decided to begin the PhD. Before the doctoral program, he had achieved Bachelors and Master’s degrees, and decided to pursue a PhD in order to increase his knowledge of the field. He was writing his thesis from home in North America while taking care of his family when he joined this study, having returned after several years in the UK. During the thesis writing phase, he quit his job to focus on finishing the PhD, and began a start-up to earn money to fund his studies and support his family. Following the PhD, which he completed at age 51, 1319 took a one-year teaching and research position at a university in North America, and was striving for a career in academia.
What struck us about 1319’s story was:
Commitment to family that impeded work on thesis, writing up thesis from North America (personal)
Perceived supervisors as distant and disinterested in his PhD topic, experience of revision and resubmission of thesis (work experience)
Desire to work in academia contrasted with practical concerns about finances that led to seeking work in industry (career thinking)
Explore the other themes
Researcher Identity Development (2020).
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