My PhD Love Affair

11 February, 2021
My PhD Love Affair

For some people, there is an instant attraction to their PhD project and they are inseparable from the moment they first get together. Completely absorbed by their passion, they spend every waking hour in the lab together, driven by their thirst for knowledge and longing for results.

For others, it is more of a love/hate relationship full of failed experiments, struggles to communicate their findings, and worries of failure, but by taking a different approach they ultimately find harmony together.

In this special blog for Valentine’s Day, our guest contributor Marta González-Prieto discusses her love story with her PhD project and despite initial challenges, how they eventually got the happy ending that they dreamed of.

My PhD and I have been together for nearly four years now. During this time, we have had our ups and downs, but despite all of the challenges that life threw at us we stuck together and always worked things out. We are closer than ever to resolving our differences and getting the paperwork to make our status legal.  We want to share our love story with you.

Boy Meets Girl

Our story began in January 2015. Back then I was a master’s degree student who was working for my scientist parents. At the end of the semester, I was called to my boss’s office. When I opened the door, there was my PhD, gracefully sitting down on the desk looking at me. In that instance, my heart skipped a beat. He was full of promise and offered me the chance to take my life in exciting new directions. The attraction was instant, and I knew I needed to learn more about him. The second that I heard his name was “Study of Noradrenaline’s Neuroprotective Actions Through the Chemokines CCL2 and CX3CL1” I was enticed. While his name was exotic and mysterious, I always preferred to call him “my PhD project”. We talked for hours and had a strong connection. I realized that although PhD had a transparent look, he was hard to read. In the end, we exchanged our phone numbers, and I left.

How Girl Lost Boy

After that day, I could not stop thinking about him. I have to admit that I did a little research about my PhD on the internet to find out as much about him as possible. One day I decided to call him, and after that marvelous chat, we became very close. Little by little I began to understand more about him. I think that is when I started to fall in love with him and the idea of us committing ourselves to each other was really appealing.

I remember the day he asked me to be his, however, I was not prepared to commit right away. How could I say “yes” when I did not have a source of income and could not pay for my own things? I needed financial security so I told him I could not be with him right away, my heart heavy with grief. He did not understand it, but I needed to be independent first. After that day we barely talked, and a great distance grew between us.

Love Finds the Way

Once I had decided that I wanted to start this journey, I took action to help me be with him. I needed an opportunity that would allow me to have financial security, so I sent my resume to companies all around the globe. Days, weeks, and months passed and I did not hear back. I was completely discouraged, so I decided to prepare for competitive examinations known as QUIR (from Spanish: Resident Internal Chemist). If I chose that option and passed the next year’s exam, I would have to say goodbye to my PhD for five years. It broke my heart to think that we may not be able to be together but I needed to be realistic about our chances of making it work.

After 9 months of studying for the competitive exams, in October 2016, there was an exciting development. There was a grant I could apply for as a research assistant! I was stunned. It seemed too good to be true. I was nervous but had nothing to lose so I tried one last time to be with my loved one. In December it was official, I was successful and we could take the next steps in our relationship. On the 7th of April 2017 I was reunited with my PhD.

During our time together, we had many great adventures. We western blotted, immunostained, and PCRed together. After each new experience, our connection and commitment to each other deepened. We even traveled into the unknown world of flow cytometry.

We got along with each other’s friends, well… I got along. My friends thought I spent too much time with him and had less time to socialize with them. We faced some decisive moments, like when he was determined to do flow cytometry on frozen human samples. I worked, researched, and tried my best, but we could not make it work. We had reached a crucial stage in our relationship and were at a crossroads. In the end, we compromised and decided to accept the situation instead of fighting with each other. We found other solutions to reach the same goal and focused on getting great results together. Recognizing our similarities and differences has helped us create a strong and powerful foundation built on respect and commitment.

How We Created Our “Happily Ever After”

After many years together, we had achieved so much and I knew it was time to take our relationship to the next level. I proposed that we set a date to formally acknowledge our union. When he said “yes” my heart was about to explode. We were going to be together forever and I have decided to take his name – I will be called Marta González PhD. In February 2020, we made our engagement official and our friends and family have been excited and supportive.

We have started planning the big day. It has taken longer than expected to write down everything that I wanted to say, especially with the Coronavirus pandemic, but now my thesis “vows” are written and we are ready for the big day. There has been a lot more paperwork than expected along the way and I am still deciding on my outfit for the occasion, but he will wear dark blue with his name written in gold.

On this special day, we will embark on a new journey together and celebrate our commitment to each other and to science.  This unity ceremony will bind our knowledge forever. Moreover, this could be the start of a new life project. Both of us have talked about increasing our family. However, the number of postdocs will depend on how we manage with the first one. I want the world to know that I am ready to spend all my tomorrows by his side and I am proud to be called Marta González PhD.

Editor's Note: We are delighted to learn that this love story had a happy ending with Marta finally becoming Marta González PhD. Congratulations Marta!

Would You Like to Share Your PhD Experience?

If you have a story related to research life and would like to share it, you can apply to be a guest contributor for Lab Crunches. Email us to learn more about writing for Lab Crunches.


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