Managing your Mental Health During Your PhD


Can your graduate school affect your mental health? Dr. Zoe Ayres joins us to discuss what she wishes she had known before starting graduate school, including:

  • What happens when you can’t access the hidden curriculum.
  • The myths we tell ourselves, and the systems that work against us.
  • How the pressures of graduate school can affect our mental health.
  • Why you need a to build a network of mentors outside your school.

Today’s book is: Managing Your Mental Health During Your PhD: A Survival Guide, by Dr. Zoe Ayres, which investigates why mental health issues are so common among the student population. Ayres looks honestly at the experiences of PhD students, and explores environmental factors that can impact mental health. These include the PhD student-supervisor relationship, the pressure to publish, and deep systemic problems in academia, such as racism, bullying and harassment. She provides resources students, while offering ideas for improvements that universities can make to ensure that academia is a place for all to thrive.

Our guest is: Dr. Zoë Ayres, who studied for a PhD in chemistry at the University of Warwick, looking at using electrochemical boron doped diamond sensors to monitor environmental contaminants, before transitioning to industry. She worked for several years as a Senior Scientist in the water industry, before becoming Head of Research and Technology for a biotechnology start-up. She has transitioned back into academia, and is Head of Laboratory Facilities at the Open University, working with her team to manage over 180 laboratories. Zoë cares passionately about creating spaces for people to thrive in research. She is the author of Managing Your Mental Health During Your PhD: A Survival Guide, and of articles and peer-reviewed papers on improving research culture. She is co-Founder of Voices of Academia, an international blog designed to share the academic mental health experiences of academics from around the world.

Our host is: Dr. Christina Gessler, who is a historian.

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Welcome to The Academic Life! Join us here each week to learn from today’s experts inside and outside the academy, and embrace the broad definition of what it truly means to live an academic life.

Your Host

Christina Gessler

Dr. Christina Gessler is the creator, show host, and producer of the Academic Life podcast. She holds a PhD in U.S. history.
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