PhDs: the tortuous truth

Chris Woolston:

Getting a PhD is never easy, but it’s fair to say that Marina Kovačević had it especially hard. A third-year chemistry student at the University of Novi Sad in Serbia, she started her PhD programme with no funding, which forced her to get side jobs bartending and waitressing. When a funded position came up in another laboratory two years later, she made an abrupt switch from medicinal chemistry to computational chemistry. With the additional side jobs, long hours in the lab, and the total overhaul of her research and area of focus, Kovačević epitomizes the overworked, overextended PhD student with an uncertain future.

And yet she could hardly be happier. “I think I’m exactly where I need to be,” she says. “I love going to work each day. I have lots of things to do, but I’m not stressed. I can’t imagine anything else that would bring me this much joy.”