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A GradHacker’s Favorites of 2018

Sources of inspiration to take into the New Year.

January 3, 2019

Ingrid J. Paredes is a Ph.D. candidate in chemical engineering at New York University. You can find her on Twitter @ingridjoylyn.

Happy New Year, GradHackers! Like many of us, I have spent the last few days reflecting on my personal and academic goals for 2019. In January, I usually do this by reviewing what I’ve read in the last year, writing down a list of excerpts to keep with me into the next one. In 2018, I wanted to work better, more confidently, and with better acceptance of failure. Lab work taught me how to do accomplish my goals concretely — to be flexible with my schedule, to trust myself to walk away from bad ideas, to take time to reflect so the next iteration of the lab-week routine can work out better. My work in science advocacy pushed me out of my comfort zone, too, forcing me to quickly learn how to organize on a much larger scale than I ever had before.

2018 was a big growth period for me, and I’m excited for what 2019 has to offer. Here are some of the reads and movies that I will be taking with me on the ride. My theme in selecting these was value — these works have helped me learn how to better determine what’s valuable to me, to stand up for those values within my communities, and to hold myself accountable for doing so.

Inferior by Angela Saini. I first heard of Inferior via an ongoing online campaign to get a copy of the book into NYC public schools. I ordered a copy that day, devoured Saini’s words pretty quickly after my copy arrived, and now Inferior is my favorite book to recommend to friends. A collection of research in fields ranging from neuroscience to sociology, Inferior is a powerful, thorough examination of the evolution of gender stereotypes. Saini provides evidence to challenge the biases that exist in the scientific community and concludes the book by encouraging us to acknowledge how unfair science has been to women in the past so that we can be fair to future generations. The book has made me question my actions, the actions of my peers, and, overall, it has inspired me as I progress as a scientist and science advocate to be more conscious in the fight against gender bias.

Chemistry by Weike Wang. Chemistry is a coming-of-age novel about a chemistry Ph.D. student who, when we meet her, is tormented by months of failed research, her parents’ expectations of her, and a sudden marriage proposal from her longtime boyfriend and colleague. As an adult, three years into her graduate program, she’s forced to reevaluate her previously firm answers to the questions every adult must answer: who does she love, and what does she do?

As she tries to figure out the problems that lie ahead of her, she begins to teach herself new equations for life rather than lab:

“An equation.

happiness = reality - expectations
If reality > expectations, then you are happy.
If reality < expectations, then you are not.”

Eventually, she makes a decision that leads her to learn how to live with indecision and uncertainty — a lesson that, as I’ve written about before, I’m still learning!

An Education. An Education is a coming-of-age film that follows Jenny, a 16-year-old girl briefly seduced by the charm and lifestyle of an older man named David. As she spends time with David and his friends, Jenny realizes what she actually wants in life and that , no shortcut to those goals exists despite her search for one.  At one point, Jenny articulates her conclusion: “Action is character...I think it means that if we never did anything, we wouldn't be anybody.” That line resonated with me when I first saw the movie at the beginning of my undergraduate career (eight years ago!) and it’s stayed with me ever since. I doodle a small graphic of the words now on the inside cover of new journals and planners, and even sometimes on pieces of paper when I’m not sure about a decision. It serves as a good reminder for me to be deliberate in what I choose to do everyday, in work and in leisure.

Overall, I hope in 2019 to make the most of my time, whether I’m approaching my work, my leisure time, or my relationships.

What were some of your favorites of 2018? Leave them in the comments or tweet us @GradHacker!

[Photo courtesy of the author.]


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