In this month’s newsletter, we would like to introduce PhD student, Jessica Maddern from the College of Medicine and Public Health
Jessica’s recently submitted thesis, “Mechanisms underlying chronic pelvic pain associated with endometriosis” received outstanding results from the examiners. Jess talks about what led her to undertake a PhD and what was the motivation, why the topic was important, the hardest and enjoyable parts of the journey and what she would have done differently and advice to current and new HDR students.
What led you to undertake a PhD? What inspired or motivated you?
After reluctantly withdrawing from a PhD in 2009 as I started a family, completing my PhD always remained a nagging ambition of mine. Working as a research assistant over the past 10 years continued to inspire me as part of the scientific community and drove me to dream big. Over the last 3 years, I have been driven and supported to successfully complete my PhD. Being a role model for my children and achieving the goal I have held close for over 10 years motivated me to push hard and has shown me that everything is possible when the timing is right.
What was the topic of your PhD and why was it important to you?
The topic of my PhD was looking into the mechanisms of chronic pain in endometriosis. This particular topic is close to my heart, as someone who not only suffers from the condition, but also has both friends and family who suffer from the chronic pain associated with this disease. Being able to apply my passion for science with a topic that I believe will benefit so many women worldwide was the perfect fit for me.
What has been one of the enjoyable and one of the hardest parts of the journey?
The most enjoyable part of my PhD was being part of a strong group and being able to have fun and have a laugh, even when the science wasn’t particularly easy to manage. The fondest memories will be those where everyone came together and supported each other; the tasty treats shared and opening toys together broke the cycle of sometimes stressful science for everyone!
The hardest part of my journey was managing the expectations of myself and those around me, with what was actually achievable and within my control. As a student, it is easy to expect yourself to be able to do everything, for everyone, all the time. Realistically, undertaking a PhD is a time in your life where you will have some failures, but learning from these and building resilience will make you a stronger person in the end, even if it doesn’t feel like it at the time.
What are your future plans?
Completing a PhD in a field that has special meaning to me has only driven me to keep pushing and learn more about endometriosis. My short-term goals are to finish some of the meaningful work I have been fortunate enough to be a part of. I also see a few overdue holidays in the near future! Ideally my future career will remain closely aligned with the field, I hope to be able to continue to make a difference and ultimately translate what we are finding in the lab to bedside solutions for those that suffer from chronic pain in endometriosis.
Would you have done anything differently?
I think if I had my time again, it would be easy to say I wouldn’t have managed things in the same way or I would have approached things in a way that would have made it easier. At the end of the day, although the difficult times were hard to get through, I think they have helped shape me into a more resilient and confident researcher. Knowing that I was able to finish, and actually do a good job of it in the end, I would have to say that I would do it all the same way (but maybe be a little less hard on myself along the way!).
What advice would you give to new or current HDR students?
My advice to anyone about to undertake a PhD would be to be armed with fire in your belly and a passion for science. This will not work exactly how you had planned; approach it knowing you will find it difficult but let it be ok to experience and achieve in both the highs and the lows. At the end of this you will look back and see how far you have come, so keep your goal tight and don’t look back. I know you can do this!