Natasha Morales is our guest on Meet the Scholar this week. She shares her story on:

  • Why she moved from industry to pursue a PhD
  • The ups and down of being a relatively older doctoral student, and
  • Her love for vintage and pre-loved items.

Natasha Morales speaks:

I’m a Ph.D. student at Linköping University in Sweden on my last year, even though I am currently doing a pre-post-doc fellowship with the Japanese society for the promotion of science (JSPS) at Keio University in Tokyo.
I am married, with two kids (boys 2 and 7).

I majored in biomedicine and went to work in the pharmaceutical industry briefly, had my son then eventually decided to go back and get my Ph.D.
Starting my Ph.D. at a later age than most has had its up as well as downsides.

Having less time means being more efficient, being older means I know myself and my goals better, but it also means I can’t just pull all-nighters when I need to, or spend all day at the lab on experiments.

My style has changed so much for me over the years.

In my 20’ies it was all about being cool and fashionable and wearing the “right” brands while now, in my mid- 30’ies I care more about wearing clothes that reflect me and my own personal style, perhaps it’s a result of being more comfortable in my own skin as I get older.

I also try to shop more consciously, looking at where and how it was made.
More importantly, though I shop less!!

I tend to gravitate towards Scandinavian brands that have a feminine flair, such as Filippa K and lately also loving all these great Japanese brands (Maison Kitsune and Commes des garcons especially!) but also browsing through the vintage shops in Harajuku.

On starting a PhD at a “later” age…

I never considered my age much when I applied to be a PhD candidate, I was working in the pharmaceutical industry and was more interested in getting a high paying job than doing research.

When my little brother fell ill I started getting in touch with people locally involved in research related to his disease and when he suddenly passed away I felt an even stronger drive to continue and get involved in research as well. I think the biggest upside (and now I’m comparing with my much (much, much) younger lab members) is that I am more focused (?), and perhaps more motivated.
Part of that (or maybe all of it even haha) of course is that I probably feel a greater pressure to “finish up quickly” because I will have a lot less time to develop my academic career.

The smarter thing in my case would probably have been to not have kids in the middle of all of it but you know, hindsight etc etc…

Having kids has definitely contributed to me being more efficient with my time though, especially early on in my education.

Knowing that I’d only have so many hours to accomplish what I wanted (experiments, writing, analysing data) meant spending all that time being productive instead of, like, scrolling my Instagram feed haha.

Natasha Morales 2

Challenges of pursuing a PhD “later”…?

As I mentioned earlier, one challenge is having less time afterwards to develop my academic career.

I still question at times if my age doesn’t make an academic career impossible altogether.

I came from industry, maybe I will have no other choice by to go back there?

Usually at those times you will find me googling things like “how old is too old for an academic career?” and searching through Quora for answers haha.

In any case, I’m about to find out because I will be defending my thesis at the end of the year /beginning of 2019 so I’m currently applying for post-doc positions here in Japan (because I fell in love with this country and I’d like to try living here a bit longer).

I thought at first that there’d be more challenges with being an older PhD student.

I worried about feeling too old to participate in social activities with the other students. And sure, there have been plenty of times when I’ve had to decline invitations but that has been mostly because of kids.

Most importantly though is that the invitations do come! And I don’t feel out of place those times when I actually do tag along.

I think it really helps that there is a different culture in Sweden around age determining who can be a PhD student and who can’t.

I find several students my age or older (especially among the MD’s) and even my supervisor started her own scientific career around my age (and she’s a tenured Professor now!).

Many people my age in Sweden even decide to switch careers and go back to school.

I remember meeting this guy during my undergraduate studies who was attending med-school, at 35! That blew my mind (figuratively speaking of course).

My strategy has been to surround myself with supportive people, find role models who did the same thing and made it through and try to be inspired.

Natasha Morales loves Vintage…

I buy both true vintage as well as second-hand items.

I love the principle of re-using and re-cycling, that I can find and use a skirt that someone either didn’t want to or couldn’t use anymore instead of that same thing ending up on a garbage heap somewhere.

It also allows me to satisfy that need to buy a new piece of clothing; you know those days when you hate everything you own and you feel like you have nothing to wear and you just want something different, or you want to recreate a look you’ve seen (but it might not be something which is practical for your everyday life).

Also for designer items spending buying second hand can mean a significant reduction in price.

I still am over-the-moon about this gorgeous Zimmermann dress that I scored through theRealReal at a fraction of the price.

I love true vintage (luxury brand or not) because of the uniqueness of each peace, but also the history.

I have a colleague who’s really into historic re-enactments (and the clothes that go with it) and she’s gotten me into reading about the history of clothes-making.

I learned that because clothes were often passed on as an inheritance, they were made with the possibility for alterations in the pattern!

I love the idea of a classic coat that can be infinitely altered!

I think this is what many of us have in mind when we “invest” in expensive items that we think we can wear forever because it’s so classic, only to have it literally fall apart after a couple years of wear.

Now before I start letting out my inner curmudgeon and complain about how “it was so much better back in the olden days” I should round this off now 🙂

Natasha Morales 3

Natasha Morales is on Instagram as @MrsDrissi.

Follow her for her stylish photographs, and a peek into her life as a PhD researcher in Sweden/Japan.

All photographs are the copyright of Natasha Morales.


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