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Surviving or flourishing: how relationships with principal investigators influence science graduate students’ wellness

Kimberly A. Griffin (Office of the Dean, College of Education, University of Maryland, College Park, Maryland, USA)
Joakina Stone (Department of Counseling, Higher Education and Special Education, University of Maryland, College Park, Maryland, USA)
Di-Tu Dissassa (Department of Counseling, Higher Education and Special Education, University of Maryland, College Park, Maryland, USA)
Terra Nicole Hall (Department of Counseling, Higher Education and Special Education, University of Maryland, College Park, Maryland, USA)
Ashley Hixson (Department of Counseling, Higher Education and Special Education, University of Maryland, College Park, Maryland, USA)

Studies in Graduate and Postdoctoral Education

ISSN: 2398-4686

Article publication date: 13 October 2022

Issue publication date: 2 January 2023

56

Abstract

Purpose

This study aims to focus on the experiences of biomedical science students nearing the end of their doctoral programs and the factors that influence their well-being. In addition to identifying general challenges, the study aims to expand understanding of how interactions with principal investigators (PIs) can influence students’ well-being and engagement in wellness practices.

Design/methodology/approach

This qualitative study presents an analysis of interview data collected from 90 trainees five years after beginning their graduate programs. All were participants in a larger mixed-methods, longitudinal study. Emergent themes and a codebook were established after reviewing interview transcripts and completing memos. Codes were applied to data, and reports were generated to confirm and challenge early interpretations.

Findings

Participants described four key factors that influenced their well-being: perceived work/life balance; managing progress on research; program completion and job search; and overall faculty relationships. While relationships with PIs could be a source of stress, participants more often described how both interactions with, and observations of their PIs could amplify or mitigate their ability to manage other stressors and overall sense of well-being.

Originality/value

While researchers in the USA have increasingly considered the factors impacting graduate student mental health, there has been less of an emphasis on wellness and well-being. Furthermore, there has been less attention to how PIs contribute, in positive and negative ways, to these outcomes. This study offers insight into well-being at a specific timepoint, considering dynamics unique to wellness and well-being in the later stages of doctoral training.

Keywords

Acknowledgements

The authors gratefully acknowledge the support of the National Science Foundation. This article is based upon work supported under award 1760894. The views in this article are those of the authors and do not necessarily represent the views of the funding agency.

Citation

Griffin, K.A., Stone, J., Dissassa, D.-T., Hall, T.N. and Hixson, A. (2023), "Surviving or flourishing: how relationships with principal investigators influence science graduate students’ wellness", Studies in Graduate and Postdoctoral Education, Vol. 14 No. 1, pp. 47-62. https://doi.org/10.1108/SGPE-12-2021-0085

Publisher

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Emerald Publishing Limited

Copyright © 2022, Emerald Publishing Limited

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