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We have been in an altered research environment for over a year, and we could all use the connection and support provided by our NICHD community. Check out several stories below from DIR investigators and trainees. You are not alone in your struggles.

“At some point in grad school, many students think they might quit and there is no possible way through. My make-or-break came at the end of my first year. My world felt like it was collapsing—mom diagnosed with cancer, older brother overdosed—oh, and somehow qualification exams were due and lab work had to be done. Many tears were shed as I leant on my network so hard that next year. Family, friends, and co-workers were all there to help lift me up. Somehow, with lots of help, supportive mentors, and strong friends, I made it through. Going through hardships is part of life, but that does not mean it is easy. However, with a strong network and support system, we can overcome even the most challenging of times.” — NICHD Trainee

“During a weekly meeting, I felt so frustrated with myself that I burst into tears. My mentors were very understanding, but they didn’t stop there. They made sure I didn’t feel alone and recommended the Resilient Scientist series. Through journaling techniques that were introduced, I realized that I’ve been anxious because I wanted to grow personally and professionally at an unrealistic speed (so I can be there for my aging parents who are oceans away). Having this awareness really helped me to be patient with and compassionate towards my inner self.” — Kathy

“Early 2020, I was feeling hopeless as I watched the problems in our society, followed by the pandemic. The Book of Joy by Dalai Lama and Desmond Tutu helped me reset my perspective about our struggles. They share the eight pillars of joy: perspective, gratitude, humility, acceptance, humor, forgiveness, compassion, and generosity. Now I am grateful for what I have and am learning to accept things I cannot control as I work towards a more joyful life. I am glad that NIH is highlighting mental health issues now. Hopefully soon, seeking support for mental health will be much like seeing a doctor for physical health.” — Dr. Megha Rajendran

“As a newly employed postdoc who just pulled up stakes from Berkeley, CA, and moved to edgy downtown Baltimore, I felt lost without my trusted sources of beans, refried and coffee. My new surroundings at the  Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine were definitely not as cheery as Berkeley. Not a single Italian cafe next to campus. My first project was to examine the genome of fission yeast to uncover transposable elements. Given this was before genomes could be sequenced, I was left pursuing a number of risky strategies to trap insertions. At the lowest point of this search, I ultimately found success literally in the mail. Fresh roasted coffee beans shipped in from Peet’s greatly boosted my morale, and in a letter from a leading geneticist studying fission yeast I found a 1 kb fragment of DNA that hybridized to 50 bands on a Southern of fission yeast DNA. The colleague suggested it might be interesting. It was! It turned out to be a bit of a retrotransposon I ultimately used to clone and study several fully mobile elements. My lesson from this is you have to take care of yourself when times are tough, and there are great benefits to being connected with colleagues.” — Dr. Henry Levin, NICHD Senior Investigator