PROVIDENCE, R.I. [Brown University] — In 2018, Mira Nikolova was at an academic conference in Tucson, Arizona, when it occurred to her: A Ph.D. student is a lot like a saguaro cactus.
“The cacti thrive in very challenging conditions in the desert — they blossom with beautiful flowers, and they provide sustenance for pretty much every creature in their ecosystem,” Nikolova said. “Ph.D. students go through challenging and isolating moments — the process is not for the faint of heart. But we have so much potential to make a positive impact, and I think we should give ourselves credit for that.”
Nikolova, now wrapping up the sixth and final year of her doctorate in Slavic studies at Brown University, says that the research process can feel solitary even to the most socially engaged graduate students — especially in the time of COVID-19, when social isolation is a universal fact of life. So on Sunday, May 24, when she earns her Brown degree along with 217 other Ph.D. students, she hopes to inspire her classmates to look past today’s isolation and toward tomorrow’s potential.