What’s been the most impressive thing about how people have reacted to the pandemic? The way almost everyone, overnight, accepted restrictions on their personal liberty that 2 months prior would have been unthinkable (at least in the UK and the West)? The way people came together emotionally while keeping their distance physically to support one another?
Surely several of the most impressive achievements are the vaccines, just now becoming available. They offer people real hope that this will be over, that the natural course of such a pandemic, with many waves of infection killing more and more people until the virus adapts to us and we become collectively immune to it, seen many times throughout history, need not be the way to overcome the threat.
We can come up with safer, quicker, better ways of doing things, in this case by developing vaccines in a fraction of the usual time (with many multiples of the usual funding, granted) to save many lives. And, eventually, give us the chance to start living in a more familiar way again.
Science did that – research.
Some of the best minds on the planet, using some of the strongest techniques and building on the work of countless others, thought up then tested a way to beat this thing. Research, at its purest, is about questioning why something is, judging what others have thought about that, and adding something new.
Your PhD has that as its goal. You won’t be setting out to save millions of lives, but you will be making a unique and original difference. Which is why it’s so hard. But remember – to persist with this is to keep trying to do one of the hardest things anyone can do: think up something new, and make a difference. When you do that, it will be an achievement to be proud of. You will be in the best company.