Past Dialogues

Can I get a PhD and still flunk life?: A Conversation about Lab Life and the Good Life

Monday, August 28th 2017, 7:00-9:00pm

“Ph.D. students have lower life satisfaction than Master’s and Professional students and exhibit higher levels of depressive symptoms. About 47% of Ph.D. students reach the threshold considered depressed, a 10 out of 30 on the depression scale.”
― UC Berkeley, Graduate Student Happiness & Well-Being Report | 2014

“As Frampton tells it, his life is one unbroken line of impressive grades, advanced degrees and innumerable citations of his work in cosmology and physics. There is certainly much truth to this. ‘He has always been very inventive in thinking of new ideas extending and going beyond the standard model of particle physics,’ says Prof. Edward Witten of the Institute for Advanced Study in Princeton. But then there is Frampton’s tendency to transfer his professional accomplishments to his personal life….”
― Maxine Swann on Professor Paul Frampton, particle physicist and convicted drug smuggler

“You can get all A’s and still flunk life.”
― Walker Percy, The Second Coming

Higher education is facing a mental health crisis. Numerous studies have underscored the high (and rising) rates of mental illness and depression among graduate students in particular (e.g., herehere, and here). According to a 2014 study by UC Berkeley’s Graduate Assembly, for instance, 47% of UC Berkeley’s PhD students suffer or have suffered from depression during their graduate studies.

Is life in the lab inherently toxic? Is higher education inimical to the life well lived? Is academia designed to create burnouts? And even if I succeed academically and professionally, will I have prepared myself to be a good, happy, healthy, decent person? In other words, can I get a PhD and still flunk life?

If you’re a graduate student in the natural sciences based here in New York City, please join us on Monday, August 28th for this important conversation. For details on location email our admin.


This Socratic Happy Hour dialogue is part of our ongoing SCI+FAI project, which seeks to foster deeper conversations around the big questions in science and religion. These dialogues are sponsored by Fuller Theological Seminary’s STEAM Project (Science & Theology for Emerging Adult Ministries), the John Templeton Foundation, and InterVarsity’s Graduate & Faculty Ministries.


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