Confessions of a Workaholic: Part I

July 16, 2012 | by Amanda Gunn


Hello, my name is Amanda, and I am a workaholic. I have recently had cause to take a moment to look at my life, and I realized that the past five years are a complete blur.

In May of 2007, I came to City of Hope as a new graduate student, and in December of 2011, I defended my thesis. Here is a partial list of experiences somehow crammed between those two dates:

  • I survived being attacked in an alleyway*
  • I survived the passing of a close friend
  • I survived shock, a concussion and amnesia*
  • I survived my “Current Topics” course
  • I survived several illnesses and injuries
  • I survived heartbreak
  • I survived graduate school

*Note that neither of these traumatic incidents occurred on City of Hope property.  I may or may not decide to touch on this in a future post, but have included them here as a statement of the external stress (admit it, we all have our lives outside of the school) that may have affected my mindset during my time there.


Here is a partial list of what got me through that:

  • Three close friends got married
  • My lab mates became a second family
  • I published papers
  • I started teaching

With the support of friends I made at City of Hope, I was able to pick myself up every time I got knocked down. These are not just any friends, mind you. They are the people who called me out when I was being a wimp, who questioned me when I slacked off, who were there when I needed to vent, but who, in the end, pushed me to be a better person.


Here is a partial list of what I was able to accomplish — with the support of these friends — my last six months of graduate school:

  • I taught an adjunct course at a community college
  • I co-authored a methods chapter
  • I published a first-author paper
  • I wrote and defended my dissertation
  • I took exams and joined career-relevant organizations
  • I went to an important conference
  • I went on job interviews
  • I launched my career

Now, having obtained my Ph.D., I am the director of the Interdisciplinary Sciences Laboratory for Claremont McKenna, Pitzer and Scripps colleges. I design and teach biology, chemistry and physics labs, and I have started my own research project. For the first time in a long time, I have had the chance to take a breath and look at my life. I am a completely different person than I was when I arrived at City of Hope, and not just because my 20’s have come and gone while I wasn’t looking. I am also exactly the same — I work too much.


My goal for participating in The Helix blog is to talk about some of the more difficult moments in graduate school, and also some of the better times — if nothing else, for the purpose of letting the current students know that all those things they are thinking, somebody else has thought before them. If graduate school was easy, everybody would do it. I survived, and you can, too.

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