Depression in Grad School


It’s not uncommon to experience depression in graduate school

According to a 2018 Nature Biotechnology study, graduate students are over 6x more likely to be depressed than the general public.

When experiments don’t work (sometimes for years), you don’t receive awards you applied to… it can feel like you’re failing not just in grad school, but as a person. Sometimes it’s very difficult to internalize that science includes a whole lot of failure. So many things that you try as a scientist are not going to work.

Also, a typical grad student is in their mid-late 20s where many are overall in flux, and throwing things against the wall to see what sticks. While it’s normal and good to still be figuring things out, it can also be rough.

How do you keep going?

The Essentials:

  • Sleep right
  • Eat enough throughout the day
  • Exercise
  • Call a friend
  • Physically go somewhere else
  • Meditate
  • Work / Life balance
  • Don’t isolate
  • Ask for help – talk to a professional!

Many of our SciAll professional scientists found being physically active especially helpful during tough times in graduate school. It doesn’t have to be a full on workout, but when feeling really down a noticeable mood lift came when they were able to push themselves to just… get moving.

Sometimes, they were also able to get through it by just throwing themselves into their work. This may not be the healthiest of options, but it can be helpful for keeping your train going.

Meditation – reflecting, calming yourself, and thinking of the good in your life has also been crucial for many. Think about the people and things you care about. What other things are present in your life?

Work / Life Balance – Do things that have nothing to do with grad school. It can be hard to find that balance, there’s never going to be a time where there’s nothing to do. There will always be another paper to work on, article to read, and experiment to brainstorm. Even establishing varying degrees of success with a work and personal life balance can make a big difference. So, separate from your work frequently. Make sure you don’t get yourself too overworked and have time to get this stuff done.

Always remember

You have people there to support you. No matter what, you’ll get through it. No matter how low you feel.

Reach out to people who care about you, or who you trust. It can be a friend, or even a committee member.

Hang out with other graduate students and take a night off with people who understand what you’re going through. Seek out older graduate students, post docs and faculty. They understand and have been through those emotional highs and lows.

Talk to a professional – it is SO valuable. Seeing a therapist can be intimidating if you haven’t before, but you will find someone who can help you. Most universities have professional counselors you can go to and talk to about depression. They’re great sources of knowledge and guidance. Many of our professional scientists utilized these resources, and are so happy they were available!


The scientists in this video are not trained or certified for any kind of psychological work and the tips and stories shared today are not meant as a substitute for legitimate psychological treatment. If you or someone you know is feeling depressed, check out what resources your school may offer, and in cases of extreme depression, don’t be afraid to reach out and call the National Suicide Prevention Hotline at 800-273-8255.

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