On the importance of MOTION

[By: Iara de Almeida]

This is July 2019. By now all of us ESR’s have been PhD candidates at our universities for 9 months, we are at the brink of our careers. One foot in, but still rubbing our eyes to make sure it is indeed true. All is new and wonderful. Every setback is a challenge to be conquered. But, when the day ends and the “dragons” of MATLAB or Python or Experimental Design are put down and work to our advantage, who are we but just a couple of young adults – kids, let’s face it – trying to make it in Research. This idea of balance has troubled me since the start.

I think I can speak for everyone when I say that the time taken to settle has passed. We have all gotten roots, a friend circle, a work rhythm, a planned week, a shop we enjoy better on Saturdays, a class we always go to on Tuesdays because we enjoy that particular gym teacher. We go to bed at a time, we wake up at another, and eventually… We choose life. Choose a job, choose a career, choose a big tv, choose washing machines, cars… dental insurance…

We tend to feel better in these patterns, enjoy the comfort of a controlled schedule. And yet, entropy does tend to inevitably increase. When things disrupt our path, may it be a deadline, a tough data to analyse, a protocol that won’t want to be followed… they introduce unwanted variability in our lives. Suddenly it’s not all organized. As a matter of fact, PhD life can certainly accelerate chaos from 0 to 100 in a second, and in those moments, they tell us it is very important to stay grounded, cool and try to maintain some balance. There’s that word again.


I guess we all have our own definition towards it, but in my mind I can’t get over the fact that having a routine, as comfortable as it may be, hurts me in the long run. Creates a systematic signal that, when occasionally disrupted, causes distress in the system. Wouldn’t it be better to, voluntarily, work in some variability in our lives? Throw ourselves onto the unknown, out of our comfort zone. Go to a gathering without knowing anyone. Start classes in a language we don’t know. Take an impromptu trip to see a friend. Do things that make no logic in order to, logically, introduce chance into our rhythms. Spark creativity. Open our minds to new realities.

There’s this new song by an artist I’m fond of – might have heard of Salvador Sobral, he won Eurovision a couple years ago – called Anda Estragar-me os Planos, literally, Come ruin my plans and that’s the challenge to all my MOTION colleagues – and anyone else for that matter – this month. Do something out of the ordinary. Apply MOTION into your lives. And then… tell me how it went. I need subjects for this hypothesis!

We are the stories that we tell ourselves, let’s write good ones – and also good papers if it isn’t too much to ask!