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Grad Student Celebrates Her Thesis With ‘Mommy Style Photoshoot’

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Most parents expect their child to earn an academic degree or two from an esteemed institution, or get married and have kids in their 20s.  Now 26, former graduate student Sarah Whelan Curtis remembered being faced with a request from her mother. She was told, “Either get a Ph.D. or give me a grandchild.” Since her family already had enough nieces and nephews, Sarah chose to earn her doctorate. After years spent dedicated to her studies, Sarah decided to show off her crowning achievement with an exclusive photoset.

A Laudable Labor

Giving birth to a child is perhaps the closest thing to creating, nurturing, and delivering a fully-developed thesis. Before graduating, students take the culminated years of their education and pour their heart, soul, sweat, and tears into writing an outstanding thesis for their professor. On average, most students take a little over five years to complete this critical work. Grad student Sarah Whelan Curtis took four years to pull off the feat.

Grad students are not a humorless bunch, as Sarah thought a “maternity-style” photoshoot was the best way to display her thesis. After seeing enough of her peers share pics of their newborn children, Sarah thought it would be fun and creative to post her academic baby similarly. When Sarah’s thesis was due, she wrapped it in a pastel colored baby blanket and had her husband take pics. It wasn’t long before her pictures went viral, as grad students from all over happily related to completing the same arduous task.

Celebrating A Milestone

Sarah Whelan Curtis was a Ph.D. candidate attending Emory University in Atlanta, Georgia. She completed her coursework in epigenetic variation and endocrine-disrupting compounds. Typically, it takes a student in Sarah’s Ph.D. program five-and-a-half-years to complete their thesis. Sarah completed her 183-page thesis within four years and posted pics of her proud paper baby on June 4, 2019. Curtis’s thesis baby focused on gene regulation changes and was indeed a labor of love.

When pics of Sarah’s thesis, bound with two clips and surrounded with a knit blanket hit Twitter, it went viral in two days. Another great pic showed Sarah cradling her thesis close to her belly like a mock baby bump. It wasn’t long before Sarah’s Twitter post pulled over 252 thousand likes and 50 thousand retweets. Grad students all across the Internet were inspired to post similar pics of their thesis statement and shared their grad school experience. One student gave Sarah’s thesis pic a hilarious update with big eyes to make it look more like an infant.

Students In Commaraderie

Online Twitter, so many people, had something to say. User @AlexanderJSator enthusiastically responded with his thesis pic and stated, “OMG SIS SAME ENERGY.”  User @stephenablack posted an edited pic of Sarah’s post with the response, “That loving look the thesis gives right back at you.” Mattias Malmer, who goes by @3Dmattias on Twitter, had a witty remark. “So cute. Savour these early times. Later there will be citations all over.”

Llyod Christmas @HinSLC84 had a smart comment for Sarah’s post. “Congrats! Is it true that you forgot all about the pain once you had that lil bundle in your arms?” Overall, many people were feeling Sarah’s vibe and creative way she approached her thesis when due. Sarah wasn’t the first person to use a maternity-style photoshoot to inject some good-natured humor about a serious subject. Thanks to Sarah’s viral Twitter post, grad students from all over were motivated to share their joy, pain, and time well spent earning their degree. Anyone who thinks graduate students and academics don’t know how to have fun were surely shut down by this viral post.

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