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Kathy Do is a third-year doctoral student in the Department of Psychology and Neuroscience. Her research focuses on how brain development and social processes contribute to behavior change during adolescence.


  1. What made you decide to pursue a graduate degree?

My interest and enthusiasm in pursuing a Ph.D. in psychology and neuroscience was inspired by my undergraduate mentor, who believed in my potential as a scientist and cultivated my intellectual curiosity. I was, by no means, a model student on paper, but she nevertheless gave me the opportunity to thrive in her lab, and I have never been more grateful for her trust and confidence in me.


  1. What’s the thing you love most about Chapel Hill?

What I love most about Chapel Hill is how abundant and diverse the hiking trails are. Being outdoors helps me stay present in the moment, something that can be hard to do amidst the busyness of graduate school. I try a new trail every 2-3 weeks and continue to be amazed at, and grateful for, the serenity of my surroundings. My favorite hike is the Hanging Rock trail in Hanging Rock State Park (though it’s a bit of a drive away). Highly recommended for a short getaway!


  1. If you had any advice for someone thinking about pursuing a graduate degree, what would it be?

Try to find a good mentor and role model to help you navigate the challenges that come with pursuing graduate school. A mentor can be someone who has first-hand experience with the career path you’re interested in, perhaps a grad student or professor. They can give you advice about how to be, and how not to be, successful in grad school. Although mentors are often more than willing to share their experiences with you (we love talking about ourselves!), remember that their advice may not always be the most fitting for your circumstances, particularly if you’re an underrepresented student facing added challenges in the pursuit of higher education.

I think this is when having a separate role model in life can be important, as this person will give you a different perspective on the other factors that are important for your success and happiness outside of graduate school. This can be someone in your life who shares the same values as you (e.g., the importance of maintaining work-life balance or increasing diversity) or who you admire for the way they treat others (e.g., standing up on behalf of those from underrepresented backgrounds). This person doesn’t have to be in academia, per se, but will offer advice that may nicely complement the professional guidance that comes from your academic mentor, giving you a more holistic perspective on how to survive and thrive in grad school.


  1. What is your dream career after you’ve completed your studies?

I would love to be a professor at a research university to not only continue to conduct research aimed at improving the lives of teenagers, but also teach and mentor the next generation of scientists.

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