Wellness Student Spotlight: Raecliff (Rae) Daly, GBS24

"A piece of advice I would give myself is to really dedicate time to unwind and focus on self-care."
Raecliff (Rae) Daly, GBS24

My name is Raecliffe (Rae) Daly, and I received my PhD in Cell, Molecular, and Developmental Biology (my BS is in Biochemistry, Molecular, and Cellular Biology, so I clearly have an affinity for programs with long titles). My thesis work focused on describing how a protein modification on the influenza A virus protein PA-X promotes the downregulation of host mRNAs, which leads to its immunomodulatory function during infection. 

Who is someone who has had an impact on you during your professional degree program?

The CMDB program had concentration areas for trainees to choose from, and I chose Structural & Chemical Biology. This meant that the majority of my courses were with Dr. Andrew Bohm, who was also the chair of my thesis advisory committee before his passing. While I admired the clear passion he had for teaching, what I admired most was his ability to make every student feel worthy of being in grad school. Many people, including myself, struggle with imposter syndrome, but Andrew had a true gift in helping trainees feel that they were smart enough, competent enough, and productive enough. I was fortunate enough to see him lift students up, while also being the recipient of that gift from him. I hope to replicate that level of kindness and support in my own career.

What is one activity you have done that contributed to your physical, mental, or emotional well-being over the course of your time at Tufts?

I started going to therapy during graduate school, and it was one of the best things I did for myself to help manage all the stress associated with being a PhD student. It helped me manage imposter syndrome, the uncertainty of when experiments would start working, course load, and, because being a student doesn’t exist in a vacuum, it helped me learn how to manage all the expectations of graduate school with my personal life. 

What is something you have done in your professional degree program that you are proud of?

I have struggled with public speaking from a young age. Honestly, if someone told me a career in science included a bunch of public speaking, I probably would’ve backed out from that fear alone. During my time in grad school, I have had many opportunities to present my work either to the department or at conferences, and it has made me feel more confident in public speaking. I won’t lie and say I enjoy it now, I still very much do not, but due to all of the public speaking opportunities I have received in grad school, I am now at the point where I feel confident that I can get up in front of a crowd and share my work. 

What is a challenging situation that you did not think you would overcome, but you did?

I really struggled when the school shut down in 2020 due to the COVID-19 pandemic. On top of worrying about family and friends, I was also having some major interpersonal problems. At times it felt unbearable, and I seriously considered leaving grad school and moving back to New Hampshire (Live Free or Die!). However, with the support of colleagues and friends, both at Tufts and outside of Tufts, I was able to get through that period of high stress.

What is the biggest challenge you have faced in pursuing this career?

Becoming more comfortable with failures and rejection. I struggled with separating my self-worth from things like my experiments “working” or grants getting funded. However, as time goes on, I am becoming more comfortable with accepting things as they come. A “failed” experiment is not a reflection of me as a person, and a grant not being funded does not mean that I do not deserve to work in science. These are just challenging parts of working in research, and becoming more comfortable with them is vital for having the courage to continue to push forward.

What is something you wish you knew at the start of your journey and what is a piece of advice you would give your past self?

A piece of advice I would give myself is to really dedicate time to unwind and focus on self-care. It’s important to try and find things to clear your mind at least once a day, whether that be through taking an hour of the day to read a book, meditate, keep up with a skincare routine, or prepare a home-cooked meal, and to try to dedicate at least one day a week to do something for yourself, like spending time with friends or taking part in an activity you enjoy. These are the things that help keep burnout at bay, and they really need to be prioritized, even if it feels selfish to do so.

What will you miss most about being at Tufts and/or living in Boston?

During my 5th year, Marta took a job at the University of Wisconsin-Madison, and I moved with her. So, I will continue missing what I have been missing since the lab moved, which is the fantastic community I was part of at Tufts. Many times, things don’t work out the way you expected they would in research. Having a community that is supportive and helps lift you up during the hard times is special, and I will miss being part of it very much. I also miss working in Chinatown! My closest lunch option now is Subway, which is a major downgrade… and don’t even get me started on the lack of boba options in Madison!

What is one thing you are looking forward to most in your life post-grad?

I am hopeful that I will have more time to commit to my hobbies outside of work. I know above I mentioned how it is important to take part in self-care rituals, but I still have not perfected this. I am hoping moving forward, without the question of “will I ever finish this degree?” looming over me, I will be able to make more time for my interests outside of science! Also, the pay increase will be nice, of course.