Welcome to a new episode of Beyond the Thesis With Papa PhD!

In this episode, David is joined by Jonathan Adler, professor of psychology at Olin College of Engineering to explore the profound intersections of science, story-telling, and identity. Delve into the importance of selecting the right PhD program and lab, and discover Jonathan’s unique perspective on understanding life’s narrative through the concept of narrative identity.

During the conversation, Jonathan shares his insights into the significant function of purpose in our personal stories, the master narratives we can find within academia, and the empowerment we can gain by considering and exploring alternate narratives for life post-graduation.

Whether you are struggling in your PhD program, considering diverse career paths, or seeking to reshape the cultural narratives around the PhD, you will find inspiration in this interview. 

Tune in to discover how telling your stories your way can improve your well-being and forge your identity in powerful ways!


Jonathan Adler is a Professor of Psychology at Olin College of Engineering and a Senior Lecturer at Harvard Medical School. He also serves as Editor of Personality and Social Psychology Review. Dr. Adler’s research focuses on the relationship between the stories we tell about our lives and our well-being. It has been featured in The New York Times, The Wall Street Journal, The Atlantic, National Public Radio, and many other outlets. In addition, Dr. Adler is a theater director and playwright. His play (co-authored with Jim Petosa), Reverse Transcription, premiered Off-Broadway in July 2022 at The Atlantic Theater Company’s Stage 2, produced by PTP/NYC. He lives outside Boston with his husband, their two young children, and an elderly rescue dog.

What we covered in the interview:

  • The power of mentorship – how finding the right mentor can critically shape your academic journey and narrative identity, guiding you through your PhD and beyond.
  • Redefining success post PhD – why it’s crucial to challenge the traditional academic career trajectories and how graduate programs should evolve to embrace diverse paths to success.
  • Power of Personal Narratives – Discover the relationship between the stories we tell ourselves and our psychological well-being, and the transformative potential of reflecting on and re-telling our life’s story.

Whether you’re deep in the trenches of your graduate research or reconsidering your academic path, this episode offers valuable insights you won’t want to miss. Step beyond the conventional thesis with us and redefine what a PhD journey can look like for you!

This episode’s resources:

Thank you, Jonathan Adler!

If you enjoyed this conversation with Jonathan, let her know by clicking the link below and leaving her a message on Linkedin:

Send Jonathan Adler a thank you message on Linkedin!

Click here to share your key take-away from this interview with David!

You might also like the following episodes:

Jessica Schleider  –Dealing With Mental Unrest in Graduate School

Sheena Howard – How to Leverage Academic Branding

Sue Ashford – Flexing – Building skills through small experiments

Melissa Gismondi – The Power of Graduate Internships

As always, if you find value in Papa PhD and in the content I bring you every week, click on one of the buttons below and send some of that value back to me by becoming a supporter on Patreon or by buying me a coffee 🙂

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site is protected by reCAPTCHA and the Google Privacy Policy and Terms of Service apply.

The reCAPTCHA verification period has expired. Please reload the page.