It’s been a long year, but it’s gone by in a flash. Endless, yet fleeting. Is it just me? I don’t think so.

I am experiencing a range of feelings as I prepare this final blog entry. Thomas Wilder once said, “It is hard to turn the page when you know someone won’t be in the next chapter, but the story must go on.” I suspect he was referring to me when he made this statement. It is difficult to imagine 2023 without the SAYAS blog community – the bloggers was a constant during 2022’s chaos. I have no words to adequately express my gratitude for your kindness and support.

I feel like I have been splashing in the shallow area of the pool for a very long time. When I finally transitioned from the shallow area to the real deep end of the pool in 2022, it was a significant milestone. Being immersed in academic life at first seemed weird, strangely alien, and even a little unsettling. I officially obtained my PhD in 2022, commenced my early research career, and entered the world of academia. And as the year went on, I adjusted and developed a degree of confidence I had never before imagined. And I love it. I don’t want to leave the water at any point. 

When I consider 2022 and the lessons I acquired from navigating my way between the shallow end and the deep end of the pool, three important survival skills come to mind:

#1 – Getting comfortable in the deep water:

Being in the deep end initially felt uneasy and even made me a little anxious. DuPage Swimming Centre writes that one must spend enough time in the water to become accustomed and develop confidence. This year, I’ve realized that even though l enjoy spending time in the water, it could also be draining and full of unpleasant surprises. At times, I make the necessary preparations, get ready, meet deadlines, and then get surprised by what may end up being a lengthy, major delay brought on by circumstances that are beyond my control. Combining this “hurry-up-and-wait” approach with one of those all-to-familiar “try, try, again” (and again, and sometimes again) scenarios can often be demotivating. During these experiences, many students, researchers, and academics simply get out of the water.

However, the Aquazone blog cites the advantages of staying in the water, and I wholeheartedly concur. Even though it may be more difficult to stay motivated on such days, it is all about the journey. I believe that these difficulties are merely moments (mosaic fragments) in the grand scheme of things. Our abilities and confidence will keep improving as long as we feel at ease in the water and keep swimming.

#2 – Celebrating successes

The Hubbard Family Swim School blogs about the value of celebrating swimming milestones and adds that all accomplishments should be recognised. In a similar vein, I think we ought to acknowledge our academic achievements more frequently. Being a postgraduate student, early-career researcher, or academic is challenging in and of itself, and is sometimes accompanied by thoughts of imposter syndrome and self-doubt. However, we still persist, come what may.

If I were to compare myself to the person I was five years ago, I would see that hard work pays off and that both my personal and professional life had changed and grown. If you were to compare your current state with that of a version of yourself from five years ago, I’m fairly confident that you would report the same. It’s okay to sometimes need more time to solve problems. But, we should not be so hard on ourselves and be proud of how far we have come.  In this ever-changing era, we need to own our journey and celebrate success.

#3 – Don’t swim alone

My mind is shifting to all the books and films, where friends are drifting in the pool, sipping mojitos, and enjoying each other’s company!

When I started on my academic, research and blogging journey, the last thing on my mind was to make friends, or to form part of a community. It’s not that I did not want to make friends, it’s probably more of a goal-orientated thing. Almost a year later, my mindset shifted to the point where networking became a vital part of this process. I’ve learned that academia can be very alone and that relationships among academics can strengthen each other. Scientific careers shifts over time, attracting individuals of all ages, abilities, talents, and motives, there are a wide variety of individuals who can swim with you.

 Although being vulnerable and peeking into this new world can be difficult at times, doing so can open up a whole new world for you. Rockhampton Aquatic explains that swimming with others keeps you accountable, fosters relationships, is great for socializing, and challenges you while you pick up new abilities. Never again will I go swimming alone!

I will carry these three lessons with me into 2023 because they have been so meaningful to me. As we enter the FESTIVE SEASON, I hope all of you will enjoy the break from work and school. Natalie Theodosi claims that this time of year is also used to pause, take stock of, and delve a little deeper into our own experiences. Whatever this time is for you, I wish you all the very best.

Lastly, hang in there, everything will be fine! Good luck with your studies, and your work. I’m rooting for you.


Luce. Someone like you.

(with a lot of sparkle)

Luce Pretorius at the Mine Health and Safety Council (MHSC) Tripartite Summit where she presented a session on mental health in the workplace.


AGE – The number of years that a person has lived, or a thing has existed, growing old.

If you’ve ever read a research article, you’ve probably noticed that age is a prevalent thread throughout many scientific papers. Across disciplines, researchers compare their findings with the length of time that their participants or objects have existed.  It’s important to know this information, as it provides the reader with an understanding of the research participants, and whether the findings could be representative of a larger population. 

But even though research articles frequently describe age-related features, other age-related aspects are also important, such as the age of the research paper or the academic journal. Those can be found in the journal bibliometrics, and are often reflected on in review papers. Interestingly, the age of the researcher is never mentioned. Perhaps it’s because it’s simply not relevant to the study.

Or is it?

Recently, I have been thinking about the link between age, postgraduate studies and published research articles. Age is certainly not just something we report on in research articles, but an important variable in an academic career. The number of years that a person has lived has an influence on when you start your academic career, when your first article is published, your research productivity, your international mobility and your network for international research collaboration. In my journey, I was fortunate to continue with my Masters degree immediately after graduating with my four-year undergraduate degree (acknowledging the fact that some challenges had to be overcome in terms of subject-related criteria). However, I took a 2–3-year break between completing my Masters and commencing with my PhD.

Nowadays, there is a bizarre competitiveness where students aspire to graduate ‘youngest’ in their fields. Social media would commonly include posts about students aspiring for, and sometimes inaccurately claiming, this title. As a self-professed nerd, I am in awe when I hear about extremely young students earning their doctorate degrees and I wonder if I could have managed all the responsibilities so early in my career. And without a doubt, when I consider where I am in my research career, I sometimes long for the vigour of those in their early 20s. On the other hand, when I consider those who started this journey later in life, their wisdom seems to offer so much insight that I at times question if it would have been wiser to have waited.

The optimum age for postgraduate study is probably very unique to each student. Since science evolves so quickly, no graduate could possibly claim to be the “youngest” or the “oldest” for very long. When I think back on my decision to pursue my Masters right away but wait to pursue my PhD, I took several factors into account at different ages:

Factors to considerWhat it meantHow it applied to meWhat I decided
Suitability of studying mode

Some programs are offered full-time, part-time, online, as a short program, after hours, course work, and researchI had to consider the availability of study modes within my field of interest, which was also suitable to my lifestyle.Masters – Full time research (no course work).
PhD – Full time
Financial circumstancesThe majority of higher education institutions, as well as the NRF, offer scholarships, financing, and bursaries, but many of these have age limits.Obtaining a postgraduate degree has financial implications. During my undergrad, I was fortunate to receive financial assistance from my parents and from undergraduate bursaries. However, when applying for my Masters Degree, financial aspects became a bigger concern. I’d imagine that older students may have had more time to become financially independent as they’ve been employed, enjoyed family support, or had personal savings to finance their post-graduate studies.Masters – Bursary from institution (and family support).
PhD – Bursary from institution and personal savings.
Personal and family responsibilities.Achieving a healthy work/life balance while pursuing postgraduate studies requires considerable skill.Simply put, due to the fact that I was younger and had fewer family and personal responsibilities during my Masters’, I found it to be easier to balance my available time against my other commitments. The PhD was somewhat more taxing to balance.Putting more effort into creating balance during my PhD.
Theoretical knowledge vs experienceThere is a great deal of debate regarding the importance of theory vs practice.Call me a hypocrite, yet I contend with both sides. After completing my undergraduate degree, I argued that because I was already “in the study mindset” and had a desire for learning, it was the ideal moment to continue my education. I still feel the same way. However, I need to add that my professional experience helped me understand the content and utilize my PhD to its fullest. I suppose both sides have valid points.Masters’ – theoretical knowledge with ongoing practice experience.
PhD – break from academia, more practical experience.

My academic journey has taught me that the relative appeal of scientific careers shifts over time, attracting individuals of all ages, abilities, talents, and motives to academia. Yes, there are numerous occasions when I wish I had begun sooner and had more energy for the fundamentals. Sometimes I wonder if it would have been wiser to wait a little longer and gain more experience that could result in richer publications. I’ve come to realise that age perspectives may vary, but my journey belongs to me. Age is more than simply a research topic; it’s a part of our academic experience, and we cherish every part of it.