Megan Watson will graduate with her PhD next week, seven years after she started but not because she's been taking it easy - quite the opposite.
In the interim period she’s had two children, formally defended her research at 34 weeks pregnant, moved home and secured her dream job.
Originally from Galashiels in the Scottish Borders, Megan completed her undergraduate in Health Sciences in Aberdeen in 2011 and went straight into a PhD in public health.
When she became pregnant in 2014, Megan planned to carry on with her studies but after being diagnosed with Hyperemesis Gravidarum (severe morning sickness made famous by the Duchess of Cambridge during her first pregnancy) she was forced to put them on hold.
After welcoming baby Marah into the world, Megan worked as a health promotion specialist at NHS Lothian before returning to her studies on a part-time basis.
Becoming pregnant with her second child in 2017 didn’t stop Megan’s studies and she even defended her viva (the oral examination part of a PhD) at 34 weeks pregnant, which she passed - much to everyone's relief!
“I had hoped to finish all my corrections after my viva before the baby came but I decided it was probably best for my mental health if I took some time off!”, she laughs.
Three months after Marah’s sister Rowan was born, the PhD corrections were finished and submitted.
Whilst it may make fairly straightforward reading, Megan says she couldn’t have done it without the help of her supervisors.
“The support from my supervisors has been unbelievable,” she says. “They have all been so supportive and kept me going when I really didn’t think I could do it anymore. Even the supervisors who left the university during the course of my studies still kept in touch, sending me messages of support and offering to cast an eye over my work. I really want to thank them for all their help.”
Since then Megan, whilst raising the two girls along with husband Callum, has gone on to secure her “ideal job” with NHS Health Scotland as a public health intelligence adviser – a role which sees her develop research and evaluation programmes to tackle child poverty and childhood adversity.
The family now live in Livingston but still have strong links to Aberdeen and Megan is looking forward to returning with them and her father in June for her graduation ceremony.
“It’s quite funny that when I started my PhD it was just me and Callum and now at the end of it, I am returning with my two daughters as well.
“Aberdeen and the university will always hold lovely memories for us. We moved into our first house together here, we got married while we lived here and we still have lots of friends up here so it’s always nice to come back.
The last 4 years have been some of the hardest, and some of the most amazing of my life. When I reflect on what I've achieved it makes me really proud, especially as I'm setting an example to my two daughters that women can have a family, an education and a career of their dreams.
“Hopefully my story can inspire other women and show them that times are different and when the support is there, you don’t have to choose between family and career and you don’t have to wait for one before you can go for the other.”