Tuesday, February 15, 2011

The brightest star burns out the fastest

One of my undergraduates (let's call him D) sent me an email over the weekend announcing that he will be taking a leave of absence from the university starting this week for the rest of the academic year. Apparently he has trouble coping with the stress of school and the college had recommended that he take a break from campus. D is the best among the undergrads in my lab - meticulous in record-keeping, dedicated, smart and hardworking. He is strong in both understanding the theoretical concepts and a hands-on person with good tactile sensitivity (especially with thin-tissue slicing). Everyone has high hopes on him graduating with honors and continuing to medical school.

Perhaps I should have known. He changed somewhat after coming back from the Christmas/New Year holidays - started growing a goatee, taking unannounced breaks from the lab during critical experiments, and wearing differently. His choice of clothes has somehow switched from light colored T-shirts with jeans to black shirts and pants (with an accompanying trench coat).

In light of the recent events in Arizona, the university has also started a more aggressive approach towards reporting of students, staff or faculty who show critical signs of mental stress to the campus mental health services. I wonder if that office had played a role in him taking a break from class. I hope he gets well soon.

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