In this mixed-methods study, we performed content analysis on open ended survey items to reveal primary themes related to how PhD students are responding to the Trump policies and the COVID-19 pandemic. In our data set, 40.7% of the respondents reported that their career plans have been affected by Trump’s antiscience policies, 54.5% by the COVID-19 pandemic. Our study revealed three themes, which were (1) awareness of the reduced funding for STEM (science, engineering, technology, and mathematics) and higher education, (2) heightened awareness of and commitment to the pursuit of social and racial justice, (3) interest in seeking job opportunities abroad. The top three themes for the COVID-19 pandemic were (1) shifting graduation timelines and adjusting research to the virtual campus life; (2) losing jobs, concerning about hiring freezes and fewer job openings; and (3) reconsidering their place in a STEM field postpandemic, including a possible complete change in career plans; thoughts of leaving the country for international jobs.
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