Eve Humphrey posed smiling and playing with the newest addition to her family in a sweet newborn photo shoot. But the New York biologist was celebrating a different kind of “baby” — her dissertation.
Humphrey celebrated the completion of her six-year doctoral program and dissertation at Florida State University with a mock newborn photo shoot that quickly made its way around the internet. The photos, taken by Korie Mitchell of JessaCole Photography, have been shared dozens of times.
“It was just a fun thing to do,” Humphrey, 29, tells PEOPLE. “People have wanted me and my husband to have kids for so long, so I was like, I’m going to give them a maternity shoot to show what I’ve been working on for 6 years!”
She’d developed a sense of humor about It over time: “When my family or other people asked, ‘When are you having a baby?’, I’d say, ‘I’m working on my baby!’ ”
In the photos, Humphrey, an ecology and evolution scientist, is shown cradling the dissertation and even appearing to push it in the seat of a baby walker. She says she was in the middle of writing the document when she decided she wanted to do “to celebrate myself and to do something in a fun way.”
With that, she teamed up with Mitchell for the shoot in August in her native Florida, vowing to let Mitchell share the photos online if her dissertation defense was successful.
“I survived somehow. It took me six years to get through it. I did the shoot to commemorate the whole process,” Humphrey says, calling the shoot “a good time.” She continues: “I just thought people would have a good time laughing at it.”
Humphrey tells PEOPLE she never expected the photos to go viral and has been surprised by the response.
“Online, it’s been crazy: People talking about women in academia, and if women are celebrated for their professional achievements, and can women juggle having a child and being in academia,” Humphrey recalls.
“I think it’s great because I’ve had an opportunity to talk to graduate students. They’ve messaged me and I’ve had an opportunity to encourage them,” she says. But, she admits, “It’s all a little overwhelming. When I open my phone or my computer, it’s just more and more people and I’m like, ‘Whoa! What is happening?’ ”
Humphrey recently moved to New York to work as a biologist and says she’s eager to apply her years of research and also increase diversity in her field. And, she says, her family and friends are excited about her future — and have put the brakes on baby talk for a while.
As for Mitchell, Humphrey’s dear friend, the photographer couldn’t be more proud.
“This beautiful woman has spent the last 6 years dedicating her time, energy, and talent to graduate with her PhD,” Mitchell wrote in the Facebook post alongside the photos.
“Time and time again, the talk of children would come up for her and her husband. She knew what she was doing and accomplishing. Everyone help me congratulate the birth of a defended dissertation by Dr. E. Humphrey.”
She echoed her statements to PEOPLE.
“It was extremely fun! I was also really proud,” Mitchell says of the shoot. “I’ve known Eve close to two years now. I’d seen how she’d have to leave things early to go study or do research.”
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