The woman named Julia said she didn't get any formal advice on how to report sexual harassment, assault or discrimination when she enrolled as a graduate student at Brandeis University. But she did receive an informal warning from a female classmate in the Department of Biochemistry and Biophysics.

"I just got a list of men to never be alone in a room with in the department," recalled Julia, whose full name WGBH News is not using to protect her privacy, safety and job prospects. "It's just word of mouth. ... Do you get that list before something happens to you?"

Brandeis said in a statement that the university is committed to ensuring its students can study in an environment free of harassment — but the perilous situation Julia described there is not unique. Striking graduate students at Harvardhave called public attention to its demand for changes in how that school handles harassment and discrimination complaints.

Researchers say graduate students nationally appear to be more likely than undergraduates to be sexual harassed by faculty and staff.

A 2015 survey of 539 graduate students at the University of Oregon, for example, found nearly 40 percent of female graduate students report sexual or gender-based harassment by faculty or staff. That's compared to about 30 percent of female undergrads. The survey found rates of sexual harassment of women in graduate education were almost identical to those nearly 30 years ago on large university campuses.

Across the country, according to the Association of American Universities, 58 percent of grad students are women. At many research universities, grad students outnumber undergrads. Of tenured faculty who teach at all levels in the country, 38 percent are women.

Graduate students often study and work closely with professors in small classes. Those who conduct research in labs depend on tenured faculty and mentors for their funding. All of that heightens the imbalance in power dynamics.

"I think there's a story here of opportunity and power," said psychologist Jennifer Freyd, a visiting scholar at Stanford and founder of The Center for Institutional Courage.

Freyd, who studies rates of sexual harassment among college students at different levels, has found graduate students are more likely to be sexually harassed because they work in such close relationships with professors.

"Those relationships tend to be marked by very, very strong power asymmetries, where the graduate students can be dependent on the faculty member for their funding in many cases, for their letters of recommendation, for their ability to stay in the program," she explained.

Freyd said she believes the current hierarchy of American higher education also leads to institutions betraying their students: "Faculty and staff at a university in many ways, represent the university, and so when a faculty member harasses a graduate student, the weight and power of the institution is brought into the situation."

In June, Boston University Provost Jean Morrison testified on Capitol Hill about sexual harassment of women in sciences, engineering and medicine. One problem, she told the U.S. House Committee on Science, Space and Technology, is that oversight of graduate and PhD programs is decentralized.

“Faculty do most of their teaching and research within the context of a department, and those departments are led by a department chair who's been elected from among the group,” she said. “They are isolated from broader structures and they have a tremendous amount of autonomy.”

In 2017, a Boston University earth scientist was accused of harassing and bullying two former graduate students more than 20 years ago at a field site in Antarctica. After an internal investigation, the scientist was terminated.

The case resonated on campus. "We recognized that we needed to redouble our efforts to combat gender-based harassment," Morrison said.

Two years later, she acknowledged, BU is still a work in progress, but is emphasizing diversity in hiring and promotions. To retain more women on the faculty, it's allowing more parental leave to non-tenured professors and doctoral students.

"These changes benefit all faculty and staff, but are especially important for women," Morrison said.

In the same congressional hearing, Wellesley College President Paula Johnson said sexual harassment on campus is a public health issue “and we need to treat it as such."

"The cumulative effect of sexual harassment includes a negative impact to the integrity of research and a costly loss of talent in science, engineering and medicine, which has consequences for advancing the nation's economic and social well-being and its overall public health,” Johnson said, adding that female graduate students are often bullied out of career pathways in science, engineering and medicine.

Even when they remain, she said, their ability to contribute can be limited mentally and physically.

"When women experience sexual harassment, they often report symptoms of depression, anxiety and post-traumatic stress," explained Johnson, who is also a doctor. "They can experience physical effects, such as exhaustion and sleep disruption."

Like Harvard, Brandeis has a graduate student union. Julia, who is 29 and a fourth-year PhD student, works between 40 to 80 hours a week, teaching, taking classes and doing research on cancer therapy and drug design.

Julia said she feels lucky that she hasn't been sexually harassed or assaulted personally, but said she has faced gender discrimination.

"I've been condescended to,” she said. “I've been told that my work is not as good."

Julia said she's also seen many of her female colleagues harassed. "I've seen them give up hope, give up their careers, give up on everything about themselves due to harassment, discrimination and assault," she said.

“Students cannot freely engage with ideas and reach their fullest potential if they are fearful of harassment or are unsure about where to find advice, support and protection,” said Brandeis spokesperson Julie Jette, noting that the university has established an Office of Equal Opportunity, increased training for employees and students and publicized reporting options. “While we have seen an improved awareness of where and how to report, we recognize that our internal surveys of students’ experience of harassment continue to mirror national surveys of other colleges and universities; we must all do better for our students.”

Julia said she’s speaking out on behalf of her colleagues who've faced harassment or gender discrimination and fear being shut out of educational and work opportunities.

"Many departments will close ranks,” she said. “If you don't want to have to start over a PhD program at another place, you need to have a professor there who knows who you are, who wants you in their lab, who is willing to accept your credits from another university, who has a grant waiting for you by name."

With those research grants drying up, for many graduate students, making that change seems almost impossible.