Category Archives: Grad School & Academia

Feeling Stuck in Grad School

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I was warned, even before I started grad school, that there will be at least one point during my five-year PhD where I would get stuck. It might be because a key experiment won’t work for weeks on end or the data I manage to get simply isn’t adding up—whatever it was it would be a very obnoxious rough patch and getting over it definitely wouldn’t be easy. In fact, I might find myself even tempted to quit.

But young, naïve little Krystal kind of just shrugged off the thought. That won’t happen to me, I assured myself. Besides, even if it does, I’ll get over it because I’m doing what I love! That’ll be enough to pull me through, right? I just have to keep the end goal in mind! Right?

…right?

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Creating Research Questions

When I applied to the NSF Fellowship the first two times, I was just in the midst of switching fields and starting grad school. As such, I didn’t have a research project, nor did I have any real knowledge of what kind of research was going on in my new field. So, when fellowship season came around and I was was asked to write a “novel” research proposal, I just about panicked. How would I ever come up with legitimate research question in a field I was unfamiliar with?

Now, one year later I am being forced to come up with research questions for candidacy–on topics not even related to my research! So, I thought it would be a good time to talk about how I’m planning on approaching this, in hopes that it might help some of you in similar predicaments.

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Summarizing Research Articles

Back in my senior year of college, I took a graduate class that required me to summarize one or two research articles a week. Though I absolutely hated it at a time (mostly because I hadn’t yet figured out how to read research papers yet), I found that it became an invaluable skill. What better way to make sure that you understand a research paper than condensing its many pages into a measly paragraph or two?

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What’s in my Office??

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Recently, a few people asked me on Tumblr what I keep in my office or how they can step up their “cubicle-game,” as someone so hilariously called it. Well, I’m not in any cubicle, but I am very happy to answer this question since I’m one of those people that is greatly effected by my work environment. So, to show you guys all the tidbits and trinkets I surround myself with, I have taken the challenge of sneakily taking pictures of my (shared) office space without looking like a complete weirdo! I was…only mildly successful, but since that’s besides the point, on with the show! 😀 (Warning, this is a very picture and link heavy post. You have been warned.)

First off, let’s get an overview of my office, which is basically an open room with three desks set up on each side, as shown. Everyone gets a shelf, a bulletin board wall and a filing cabinet. My place is by the window because I love natural light, so if you have a choice on seating placement, keep that in mind. Here’s my office:

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What’s in my Backpack: Year Two!

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The school year has officially started! Well, actually, it started last week…but who’s counting, really… As, I did one of these last year and thought it would be nice to carry on the tradition of showcasing the mysteries my backpack holds! (Read: I actually have a lot to do and someone had already requested this post so this was the easy way out. I’m sorry! D: I’ll have cooler posts after fellowship season is over.)

Regardless of the reason I’m writing this, I hope you enjoy! Let’s get on with the show, shall we? Continue reading What’s in my Backpack: Year Two!

How to Read Science Papers: An Update

I have been doing a lot of reading lately. A lot of reading. I’ve been scouring through the literature so I can have a solid foundation before/while I write my NSF fellowship  proposal for this year…the last year I can apply.  However, as I’ve been reading, I’ve noticed that my methods of going through my many, many piles of papers has changed since this time last year. Perhaps it’s because instead of reading just to read, I’m actually reading for information; to appear like less of a dumbass in my field. And because my methods have changed so much since the last time I wrote about this, I asked Tumblr if I wanted to see an updated version of this kind of post and I got an astounding:

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So here we are…Again.

I shall note that the following tips are just what happens to work for me at this point in my academic career and I’m still modifying my methods as I go along (so stay tuned for next year?). This is probably a good reading technique if you’re just gathering background information, but may not necessarily work if you’re combing through methodology or doing anything more critical… Either way, I’m simply hoping that if anyone is struggling to read papers, this or last year’s post can at least provide good starting points in order to develop your own way of reading papers. Anyway, moving on!

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The Ruse is Up: My Dealings with Imposter Syndrome

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I feel stuck and I don’t know why.

Everything is telling me that I should be having the time of my life.

I’m going to my dream grad school. I’m working in a discipline that I love. I’ve successfully survived my first year. And terms such as “intelligent”, “smart” and “successful” have been used to describe me–to describe my life. I mean, I suppose if I were to look at my CV I could maybe shrug in agreement…

But I don’t feel it.

I don’t see it.

And here I am… Stuck. Anxious. In a rut. And scared that my life has been a horrible mistake. That I don’t really belong here. That I’m an imposter.

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