Category Archives: Grad School & Academia

How to Read (Science) Journal Articles


I remember one of the most daunting tasks I had as an undergrad researcher was reading science articles. I could just not sit down and read one, much less understand what they were trying to tell me! It’s like it went in one ear and out the other… or the sight-seeing equivalent I guess.

Well, eventually, after many, many, many journal articles after, I can actually read and (sort of) understand what they’re trying to tell me! Turns out I just needed to find own way of reading them. Since I’m a visual person, that meant colored pens or going through various annotating apps on my tablet…

So, in hopes this helps at least one researcher in the very beginnings of their career, I shall now present my own personal method of annotating and understanding journal articles!

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Applying to Grad School – Application Tips

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Do note that this advice is steered towards US universities and focus on grad school applications. However, some advice is pretty universal so I hope this helps, even if it doesn’t completely apply!

Applications are annoying. They’re even more annoying when you add all the school stuff you need to do on top of them like classes, midterms, homework, etc. If you’re lucky, you’ll come out a little more sleep deprived than usual… If your not, well… None of that talk because this post is meant to help you survive the torment of grad school applications!

So how do you survive? Well start early and plan ahead of course.

You thought I was going to say something more clever huh? Sadly, as cliche and repetitive as this advice is, it is the best advice anyone can give you when it comes to juggling applications on top of everything else you have to do.

So, here’s a few things that you should start looking into and preparing so you can get ahead of the curve!

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Applying to Grad School – Organization Tips

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Applying to schools takes a lot of time, effort and research. Unfortunately, this whole process can get chaotic rather quickly and the universities seem to blend together. However, it is important to keep track of certain information, especially when narrowing down your choices.

Here are some important things I feel are important to keep track of:

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Questions to Ask Before Joining a Research Group



For those of you that are like me, and trying to find your place in a lab to call home, here are a few questions that are important to ask prospective advisers and potential labmates. A combination of these questions give you a bit of insight into both the research being performed and work environment you will be a part of. This way, you can be sure you’re making a good choice when you officially join a lab. Note that some questions are repeated for both the grad students and the faculty, because believe it or not, their answers might differ quite a lot.

Also, a special note to be sure you ask these questions to a large sample size and also talk to both the happiest and grumpy grad students in the same lab, so you get the full picture.

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What’s in my backpack? – First Day of Grad School!

Backpack_2_CCBlogSo this Monday is the start of my grad school adventure. I’ve already gone through orientation and can pretend that I know what I’m doing! Now all that’s left is to brace myself for that fateful day! Luckily, I’ll at least be prepared as my backpack is set and ready to go! 😀

I don’t like carrying a lot of stuff, so the stuff in my bag is pretty minimal. So what’s in my backpack for this year?

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Disclaimer! This post focuses on STEM graduate programs in US universities. In addition, most of these fellowships require you to be a US citizen or permanent resident. Regardless, always read the eligibility requirements carefully.

If you know of common fellowships that are not listed here or see outdated information for those I did list, please let me know and I’ll update the post, as needed.

Last Edited: Sept 5, 2017

FELLOWSHIP SEASON IS HERE! Well, it’s pretty much been here, that sneaky bastard! Let us cry over our applications. ;_;

For those of you that are interested in going to graduate school (or those already in grad school, like myself) I am here to remind you that it is super important to apply for as many fellowships as possible! Why? Because everyone likes money, right?

Admittedly, most STEM graduate programs pay their students a small (but livable) stipend during their time at grad school. However, to get that stipend you might have to do additional things such as extra TA hours, which usually just add to your already busy schedule… Not to mention that bringing your own money to grad school means that 1) for seniors, there’s a better chance of getting accepted to a school/lab of your choice, 2) more professors would be willing to work with you because they don’t have to find funding for you, and 3) sometimes those fellowships give you a bigger salary than your university would! Yay!

So, here’s a list of some fellowships that all upcoming and first year grad students typically apply for, particularly in STEM focused programs!
Continue reading IT’S FELLOWSHIP SEASON!

Friday Quick Tips for Incoming Grad Students

So today I had the pleasure of meeting up with a potential research adviser before school starts and I learned a couple of things from my experience (and from the mouth’s of grad students).

1. Start early! (Part one)

So, chances are you will be moving closer to your grad school to start a true adult life! Hooray! I would advice moving a few weeks before the actual orientation/start date so that you can get your life in order before diving into the chaos that is grad school. I personally moved in a month before hand and bought all the major pieces of furniture and such… Major load off my mind. Who wants to juggle moving in, buying furniture, being an adult and transitioning to grad school all at the same time?

2. Start early! (Part Two)

Wait, but didn’t you just…

Ah, but this isn’t about moving, young grasshopper. Rather, start early on trying to narrow down your possible research groups and visiting them. This gives you a good chance to not only make you look good by being an over achiever, but it also allows you to mingle with grad students that are much wiser than you are.

For instance, today I met with a research adviser and got to know a bit more about the research topics he works with and what science I should brush up on. However, probably the most important part was being thrown into a room with his grad students and firing off questions that probably wouldn’t have been answered otherwise.

3. Don’t be afraid to reach out and ask questions

After I got back and realized how much information I got by just asking a few simple questions to a small handful of people, I fired off a couple of emails to people I knew to ask even more questions.

I don’t know about you, but for me, this is perhaps the most nerve-wracking part because I have this thing where I feel people will think I’m stupid for asking questions, but that’s not true at all! Most of the time, both grad students and professors would be more than willing to help you out because they were you once and they remember how it feels. 🙂 So use your resources and ask whatever comes to mind, even if you don’t feel it’s that important!

Hope this helps! Let’s learn together!

❤ Happy Transitioning!