STEM Quick Tips: Creating Research Questions & Ideas

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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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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Science isn’t Glamorous: A reason to unveil our struggles with science

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Science is boring.

This is probably a phrase you heard at least once in your life. Most likely, it came from the mouths of those who didn’t particularly enjoy science or didn’t do well in science-related classes. It was a comment that us scientists (or soon-to-be scientists) were always quick to defend. Maybe a little too quick. Because regardless of who said it and in what tone it was said, I am a scientist and I’m here to tell you that I agree…science can be boring. In fact, more often than not, it kind of is. Continue reading

Academic CVs

15468283-cv-curriculum-vitae-concetto-di-tag-cloud-parola-su-sfondo-biancoWhat is an academic CV?

A CV (or curriculum vitae if you want to be fancy) is essentially a resume. However, unlike a resume it’s not typically a nice one page summary of your most recent skills and experiences. Rather, a curriculum vitae (meaning “course of life” in Latin) is a much more comprehensive document that gives an overview of all your academic accomplishments over the span of multiple pages. In general, CVs are most commonly used when searching for academic positions and should show a detailed summary of your professional experiences and educational background. This means including sections such as research opportunities, internship experiences, teaching appointments, etc.
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The Flavors of Chemistry

hands with atom modelA few weeks ago, I was having a conversation with a friend about how the general public sees chemists. We came up with the conclusion that most people generally default to three main assumptions:

  1. Chemist = Pharmacist
  2. Chemist = Drug Dealer (Thanks, Breaking Bad…)
  3. Chemist = Someone in a lab coat and goggles manically laughing as colorful, toxic liquids boil in front of them (AKA: Mad Scientist)

Though the last assumption brings a smile to my face and granted, a good number of chemists become pharmacists, these assumptions only cover a minute fraction of what a chemist actually is. In fact, the field of chemistry is actually very diverse, and the scientists trained in understanding the basic concepts have a surplus of different career opportunities spread across most STEM disciplines.

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Lessons from Packing for Field Research

recently-updated140-650x840So two weekends ago, I had to help a couple lab members get ready for their research field campaign. It was quite a learning experience, if I do say so myself, especially because I will have to be doing the same for my field work in a few short months. Anyway, because I found the experience so humorous and insightful, I thought I’d share the lessons I’ve learned with those who are or are planning to be in disciplines that do a lot of field work. Continue reading

Undergrad Research FAQ

“Research is to see what everybody else has seen, and to think what nobody else has thought.”~Albert Szent-Gyorgyi

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Hello everyone!

I wanted to present to you what I hope to become the “super duper guide to all that is undergrad research”! I know that before I entered college, I had absolutely no idea that undergrad research was even a possibility. I thought college would be four years of going to class, joining clubs and making a desperate attempt at being social. However, once I discovered this whole other aspect to undergrad, my eyes were then opened to a whole new array of endless opportunity! In fact, I probably wouldn’t be where I am today if I had never participated in undergrad research! But, more on the benefits later.

Anyway, to those of you who have many questions but few answers to the mysteries of undergrad research, I hope this post can be the guide that I wish I had when I was in your shoes. I also want this post to evolve as I get a better idea of additional questions people may have. So, if you think of anything that should be added, please let me know in the comments below or by any means on my contact page. Continue reading

Narrowing your “research focus”

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Hi everyone!

So as the thought of grad school gets closer, so does the realization that it might be a good idea to start thinking about what you want to focus on as a research topic. But of course, this leads to many questions such as, how do you even go about narrowing your interests? And how refined of a research topic do you really need before grad school? Will my lack of a focus reflect badly on my grad applications? Does this mean I can’t apply to fellowships? Help meeee!

Not to worry, my friends! Hopefully this post will answer all of your questions and more! For organization purposes, this post will be separated into three parts!

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How to find STEM Internships!

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Hi everyone!

Not only are internships very important in terms of resume building, but it can be so much more than that! Internships are great places to network with colleagues in your chosen field and to gain a unique perspective on the inner workings of your discipline! However, as great as that may sound, I remember feeling really overwhelmed when searching for internships during my junior year of undergrad.

Well, fear not! Because finding internships is actually quite easy if you know where to look. Of course, I say this with the small disclaimer that these tips are mainly centered around STEM internships in the US, but hopefully these tips can at least lend a hand to anyone looking for a cool experience for the summer.

So, I’m going to separate my tips into separate categories!

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