Tag Archives: grad school

Tips to Survive Your First Year of Grad School!

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Hey! Hey! Guys, guess what?

…Did you guess yet?

I’m a second year grad student!!! *internally screams*

I know! I know! I don’t believe it either! Despite this crazy ride, I somehow managed to get through my first year and live to tell the tale! I can hardly believe it myself. There were definitely times I was tempted to quit…but, alas, here I am…ready to power through all the things that year two will bring (read: candidacy…*shudders*).

Like I said, it was definitely a crazy year, but since when is grad school ever easy? However,  as hindsight is 20/20, I decided today I would talk about a couple of lessons I wish I had known going in–lessons that probably would have saved me a lot of anxiety and stress…

Continue reading Tips to Survive Your First Year of Grad School!

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

Lessons from the Field 3: Looking on the Brighter Side

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I was thinking about just skipping this week’s blog post because I’ve been in the sourest mood this week. Many things have gone wrong and it seems that every day there’s been a new problem. As such, my first attempt to write this post became a whiny, complaining mess which in my opinion was not very fun to read, and I feared that I would deter some younger readers from the idea of field work. Because, yes, field work is messy and complicated. When things go wrong, they really go wrong and require a lot of tireless improvisation. But field work is also an exciting and rewarding experience. I would have never learned as much as I have these past few weeks by simply staying in a lab all summer. I’ve met so many cool people, learned plenty of lessons from the field campaign veterans and got not only a really unique and hands-on experience in the field of instrument development, but also a crash course on the awesome science we’re studying here at the PROPHET site.

And besides, important lessons seem to arise from difficult times. So here is the third installment of my Lessons from the Field series! This time, hopefully, with a more positive twist. Continue reading Lessons from the Field 3: Looking on the Brighter Side

Lessons from the Field 2: Becoming MacGyver

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The field is tough. This whole blog post could probably be summarized by that one sentence. In fact, I might as well stop here. But I won’t. Because I’m mostly stress writing at this point. But anyway, if you haven’t done field work, take my word for it, while it can be a very rewarding adventure, it can also be a giant pain in the ass. (Or, in my case, both at the same time!)

Somehow I’ve managed to survive until now. We’ve reached the half way point of the field campaign and we have some preliminary data, I suppose. But, we also came out here with a brand new, never tested, homemade instrument (designed and built within a year, might I add). Therefore, even when all this is over, there is still tons of work to be done in order to characterize the data, figure out our sensitivity to certain species and, well, figure out what the data we managed to get really means. Nevertheless, I guess by anyone’s standards, we’re actually doing pretty good. After all, at least half of our instrument is working (!!), but I digress. Continue reading Lessons from the Field 2: Becoming MacGyver

Lessons from the Field: Science-ing across the US

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…Sorry, I just really wanted to use that title.

Anyway! Hello my Internet friends! I come to you from the land called Michigan while doing some field work with my research lab. I can tell you it’s been quite an adventure for several reasons (which I have conveniently listed in bullet points).

  • For one, this is my first official field experience as a grad student…so just about everything could be considered an adventure at this point.
  • Second, this field experience required me to drive from Pasadena, CA to Pellston, MI in an 18 foot truck…which considering I’ve never driven anything more than a small car… well… it was interesting to say the least.
  • Third, this is the very first time our instrument has ever been out in the field and considering we only had it working three days before we left… well, let’s just say that the troubleshooting might have to be a bit more creative than usual…
  • And fourth, not only did said brand new (and stupidly expensive) instrument had to survive both a 3.5 day road trip on the back of a truck driven by two inexperienced truck drivers, but it also had to be carefully hoisted 100+ feet up in the air by some rope and a simple pulley system in order to be placed in its current position on the research tower…

Let me say again…it’s been quite an adventure. Continue reading Lessons from the Field: Science-ing across the US

The First Generation Struggle

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Art credit: Cindy Luo (Daily Trojan)

There wasn’t any doubt I would go to college one day. Learning was my past time. My passion. The sheer idea that I would someday be able to attend an institution dedicated to acquiring knowledge was like a dream come true. I couldn’t wait! But, honestly, if I was being completely truthful that wasn’t the full reason of why I wanted to go to college. After all, I could see right in front of me just how much more difficult life is for those who don’t have a degree. I didn’t want that life. I wanted something better.
Continue reading The First Generation Struggle

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.
Continue reading Academic CVs

On Choosing Research Groups & Grad Advisors

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So, I’m like a month late to the party, but April 15th was the final deadline for most US PhD students to officially accept a grad school offer. Congrats, you guys! In a few short months, you will begin your grad school adventure!

However, the big decisions aren’t over. After all, not all of you were accepted directly into a lab. In fact, most of you will have to participate in rotations or find some other means to narrow down which group you want to join and which professor you want to work under. In other words, the next choice you will have to make is deciding which research group do you want to spend the next 5+ years of your life working with. No pressure, right?
Continue reading On Choosing Research Groups & Grad Advisors

When Grad Students Aren’t Considered Employees

I feel like every other blog post I write starts off with the same theme: grad school is such a weird time in a person’s life. After all, you’re simultaneously trying to make it as an adult (pay bills, start families, etc.), yet are still forced to live the student life of crappy wages, weird work hours and never-ending papers and assignments. However, despite this odd balancing act we grad students find ourselves in, that doesn’t make what we do any less of a job.

Grad students are working adults. We are not interns. We are not volunteers. We work for our respective schools (either through research and/or TA duties) and are paid as such. Sure, we may have a required amount of classes to take, but the point of grad school is to do great research, bring in funding and publish lots of papers. It’s a full-time job. Continue reading When Grad Students Aren’t Considered Employees

Grad Student Guilt: Taking Breaks

Disclaimer: Though this article mainly talks about grad school experiences, this topic is applicable to many different types of people and the advice is applicable to anyone who feels the expectation to be constantly working. 

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Grad school is an interesting beast. You’re neither a student, nor an Adult(TM) and as such, you really get none of the benefits from either category. That is, you don’t have the surplus of free time between classes that you once had in college, nor does work limit itself to 40 hours a week like it tends to do in Adult World. Continue reading Grad Student Guilt: Taking Breaks