Tag Archives: STEM

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?
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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 Lessons from Packing for Field Research

Skills of a Successful STEM Grad Student

traits-for-massive-success-in-businessBeing successful in grad school takes a lot of effort and a lot of different skills. Of course, to succeed as a STEM grad student, your knowledge and technical skill set in your specific discipline are definitely important. However, there are many other skills required in order to be a successful grad student that, of course, no one ever seems to tell you about.

So, in no order, here are the skills that I’ve found are needed across the board, in order to get through grad school ad a STEM student. Continue reading Skills of a Successful STEM Grad Student

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 Undergrad Research FAQ

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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Grad Courses as an Undergrad

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shrug_answer_101_xlargeTowards the end of my undergrad career, I got a little bored with my typical classes and I was in need of some units to qualify for financial aid. So, during a brief morning of possible insanity, I decided to sign up for a grad course. Fortunately, that brief moment of insanity didn’t go horrible wrong because the grad courses I took as an undergrad were probably the most fun out of all the classes that I took during university.

Not only were they fun, but I feel it was also pretty beneficial to my academic career. First,  it was a nice way to minimize the culture shock of transitioning from the learning style needed in an undergrad class to that which is needed in grad classes. Not to mention, it probably also showed initiative when I was applying to internships and grad programs, because it showed admissions faculty that I was willing to try something new and was dedicated to learning topics in my field.

Of course, I can see how intimidating it could be. There are also many questions that are unanswered until you actually take the class such as how different is it from undergrad courses? How much harder will it be? Are the tests worse? What is it like being in a class with a bunch of older grad students? Do they judge you? Etc. Etc. Etc.

Continue reading Grad Courses as an Undergrad

Surviving Lab Classes

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daa412c3f51cf7c76447dfb4fc8a2480As a STEM major, there is a high probability that you’re going to have at least one class that has some sort of lab component. Whether it’s a three to four hour lab once a week or in the worst case (read: as a chemistry major), two four-hour labs a week. 😦

Of course, the difference between lab-based courses and lecture-based courses is that there is a significant portion of your grade is no longer based on exams and problem sets. Rather, a large chunk is now based on three other things: (1) how accurately and efficiently can you do your experiment in the allotted time, (2) how well you can remember your lab manual for quizzes, as well as (3) how well you can write it up (read: defend your results) on your lab report.

Unfortunately, for those that are starting on their first serious lab courses, it’s always these components that can sometimes be the trickiest to master. So, having survived quite a few lab courses as a chemistry major, here is my take on how I survived my lab courses in hopes that it helps you too! 🙂

Good luck & science away!

Continue reading Surviving Lab Classes

How to Succeed in Hard Science Classes

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So I think at least once in everyone’s college career there is that one class that just becomes the bane of your existence. Either the professor cannot explain the subject well enough, or the material itself is practically in another language (Read: Physics). For me as a chemistry major, these classes were E&M Physics, Chemical Thermodynamics, Multivariable Calculus and the NMR Spectroscopy part of Organic Chemistry. Evil! Evil! Evil!

Yet, somehow I passed! Not always with a perfect A, but close enough that my GPA survived! 🙂

How did I manage, you ask! Here are my tips and tricks on surviving those evil, difficult classes!

Continue reading How to Succeed in Hard Science Classes