Category Archives: Gradhacker Posts

From First-Gen College Student to First-Gen Grad Student

*This post was co-written with Alicia Peaker and originally appeared on Gradhacker, a part of Inside Higher Ed.

At my high school, fewer than 10 percent of graduating seniors went on to four-year colleges. I can’t imagine what that number looks like for graduate school. Although first-generation college students are relatively well-studied (though still not well-supported), there is a major lack of research about first-generation grad students (FGGS).

On Gradhacker we’ve featured posts by grad students who have shared their experiences and strategies for adapting to graduate school as an FGGS. You don’t have to be an FGGS to identify with many of the themes we’ve covered this week (imposter syndrometranslating your work for your family, and more) or to use the strategies each author has laid out. At the same time, first-generation students do face some unique challenges that can affect performance, time-to-completion, and drop-out rates. So here are a few more strategies for making the transition from college to graduate school as a first-generation student. Continue reading From First-Gen College Student to First-Gen Grad Student

Hack Your Workspace With Ergonomics

There is no denying that the modern academic pursuit requires a LOT of chair time, most likely while next to or staring at a computer, possibly while surrounded with less-than-comfortable institutional furniture, and that this kind of work environment is pretty unnatural. Many of us work in less than ideal spaces during graduate school (I’m writing this while sitting on a couch made in a PRISON), so all too often we end up sitting and moving in ways that unduly strain, and even injure, our bodies over time. All this brings the question of how to keep your degree from destroying your body while working long hours both at your desk and at the bench. Continue reading Hack Your Workspace With Ergonomics

Intro to Resumes for CV-Minded Academics

This post originally appeared at, a part of Inside Higher Ed.

This post was co-written by K.D. Shives and Ashley Sanders. Ashley Sanders is a doctoral candidate in the department of history at Michigan State University. You can follow her on Twitter at @throughthe_veil or on her blog, Colonialism Through the Veil.

In academia, your curriculum vitae (CV) is the master list of all your professional accomplishments and is a requirement when looking for jobs in academia. Many of us (both authors included) have spent hours accumulating every item possible for this document. As a result, the modern academic CV is usually a multi-page document that covers everything of note you have accomplished during your graduate education. This is a wonderful thing to have, as the CV gives others in academia a good idea of what kind of work you are capable of when applying for new academic positions.

For many of us though, graduation means leaving the ivory tower and finding work. Outside of academia, the traditional format for job applications is the resume, which is easy to forget about when all the people around you are obsessed with growing their CVs. Continue reading Intro to Resumes for CV-Minded Academics

Eating Well on a Grad Student Stipend

This post originally appeared September 6th, 2013 on Gradhacker.orgFood via  Flickr user epSos.ed

There is no escaping the need to eat. Graduate student stipends are notoriously tight though, leaving room for the question, “How do I eat well on a student stipend?”

Have no fear, there is no need to live off of ramen (unless you love it, then by all means go right ahead).  As an admitted foodie, I was worried that I would have to revert to my undergrad ways of ramen and bulk off-brand lucky charms after two years working in a paying job and eating vegetables. Once I adjusted to a new city, different food availability, and a new food budget in graduate school I realized that as students we can afford to eat healthy, filling food that tastes good—something I realized AFTER I gained 10 pounds eating numerous pilfered, bland seminar bagels over the course of a semester. All it takes is a willingness to shop in new ways, learn some basic cooking skills, and spend some time in the kitchen.  Most importantly, I learned that there are two main actions you can take to get the best food on a student budget: buy smarter and cook at home. Continue reading Eating Well on a Grad Student Stipend

Hacking Time Management for the Bench Scientist

This article originally appeared on on August 9th, 2013.CC use via Flickr user archer10

Many of us in the sciences begin graduate school not only with classes, but with extensive lab rotations that center upon completing bench science as well. This is the real classroom for many scientists-in-training and is an invaluable training experience. However, for some students it can be difficult to be productive during such a short time (some rotations last only a few weeks), so learning good time management skills at the bench will aid you now in your rotations and down the road in your dissertation lab.

I worked on my time management as a research assistant prior to graduate school and still struggled to balance classes and significant hours in the lab. I’ve come to refer to my time management method for lab work as the “Russian nesting  doll approach.” These basic principles can be widely applied in a variety of research situations. Continue reading Hacking Time Management for the Bench Scientist

Deconstructing the Written Comprehensive Exam

We've all felt like this at some point leading up to comprehensive exams. Photo from Flickr user Jixar, used under CC license.
We’ve all felt like this at some point leading up to comprehensive exams. Photo from Flickr user Jixar, used under CC license.

This article appeared in its original form at on March 22, 2013.

The dreaded written comprehensive exam. Many graduate students will have to pass some form of comprehensive exam at some point in their program. This can often include putting together a multi-page grant-style project proposal. Putting one of these together for the first time can be a daunting process if you are unprepared. But have no fear, there are ways to make crafting a solid document far less painful and even somewhat enjoyable.

Now at this point I have to mention that this advice will be most relevant for students preparing an exam on their own projects in the style of an NIH grant. However, this basic approach can apply to putting together any large proposal for your project. Continue reading Deconstructing the Written Comprehensive Exam