Category Archives: Graduate School

A Teetotaler’s Guide to Networking in Grad School

For students,  graduate school presents many opportunities for professional networking and socialization. These events are usually held over beers at a conference or that one bar across the street from campus. So what about students who don’t drink? Being the only person in the bar with just a glass of water can be a little uncomfortable, especially when continually met with questions of “why are you not drinking?” Continue reading A Teetotaler’s Guide to Networking in Grad School

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Combating Cynicism in Graduate School

Almost every department has that person who has elevated cynicism to an art.  You know the one. That person who is always unhappy with and verbally tearing down her project, his program, her advisor, journal club presentations, or pretty much any part of the graduate school experience. Usually this is a senior student or postdoc, but these personalities can be found in any corner of academia if you look hard enough. Unfortunately, this person also has an overall negative effect on the morale of those around him, making the already-difficult graduate school process that much more grueling for those who have to deal with him. Even worse, formerly happy students may begin to mimic these cynical behaviors and perpetuate a negative training environment for both themselves and those around them.

Continue reading Combating Cynicism in Graduate School

Restarting a Stalled Project

It happens to every grad student in the sciences at some point: your project stops working and things don’t seem to come together. In some cases, projects don’t get enough momentum and early success to even seem like they have started. Projects that stop working can be some of the most disheartening events in graduate school (especially if you take your work very personally or tend to be a perfectionist) which makes knowing how to get back on track one of the most important skills that you can cultivate.

So what do you do when you find yourself tasked with a project that has stalled out?

Continue reading Restarting a Stalled Project

Goal-Setting vs. Goal-Achieving

This post was co-written by KD Shives and the excellent Emily Curtis Walters. Emily Curtis Walters is a PhD candidate in History at Northwestern University. You can find her on Twitter at @emilydcw or at her blog, dighistorienne.

When being thrown into the open-ended project that is obtaining a PhD, it is critically important to make consistent progress in completing the major milestones of your program.  This can be more than a little overwhelming for most students, and extremely difficult for those who are not familiar with the ins and outs of modern academia (first-generation students such as Katie can attest to this!). With so little structure, it is easy to get lost in the day-to-day goings-on of graduate school, and suddenly you might find yourself a 6th-year student with no publications and no conference presentations. So how do you stay on track—or even find the right track in the first place?

No matter what discipline you are pursuing your degree in, be it STEM or the humanities, there are common themes in making consistent progress within academia. The most basic three are: How do you identify important goals? How do you then set realistic goals? How do you track your progress in order to achieve your major goals? Coming from very different disciplines, we thought it might be interesting to compare how we approach each of these three questions. Continue reading Goal-Setting vs. Goal-Achieving

Navigating the Academic Conference with Social Anxiety

Academic conferences can be one of the most enjoyable experiences that you can have during graduate school. A paid-for trip, usually somewhere at least semi-exotic, to allow you to talk about the kind of work that you are personally interested in—what’s not to like about that?

Well, for those of us who deal with anxiety in unfamiliar situations, attending an academic conference alone in a strange place without knowing anyone can be a difficult and demanding experience.

Thankfully, I’ve managed to attend and present my work at a few different research conferences despite my own anxiety and I’ve learned how to make it through these multi-day academic marathons relatively intact. In fact, these have been some of the best professional experiences I’ve had once I got past my initial anxiety and learned to enjoy the event (even though I’m the kind of person who starts to worry about just flying a week in advance).

Here are my 5 favorite personal strategies for going to conferences and managing anxiety: Continue reading Navigating the Academic Conference with Social Anxiety

Combating Shiny Object Syndrome

In graduate school it is extremely important to know when you are putting your time towards professional activities that are directly beneficial to your dissertation progress versus activities that are interesting or fun but do not contribute to moving you forward. In terms of time and resources spent on experiments, staying on task is a serious consideration or else you run the risk of falling victim to Shiny Object Syndrome.

It’s great to be curious about many different topics; curiosity is a driving force in basic research and is a necessary motivator for many individuals. However, in order to stay on task and keep making progress towards your degree it can be helpful to follow these guidelines: Continue reading Combating Shiny Object Syndrome