Tag Archives: project management

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

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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

Using Project Management Approaches to Tame Your Dissertation

No one finishes a STEM dissertation by doing just 100% research all day every day; you have many other tasks including classes, writing manuscripts, attending journal clubs, teaching obligations, seminars, lab meetings, public presentations of your work, and the need for sleep and a healthy body. All of these activities need to be planned for and the time necessary to complete them taken into account. Once you do that, research effort is really about 50% of what you are doing (although this can vary quite a bit depending on your particular project and field). These are a lot of tasks and obligations to keep track of and can easily derail your research progress, which will be the determining factor of when you actually get to graduate. Continue reading Using Project Management Approaches to Tame Your Dissertation

Managing Your Adviser

The student/adviser dynamic can be one of the most rewarding or most fraught relationships in graduate school, and choosing the right mentor is one of the most important decisions you will make as a graduate student. A positive relationship with your adviser can help you reach your full potential as an academic researcher, while a negative relationship can make the process extremely difficult—so much so that some students don’t finish their programs or leave with a Master’s degree rather than complete their PhDs.

This is obviously the last outcome that any graduate student or adviser wishes for. So how do we as students make sure that we get the best out of our advisers; who are often very busy individuals with many other obligations on their plates?

Enter the idea of “managing up”. Normally we associate management with those below us, not those who supervise us. What is “managing up,” and why am I dragging this business term into an academic context? Continue reading Managing Your Adviser

Surf’s Up!: Thriving Amid Chaos

It’s no secret that sometimes in graduate school it feels like everything can get really chaotic. As young professionals, we are expected to produce new research and ideas while taking courses, keeping up with committee meetings, and even teaching classes to other students, and it can easily become overwhelming. While we can never truly control our environments, we can learn to grow through them and make continued progress. Continue reading Surf’s Up!: Thriving Amid Chaos