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PhD Survival

10 Tips for Mastering Your Qualifying Exam

The Qualifying Exam is a major hurdle for any PhD student, and the thought of taking one can be mildly terrifying. Read our top tips to help you prepare for your exam; you might even find that you enjoy the experience!

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Top 10 Tips for Viva Success

Thesis defenses are supposed to be grueling, horrific affairs that you fear for weeks beforehand, right? What if there was a way to get through your thesis without tears, torture, and perhaps even enjoy it?

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4 Tips for a Successful Postdoctoral Fellowship Application

One of the biggest favors you can do for yourself as a postdoc is to get a personal postdoctoral fellowship. Your own funding covers your salary and (often) some research costs as well. As such, you will have a degree of independence that you would not have otherwise. Also, being able to show that you…

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Coping with Bereavement as a PhD Student

Imagine being a PhD student whose life mostly revolves around the lab until you are hit by the worst news of your life. You have just lost one or both of your parents and bereavement sets in. You still cannot really believe it, spend your nights crying, and find yourself grappling with a whole pile…

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Five Reasons Why You Should Have Hobbies While in Graduate School

You’ve chosen a career in science and gone off to graduate school because you love doing it. For you, lab is home. You are so used to wearing your lab coat all the time that when you go to the kitchen to boil water for your coffee, you can’t do it without wearing an apron!…

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How to Reduce Panic Over Thesis Writing

The mere mention of thesis writing causes many students to instantly reach for their panic button. I was no different. I was freaking out about the mere thought of all that writing. However, after successfully preparing and defending my thesis, I learned that the process is just that, a process. Below are 5 points I…

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How to Leave the Lab in the Lab

Let’s face it, when you leave the lab for the day, your mind is still racing with ideas and questions about your experiment: how to fix this or what went wrong or what does this data point even mean. It can be difficult to actually shut down and decompress when you walk out of the…

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The Trials and Errors in Earning a PhD

The scientific method naturally includes the so-called “trial and error” approach. And you can think of your PhD experience in the same way. My PhD experience is a long story, and I’ve made a lot of mistakes. Therefore, I’ll share some of my trials and errors in earning a PhD to help you avoid the…

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How to Choose the Right PhD Lab

Have you read an article How To Start Your PhD The Right Way? If you have, then you may have already decided that you are going to do a PhD. The next step is to choose your supervisor – this is a very important decision to make. When I chose my supervisor, I had only…

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Top Factors to consider before applying to a lab

In today’s times, fierce competition exists in the field of science and technology for positions like Ph.D. or research assistantships. Hence, gaining such a coveted place in a new lab is indeed a moment of exultation for any student. However, it is extremely important that before we embark upon this new journey, we make some…

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How to Deal with Stress of a Research Project Examination

A scientist’s life is full of stress. An experiment is not working— stress, experiment working but producing results opposite to the previous one— stress, somebody using the last of the reagent you need now— more stress. But these are unexpected stresses, small and overcome easily. The ‘planned stresses’ such as meetings with your supervisor or…

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Tips for Dealing with Research Failures

“It didn’t WORK!” The panic was tangible. Anyone who performs PCR on a regular basis is used to the ups and downs involved, but it occurred to me that this might be the first time in the student’s academic life where he had actually failed at something.

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3 Tips to Get That Research Mojo Back

Let’s face it. We all have one of those days in which we ask ourselves, “Why did I choose to become a scientist? What was I thinking?” Help cure cancer. Solve the issue of global warming. Save the rainforest. Passion for knowledge. Be the next Albert Einstein. Whatever your reason was for choosing a research…

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Dealing with PhD Blues

As a dual-degree MD/PhD student I spent two years in the medical school doing classroom learning, now I’m in the lab trying to get a PhD, and then in a few years I’ll return for the last two years of medical school and work in the hospital. In this process, I’ve heard a lot about…

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Top Tips for Reducing PhD Nightmares

PhDs have been known for their nightmarish effects on students’ psychological wellbeing, to the point that the acronym PhD has also been dubbed ‘Permanent Head Damage’, ‘Philosophically Disturbed’ or ‘Please Help. Desperate’. Doing a PhD is an emotionally exhausting experience rather than being physically challenging. Here are some tips on how to survive the PhD…

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Dealing with tension and conflict in the lab

A busy research lab can be a challenging place to work for a variety of reasons. Science is a high pressure environment, often with looming grant or research paper deadlines, troublesome reagents, and experimental failure. Combined, these factors can cause many kinds of strife in the workplace, here are a few examples and some of my top tips for dealing with them!

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Are you being bullied by your boss?

There are many kinds of supervisors out there, ranging from the amazingly laid back to the crazy micromanagers. There are various strategies for dealing with all of them, but what do you do when your boss is a bully?

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Learn from Microbes: Tips for a Postdoc Transition

This article is not about adaptive laboratory evolution of your model organism. It is about your adaptive laboratory evolution. We could take a few tips from bacteria to survive in fluctuating conditions of the lab and have a successful post transition.

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How to Switch PhD Advisors

You’ll know when it’s time to go. Maybe it was when she changed your project for the sixth time in six months, though your thesis proposal deadline was rapidly approaching and you had nothing to present. Or maybe it was when he screamed at you for not updating the lab Facebook page, even when he…

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Taking Care of Your Mental Health

This article mentions of suicidal thoughts. If you are having thoughts of self-harm, I encourage finding someone to talk to. It can be a family member, friend, or professional counselor. Many countries also have suicide hotlines. Mental Health is often not a priority for institutions or individuals in academia. Making institutions friendlier will take time,…

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6 Common Fears When Entering the Lab and How to Deal With Them

The prospect of walking into the lab for the first time to do some ‘real’ research is hugely exciting. Ambitious thoughts fill your mind about what a brilliant research scientist you are about to become, making that all-important difference and saving the world. That is, until you step over the threshold and The Fear overcomes…

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Your 10 Step Guide to a More Motivated PhD

If there is a job in the world that requires one of the highest levels of motivation, I would say it is doing a PhD. Pushing yourself out of bed daily to enter the lab ain’t an easy task, especially when your results are dodgy or you have unluckily found that your lab-mates or project…

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10 Do’s and Don’ts for PhD Students

My PhD is rapidly becoming a distant memory. Before nostalgia completely obscures my recollections of this chapter of my career, I thought I’d jot down some pointers for prospective and current PhD students. These are mainly based on things I wish I had done during my PhD, or mistakes I have seen others make. I…

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Stress in the Lab – Common Pitfalls and How to Avoid Them

In this webinar you will learn about the different stresses that affect scientists in day-to-day lab life how to effectively deal with these stresses in order to help prevent burnout, anxiety or depression Stress is universal and inescapable. There are particularly pernicious stressors that affect scientists like impostor syndrome, the immense pressure to get ‘positive’…

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What to Expect From Your PhD Supervisor, and What They Should Expect From You

In this webinar you will learn: what you should expect from your PhD supervisor what is expected from you as a student how to pick a great supervisor and maintain a good working relationship. Summary: Moving from the cosy environment of an undergraduate to that of a postgraduate can be overwhelming. Gone are the days…

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What To Do If Your Graduate Supervisor Is Not Supporting You

The relationship you have with your supervisor during the course of your PhD is a critical one. Like all other personal or professional relationships it can range from being harmonious to disastrous. Choosing a supervisor you think will work well with you in the first place is important, however it can be difficult to foresee…

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Common Reasons for Nightmare PhDs

From pre-doc to postdoc, there are many instances that can transform a perfectly good PhD program into a nightmarish one. Here are the most common scenarios to watch out for in graduate school – and some ideas about how to deal with them when they pop up. I wanted to get my PhD but didn’t…

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10 Uses for a PhD Thesis

Earning a PhD is something to be proud of. It represents years of hard work and an original contribution to science. And yet, the main product of this labor is a very large, rather dull book that gathers dust on a bookshelf. You will never read it again, nor will your labmates or even your…

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The Changing Face of the Graduate Student

As many of you may already be aware, one of the defining characteristics of a graduate student is his/her innate ability to locate free food. I, too, possess such clairvoyant abilities. Often, munching on free food comes under the guise of conversing with a guest speaker visiting the department. Lately, I’ve noticed a general trend…

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How To Start Your PhD The Right Way

You have just finished your undergraduate studies, or perhaps you have been working in the field for a while, you are full of energy and zest and you want to prove to the world that you are carved from the right stone to pursue PhD studies. Going to graduate school is a very important, potentially…

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How To Fail In Grad School

Graduate school is a challenging experience for everyone. The hours are long, the pay is low, and the prize often seems unattainable. So how do you ensure that you get the most out of your years in grad school, and emerge on the other side ready to tackle an exciting new career? Here are a…

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The Post PhD Slump (PPS)

Over 12 years ago, PhD Comics published the first description of PQS (Post-Quals Slump), a highly prevalent condition among grad students that severely impacts their interest in science, and their ability to defend their thesis. As PhD Comics described, this condition can only be treated by a hard-hitting cocktail of Advisor-Pressure (AP), Spousal-Income-Frustration (SIF) and…

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The Pros and Cons of a PhD or Post-doc in a Foreign Country

It’s time to start thinking about your next move. Maybe you’ve finished your undergrad/master’s degree and are considering doing a PhD. Or maybe you’re past all that and need to find a post-doc position. Amongst all of this, you might be considering the option of doing your PhD or post-doc in a foreign country. It’s…

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Choosing a rotation lab

In the US graduate school system, students do “research rotations” in two or more labs to get a feel for the research and lab environment before committing to one lab for their thesis research.  For big schools, it can be hard to know where to start when choosing rotation labs.  Here are a few tips…

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Picking an Advisor: The Good, The Bad, and The Ugly

After picking a graduate program, the next big decision for a first-year graduate student is picking an advisor. One of the factors to consider in this decision is the academic age of the Professor and his or her lab. Do you want to work for the energetic Assistant Professor that joined the department last year,…

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10 Great Things About Being a Graduate Student in the Summer

Being in graduate school can be tough – deadlines, professors, and experiments, can get you down.  But there are a lot of silver linings, too.   Here are a few of my favorite things about being a grad student this summer: Since it stays light so much later, I don’t mind working a few more hours;…

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PhD Students: Should You Switch Labs?

Graduate school (PhD training) is full of roadblocks and obstacles that threaten to hinder progress, but your major professor (PI) should not be one of them. If you are frustrated with your progress and your lab environment has become unbearable, don’t throw in the towel just yet! You may need to change labs. Finding the…

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How to Make a Decision

Which grad school should you go to?… should you take that new job?… should you quit your current job?… should you stay in science?… should you get married, go for a run, eat that chocolate bar?….. You have a multitude of decisions to make in your life. But now you are facing a particularly important…

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