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PhD Survival

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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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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Top 10 Tips for Viva Success

The viva voce, or the defense, is the final hurdle in becoming a doctor (of philosophy of course). It is also often the most feared part of completing a PhD, fueled by horror stories of evil examiners and 8 hour long exams. I drove myself crazy by reading stories of failed vivas on the internet,…

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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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What Do You Get For The Grad Student Who Has Everything?

As the holiday season approaches, I’m sure many of you are asking yourself what to get for that special grad student in your life.  Or perhaps you’d like to treat yourself this year!  But what do you get for the grad student who has everything? Why, more ways to procrastinate, of course! Looking for something…

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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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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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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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Grad School is for Life, Not Just for Science

You are going to spend at least 4 years or more in graduate school, and around 3-5 years in a postdoc position. That’s a big chunk of your life, so apart from doing experiments, writing papers or your thesis and maybe doing some teaching, what else are you doing? To paraphrase one of my favorite…

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Pointers for New Graduate Students

If you ask any finished graduate student, most of us starting a Masters or PhD program were very excited at what awaited us and if you were anything like me, you were foolishly idealistic and thought you were going to pull on a lab coat, cure cancer and save the world. Ok, maybe most people…

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