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090: Maybe Grant Funding Feels Random and Subjective Because It Is

Have you ever submitted a grant, only to have it rejected?  You respond to the reviewers’ comments, addressing weaknesses and tweaking the protocol to honor their suggestions.

Then, when you resubmit, the proposal is rejected again.  This new group of reviewers suggest changes to the protocol. And guess what, their suggestions sound a lot like your original idea that you removed to satisfy the last group of reviewers.

Are you the butt of some cruel academic joke, or is the grant funding process really this subjective and unpredictable?


grad student investing

089: The Grad Student’s Guide to Investing for Retirement

On a graduate student’s stipend, it’s hard to imagine having enough money left over to afford a dinner out, let alone enough to invest for retirement.

But if you can scrape together a few dollars each month, you have a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to grow that investment. As a grad student, time is on your side.


088: 15 Transferable Skills PhDs Can Use In Any Career

But I have no skills! At least no skills employers would be interested in!

Melanie Sinche
Melanie Sinche, Director of Education, The Jackson Laboratory for Genomic Medicine

As a career counselor, Melanie Sinche heard grad students and postdocs voice this concern nearly every day.  She looked at these talented scholars and saw the ability to think critically, analyze data, and solve problems. To her eye, these were transferable skills very much in demand outside the research lab.  Why couldn’t the students see it?

“I felt frustrated by that comment, and motivated to conduct a research study around skill development. I would argue that scientific training, by its very nature, lends itself to the development of LOTS of skills.”


087: How Do I Choose a PhD Program?

Some decisions in life are simple (“Yes, I want cheese on that burger!”) and some are difficult (“Do I want to spend the rest of my life with this person?”).

On that spectrum, choosing a University graduate program sits closer to marriage than it does to your lunch options.

First, grad school takes a long time – usually 4-6 years – and it sets you rather firmly in a career path that can be challenging to change afterward. It’s a life-decision.

Second, once you choose, you’re committing to a series of events and impacts that will be out of your control. You don’t get a “do-over” when the lab you wanted to join moves away or a postdoc picks up the project you learned about during your interview.

Take a cohort of students at any research university in the country, and you’ll find some that graduate with three first-author papers in just four years.  You’ll find others who never make it to the degree, either due to conflicts with their advisors, projects that don’t work out, or personal issues stemming from the stress of graduate studies.

So we know the stakes are high, but how, exactly, are you supposed to choose a PhD program?


New Year's Eve Fireworks

086: Five Resolutions for Happier, Healthier Scientists

Turning over the last page of the calendar seems to naturally invite some reflection on the previous 365 days. When you look back at 2017, what went well? And what do you wish you could change in the coming year?

This week, we take the opportunity to reflect back much farther – to our days in graduate and postdoctoral training!  With years of hindsight, we offer advice and perspective to the scientists we were, and devise some resolutions you can adopt in your scientific training.