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061: Why We LOVE Grad School

There’s no denying it: science is hard work. After a long week of 3AM time-points, contaminated cell cultures, and the ‘simple PCR’ that failed for the fifth time, you might lose sight of why you got into this business in the first place.

But, with Thanksgiving on the horizon, we decided to pause and consider all of the GOOD things going on in life and lab.

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060: The Right (And Wrong) Ways to Contact Potential Postdoc Advisors

Dear Dr. Scientist,

I’m writing to tell you how much I admire your work in the field of science that you study.  Your lab has done some tremendous work researching very important topics of significance.  I just loved your latest research article and I’m sure it made your university or institution proud!

In any case, I’m looking for a postdoc position in a lab like yours.  Please let me know what day I can start.

Sincerely,

A Grad Student

If you want to end up in University spam filters, then just copy and paste this email to everyone in the department.

If you’d like that postdoc advisor to take notice and invite you for an interview, we have some tips for making contact and getting a response!

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059: Simple Tricks for Time Management – The Focus Funnel

In some jobs, one day at the office looks a lot like the next. You could look through your calendar and optimize your meeting schedule and to-do list without much thought.

But working in a lab is different: your projects are in constant flux, experiments lead to other experiments, and you need to balance bench work with meetings, mentoring, and writing.

That busyness can lead to inefficiency as you tackle the items on your list one after another.  Worse, you’re forced to plan overlapping activities to fill the ‘downtime’ during incubations and time points.

This week, we encourage you to take a step back, look over your list of competing priorities, and ask some hard questions about what’s really important.

You might find you have more free time on your hands than you ever imagined…

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058: How to Be Truly Unhappy in Grad School

On those days when you manage to take a break from bench-work and call home, you will almost certainly get ‘The Question:’

“So, how is your research going?”

If you’re new to grad school, you might make the mistake of telling your parent or loved one exactly how your research is going.

“Well, I was up until 3 AM doing time points but then one of the buffers was contaminated so I had to throw out my last two weeks of work and start over.”

To which your parent will reply, “That sounds awful!  You must be so upset.  Are you sure a career in science will make you happy?”

And you’ll stop and ponder that last question.  Will a career in science make you happy?

Will you prance from bench to bench giggling to yourself, high on the sheer exhilaration of learning?

Or is it much more likely that you’ll face roadblocks, confounding data, experiments that only sometimes work, and that every once in awhile, you’ll push the boundary of your knowledge into new territory.  In those moments, you might feel proud or relieved or curious, but not exactly ‘happy.’

Does that mean you should leave science to find a career that can make you happier?

Or is Mom asking you the wrong question entirely?

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057: “I’m a scientist. And I’m blind.”

When we imagine what life is like for people who are blind, our first reaction might be paralysis. We consider just how difficult our lives would be without sight; preparing breakfast, dressing for work, and navigating from home to the lab sound like insurmountable obstacles.

And if those trivial tasks seem daunting, consider your work day.  Could you keep up with the pace of scientific research, running experiments and publishing papers with your eyes closed?

In our imaginary blindness, many of us would despair and find an alternative career path, but we’re missing a very important distinction between the thought experiment and reality.

The fact is, people who have been blind since birth have developed the skills to leap each and every hurdle we’ve listed. It’s a normal part of every day to commute to work or read a scientific paper.

Their biggest struggle may be overcoming the decidedly limited imaginations of their sighted peers.

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