With most jobs, you’ll need to submit a polished resume along with a handful of ebullient references. Maybe you’ll pass through a phone-screen with HR and then spend 20 minutes with the hiring manager.
To get into grad school, the interview process will take days.
Grad school interviews often start with a flight to a new city. You’ll have a casual chat with the grad student assigned to retrieve you from the airport, then meet the fellow candidate with whom you’ll share a hotel room.
The moment you get settled, you’re off to dinner with some faculty, followed by an early bedtime. That’s because tomorrow morning, you’ll pass through a series of orientation sessions, faculty interviews, a tour of the city, and finally, a late-night out with the current students in the program.
You’ll fly back home the next day, grateful to be sleeping in your own bed. And just when you get settled, you’ll need to hop on a plane to reach the next school where you’ll start the process again.
It’s a tragic fact: many jaw-dropping, eye-opening, and heart-pounding research results never makes an impact on the scientific community.
And it’s partly your fault.
By “your,” of course, I mean all of us. Because when we waste the opportunity to share our results in their best light at a scientific conference or poster session, our viewers may overlook this valuable insight.
But we can do better! With a little planning, collaboration, and hard work, we can make even a humble poster presentation a vehicle for inspiring the next discovery and building our scientific network.
“Hey, I won’t be able to make it over for movies tonight. I’ve got to finish these timepoints… Yeah, I know it’s the third time this week, but I promise I’ll leave a early tomorrow… Okay, sorry. Goodnight.”
Gary ends the phone call and sighs. This is not the first time he’s had to cancel a date to finish up an experiment. He’s starting to detect some resentment in his girlfriend’s voice.
As the minutes tick by on his timer, Gary sees lights flip off in the adjacent laboratory bays. Even the postdocs have gone home. Looks like it’ll be another long, lonely night – just him and an incubator full of cells.
He’s scrolling through his phone to find a playlist that can keep him awake for the next few hours when there’s a faint clink of glass somewhere in the darkened part of the lab.
He finds the playlist just as he hears a faint tap, tap, tap coming from the same direction.
“Maybe one of the postdocs left a cage of mice here by accident,” he thinks. He pops out his ear buds and listens again… tap… tap… tap…
But the sound is too rhythmic to be mice.
“They really need to fix that faucet. That thing has been leaking for weeks.”
Tap… tap… tappity tappity tap. Whatever is dripping seems to be coming faster now.
“Is someone there?” Gary asks, feeling stupid for the uncanny tightness now rising in his chest. Tap… tappity tap tap…
The sound that was just dripping is now streaming, a thin drizzle falling onto the soapstone bench.
Gary stands, and keeping his eyes toward the source of the sound, creeps carefully toward the light switch. That’s when a nauseating wave of stench hits his nostrils.
His pupils constrict as he reaches the switch and the lights flash across a viscous puddle slowly growing larger on the bench to his right. The pool has spilled over the edge, dripping foul, sticky liquid onto the floor.
The odor is unmistakable and overpowering. He tears up, each breath a painful struggle to get enough air.
His eyes slowly follow the vile stream to its source…
“Dammit! Who spilled that bottle of β-mercaptoethanol and didn’t clean it up!?”
Little Lab of Horrors
Life in grad school may not have many horror-movie freak-outs, but there are plenty of harrowing and traumatic experiences to thrill even the most stoic scientist.
In celebration of Halloween, we asked our listeners about their lab and grad school horror stories!
We heard chilling tales of fires, floods, and freezers on the fritz. There are stories of dissertations delayed, pilfering PIs, and even explosions! Eeeek!
When you tune in, be sure to sample our new favorite pumpkin ale from Rogue Brewing. It’s the Limited Edition Pumpkin Patch Ale, made from pumpkins they grow themselves!
And here are a few of the resources we mentioned in the show: