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004: Why we podcast (R)

What makes two PhDs who escaped from grad school years ago want to revisit all the highs and lows of their training?  Short answer: Beer!

But the long answer: Grad school is no cakewalk – classes are challenging, experiments fail, and sometimes, PIs seem like they’re from another planet. We made it through one day at a time, relying on regular conversations and scheming over a beer at the end of a long week.

Hello PhD is your chance to join those conversations and benefit from the experience of other scientists who have made their living in, and out of, the lab.  We want to help you take advantage of all of the great benefits of your science training experience, and avoid some of the mistakes and pitfalls.

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040: Three Keys to Success in Grad School

Kenny Gibbs is a scientist who studies other scientists.

After earning his PhD in Immunology from Stanford, he turned his attention to the broader topic of scientific careers and how PhDs choose and evolve in their work.  Through surveys and interviews with postdocs and research scientists, Dr. Gibbs explores issues like career-interest formation and postdoc development.

Wouldn’t you like to ask someone like that for advice on your graduate training?

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039: Two simple steps to better research mentors

Sometimes, we use the words ‘research advisor’ and ‘research mentor’ interchangeably, but be careful – they’re not the same thing.

When you join the lab of a research faculty member in your second year of grad school, you’ve chosen a research advisor.  Whether that person turns out to be a ‘mentor’ remains to be seen.

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scoring bad advisors

038: Why aren’t bad research advisors held accountable?

You’ve either heard the stories, or worse, you’ve lived them.

They’re stories of the research advisors who scream at their students in front of the whole department.

The PIs who put two or three postdocs on the same project, expecting only one to succeed.

The ‘mentor’ who makes you feel like you’re not even qualified to wash the glassware.

So why do academic institutions allow such bad behavior to continue year in, and year out?  Why aren’t bad PIs accountable?

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023: Seriously, can we ditch the GRE already?

A driving test shows that you’re ready for your license.  A pregnancy test shows that you’ve got a baby on the way.  So what does the GRE show?

More often than not, it shows whether you’re a man or a woman, and the color of your skin.

wonka

You can’t spell “regret” without GRE

Identifying which students are ready for graduate school is a difficult task.  Admissions committees receive thousands of applications, and they need to consider each student’s academic performance, extracurricular activities, work history, and personality.  Naturally, they look for short-cuts to make the process simpler.

And with that, the GRE was born.  The questions have changed over the years, but the basis remains the same: measure incoming graduate students on their abilities to understand and communicate in the English language, and see how much math they remember from high school.  Out pops a simple numerical score that schools can use to filter the good students from the bad.

But recently, some administrators have questioned the efficacy of the tests.  How well does the GRE predict success in graduate school?  Do people with high scores make better scientists?  Do those with low scores perform poorly in lab settings?  The answers: no, no, and not even close.

While digging through the demographic records of GRE test takers, Casey Miller and Keivan Stassun discovered that

women score 80 points lower on average in the physical sciences than do men, and African Americans score 200 points below white people. In simple terms, the GRE is a better indicator of sex and skin colour than of ability and ultimate success.

Their paper titled “A Test that Fails” was published in Nature.

This week on the show, we discuss the unintended consequence of requiring grad-school prospects to take the GRE, and explore some better ways to predict which students will succeed.

Bourbon on a Budget

Josh searched high and low (mostly low) to find this week’s ethanol.  It’s Evan Williams Single Barrel, a highly-ranked bourbon for under $30.  We felt so bad about drinking the pricey Basil Hayden’s a few weeks ago, that we wanted to find something affordable on a graduate student budget.  Cheers!

 

Resources

Impact of emotional intelligence on dental student performance