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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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041: Make a Difference in Your Lab with Peer Support

Spoiler Alert: Working in a lab is tough.

Yes, there’s the academic challenge, but it can also be an emotional roller-coaster when experiments fail, colleagues conflict, and you push yourself past the normal limits.

When someone in your lab has a bad day, does it sound like this?

Grad Student: (despondent sigh) “I can’t believe that PCR failed again.  I’m never going to graduate.”

Lab Mate: (in a rush) “Yeah, that sucks.  Check your primers again.”

Instead of finding support among peers and co-workers – the very people who understand how difficult lab can be – we often find indifference, dismissal, or half-hearted pity.

But it doesn’t have to be that way.

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025: Experiments and Exercise: 10 Creative Ways Scientists Stay Fit

You’re busy.  Experiments, lab meeting, journal club, classes – you barely have time to sleep, let alone make it to the gym to exercise.  We’ll tell you about 10 creative ways other grad students and postdocs stay physically fit, and how it’s boosting their productivity and self-confidence.

exercise

You don’t have time NOT to exercise

The research is clear: exercising is good for your mood, your productivity, and your health.  So why do so many of us believe we “don’t have time for it?”  To reap the benefits of exercise for people on a busy lab schedule, we asked the LabRats group on Reddit and other grad students and postdocs for advice on staying in shape.

Here are some of their tips:

  1. Bike to lab!
  2. Take a class at the university gym
  3. Take the stairs
  4. Learn a martial art
  5. Schedule workout time with your lab-mates to make it social
  6. Sign up for intramural sports on campus
  7. Check out cross-fit at a local gym or online
  8. Try the New York Times 7-minute workout or other apps
  9. Read papers while riding a stationary bike or elliptical machine
  10. Do squats while waiting for the centrifuge

Bottom line – find something you enjoy, and make it a priority.  You’ll feel more confident, and tie your sense of accomplishment to something more than today’s experiment.

 

Salted Caramel Everything

After all that exercise, it’s time to indulge as we sample a New Belgium Brewing/Ben & Jerry’s colla-BEER-ation (see what I did there?)  It’s the Salted Caramel Brownie Brown Ale, and it’s not as bad as you’d think.  The brewer’s sense of restraint is appreciated, as this still tastes like a beer and not a chocolate milk-shake.

We also celebrate the season this week with a reading of The Night Before CRISPRmas, and an etymological tale about the origin of Santa’s name.  Happy Holidays!

 

References

Exercise and workplace performance

Exercise and cognition

008: Fight for Your Right to #GradInsurance

Imagine waking up on a Friday morning, grabbing a cup of coffee and sitting down to check your email.  What’s this?  A note from your employer stating that your healthcare coverage will expire in 13 hours and it’s up to you to find insurance.  Have a great day!  Hope you weren’t feeling pregnant!

#Mizzou #GradInsurance

gradinsurance

That scenario played out in real life for graduate students at the University of Missouri last week, when an email from the Associate Vice Chancellor stated that their health insurance subsidy would be cancelled immediately to comply with new rules in the Affordable Care Act (lovingly known as “Obamacare”).

The students took to Twitter, using #GradInsurance to raise awareness of their situation and pushing hard on the administration to explain, and reverse, their decision.  In this week’s show, we unfold the timeline, and talk to Rachel Zamzow (@RachelZamzow) a neuroscience graduate student affected by the change.  It’s a powerful story of students standing up for themselves and making a difference on campus.

Beer ghosts want #gradinsurance too!
Is this the ghost of Tank 7, or just a tissue that I drew a face on? Find out this fall on the new TV series “Ghosts I Think I Saw But I Was Drinking So Maybe I Imagined It.” Brought to you by The History Channel.

Don’t Cross the Streams!

Also in this episode, we talk about the explosive history of laparoscopic surgery, and we inadvertently attract poltergeists to the studio by drinking Tank 7 Farmhouse Ale from Boulevard Brewing.  We managed to capture photographic evidence of the specter before exorcising the sound board. Spooky!

ghost

Resources

The initial announcement of cancelled insurance
The Twitter fire that ensued
The students’ formal statement of demands
The reversal
Audio of Chancellor Loftin credit Geoff West of The Missourian
University of Missouri’s Graduate Professional Council