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119: Ten Tips to Crush Your First Semester

It’s that time of year again – summer days are growing shorter, your friends are trying to fit in one last trip to the beach, and the backpack aisle at Target is about to be cleared out to make way for the Halloween costumes.

Yes, it’s back-to-school time. From toddlers to teenagers, this time of year instills foreboding about the school-year ahead. But as a first-year graduate student, you may have other feelings.

For most, it’s the start of a new adventure. For the first time, you’re pursuing the one subject in the world you love best, surrounded by other equally brilliant and passionate people.

It’s the end of being told what to learn and how to study, and the beginning of blazing your own academic trail.

It IS a new experience – different from your matriculation in high school or college – and it may be difficult to know what to expect.

This week, we lay out a ten-ish step plan for putting your best-foot-forward in that first semester of your graduate journey.

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114: Grad School Should Have a Time Limit

Here’s a controversial idea: what if graduate school finished on a predictable schedule the way (checks notes) every other academic training program does!

Since kindergarten, your education has had fixed milestones. You knew it would take 12 years to graduate from high school, 4 for college, and 2 for a masters or an associates degree.

Even medical school takes a predictable 4 years, with an additional 3-6 for residency and fellowship, depending on the field.

So why does graduate school take between 4 and 10 years, with a lot of discretion, uncertainty, and mental anguish in between?

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110: The Secret Life of Pets (in Grad School)

After a tough day of negative results and an ornery PI, it can be nice to come home to someone who thinks you’re amazing, loves you unconditionally, and wants nothing more than to cuddle with you on the couch.

Of course, we’re talking about pets; dogs, cats, gerbils, rabbits, birds, horses and, I’m told, snakes and reptiles, can brighten even the darkest day.

But despite their well-known restorative powers, pets can be a lot of work. Does a grad student or postdoc really have time to take care of another creature?

This week, we assess the pros, and cons, of caring for pets in grad school.

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person recycling

108: My Green Lab with Allison Paradise

It’s Monday morning and you arrive in lab a little late. No worries, you drop your tissue culture media into the warming bath, turn on the hood, and head down the hall while things ‘warm up.’

Next stop is the -80 freezer. You dig through the drifting piles of frost and snow, around the boxes of samples with labels that wore off ages ago, and find your quarry. You throw your weight into the door, and manage to get it latched – just barely – and head to the lab.

Once there, you dump yesterday’s gel buffer down the drain and start measuring out agarose and ethidium bromide for today’s experiments. With the gel poured, it’s finally time for coffee. Then maybe you’ll get around to splitting your cells.

It may be an easy morning for a cell biologist, but it was pretty rough on the planet. This week we explore some simple tweaks this busy scientist could make to be greener and more sustainable!

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100: The One Where We Celebrate

Graduate training has many milestones, but a few stand stronger in memory due to their importance.

You may remember the day you passed your comprehensive exams, officially becoming a ‘PhD Candidate.’ Or maybe you’ll remember the day you saw a paper you co-authored published in your favorite journal. 

And of course, every PhD remembers their defense – presenting years worth of work to an audience and receiving the committees’ blessing to graduate.

After each event, it’s important to take a moment to celebrate the achievement before pushing toward the next goal.  Maybe that means gathering with friends, popping a bottle of bubbly, and remembering the road that brought you to this point.

Well, at least that’s what we do with a milestone.  This week, we celebrate 100 Episodes of Hello PhD with a few of the friends we’ve met along the way.

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