In 2011, a whopping 36,000 science and technology grad students earned their PhDs. That same year, about 3,000 faculty positions were created. So why did you feel like a failure when you decided to step off the tenure track?
When you’re worried about today’s experiments and tomorrow’s time points, it’s easy to lose sight of what’s really important for your career and your life. Why not start the New Year with a new perspective?
Looking Back and Moving Forward
In this episode, we consider the advice of Robert J. Sternberg, PhD, a self-described geezer and well-respected academic. He’s Professor of Human Development at Cornell University, and has co-authored over 1,500 publications. He wrote an article for the Chronicle of Higher Education laying out his career advice for other academics.
His tips range from simple (“Save as much money as you can”) to subtle (“Be true to yourself”), but all of them are worth a few moments of consideration as we enter 2016. Here’s the list, with more detail included in the article:
- Put your family first.
- Make your health a close second.
- Save as much money as you can.
- If you’re in the wrong place, get out.
- Stay away from jerks.
- If you’re not having fun, something’s wrong.
- Be true to yourself.
- Don’t tie up too much of your self-esteem in someone else’s evaluation of your work.
- Take stock periodically.
- Have a hobby. See the world. Or both.
- Help others.
- Take some risks.
Pop a Cork
Also in this episode, Josh and Dan pop some bubbly to celebrate the New Year and some exciting milestones for the Hello PhD podcast. Thanks to all of you joining us on this journey, and we can’t wait to make science a friendlier, happier place in 2016!
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.
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:
- Bike to lab!
- Take a class at the university gym
- Take the stairs
- Learn a martial art
- Schedule workout time with your lab-mates to make it social
- Sign up for intramural sports on campus
- Check out cross-fit at a local gym or online
- Try the New York Times 7-minute workout or other apps
- Read papers while riding a stationary bike or elliptical machine
- 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!
Stephanie dreamed of becoming a scientist when she was a girl. She managed to maintain excellent grades while working in research labs throughout her college career. With her flawless CV, it came as no surprise when she was accepted into a top-tier pharmacology PhD program.
Four years later, Stephanie walked into her PI’s office to tell him she wanted to leave.
Dreams in the Daylight
This week on the show, Stephanie tells her story. Four years into her graduate training, she realized she was miserable and couldn’t see how her situation would get better if she stayed. So she had some hard conversations: with herself, with her family, and ultimately, with her graduate mentor and labmates.
Reactions were mixed, but she was able to finish her Master’s thesis and leave on good terms. Then it was time to find a job and a way to pursue all of her other passions and goals. She says it was the best decision she ever made.
Biomedical PhD programs have a completion rate near 50%, which means for every newly minted PhD, there’s a scientist with similar training but a different degree. Some leave with a master’s, and some much earlier, but it’s high time we talked about the many paths of graduate students, and how to support each individual’s choice.
This week we sampled Bad Penny Brown Ale from Big Boss Brewing Company. We’re still trying to decide whether the little people on the label are Penny’s murder victims.
And just in time for holiday giving, Stephanie makes some soap that WON’T give your loved ones cancer! And isn’t that what the holidays are all about? Check out RedMoutainGoodness.com and give the gift of goat!
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.
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!