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179. Teaching Opportunities for Grad Students w/ Dr. Alaina Talboy

We’ve all met them – the unsung heroes of your Intro To (Biology, Psychology, History, etc.) class.

Sure, they don’t give the lectures, but that’s about the only responsibility they dodge. Instead, they’re leading lab sessions, holding office hours, proctoring exams, and grading papers.

They’re the Teaching Assistants, or TAs, and they’re a critical part of undergraduate education.

But who are these heroes without capes?

We learn more in this week’s show!

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176. Stop Calling Yourself a ‘Grad Student’ w/ Dr. Alaina Talboy

Titles are a part of our identity. If you meet a school teacher, computer programmer, or rocket scientist, you will instantly form an impression of what kind of person they are without any additional information.

The bias we impose upon hearing a title can be good or bad, of course. But we all invariably take these mental shortcuts, and it influences how we treat the people we meet.

What’s interesting is that these titles reflect on us, as well. What I call myself impacts what I expect from my work, and how I expect others to treat me in my role.

This week on the show, we talk with a PhD who helps current graduate students as they explore careers outside of academia. And she has some advice on how you can reimagine your graduate title.

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174. I Have a Degree – Why Can’t I Find a Job?

Andrew felt like he was on top of the world when he finished his Master’s degree in History. He had excellent grades, experience teaching, and a willingness to explore new fields.

But as he submitted resumes and job applications, he noticed a pattern. Either he didn’t hear back from the employer, or they turned him down due to his lack of experience.

“It’s this cart and horse or chicken and egg thing where you can’t get a job because you don’t have the experience, but you can’t get experience because no one will give you a job,” he lamented.

Andrew’s job search stretched on for month after month, and he realized he had a problem.

“I didn’t know how to articulate my skills,” he said. “I really had trouble figuring out what was transferrable, what was not. And I had a lot of misconceptions about the face value of an advanced degree, and I was emphasizing all the wrong things”

That’s when he turned his attention to the study and practice of finding a job.

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173. Mailbag: I Have a Master’s Degree – Now I Want a PhD

There are many paths to a PhD. In the humanities, it’s common to earn a Master’s degree first (or so we’re told…)

In the biomedical sciences, students regularly skip the Master’s degree entirely, enrolling in a PhD program that includes coursework.

This week, we hear from two aspiring scientists who used the Master’s degree as a stepping stone, and now they’re looking to take the next leap.

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172. Research Software Engineer

If you work in a lab, you’re collecting data. And as the volume of data increases, many researchers find they can’t process or analyze that data in a spreadsheet or stats program anymore. Instead, they’re writing code in Python, R, or C++ to do that processing for them.

But this creates a new challenge: what happens to that code over time? Can your Python script be shared with other labs who might find it useful? When the graduate student who wrote the analysis package graduates, is there anyone around to maintain and update it so the lab can continue to reap the benefits?

Unfortunately, many researchers who know how to code don’t know how to shepherd that resource so it can be useful to others. But luckily, there are experts who know how to help.

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