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139. Back to School During a Pandemic

In March 2020, the world shut down.

International borders were sealed. Businesses shuttered. Schools locked their doors and students were sent home to learn ‘remotely.’

At the same time, many universities and research labs also closed down for the summer of COVID-19. While a few labs remained open as essential research continued, many scientists froze down samples, trashed cell lines, and went home to spend some quality time with PubMed.

But now as summer wanes, the research labs are thawing out.

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076: Should I choose a research focus BEFORE I apply?

Applying to grad school means making a series of difficult decisions: university location, reputation, lifestyle, and program.

But do you need to pick out a specific research topic before filing an application? Is it better to nail down a project and lab before you apply, or is it okay to keep your options open?

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055: Four Ideas to Modernize Mentorship – #modernPhD Part 2

Today, a graduate student will make a terrible mistake.

He’ll blindly commit to a long-term relationship that will make him miserable.  He’ll be too shy to ask his partner the painfully awkward questions that could predict their ultimate failure as a team.

Does this person have time for me?  Is she enthusiastic about helping me succeed?  Do our goals align?

Of course, this is not a romantic relationship: it’s the commitment formed between a grad student and his advisor.  And though it’s not a marriage, it can cover some of the same emotional ground.  When it’s healthy, you’ll both grow as people and you’ll achieve more than you would alone.

When it’s unhealthy, you might bear the emotional scars for the rest of your life.

With just a few simple changes to the graduate-advisor relationship, we can make sure more students, and their mentors, reach their full potential.  Why leave it to chance?

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001: Tim Hunt, Lab Rotations, and Teaching vs. Tenure

In this episode:

Tim Hunt incited a firestorm on Twitter last month for making sexist comments about women in lab, and he eventually lost his job over the incident.  We marvel at the intersection between science and social media, and examine the notion of sexism and bias for scientists committed to discovering truth.

We answer questions from established and upcoming PhDs wrestling with tough decisions.  This week, an incoming first year grad student trying to choose lab rotations writes:

“I need to choose three rotations over the next year, and I can’t decide whether I should go with a PI who is kind of new and just getting started, or one who is more established. I like the idea of more personal attention from a new faculty member, but I know the bigger labs tend to publish more and look better on a resume. What should I do?”

And a post-doc currently job searching writes:

“I’m looking at my job prospects at the university level, and I can’t decide: should I go for tenure or non-tenure? What are the pros and cons of each? Would I really be happy just teaching”

For ethanol, we go back to our youth with Yuengling Lager – the “fancy” beer of choice for poor grad students.

And we unpack the word “Yuengling” – learn the meaning behind the beer!