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St Andrews Lynx

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St Andrews Lynx last won the day on August 10 2016

St Andrews Lynx had the most liked content!

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About St Andrews Lynx

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    Latte Macchiato

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    The Eastern Seaboard, USA
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    Travelling. Running. Reading. Writing. Dancing. Double espressos. Science. Thinking.
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    Chemistry PhD

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  1. Maybe an informal practice oral exam would help? Get some of your lab mates/friendly postdocs to ask you softball bio questions in the style of the oral exam. Maybe your advisor would be willing to play, too? It's clear that the oral exams are existing as a Big Thing in your mind, so breaking it down into a culmination of smaller & easier tasks might take the edge off it. Plus it allows you to gently get used to the oral exam set-up and what it feels like to be confronted by questions you weren't expecting.
  2. You can't force "hotness"! Think about what the goals of the seminar is. Who is the target audience (presumably non-experts in the field, but how much would they already know)? It might be better to err on the side of less material rather than rushing through a lot of different talking points.
  3. Though to clarify - the area around College Ave campus is almost 100% fine during the day time; but I'd advise against walking around by yourself after 11pm. However, I figure this is true of most urban areas (especially with a large student population). The Piscataway/Highland Park areas are safe. That's where most of the grad students live in any case.
  4. There are some labs where PI will place new grad students on a project that guarantees a quick publication (something that has already been partially-developed by a previous student, etc). Other times you'll work with a senior student in the beginning. This is something to clarify before you join the lab. You'll also need to see what is typical in your new lab - do most people get a publication before the end of their 2nd year, or do most people graduate before they can publish anything? You might have to tone down your goals (or find a new program) if your expectations don't match up to what ~80% current of grads in your program/lab actually achieve. The most obvious suggestion if you're stuck with a senior student...work hard and don't complain. Show you can do what is asked of you in a polite, timely manner. Make an effort to deploy your best experimental technique and show that you can work up to "publication standard" (in synthetic chemistry this would mean being able to isolate good yields of clean products and getting pretty NMRs for the paper's SI). Be engaged, mature and show you can handle responsibility.
  5. Who told you this? There are very few people who apply to Chem PhD programs with a "perfect" application. There's always a weakness (e.g. poor GPA) or something "non-traditional". The fact you got a paper out of your current lab is great (I'd argue that most undergrads applying to Chemistry PhD programs don't have any papers) and your currently advisor will clearly be putting in a strong letter about all the great work you've done in such a short time. In an ideal world yes, perhaps ad comms would prefer to see a couple of years research experience in one lab...but your CV clearly shows that changing labs isn't a problem with you. Going through different labs has helped you develop different research skills, and now you're better able to screen for toxic labs (trust me, you need this skill going in to grad school). If there was one crusty old white guy on one ad comm somewhere complaining about your CV...screw 'em.
  6. Although I don't think it should be too difficult to get accepted in to a grad program with that kind of background I think it can be quite hard to go to organic synthesis from computational. A lot of people who apply to do organic synthesis at grad school (and who will be your peers) have several years of research experience already from undergrad. Learning synthetic techniques takes time (it took several years for me to become consistently good at running column chromatography, for example), and some people are never going to be good at it! I've seen a few cases of people trying to move in to organic synthesis from other fields - they've been quite frustrated and sometimes have fallen behind their lab mates when it comes to research progress. The sooner you can try out organic synthesis the better (is there any way you can try an organic project at your current university?). Make sure there are several POIs you could see yourself working for at the school you choose, ideally with a mix of synthesis/computational research.
  7. Yeah, some undergrads can be over-entitled and I would be annoyed in your position. In fairness, I do sometimes invoke the authority of the prof is charge when students get really argumentative with me over scores I'm not going to change - "If you still have a problem after I've told you all this, you can go talk to Prof X." - since I know the professor will have my back and their word carries a bit more weight. It does tend to shut them up (most don't bother going above my head after I've invited them to).
  8. At this point, your PI isn't going to change. If you decide to stick with him you'll be in for much the same communication style and interactions. Perhaps they're uncomfortable saying hard truths ("you aren't working hard enough/you don't know enough"), or perhaps they only have this vague sense that something isn't right and it isn't based on anything concrete. Is he used to dealing with non-traditional students? That might unfortunately be part of his problem (his problem, not yours!). My translation of what your PI wants is for you to be more proactive. Not just saying "X doesn't work" and stopping there, but giving your own suggestions about what to do next in your meetings. Not just asking for advice, but offering 1-2 suggestions of your own and seeing which one he likes the most. He doesn't want you to mindlessly churn out data, but to work smart and explore the literature in depth. These excessively non-confrontational, indirect people are fairly common in academia. I can't give you much advice about whether you should stick it out or change labs other than what I've said above (he's not going to change). It's unlikely that you can get the perfect combination of great PI + exciting project + ideal management/communication style, so you need to think carefully about what's really the most important thing for you.
  9. In line with @knp - my advice would be to proactively go and join any conversations that this student is having 1-on-1 with the faculty, perhaps bringing 1 or 2 other female PhDs along at the same time as wing(wo)men. (i) 'cause I suspect you won't be able to get the male student to act considerately of his own accord (ii) I don't think you can complain about a buddy relationship unless there's an ethical issue (e.g. unfair grading, allocation of resources). The most benign reason is that the individuals involved don't realise they're causing issues for others or propagating an exclusionary culture. Networking is all about proactivity - whilst some great advisors will help introduce their students to fellow academics...most would never think to. I suspect that's what the dude in question is doing. Unfortunately you've got to play the same game.
  10. I think that while the undergraduate experience can be thought of as "academic" and "life experience", it's really just "academic/professional" at grad school level. In the sciences, obtaining PhD can be thought of as "your first full-time job". There isn't a lifestyle associated with it to the same extent. One big challenge of trying to make undergraduates your main friendship circles (in addition to what has been said on this & another threads) is the question of logistics/schedule alignment. Undergrads typically bond with people who are in their dorms or classes - which is where they do a lot of their "social interacting". The studious ones socialise during hours in the library or in informal study groups. The non-studious ones go to parties. Their schedules are built around classes, internships & work, which means their free time comes at odd intervals. A lot of them will head home on the weekends to stay with their parents. As a grad student it isn't easy to fit yourself in to this. You aren't living with them, and you aren't taking the same classes as them. Your schedule isn't going to fit very well over theirs. The socially-inexperienced undergrads are less likely to head out to student groups anyway - they'll spend the evenings in their dorms. The students who get a kick out of meeting new people (i.e. the more socially-adept ones) will be at the student groups interested in talking to new faces. At this point you may as well as try and make friends with fellow graduate students. I understand that the idea of tackling "easy" interactions with undergrads is comforting. However, if you want to become an academic you will have to learn how to interact with academics. And I don't think "training" yourself on undergrads alone can adequately prepare you for dealing with 60 year-old distinguished professors or fellow assistant profs. The sooner you can fake being socially-adept (which is what most of us do anyway) with more "advanced" individuals, the easier your academic career will become.
  11. I'd say that lab dynamics are the PI's personality/management style are more important factors than research interest alignment. At the simplest level, your research interests may change over the next 5 years. Your PI's style is a lot less fluid. Since both A & B are very new, I'm not sure how much you can discover about them prior to joining their labs. A person who is nice when teaching still might be demonic towards their grad students. Their funding is all hypothetical until they get grants, and the direction of their fledgling lab research is subject to change (in my own lab they apparently started out investigating X. Topic X never managed to generate anything successful. Then there was a weird side-product that turned into a whole new line of investigative research. The PI needed grants and publications, so they quickly re-angled their lab to take advantage of the projects that gave them these things). Regardless, interact with both PIs are much as you can until you need to make a decision. Listen and observe. Go with what your instincts are telling you.
  12. Use the internet. Meetup is great for meeting people who share your interests, and the gatherings are already structured (e.g. going out on a hike, having a game night) which makes them easier to navigate. For dating, set up profiles and try OKCupid, Match, etc. You can try looking through the archives of Dan Savage's "Savage Love" - there is advice for everyone everywhere on the dating experience/sexuality spectrum. I'd also encourage you not to look at this as a rigid scientific process. If you say to yourself now "I can only obtain a meaningful relationship with a person who has had 0-2 serious relationships"... (i) you limit your dating pool (ii) you stay in incompatible relationships longer because you think this "should" be working (iii) cutesy-newness is overrated. Same with friendship. If you start saying to yourself that only friendships with "mentally-underdeveloped" undergrads could possibly work out...you're going to struggle to find any friends. Some undergrads are fiercely intelligent and will be able to contribute meaningfully to discussions about your research. Some grad students have plenty of friends who are undergrads. Wouldn't it be more useful to have friendships with sociable and emotionally-mature folk, so you could learn somethings from them? Part of having friends in the first place is to enjoy their company: why deliberately seek out "friends" who are awkward to be around? I think that all good things involve plenty of trial and error to get to. You need to go on lots of dates with a variety of people to figure out who you're attracted to and what is important for you in a relationship. You need to take the initiative when it comes to making friends and be prepared for cool people to blow you off/forget to invite you to their parties. Don't assume that you are too different or inexperienced to form friendships/relationships the way that "normal people" do. Don't expect everything to be perfect the first time you attempt it.
  13. I wouldn't necessarily conclude that your friend "purposefully avoided people" based on what you recounted here. Sometimes social isolation is self-inflicted...but it can also be that she was getting bad vibes from the rest of the cohort, or that she was unhappy in the program and the isolation was a product of that (rather than the cause). Or she's one of those people who doesn't make many tight social connections. There's no guarantee if she talked to 10 people a day that she'd be any happier in this particular program or want to continue. Support your friend. Don't preach or judge. Don't assume that she's a failure for choosing to leave the program. Sometimes it takes more courage & intelligence to leave than it does to stay.
  14. I think it's a nice thing to have, but it's unlikely to make or break your grad school applications if everything else is strong.
  15. As far as I'm aware, admission committees don't tally up the number of research credits you have when looking at PhD applications: instead they try to determine (through your letters of rec and any publications/awards) how much research experience you have and how good you were at it. Obviously you could have taken 5 research credits...but never showed up in lab. The comment you made about the lab mentor is a bit confusing. Are they a graduate student in the lab, or the professor? How much time would you be committing to this particular lab without taking research credits (vs. with)? If we're talking about a significant drop in time spent on research, you might want to consider switching mentor or lab to ensure you actually get some meaningful research done. If the mentor is just a grad student, you might want to consider talking to the professor in the lab to ask what they recommend you do.