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St Andrews Lynx

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Everything posted by St Andrews Lynx

  1. St Andrews Lynx

    Competing for a spot after rotations

    Whatever you do, don't treat this person as your enemy! Academia is a small world: your PI may decide to take 2 students after all, you may end up in the same teams for coursework, or you may put off the PI/lab members by being too mean and thus not get accepted. First - come up with a solid back-up plan for alternative rotations. It could be that you don't get on as well in this lab as you thought, or the PI's funding falls through and they end up not taking anyone this year. Treat all rotations seriously and be open-minded. Second - do the best you can in the rotation. It's not just about putting in the most hours or getting the most experiments done. You want to come across as a conscientious (future) labmate who tidies up after themselves, follows the rules, matches the group personality, etc. A lot of the decision-making for selecting new grad students is based upon personality, values and perceived fit, which is hard to change if you don't match up to what the PI is after and doesn't necessarily mean you're a bad scientist if they don't accept you.
  2. St Andrews Lynx

    Strategies for sleeping through nightmares

    There's a RadioLab episode from 2012 about lucid dreaming - the idea that you can take control of your dreams/nightmares while you're in the middle of them. That may be something to look in to. http://www.radiolab.org/story/182747-wake-up-dream/ It's great that you've sought professional help and I'm sure that over time you'll see the positive effects increase.
  3. That set-up is fairly common in the physical sciences: 1st years spend their 1st semester either rotating through several labs, or doing what the OP has to do (sit in group meetings, talk to group, etc), then they pick their advisor at the end of the semester. In that situation I'd take plenty of classes. Talk to the current grad students anyway, even if they're not on your precise fellowship. It'll give you an idea about departmental culture and the classes that are worth taking.
  4. St Andrews Lynx

    Visit Day - What I Look Out For

    By this stage I figure I'm something of an expert at visiting potential grad schools. As mentioned in my earlier posts, I looked around a number of American universities when I was over in the States last summer (before the applications were even created). I visited several UK universities for formal interview days and informal introductions. Last weekend I had my first Visitation Weekend as an admitted grad student. And I handled it like a pro Seriously, though - I believe that visiting prospective grad schools is a vital thing to do. For starters it taught me how to interact professionally with faculty, how to make small-talk with grad students and how to interview successfully. Everybody will have different objectives for the visitation weekend, and will take different approaches to achieving those objectives. Here is advice from my perspective. Before the Visit Work out how you feel about the school. Is this place your Top Choice or a Safety School? Did you apply here because you liked the faculty...but think the small college town atmosphere might get to you? If you have concerns about the university think up ways to find out more about the underlying issues. What questions can you ask professors/students/people waiting in the Starbucks queue that will get you the information you need to make a decision. Scour faculty, school, university and specialist Department webpages for information. See what is available to you in this place that is different from other locations. As an international student I wanted to see what resources are there to inform and support grads moving from another country. Write down a list of your most vital questions on a piece of paper...then put it in your jeans' pocket. On the morning of my visitiation weekend I could be found in my hotel room, scrawling feverishly on the back of my boarding pass all the questions I could possibly think of to address to POIs, students and both. Keeping that list on me during the day meant I could double-check it discreetly between meetings to check I wasn't missing out on anything important. Mentally & physically prepare yourself. As an introverted scientist, a whole day spent talking with lots of strangers, acting like a friendly team-player and remaining energetic until I was dropped off after dinner...whew, that counts as an endurance event. I had to take time out to psych myself up and get "in the zone". I'm OK with jetlag, but required a lot of water and an early night beforehand. During the Visit - Objectives3-5 faculty that I could see myself working for. As a chemist I go through several lab rotations. I have a thesis committee of 3, including my PI. I don't know that my 1st choice PI will have space to take me on...or that I'll work well with them. Therefore, the grad school I commit to must have an absolute minimum of 3 POIs that I like. Other Departmental faculty that I get on with. I'm going to be doing more than slaving in the lab for 5 years. I want to be in an environment where the faculty get on with each other and know the grad students quite well. If a major research group-related problems erupts, I want there to be "impartial" figures I can chat to for advice. Grounded Grad Students. I don't want to be in an ultra-competitive grad school where the students have big egos and distrustful attitudes. I don't want to be in a grad school where the students have submissive posture and low self-esteem. I want to be on a program that produces intelligent, confident and likeable grad students. Why? Well, I'd like to be an intelligent, confident and likeable grad student myself - so perhaps I can learn from their example. Resources to help me meet my career objectives. Coming into grad school I have quite a clear idea of where I want to end up in the future (industry, not academia) and what is needed to achieve that. The better a grad school can help me along that path, the more inclined I will be towards choosing it. Do industrial companies recruit grad students on-campus? Does the grad school host Career Talks about working in industry? How many? After the visit [*]Send brief emails to your POIs and organisers, thanking them for their time. It can't hurt to be polite to the faculty you've met (see my 3-5 rule above). Then see how many working days it takes for them to reply. The faculty who reply quickly? You want to work for those organised people.
  5. St Andrews Lynx

    Intolerant student in feminist class

    The best way to put out a fire is to starve it of oxygen. If there's a student trolling for attention (which it certainly sounds like this one is)...minimise the attention you give them. It sounds like the only reason this student has joined the Feminist class is to be edgy and controversial - not because they need the course/grades or want to learn about the subject. Deal with them the way you'd deal with a student who is dominating the discussions. "Thank you for your contribution, is there anybody else who would like a chance to speak?" As a TA don't get side-tracked into arguing with this student, and don't let the other students get side-tracked into arguing with them to the point where the class is derailed. Don't act like you're shocked or upset by what they say - thank them politely for offering their opinions and move on. It's possible this student doesn't believe what they are saying anyway...but if they are, you aren't going to "save" them through force of argument. Follow what others have said about grading their papers or dealing with hate speech. But understand what they're really after...and don't give it to them.
  6. St Andrews Lynx

    Will a moving PI affect my admission chances?

    Maybe incrementally. It helps when your letter writers are known to the admissions committee - their word in your favour counts for a bit more. But your advisor may already been known and respected at the other schools you are applying to. I wouldn't expect anything more than that. Now, if you want to do your PhD with your undergrad PI then my advice would to be talk to them directly. PIs sometimes get to have a say on applicants who are interested in working for them - but not at every school.
  7. St Andrews Lynx

    Threatening my letter of recommendation

    I'm a grad student at a public university. As university employees our emails aren't truly "private" - if there was some kind of ethics investigation (for example) we could have our emails examined as evidence. So yeah, I would never assume an email I sent is "confidential".
  8. St Andrews Lynx

    Scare of an academic meeting

    Forget about background noise from admins, parents, friends in the program who had a bad time: your advisor's opinion is the one that matters. Concentrate your energy on keeping on his good side and doing what he expects you to do. If anybody on the committee asks about delays to your writing, reply with 1-2 sentences accepting full responsibility (don't go into excuses or allocation of blame) and a polite apology for any inconvenience caused to them. I had kinda a hard time deciphering your post - what exactly is going on and what you are most afraid of. It might be helpful if in your own time you break this morass of fears/challenges into a list. Rank them by their power to affect your dissertation endgame. How are you going to deal with each individual hurdle? (e.g. parents getting angsty isn't going to affect your dissertation; so practice conversation-ending platitudes)
  9. St Andrews Lynx

    advisor problems :(

    My understanding is that confidentiality applies to (i) what is in the applicant files (content of statements, proposals and rec letters) (ii) what the committee members have said about the candidates ("X is our top choice"/"Y has some red flags in their rec letters") during the decision-making process (iii) who has received a formal offer (prior to them accepting/declining it). The political stuff, which I agree should be kept quiet. More general information - which could be in the public domain already - I suspect is less confidential. It could be well known that this scholar is on the market and has been public about applying for your school. You also don't know what exactly your boss said to this grad student, and what the grad student inferred/misheard/assumed (they might be guessing that your boss doesn't like this scholar). You seem to be over-responding to a minor event. Your supervisor didn't go maliciously leak intel to this other grad student to undermine you. Even if he did...you can't let every slight in academia reduce you to a crying wreck.
  10. St Andrews Lynx

    Fun one: Got an "F" in a phd course

    At this point I'd try getting your Graduate Program Director or Program Admin involved. See if a "no credit" can be negotiated. Before that do your best to get the anger out of your system: be prepared to acknowledge responsibility and propose a concrete plan for getting back on track/meeting basic program requirements. It's usually a hassle for professors/graduate programs to fail out their students for messing up coursework. Lots of additional paperwork involved, etc. The upside is that it is possible to negotiate your way back from the brink, and for the admin team to want that outcome as much as you do.
  11. St Andrews Lynx

    advisor problems :(

    Honestly, it does sound like you're over invested in this professional relationship. The dude is your boss, not your friend, and he doesn't owe you a particular emotional response. And yes, while you are important to him...you aren't necessarily the most important thing right now. I can see how if your advisor was stressed by work, having his advisee go off on a heated tangent about feeling under-appreciated/how he should conduct his mentor-mentee relationships...would be exasperating. It doesn't mean that he did a good job of handling the situation, rather you should let it slide if you generally get on well. I doubt he meant it as a personal attack. The relationship with my supervisor changed over the course of my PhD. They went from being hands-on (I'd see them on a daily basis) to hands-off (weeks without interactions). Sometimes people change as the nature of their responsibilities change...and you've got to adjust to that.
  12. Three years is a long time. Focus on continually improving as a researcher & scholar, and don't worry too much about grades in coursework (those aren't the most important things in grad school). If your advisor says nothing, then my guess is it isn't a big issue for him.
  13. The only thing I'd like to add beyond what has been said (excellently) above is with Point 3. It could have been that your advisor forgot he promised you meetings, or that they realised upon discussion that it'd be in violation of departmental policy/spirit-of-policy to meet with you. Or they have a busy semester with teaching/grant deadlines/conference travel so think it's unlikely they could fit in time anyway. I wouldn't think of it as "a refusal to meet with you", since that implies more negativity than what I suspect was intended. It is what it is.
  14. St Andrews Lynx

    Professor wants me to lie?

    If I was in that situation I'd take the free registration, introduce myself confidently as a postdoc and then feign TOTAL IGNORANCE if called out. "Oh, my boss Prof X handled my registration." (Honestly, given how cheap most academics are they'll probably be impressed with your ability to get something for free) If it only costs $20 to register as a non-student or something like that then just tell your PI you'll pay for the registration yourself. If it costs something like $200 and the PI would otherwise be paying for your registration...then either swallow the lie or don't go.
  15. St Andrews Lynx

    Chemistry Supervisor in Biology PhD program?

    Have you applied or been formally admitted to the program yet? I can't quite tell from your post. I've you've not applied yet, the PI might be assuming you are going to apply to the Chem PhD program and then carry out biophysics-esque research in their lab. If you're applying/accepted to the Biology PhD program then as others have said you need to check if the faculty has a dual appointment, etc. There should be a graduate handbook and course listings online for both the Chem & Biology programs (you can also look on the Chem Dept website to see if your prospective PI is listed as affiliated faculty there). I suspect if your background is in Bio then the course requirements for a Chem degree could be challenging (or an unnecessary time sink), but there are often options to take classes in other departments that could count towards your degree (this is something you'd need to talk about with a graduate advisor/administrator).
  16. If you say that "multiple professors" have told you not to worry about the accusations, it suggests that more faculty have your back than you perhaps realise (and the chair could already be aware of the problem). When talking to the chair stick the objective facts as much as possible, try avoid bringing your emotions/feelings into the discussion. That will go a long way towards making you come across as professional and serious. "Awkwardness" and "unwilling to be flexible" aren't the worst things to be attached to your name. Is "awkwardness" really a less attractive option than being "miserable"? (That's a rhetorical question: it isn't)
  17. St Andrews Lynx

    Will our relationship survive a chemistry PhD?

    I think pre-emptively calling off a relationship before they even start grad school is too extreme (and does sound like "an excuse to leave him"!). I've seen people break up shortly after starting their Chem PhD...but not at a higher rate than after starting other major life events (e.g. breaking up after you start college/your first professional jobs). If you want to stay with this guy...stay with him. Maybe you'll break up with him partway through grad school...but maybe you won't (and wouldn't that be better than breaking up with now?). Maybe you'll break up with him after he gets his PhD. Who knows unless you try to make it work?
  18. St Andrews Lynx

    I want to quit (rant-ish)

    As you're a chemist you may have already seen this, but I figure it's useful for other scientists out there too: the compilation of "I Quit Grad School In Chemistry" stories from the Chemjobber blog (http://chemjobber.blogspot.com/search/label/i quit grad school in chemistry). Just to assure you that you're not alone. Surviving another year in this lab may mean (i) accepting your Masters thesis is going to be imperfect, but that there are more important things (such as taking care of your health) (ii) putting your mental energy into researching possible careers and applying for jobs (iii) devoting small chunks of time to "nice things" even though you could be in the lab running reactions.
  19. St Andrews Lynx

    I want to quit (rant-ish)

    I have sympathy. Sounds like a stereotypical "Assistant Professor in Science". A lot of PIs struggle to learn emotional intelligence when they're on the tenure track if they don't already have an instinct for it; and unless you hit some kind of research jackpot within the next few months the pressure to generate results for papers/grants is only going to continue. Try not to take the PI's behavior personally (it's about their stress, not you as a bad scientist). As @rising_star says - getting clarity on what you need for a Masters thesis should be your main goal. Accepting that you can't please your PI 100% may also make your life easier. Is it possible to transfer into another research group in your Dept? Y'know, one where the PI is less...intense? Of course it depends on what your career goals are (you don't need a PhD for everything), but a more established PI might be better for you.
  20. St Andrews Lynx

    Very random question - I need suggestions!

    Start reading the book. During the semester simply read for 10-30 min each night in bed before you go to sleep. You'll get it finished.
  21. St Andrews Lynx

    My husband has turned into something horrible

    There's usually underlying reasons why people become "extremist" or "radicalised" like this. What starts out as loneliness or dealing the aftermath of a traumatic life experience mutates into a fixating hatred of...something. So I don't think your husband necessarily "just decided" to be this way, and he may well have gotten more extreme in his views over time. It's not your fault. So it might be possible to address and treat the underlying issues in your husband, and find that the racism dissipates as a side-effect. But (i) your husband has to want to be helped (ii) it could take a lot of time & money. I also agree with everything Fuzzy's post.
  22. 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.
  23. St Andrews Lynx

    How do you make a research seminar rock?

    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.
  24. 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.
  25. St Andrews Lynx

    On entering a lab

    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.
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