Thursday, April 11, 2013

10 things to do when grad school is stressing you out

This post was inspired by one I saw on a great mommy blog - The complete guide to imperfect homemaking. I recommend you go read it, especially, I can imagine, if you have kids.

10 things to do when grad school is stressing you out.

  1. Sit in on an undergrad class, and take pleasure in how little they know. It may have only been a few years ago, but it's amazing the amount of knowledge we take for granted as grad students. (Caution, this only works for subjects in your immediate field, as a first year physics class would floor me right now.)
  2. Attend a talk with free food, and get seconds. Need more be said?
  3. Make a powerpoint slide or two of your recent progress. Somehow it's easier to see how things come together when you put them into finalized figures or slides.
  4. Go read a paper somewhere with natural lighting. If you can get outside, even better. Sometimes we forget what the sun feels like when we spend all our days in the lab.
  5. Cry over your project. Preferably not where your supervisor will catch you.
  6. Tackle something easy on your to do list. Sometimes sending that email you've been meaning to send only takes two minutes, but crossing it off your list will leave you feeling good all day.
  7. Remind yourself that your supervisor didn't have it all together when he was in your shoes, either, and somehow he still has a tenture track position.
  8. Resolve not to multitask when over stressed. Chances are more things won't work than will.
  9. Turn off your computer. Sometimes a day away from the constant emails can be the most satisfying and productive.
  10. Plan a break. Having even a short vacation/long weekend to look forward to can keep you motivated. If you can't see the light at the end of the tunnel, than light lots of candles along the way (so to speak).


Wednesday, April 10, 2013

Ponderings of a PhD Student: Grad School Blues

Lately it seems every time I open my inbox, check twitter or flip through the pages of a science community publication, I come across an article that makes me pause to question my graduate studies. For instance, the winter edition of Health Solutions features an article with the sub-heading "A Ph.D. is no guarantee of a university position". The March University Affairs? An article "the PhD is in need of revision", which while lamenting about long times to completion and high drop out rates, also draws attention to the fact that in many fields, 'we may be producing more PhD students than we need.' Says the vice-president academic of UBC, Dr. David Farrar, who goes on to say "They need to know when they get into this where it's going to take them."

Even on my own blog, I've often draw attention to the shockingly low success rate for PhD's eventually finding faculty positions at universities (only 20-35%). The suggested solution? apart from revamping the system to be more selective of graduate student admissions (read as: train fewer of us). Is to provide extra funding (usual only one year) after completion for you to train for another field entirely. Many people opt to head towards public policy, law or business.

As it stands for me, I still can't imagine myself anywhere outside of an academic institution. So what I'd like to see, fewer articles focusing on the negative, suggesting we opt out of academia early; and more good advice on how to develop my self over the next 3 years into becoming a part of that lucky 20%.
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