In this issue, the Reactions and Solutions blog offers tips to help you
succeed in graduate school.
COMPILED BY LORI BETSOCK
and may not be quite suited for (or interested in) a traditional
program. One of the best things about online programs is that
you aren’t required to “attend” class at a certain time so, when
you sign on to do your schoolwork, you are more focused and
engaged then if you were required to attend, say, a lecture at
8:00 am. Online programs do require a high degree of self-discipline and time management; but the rewards, such as flexibility,
are definitely worth it.
Posted by Phil
Graduate School? It Starts NOW.
Your road to success in graduate school
starts NOW, in your final years of undergrad-
uate study. During my senior year, after much
consideration, I dropped a second semester
of biochemistry so that I could devote more
time to completing a research project that I
had started during the previous summer.
This undergraduate research project was
critical to my early success in graduate research. I was already
familiar with many of the techniques and instrumentation. I
also had a taste of the atmosphere of graduate school and had
observed graduate students. I saw how the lazy ones attracted
the ire of their advisor, and how praise was heaped upon the
hard-working and productive students, even when they only
achieved small victories toward their overall goal.
In some ways I am still paying for that dropped biochemistry
course. Biochemistry is by far the weakest subject for me. When
my class entered graduate school, we took ACS standardized
examinations in each of the five sub-disciplines of chemistry.
Guess which test was my lowest score? The GRE subject test
in your field, even if it is not required for admission into your
intended graduate program, might be a good indicator of where
you still need more work.
Don’t overlook these last few years of undergraduate study as
time to prepare for obtaining an advanced degree. Whether you
know it or not, you are preparing yourself for graduate school
right now. Good luck!
Posted by Burt
Taking a Non-Traditional Master’s Pathway
My first foray into graduate school didn’t work.
Originally, I thought I should go directly from
undergraduate, to maintain the momentum
of school. Little did I realize that I had burnt
myself out as an undergraduate. I was more
interested in going out and letting loose
than studying. After the first year of being in
a traditional grad program, I was finished. I
After working three years in the pharmaceutical industry,
a coworker introduced me to the world of online programs. I
figured a traditional program didn’t work out so well for me, I
already had a steady job (with a steady paycheck), and wasn’t
eager to completely change directions, so I would give it a try.
That’s when I enrolled in a graduate program in drug chemistry.
Distance learning programs are a great option for those who
are already in a comfortable (and stable) working environment
Choose Your Graduate Advisor Wisely
An undergrad professor once told me,
“Choose your advisor wisely — it’s the most
important decision you’ll make. You only get
one Ph.D.” I was perplexed; I figured choos-
ing my wife would be far more important. But
he retorted, “You can always get a divorce!”
In graduate school, I initially joined a new
assistant professor’s lab. There were great
benefits in starting a new group. I helped put together and set
up the entire lab and launched a research project from the very
beginning. While the research was making good progress, the
initial proposed research was not what I had imagined when
I first discussed the project with my advisor. I could not see
myself continuing on for another four years of graduate school,
let alone the rest of my life. Another professor agreed to take
me, and the chemistry department allowed me to switch groups.
I now understand my undergraduate professor’s wisdom about
choosing an advisor. It’s important that you enjoy the research,
can communicate with your advisor, and fit in well with the group
dynamics. These factors synergistically can either make a graduate experience miserable or positive and rewarding.
It’s certainly acceptable to realize that graduate school is
not for you, or to be unhappy with other aspects of your graduate education. Don’t be afraid to take action. Graduate school
shouldn’t be an enduring period of misery.
Posted by Stephen
Following the Road Less Traveled
Upon finishing my bachelor’s degree in
chemistry, I was really unsure if graduate
school was the right path for me. While I
always enjoyed chemistry, I wasn’t sure I had
the drive or confidence to complete a Ph.D.
I decided to work in industry for a couple of
years, and then in a college setting for another year, to gain some perspective on possible