However, even though you may be tempted, don’t spend every
waking hour in the lab, especially if you are in a more competi-
tive research group. Working too hard will cause a quick burn-
out, especially if your research is not producing results
commensurate with your effort. It is not a pretty
sight when graduate students burn out. They become
irritable when small things go wrong or when they
perceive that other group members are not working
as hard. They sometimes become discouraged and
start to work strange hours to avoid other people.
Schedule some leisure time in your day that will get
your mind off of chemistry. Join some friends for a
regular walk or workout and encourage each other.
It’s a great idea to take at least one of the days of the
weekend off to recharge your energy level.
Choosing the wrong advisor
Four or five years of working for the wrong person will wreak
havoc on your mental condition. Advisors come with all sorts of
managerial styles, most
of them learned from
their own Ph.D. and
Try not to pick a Ph.D.
advisor solely on reputation, number of publications, group size, or by
the advisor’s research
description in a catalog.
Soon after arriving on
campus, interview the
advisors and get a feel
for their personalities.
Narrow your focus to
two or three potential candidates, and then spend a considerable
amount of time talking to their graduate students and postdocs.
Get a feel for their managerial style by asking questions like,
“How often is this person in the lab?,” “How often are group
meetings?,” and “How much of the day-to-day tasks and training
are handled by the postdocs and senior members of the group?”
If you are the type of person who needs creative space, don’t
join the group of a micromanager or an advisor who sets strict
work hours. Conversely, if you feel like you need guidance and
direction and will need an advisor who is continually challenging you with new ideas and checking up on you throughout
the week, then go with someone who will keep you focused.
Picking a not-yet-tenured faculty member is one way to ensure
that you will get plenty of personal attention and will be challenged to produce results quickly and often. A personality mismatch with your advisor is a pitfall to avoid from the start.
Having too many advisors
Spending too little time
in the lab
Spending too much time
in the lab
Graduate school will be the best time of
your life to focus solely on chemical research.
Take advantage of the time that you have to
lab. The nature of chemical research