Reprinted from “Graduate Students and Postdocs Share Their Top Tips for Grad School Success,”
Graduate Student Bulletin, June 2010; www.acs.org/grad
and receptions on campus and at conferences in addition to
the usual research presentations. The chemistry community is
relatively small; you never know when a contact will lead to a
valuable opportunity. Every job offer I’ve received came directly
Networking doesn’t have to be intimidating. Most people are
interested in talking with and helping junior colleagues. Be yourself, be professional, and practice — it does get easier!
And those two industrial chemists from my first conference?
They’re still in my network.
— Posted by Shannon
Keeping a Balance in Your Life
Just the other day, a friend was introducing
me to a few new acquaintances and jokingly
said, “Yes, she has a PHD: Permanent Head
Damage!” We all laughed, but let’s face the
fact – graduate school is tough. After four to
five years (or even longer) of arduous labor
in the lab and relying on more failures than
successes to round out an independent
thesis, it is hard not to lose some form of sanity along the way.
I have, based on my own experiences, concluded that like all
other challenges in life, the hardships of graduate school can be
conquered by following a few simple guidelines.
First, being in graduate school does not mean you have to put
your social life on hold. In fact, it is really important to establish
a strong circle of friends that you can turn to for support and
encouragement when things get tough. Besides, it is never too
soon to start networking! You may need it when you start looking for a job. Second, take the time to do something meaningful
or that you enjoy outside of work. Volunteer at the local food
pantry or take up ballroom dancing. It will make you a more
Last, update your résumé once in a while. Taking stock of
what you have done helps you to stay on top of your goals.
Planning is crucial when trying to minimize stress. So don’t lose
your mind. Follow these simple steps and surviving graduate
school will not be as difficult as you think!
— Posted by Amanda
Networking: What I Learned from My
I have always been an outgoing person...
except when it came to networking. I wasn’t
sure why it was important, who to network
with, or what to talk about.
That changed when I attended a career-
related symposium at my first ACS regional
meeting. During the break, I happened to talk
with two industrial chemists and mentioned that I was consider-
ing starting a student committee related to our topic of conversa-
tion. They kindly asked all about it, encouraged me to go for it,
and e-mailed me afterward with useful resources. A few days
later, I realized I’d been networking! Several years later, I also
realized that this interaction indirectly led me to my ideal career
In addition to finding my career direction, that experience
taught me three things about networking:
Even students need business cards — they’re the admission
ticket to the networking club.
It’s important to establish professional contacts both within
and beyond your research area, so make time to attend talks
Keeping an Open Mind
When I came to graduate school, I knew
what I wanted to do. I was sure of where my
career would lead me, and I loved the field
in which I was going to work. I began my
research right away in my first semester and
was excited about all the possibilities I had in
front of me. However, by the end of my first
year, things had changed dramatically. My
advisor was leaving. I was faced with a big decision: find a new
advisor or find a new Ph.D. program.
I never thought I would be faced with this decision; I had
everything planned perfectly, and I had worked hard to succeed
in my field. At first I was devastated and unmotivated, but I finally
decided to stay in the program I was in and to pick a new advisor in a new field. I went from bioorganic chemistry to inorganic
chemistry, and today I could not be happier with the choice I
made. I was forced to look at options I would have never considered in the past; in retrospect, these options were opportunities.
The best advice I can offer anyone in graduate school is to
keep an open mind and jump on opportunities as they present
themselves. You never know where change might lead, and you
never know what great things change can bring along the way.
— Posted by Beatriz
Taking Advantage of Informal Guidance
Well, here I am, three months out from my
thesis defense, and finally, in the last nine
months or so, I’ve felt like I have things under
control. In some regards, that took way too
long; in others, that’s probably why it takes
more than a few years to get a Ph.D.
It’s funny to look back on how your
approach to research (and life in general) changes over the
course of graduate school. Personally, I was way too uptight at
first. Data had to be perfect, I tried to keep current on way too