many journals, and I even thought I was so busy that I would
turn down the older guys down the hall when they asked if I
wanted to go out to lunch. I thought I couldn’t spare an hour for
a leisurely meal and would instead just plow through lunch, dinner leftovers in hand, while I tried to get some work done on the
After a couple years, I finally got sick of my cooking and
started going out with the guys, who at that point were getting
close to finishing. I quickly realized that in between small talk
and jokes, I had been missing their conversations about thesis
writing, postdoc searches, and research ideas. As I approach
the end of my graduate studies, I can only imagine how much
harder it all would have been without the informal guidance I’ve
received from some older friends.
— Posted by James
Discovering a Recipe for Success
While it’s true that different environments
(school, area of study, degree) contribute
to vastly different experiences in graduate
school, I believe there are a few things that
can help make every student successful.
I learned during my own experience that
both scientific and nonscientific communica-
tion is vital for success. The ability to com-
municate with your advisor, other professors, your peers, and
(gasp!) even strangers at a conference will be a practical skill
long after graduate school has ended.
Next, I believe that a successful approach includes a strong
work ethic. Obtaining those much-needed results is a grueling
task and requires a large degree of perseverance and diligence.
A strong work ethic is an invaluable tool that helps shape a budding career and, as an added bonus, can be highly contagious.
Last, I found that some time away from lab provided relief
from the intense focus that graduate school demanded. For
me, this included sports, such as softball, volleyball, and running, as well as cooking and baking. For others, this can include
volunteering, music, community activities, or happy hour at the
pub. Finding a release is an important way to help refocus in the
laboratory or classroom.
These are just a few suggestions that worked for me. In the
end, there is no magical solution to succeeding in graduate
school. But if you begin with hard work, throw in some commu-
nication and a dash of recreation, I think you will find a recipe for
— Posted by Shelli
The significance of research across boundaries of different
aspects of science has increased manyfold. What this entails
is exploring, learning, and mastering more skills (tradition-
ally, the focus was on one topic/subject) in the normal time
frame of graduate school ( 5-6 years). This will help prepare
you to be more competitive, and you will definitely have more
career options after grad school. I want to emphasize this point
because of the changing face of big pharmaceutical industries
and the emergence of biotech and other related industries,
along with government, which are looking for scientists with
expertise in a broader arena of science.
Research and Networking
As a postdoctoral fellow interacting with and
mentoring graduate students at the University
of California, Berkeley, here are a few
thoughts that could help the present graduate
students. I am going to focus on two things
— interdisciplinary research and networking!
AmAnDA Lee has successfully survived graduate school and is currently a
postdoctoral research fellow at City of Hope Beckman Research Institute.
shAnnon wAtt earned a Ph.D. at the Georgia Institute of Technology
and is now an NSF Discovery Corps Postdoctoral Fellow at the University of
BeAtriz e. rios is a fourth-year graduate student at Southern Methodist
University. In her spare time she enjoys cooking, triathlon, and rugby.
JAmes o’DeA is a graduate student at the University of California, Santa
Barbara, and is wrapping up his dissertation on scanned probe techniques to
study proton exchange membranes.
sheLLi wAetziG earned a Ph.D. from the University of Kansas in 2007
and recently completed postdoctoral research at the University of California,
Irvine. She is now a visiting assistant professor at College of the Holy Cross in
nAresh sunKArA is a postdoctoral fellow at the University of California,