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A new start in 2011.
Tuesday, January 4, 2011
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Happy Festivus!!
Thursday, December 23, 2010

Wimminz in Academia Answers!!
Tuesday, December 14, 2010

The chalk talk
Saturday, December 11, 2010

cute? or THE CUTEST?
Friday, December 10, 2010

10 mo in the life of Gerty-Z (The one-year meme)
Wednesday, December 8, 2010

Today I had to fire someone
Thursday, December 2, 2010
November (6)

The joy of the interview
Monday, November 29, 2010

Are you writing an tenure-track job application?
Monday, November 22, 2010

Women in Academia Q&A
Wednesday, November 17, 2010

muddling in mentoring
Tuesday, November 9, 2010

Lost in translation?
Saturday, November 6, 2010

If you were an incoming graduate student, how would you choose where to rotate?
Tuesday, November 2, 2010
October (6)

Sunday, October 31, 2010

How NOT to work in my lab
Monday, October 25, 2010

Out on the job market
Friday, October 15, 2010

Make it rain!
Sunday, October 10, 2010

If I wasn't doing this...
Tuesday, October 5, 2010

I *heart* conferences!
Monday, October 4, 2010
September (6)

Should you pay undergrads that work in your lab?
Sunday, September 26, 2010

The scientist-in-training
Sunday, September 19, 2010

It's not a pissing contest
Monday, September 13, 2010

What I wish I knew...
Tuesday, September 7, 2010

Beery Bladder-not necessarily from a Beery Friday
Friday, September 3, 2010

Ambition, in the world of grant-writing
Wednesday, September 1, 2010
August (8)

A quick note.
Thursday, August 26, 2010

Moving on up...
Wednesday, August 25, 2010

Sunday afternoon panic attack
Sunday, August 22, 2010

Advice for the new grad student
Wednesday, August 18, 2010

The purpose of the K99/R00
Tuesday, August 17, 2010

Am I ruining your marriage?
Friday, August 13, 2010

All about ME!
Wednesday, August 11, 2010

Wednesday, August 11, 2010
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I am starting my lab as an Assistant Professor at a Big Research University (summer 2010). I have a super partner and an adorable kiddo, Mini-G. I tend to rush into things and then figure them out as I muddle along. I'm sure that will be true here, too. I hope to use this space to maintain my sanity and share my perspectives on science and academia. These perspectives may sometimes qualify as rants. There will undoubtedly be some crazy times on the tenure track. Gmail me [at] primaryinvestigator

My posts are presented as opinion and commentary and do not represent the views of LabSpaces Productions, LLC, my employer, or my educational institution.

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Comment by microbiologist xx in Wimminz in Academia Answers!!

I've been busy and am just now getting around to reading all of these entries. Very nice. . . .Read More
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Updating RSS feed, and while I'm at it, I'll slap you on the ole blogroll and you can get 2 hits per day from me or something... . . .Read More
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Wednesday, August 18, 2010

Samia over at 49 percent had an awesome idea: the zomg grad school!!!1 carnival. I think that anyone getting ready to start grad school (or is considering applying) should read it.

I totally meant to write something. I was relieved when the deadline was pushed back. Still, I did not get my shit together. *sigh*

In my defense, it is hard work starting up a new lab.

Anyhoo, I have cracked open a beer and now I will put together my contribution. Background: I would love to take at least 1 and maybe 2 students this year. But only if they are good. :-)

1. Act like you are a graduate student. You are not an undergrad anymore. The point of graduate school is NOT to learn answers (or earn "good" grades), but to learn how to ask questions. Realize that you DO NOT already know all the answers, and that you can learn a lot from the people around you. But also, sometimes there are no (known) answers. Under NO CIRCUMSTANCES must you argue over points/grades in your classes.

2. ASK QUESTIONS!!! There are no stupid questions. OK, maybe there are. But trust me, the only way you get better is by practicing. So get over it and ask some stupid questions. If you start paying attention, you will realize that a lot of questions can be categorized as "stupid". But people remember the good questions more than the others. Read papers and talk about them with your PI/labmates/fellow grads. Go to journal clubs and seminars, especially those "outside" your field. Listen to (and evalute) other people's questions. Ask your own. As a bonus, if you are engaged it will help keep you awake during seminar.

3. Learn to be critical. In a constructive way. Don't be the jackass (there is always at least one) that rips people/papers apart just to make themselves look smart. This never actually makes you look smart. Learn how to be constructive in your criticism. Find mentors that are constructive AND critical. It is nice to be told that you gave a great talk, but you learn more if someone tells you how it sucked.

4. Do all your rotations, participate enthusiastically and TRY NEW THINGS. Push your limits to find out what you are capable of. Everyone entering our program is required to do at least 3 rotations. Our program is really diverse, so if you do them all in the same field, that makes me think that you don't have much breadth of curiosity. I know that some people know think they know what they want to do when they show up. But try something new. You could be surprised. You could be more convinced that you were right all along. In both situations you will learn something about yourself AND how "science" works.

5. Don't work for a jackass. This is covered by many of the posts in Samia's carnival. I will just reiterate: realize that you are NOT special. If everyone in the lab is miserable, you will be, too. However, realize that after 3-4 years you SHOULD feel like you know as much or more about your project than your PI. This is different than being miserable.

6. Know what you want to get out of graduate school. I'm not saying you have to sign a contract or be inflexible, but many of the decisions that you make now, in your first year, will have an impact on future prospects. The lab and research project that you choose should be different if you want to go into teaching vs. industry vs. academia. Make sure that any prospective PI will be supportive no matter what your aspirations are.

7. You do not really understand what your PI's job is. This may be a little premature for new grad students. But someday you will feel like you PI was just some person in the office but YOU actually ran the project. You will tell people that you were "basically the PI". This may happen when you are a grad student or a postdoc. You will be wrong.

8. HAVE FUN! If you like what you do it will come through. Realize that there will be times that doing science will suck. It may be hard, and nothing will work. Don't get too high when things work, but don't get too down when they don't. Don't take shit personally.

9. Make friends with people in your grad program. They have seen, firsthand, what you are going though. Sometimes you need to sit at a bar and drink some beers and vent. These are the people that know what you are going through.

and most importantly:
10. Don't be afraid to be wrong.

Good luck!

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Lab Mom
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Excellent post! Great advice. I can't even pick my favorite point since I agree with all of them.

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Very nice post! I particulary appreciate #7. :)
That one really requires one to cross to the other side.

Brian Krueger, PhD
Columbia University Medical Center
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Gerty, everyone's going to get pissed at me for featuring all of your posts, seriously, take the post quality down a notch and give other people a chance :P Great post! (I'm kidding, by the way :P)

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Great advice!

Genomic Repairman
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Gerty, great post and you bring up a great point with grad students not understanding what their PI does. Holy shit, it is a dynamic job, mentoring, teaching, administrative crap, writing manuscripts, writing grants, collaborating, etc. I honestly don't know how PI's do it and do it so well. Hats off to you guys.

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Thanks, Samia! Sorry for the tardiness.

GMP, I doubt that 6 mo ago (as a postdoc) I would have realized this little nugget of truth. I doubt that anyone will ever actually realize this until they are the one in the office. Though I'm happy to see that GR is sending some love :-)

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Genomic Repairman
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I'm working up my candidacy exam stuff and having to come up with an F32 proposal that is offtopic to my work and its hard, so I can't imagine what PI's go through when writing grants especially the old 25 page RO1s.

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Tideliar said:

Thanks, Tiddles! :-P

Dr. O
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Great post! (I'm a bit late ;) I also really like #7, and have tried to remember it from my side of the mentor-mentee relationship. Regarding things the PI does that I don't understand - I always said that one day I'd 1) do it differently, or 2) understand why s/he did it the way s/he did it.
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