Category Archives: Opinion

Image

Starting Grad School: The beauty of a clean lab book

Occasionally, I have the realisation that I am not entirely sane. Not in a catastrophic hearing-voices type way, but when I talk to myself and then remember that this is not normal. This morning I arrived at the sports centre to discover that circuits wasn’t on, and I would just have to go run in the gym instead. Upon finding my mp3 player in the bottom of my bag, and realising that I had in fact remembered to put it on hold (therefore meaning there was enough battery to get me through a 40 minute hill slog) I smiled and mentally called myself a good girl . Continue reading

Advertisements

Starting Grad School: Get Sociable

Moving to a new city to start my postgraduate studies was one of the most daunting things I have ever done. Going to uni in the first place as an undergrad was a piece of cake: I’m musical, I’m sporty, I’m religious and I like giving people food. I’m not amazing at making close friends but I am very good at making friendly acquaintances. And everybody else was in the exact same boat, desperate to meet their new best friends and super keen to be involved with everything.

After I graduated I worked in a lovely, supportive school, that expected all of the staff to be involved in much more than just teaching. Even if there hadn’t been the immediate camaraderie of bitching in the staff room about disruptive kids, I got to know people through the musical side of the school, and Duke of Edinburgh, and Christian Union.

Moving here was a whole other ball game. The postgrads separated out neatly into:  Continue reading

Starting Grad School: There’s a fine fine line

There’s a fine fine line… between a post-doc and  a friend

(To paraphrase Avenue Q)

Starting a PhD, especially if your most recent degree was your undergraduate Bachelors, and not a Masters degree, can come as a little bit of a culture shock. There’s the working hours (Forget watching Countdown. Forget being home in time for Hollyoaks! Actually forget being home ever). There’s the lack of deadlines. But there’s also a very different relationship with your professors.

I was fortunate to have a very good working relationship with several academics at the university where I did my undergrad, but of course there’s always going to be a certain amount of distance. You don’t know their wife’s name. They don’t know what your Facebook profile looks like.  Continue reading

Writing a reference

Whether you’re applying for a job or renting a house, it seems that just about everyone nowadays asks for references. Employer references, landlord references, character references… In normal jobs you ask your employer or your line manager for a reference, and he writes one: or maybe if he’s very busy and important the company writes one. Not so in academia.

Over here (and I admit that I have nothing to compare this to outside of this department, but my PI seems to think this is completely normal) if you want a reference, you write it yourself and then ask for a signature.

I’m sorry, what? Continue reading

Why angry loners are not autists, and Joe Scarborough is just plain wrong

Advance warning: this is a bit ranty, and more opinion than scientific. But please read it anyway. This is important. 

For anyone who has had their head stuck in the sand since Friday, on 20th June 2012 a young man ran into a midnight preview showing of the new Batman film where he released gas cannisters and opened fire with three guns, killing 12 and injuring 58 others.  James Eagan Holmes was in court yesterday for the first time to be charged with 142 counts of murder and attempted murder.

Continue reading

Grad student support networks: finding friends in unexpected places

The internet is now full of advice for new and prospective PhD students. Go visit your lab before you agree to work there. Talk to the other postgraduates to find out what the lab is really like. Start your reading before you matriculate, but don’t expect it to help you understand anything. Begin writing early. Make sure your support network is in place, and understands what you’re doing…

But wait a second. What support network? Sure, if you’re staying in the city where you did your undergrad, with friends and a boyfriend and maybe even family around you then that’s a silly question. But what if you’re moving somewhere new? What if you’re travelling cross country to a new city where you know nobody?

Continue reading

Molecular Biology 101: What’s an -ome when it’s at home?

Genome

Proteome

Transcriptome

Exome

Microbiome?

All of these words are becoming part of the scientific vernacular, and new ones are arising all the time. But is this proliferation of terms meaninful, or even a good thing?  Continue reading