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NAVIGATING YOUR ACADEMIC HOME

JULY 2020

PI. Lab mates. Committee. Environment.

There are so many things to consider when choosing your academic home as a new Ph.D. student. But even once you think you've settled in, you might find yourself butting heads with your mentor or in need of additional support to get you through graduate school.

Whether you're a new graduate student trying to find a place you can settle in to for the next four (five, six...ten) years or a seasoned veteran looking for a new mentor or whose academic home isn't serving them anymore, you'll always need tools to navigate your academic home.

MODULE 2

Managing Expectations: Staying Grounded As You Begin Grad School

July 12-18, 2020

MODULE 1

Finding a Mentor

July 5-11, 2020

For some students, the first year of their Ph.D. journey includes completing three different lab rotations before choosing a home lab. As exhilarating as this might seem, you might already be experiencing some anxieties about how to approach rotations.

 

For instance, you might be wondering how to balance classes and research, are unsure what to expect or how to make the most out of a 10-week lab experience. 

If you aren't participating in rotations, you might also be wondering how to balance coursework and potentially adjusting to a new university while you get settled in your new lab. 

Listen to this podcast, which provides 10 useful skills on how to approach your the first semester, like getting organized, reading scientific literature, and asking for help. 

We often find that we are our hardest critics when it comes to meeting expectations, but we sometimes forget that those expectations aren’t clear to begin with.

You might find it's hard to balance classes and put in maximum effort in your new lab to meet your PI's expectations. Sometimes putting equal effort into both might be impossible.

 

To avoid possible conflicts your advisor when it comes to time spent in the lab, ask specific questions like "How long am I “expected” to be in lab?" If your advisor isn’t familiar with your course load or personal needs, bring this up in the conversation.

 

Practice being direct in establishing goals and expectations for the rotation by journaling how this conversation might go with your future mentor. Share your ideas with others in Discord.

When we begin a Ph.D., we begin a multi-year relationship with our advisor. Because we’ll likely interact with this person on a daily basis, and they’ll get to know us personally and professionally, it’s important to find the right match.

 

Check out this article for tips to consider when choosing the right mentor.

 

Discuss these ideas in Discord (sign up/in below). If you’re an incoming student, write about what qualities will be most important to you. If you already have a mentor, write about why you chose that person.

Sometimes our research advisor isn’t able to provide all the resources and guidance we need to achieve our goals.

 

Perhaps you’ll need a career coach who can help you pursue a job outside of research, or maybe you’ll need someone to help you navigate family life while chasing your career goals.

 

In your journal, brainstorm other types of mentors you might need during your graduate school career. How will you find them?

Check out this podcast for more ideas on how to “modernize” mentorship

Diversity in academia is severely lacking - especially when it comes to PIs.

 

It can be especially hard for students diverse backgrounds to find mentors they can identify with and who can support their needs.

 

Read this article about the difficulties individuals of underrepresented backgrounds are faced with when finding a mentor in academia.

 

What resources or support do you need to find a mentor who is well-versed on diversity, equity and inclusion? 

Through the following four modules, you will learn how to find a mentor at any stage in your career. You'll learn to define boundaries and manage expectations during rotations, and you'll decide what qualities are most important to you in a lab home. Lastly, you'll learn what to do if you and your advisor just don't jive anymore

Image by Aaron Burden

Image by Aaron Burden

Image by Marten Bjork

Image by Marten Bjork

Image by Gustavo Quepón

Image by Gustavo Quepón

Image by KOBU Agency

Image by KOBU Agency

Image by Markus Winkler

Image by Markus Winkler

Walking on Campus

Walking on Campus

Image by ThisisEngineering RAEng

Image by ThisisEngineering RAEng

Image by ThisisEngineering RAEng

Image by ThisisEngineering RAEng

MODULE 3

Environment vs. Research: Determining What’s Most Important to You

July 19-25, 2020

One of the most difficult things in a graduate student’s career is choosing a lab. Making this choice can be challenging for a variety of reasons, but it can be especially hard to decide if you value research over environment or vice versa.

 

Do you choose the lab whose research you find most interesting, or do you choose the program whose faculty and lab whose students you identified with the most? 

 

Read this article which explores various qualities that many grad students report as most important when choosing a lab. Then, journal about what qualities are most important to you. 

In your journal, create a list of conditions you learn best under (e.g. greater supervision vs. hands-off learning). Rank them by most important to least important.

 

Then, create questions based on these conditions that you can ask when meeting with different mentors when you’re choosing rotations and your ultimate lab. 


Example: I need a hands-on mentor.

Question for trainees: How involved is the PI in their trainees’ education and research?
Question for mentor: How would you describe your mentoring style? Does it vary depending on the individual or task?

One feature you might look for in an academic home is a diverse lab, whether it’s by race, religion, sexuality, or various other characteristics.

 

Check out this article that focuses on minority students’ perspective on pursuing a PhD and the added struggles of being a minority within a research-intensive graduate program. 


Then, discuss via Discord under the “Module 3” tab if you have had experiences in a diverse lab. How was your experience? Do you have any advice for others on looking for diverse labs?

MODULE 4

Wrong Puzzle Piece: What to do if you and your advisor don’t mix?

July 26-August 1, 2020

More often than not graduate students find a mentor that they mesh well with. However, sometimes a student needs to do a fourth rotation or find a new mentor partway through their graduate school journey.

 

It happens to more people than you think, and you can successfully and navigate through this obstacle in a healthy manner.

 

Check out this article written by a former PhD student who had to switch labs. Journal about how you can use this as a source for advice if you do happen to experience similar circumstances.

Listen to podcast episode #118 of Hello PhD where a current 2nd year graduate student discusses their experience of transferring labs and not being a good match with the PI. You'll learn the benefits that can also arise from navigating a situation like this.

If you happen to find that your lab home might not be the right fit, or if you have questions regarding this topic, please join us on Wednesday, July 29, at 12 p.m. EST for a live Discord discussion.


Haven't joined Discord yet?

Sign up for free on our homepage or above in Module 1!

Wrap-Up Poster

Your Academic Home

July 31, 2020

July poster - academic home.png
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