As 2021 comes to a close, I’ve had some time to reflect on my grad school experiences. Here are 10 nuggets of advice / lessons I’ve learned during PhD-land so far💡. A 🧵:
1: Before joining a lab, talk to every current member one-on-one.

Carve out time to have coffee chats with each person during your rotation. Ask about their experiences, any pain points, and whether they’d join again. You can learn so much from these conversations!
2. During lab meetings, ask those “dumb” questions.

Sometimes, I feel embarrassed to ask a question because I assume everyone else already knows the answer, but chances are, if you’re wondering something, someone else is wondering too.
3: Ask for help, and pass it on.

Running a new protocol or doing a new kind of analysis? Don’t be afraid of asking for help from a labmate who’s more experienced! This can help save a lot of wasted time. In return, be generous with helping newer folks in the lab when you can.
4: When a project feels overwhelming, just figure out the immediate next steps.

It’s ok to not have the whole game planned out ahead of time - just map out the next 3-5 key steps, and get a move on! Oftentimes, your results will reveal new problems and insights into the project.
5: Keep an eye on the administrative stuff.

Be proactive in ticking all those administrative boxes. Schedule your qualifying exam, get your committee together sooner rather than later. These things can slip through the cracks if you’re not actively making sure they get done.
6: Reach out to other scientists about their work.

When I’ve had trouble using a method or had a question about a public dataset, I’ve been pleasantly surprised to find that emailing the first-author is usually quite effective. Turns out, people are actually nice and helpful!
7: Find ways to make common tasks more efficient.

Automating frequently used tasks can save you tons of time down the road. For example, I set up a bash alias that lets me change to my project’s directory, activate a conda env, & launch a Jupyter notebook by typing 3 characters.
8: When writing, done is better than perfect.

Especially for first drafts, just focus on getting the content down - it doesn't need to read perfectly. Once there’s a draft, prioritize getting feedback from others - several rounds of revisions will make it much stronger.
9: Make health a priority.

Exercise. Eat well. Get enough sleep. At several points, I’ve felt the physical toll of prolonged stress on my body. In those times, it’s helpful to pause side projects & drop unnecessary tasks to focus on the important things and take care of oneself.
10: When in doubt, show up and stay interested.

When I left for grad school, my undergrad PI (the amazing Ami Bhatt @Stanford) gave me a simple piece of advice: just keep showing up. When things fail & the going gets tough, staying engaged in the work is already half the battle.
And that’s a wrap! Would love to hear your thoughts - what are some of your pieces of advice to future PhD students? 🧠 #AcademicChatter #PhDchat #PhDLife

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