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Ask Slashdot: Advice For Summer Before Ph.D. Program? 228

First time accepted submitter tookul03 writes "I'm a graduating senior from a small New England liberal arts college, and have secured a spot in a Biological Science Ph.D. program for the next five years. I realize this coming summer will be my last out of the lab for a long time and am not sure If I am interested in doing something related to my research interests or use it as an opportunity to find some new hobbies/interests. I figured the Slashdot community had a number of individuals who were/are in a similar position (albeit different fields) and could shed some light on things they (or others) had done. Thanks."
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Ask Slashdot: Advice For Summer Before Ph.D. Program?

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  • by EmagGeek ( 574360 ) <gterich AT aol DOT com> on Wednesday March 06, 2013 @07:58PM (#43099229) Journal

    It's a pretty awesome experience.

    • Absolutely. I thru hiked the AT between work and law school. I made good friends I am in touch with 10 years later, and a set of memories I will never be able to surpass.

      Standard start dates are around now for an August/September finish, so you might have to settle for a long section hike instead of a thru hike (2000 miles).

    • Do something... (Score:4, Interesting)

      by globaljustin ( 574257 ) on Wednesday March 06, 2013 @10:12PM (#43100505) Journal

      screw the Appalachian Trail...well, not really. Don't let other people's idea of 'adventure' bias your decision.

      The idea is, do something that requires alot of time and commitment that you truly enjoy. Something that the future you're going for may not allow the flexibility for. It can be something challenging like a long backpacking trip. That's a popular thing to do in this situation.

      Let's say you're going to be an oceanographer. You're going to have all kinds of adventures in your program. You probably already have had some interesting research trips. You might want to try to see a baseball game in every stadium in the National League or something like that.

      Don't be the kind of person who does things 'for the story' so you can look cool.

  • Go Get Laid (Score:5, Funny)

    by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday March 06, 2013 @07:58PM (#43099231)

    A lot...

  • This is /. (Score:3, Funny)

    by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday March 06, 2013 @07:59PM (#43099245)
    Sex, drugs, rock & roll. Next!
  • by students ( 763488 ) on Wednesday March 06, 2013 @07:59PM (#43099249) Homepage Journal

    The sooner you start, the sooner you will finish and get a job that pays better or is more prestigious.

    • by pesho ( 843750 ) on Wednesday March 06, 2013 @08:08PM (#43099379)
      I sure hope you are joking.
      • To extend that, biology dissertations are often just the research papers they've published stapled together. Which you only write up after you've gotten most of the results, starting writing a paper before getting results is asking life to prove your hypotheses wrong on every level. Starting research before OP is IN a lab is probably not realistic, even for a purely bioinformatics project. Odds are, OP has no idea what his research project will even be.

        So it cannot be done beforehand, and it takes ver
    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by Anonymous Coward

      But not too much. Budget some time for a genuine holiday, and when that's over, get to work. I would neither do work the whole summer nor relax the whole summer. The more you can manage to get done before you "officially" start, the better. It will save you on the deadlines later, but keep in mind this is a multi-year marathon and you have to pace yourself. Being overworked when you start is also a bad idea. So, balance it.

    • Unless things have changed a lot since I went through the process, it is necessary to pick a research problem and get it approved by the faculty of your department to be worthy of research. I don't think most people know what their problem will be the summer before they start the graduate program. I sure did not. I had to get some experience before I could identify a good topic.
    • Many commenters have said 'party' or 'get laid a lot'...this guy gets +5 for 'start working early'...both seem like good options.

      The point is, by this point in your life, you should have some idea of what kind of 'work/life' balance works for you, so now you execute.

      What I'm saying is, do both: get involved in work you love and get out and have some fun. You will most likely be in your current town for awhile. Branch out, start making professional contacts, go to art gallery openings, go to 'meet ups' or h

  • Travel! (Score:3, Informative)

    by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday March 06, 2013 @07:59PM (#43099255)

    Travel! Don't do research but travel and charge your batteries for what comes ahead.

    (Currently writing up PhD thesis and in desperate need for a vacation)

  • Have fun. (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Hatta ( 162192 ) on Wednesday March 06, 2013 @08:00PM (#43099267) Journal

    I travelled across the country going from music festival to music festival the summer before I went to grad school. You will have plenty of time to do something research related. Just relax and have a great fucking time, you've earned it.

    • by pesho ( 843750 )
      I second this. Have fun and travel. Depending how your life turns, this literally may be your last opportunity for the next 20-30 years to see the world. Five years is a bit optimistic for biological sciences PhD these days. Then you will have to get a job (or a postdoc), you may have family and kids ..... None of these are conducive to long periods away from home.
      • Have fun and travel. Depending how your life turns, this literally may be your last opportunity for the next 20-30 years to see the world.

        I'm taking a wild guess here that you're from the US. The rest of us have time for travel even when we're working (admittedly not 3-6 months at a time, but then again if you want to travel that much you should look for a career that involves travelling).

    • Actually, although you may not realize it at the time, by traveling around you will be collecting new experiences and inspirations. These could indeed turn out to be useful for your research later. Think of all the scientific discoveries that have been found by accident.

      Sometimes if you are purposely concentrating, researching and looking for something, you don't find it. Maybe three years on, you will be stuck on a problem in the lab, and suddenly something from your travels will pop up to give you ins

  • Reconsider. (Score:5, Insightful)

    by steevven1 ( 1045978 ) on Wednesday March 06, 2013 @08:01PM (#43099273) Homepage
    Turn back while you still can.
    • Re:Reconsider. (Score:4, Informative)

      by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday March 06, 2013 @08:54PM (#43099847)

      Turn back while you still can.

      I second this. Do you have any idea how many biological science phds there are? Any idea how much suffering and frustration you'll get doig a phd? Do anything else. I'm serious. You will make more money with just a masters or even a BA. You will feel better about yourself, still have your hair, have fewer ulcers, lower blood pressure and possible even be able to afford a family.

      A phd ruined my life. Don't let it happen to you.

    • Re:Reconsider. (Score:4, Informative)

      by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday March 06, 2013 @10:32PM (#43100671)

      Turn back while you still can.

      While you're going to ignore this, I know I would have, it's probably some of the best advice you'll ever get.

      I'm a semi-recent PhD from a top-tier biochemistry program, and it was fucking terrible. I only know of one graduate of my old department who doesn't rabidly hate the place. We're talking nearly nervous breakdowns just seeing the outside of the building hate. I got the hell out as fast as I could and now work in industry.

      Good luck on that "secured a spot for 5 years" thing. 5 years is the fairy tail they tell all incoming students. The median is more likely closer to 6, and I've known 8 plusers. Oh sure, 6 instead of 5 doesn't sound that terrible, right? Wrong! When you hit your 4th year of 6 day weeks and asshole professors and time slows down to a crawl, you'd sell your soul to be out just one week earlier.

      The professors at universities, at least the good ones, are not there because they're the best and brightest minds. Sure, they're geniuses, alright, but the real reason they're at the university is because their personalities are too fucked up for the real world. The only people who can make through to getting tenure are warped, horrible people, and they become even more warped and horrible the longer they stay in that environment. I've seen so many students back stabbed and screwed over by PIs in my day. I was in a meeting where a professor, who was at that point on the short list for the Nobel Prize, absentmindedly talked about using his grad students as canon fodder for a larger goal, that sure changed my mind about joining his lab.

      I have a good job now. I'm doing interesting research and have great coworkers. I met my wife in grad school. But in the time that it took me to graduate, I could have easily done a bachelors and masters in an engineering or CS field and be making more money in the area I live, and I would also have an interesting job with good coworkers.

      Everywhere you look, cities, regions, and countries have mission statements saying that they want to be a biotech center. These are lies. There's probably only 3 places in the US with enough company density to reasonably consider living. They're all nice places, but they're expensive. The dirty secret about the biological sciences in general is that the only job you can get with a bachelors degree is technician, Most companies have policies in place that they won't promote you higher than essentially senior technician without a doctorate. So you're forced to do post-graduate work if you don't want a mind-numbing job. So now there's too many PhD's, so you can't even get a job with that anymore. You need a postdoc, so now those are even more of a competetive nightmare than they used to be.

      Change your mind. Go to law school, or business school, or hell, go back for a degree in something that will get you a good job without post graduate work. Those will take a fixed amount of time (and less than a PhD) and money, which will let you plan your future while avoiding the horrible scars of a PhD.


      • Someone please tell me this is not the case for computer science PhDs. Because I may be on a collision course with one.

  • by damn_registrars ( 1103043 ) <> on Wednesday March 06, 2013 @08:03PM (#43099299) Homepage Journal
    I recently completed my PhD so I can offer some very recently acquired information for (hopefully useful) advice.

    First of all, you need to find something else when you finish your PhD. Usually, academics went for a post-doc and non-academics went to industry. The game is a little different now, though, and pretty well everyone needs an academic post-doc, even to go to an industry position. Hence you should be thinking now about what you want to do when you finish, figuring out how to get there from where you are about to go. It really is never too early to start thinking about that. Some people say that the most important thing you do in grad school is line up a post-doc position.

    Second, networking is critical. I highly recommend that you try to get to as many conferences as you can manage when you are a grad student.

    Third, the job market for post-docs right now is terrible, unless you are in the right field at the right time. Right now it seems structural biologists are in high demand but in 5 years it could be something else entirely. Keep an eye on where the job market is going and know how to market yourself to the demand.

    Fourth, start thinking right away about your committees for your time in grad school. You'll probably have a qualifying committee, an advisory committee, and a thesis exam committee. Obviously your advisor will be on all three but the rest might or might not carry over much between the three. Know how to deal with those people, how to keep them happy, and how to get them to help you graduate and network.

    Fifth, if you don't have an adviser already, start talking to current students in the labs of advisers who are looking to pick up students. You want to know what your life will be like, and how long potential advisers generally keep their students around for before they graduate.

    In other words, don't take this summer to escape academia. Take it to prepare for it. If your school graduates most PhDs in 5 years you really don't want to be the person who takes 7 due to lack of preparation.
    • []
      "In this riveting book about the world of professional work, Jeff Schmidt demonstrates that the workplace is a battleground for the very identity of the individual, as is graduate school, where professionals are trained. He shows that professional work is inherently political, and that professionals are hired to subordinate their own vision and maintain strict "ideological discipline."
      The hidden root of much career dissatisfaction, argues Schmidt, is the profession

    • by gatzke ( 2977 )

      Post-doc requirement for industry depends on your field.

      Our engineering PhD students generally get industrial spots without a post doc. However, academics do need them now. That changed 10-15 years back, so maybe engineering industrial slots are headed the same way?

    • by B1ackDragon ( 543470 ) on Wednesday March 06, 2013 @09:41PM (#43100275)
      Having also just completed my PhD, this is hands-down the best advice in the thread for what to do in grad school. (I'm not so sure it's super important to do it all before you arrive on site though.)

      One thing I can suggest as you prepare is to get your personal life together. I went through a divorce during my phd, and it definitely didn't help the process: be aware that doing a PhD can stress your personal relationships and take some time to work that out with your significant other or others you're close with, if you can. It's a time when you will be stressing hard without a whole lot to show for it, monetarily or otherwise. Build a support network with friends and family, and via counseling services at your university if necessary (my "grad student support group" helped tremendously with my own difficulties, both personally and professionally).

      Oh, and since you're going into biological sciences, a great way to prepare for an awesome career is to learn programming, motherfucker. [] (I suggest python.) The job market is tough for life sciences in general these days, but curiously not if they can program and work the command line... ;) (And while 5 years is a long time in science, starting now will still keep you at the forefront of that skillset.)
      • Learning programming before going to school is good advice. It can help you do problem sets if you expect them to be very computational. At the end of my grad work, I was just writing Python scripts and automatically importing them into Latex. Also, other grad students will respect you a lot, as will your advisor as there's never a shortage of computational work to be done. Even if it's just simple stuff like managing webservers and whatnot.

        I wouldn't recommend killing yourself over it - it's probably not w

    • In other words, turn around and run far far far away never to look back.
    • Get the deans secretary drunk. Get all the secretaries drunk. Don't fuck any of them (yet).

    • That all sounds like good advice if you believe, as the parent seemingly does, that maximizing your career is the highest and most worthy goal that anyone can attain. However, I would recommend taking some time to consider what it is that you really want to accomplish in this life. I know from personal experience that it's all too easy to get caught up in one's career, assuming that there will always be time before the end for other things. Meanwhile, the years pass by and a career that began with such prom
      • That all sounds like good advice if you believe, as the parent seemingly does, that maximizing your career is the highest and most worthy goal that anyone can attain.

        While it would be great to be an idealist and follow all of one's interests regardless of the career, the job market for new PhDs does not allow it. We are producing too many PhDs and have not enough postdoc positions for them - and it only gets worse from there. Only the people who jettison everything else make it anywhere now, the rest get tossed aside. Even industry positions in biotech are now going only to those who had a successful academic postdoc, in part because that is an easy way for industry

    • I think the Arms Race with irrelevant paper qualificatins has reached a new level of absurdity when a mere PhD is no longer enough and you need a post-doctoral qualification too. At that rate, you won't have your first job until you're 30, which doesn't seem right to me. Fair enough if you're heading for an academic career, but how weird would it be to employ a 30 year old and find out they'd never had a job?
  • by Cludge ( 981852 ) on Wednesday March 06, 2013 @08:10PM (#43099395)
    If plan to work in industry (private sector) or a national lab, then by all means, go ahead and blow off some steam before the slog. But if your plans include an tenure track position in academe, you've got no time for such frivolity. Competition for academic positions in the biological sciences has reached the highest levels ever. Expect between 150 and 250 competitors for each position you will apply for. With that kind of competition, only the shining stars become assistant professors. And current expectations have risen to ridiculous levels of productivity and achievement. So if it's a tenure track position you're after, better use your last summer to get started on a grant proposal and submit your first few manuscripts. That's what it takes these days to succeed in academia.
  • You mean there is something outside the lab?

  • Best to get started (Score:3, Informative)

    by Anthracene ( 126183 ) on Wednesday March 06, 2013 @08:26PM (#43099549) Homepage

    Move to your new university and use the summer to do (at least one) research rotation.

    Here's why: you said "for the next 5 years." I'm not sure where you got that time period from, but if you're doing your PhD in the US, you're going to find that it's a completely open ended process. This is *really* important to internalize, because every other form of education that you've had experience with has a fixed term: you do what they tell you to for the prescribed time period and at the end they hand you the diploma. You can't run down the clock on a PhD. You don't graduate until you can convince your advisor that you've done enough to merit the degree. And it's generally against your advisor's personal interests to let you graduate.

    So, if you want to complete your degree in a reasonable period of time (e.g. 5 years), you have two tasks: 1) Find a lab with a research advisor who you like and trust, because you're putting your life in his or her hands. If you wouldn't give him/her copies of your keys and your ATM PIN, you shouldn't be in that lab. 2) Get established in that lab so you can start organizing and taking charge of your own project and working toward first-author publications.

    The first step towards this is doing lab rotations. Summer is often a good time to do these, because your first year is likely to be filled up with classes which will make it difficult to spend enough time in a lab to really get a feel for it. Just make sure that the PI in whichever lab you're rotating in is going to be around (sometimes they are gone for months at a time in the summer) because the most important thing you need to get out of the rotation is deciding whether you trust the PI.

    I suspect there will be several threads of people recommending various voyages of self-discovery or self-education. If you had something that you really *wanted* to do, I wouldn't try to talk you out of it, but from the way you've phrased your question it doesn't really sound like there is, and there's no point finding a new hobby this summer that you won't have time to continue once you start your program.

    Best of luck with your program.

  • by beckett ( 27524 ) on Wednesday March 06, 2013 @08:28PM (#43099573) Homepage Journal
    If you are doing a PhD, your subject matter will have to become your hobby. it shouldn't be your only one, but you should be absolutely enraptured with what you're studying. You are guaranteed to run into a dichotomous moment in your 5-7 year program where you will honestly consider quitting. It will only be through your personal passion and drive that gets you through the 'salmon of doubt'.

    Since your spot is secured, you either have obtained grants, you have an academic advisor, or both. Spend the summer reading everything your advisor has written, and read everything in your field. If you are coming into a new PhD program you will most likely have a comprehensive exam (ours is verbal) where your committee will test your knowledge in the field to the point they would be comfortable allowing you to research independently. If you have not formed a research committee, use the summer to select internal and external examiners for your project. Selecting your committee is like drafting for a hockey team: there are heavy hitters and there are marginal academics. you may even encounter, as i have, a committee member that will attempt to sabotage your research. that's all part of grad school, so investigate who you're working with through previous students. Your prospective committee's individual publications is a good first step.

    Spend the summer reading to the level where you can converse with someone in your field and be able to drop first and last names of the most pertinent research done between the last 50-100 years ago; much of this research (at least in my field of fish larval development) will be in the stacks and in the library; it is incredibly irksome to encounter a PhD candidate that has no references out of what they could pull out of an online paywall. A lack of understanding the foundational research makes the researcher rootless; it is as if a leaf has no idea it is attached to a tree.

    Don't stop reading. keep reading. you should be reading already, but keep reading throughout the summer. clearcut an entire state of trees if you need to; keep reading. This is a primary failure mode of the graduate student: not everyone can take graduate school because not everybody can stand having their brain physiologically rewired on a daily basis as they encounter conflicting research, bad research, obscure research, and science-related gossip. Read until you feel comfortable holding conflicting ideas in your head. read until you find yourself asking a question that leads to no answer, and begin to formulate your project from there.

    Changing gears slightly, the second most important thing to knowing your pertinent research intimately is the ability to communicate science to non scientists. My program stresses and indoctrinates strong presentation skills. i would highly recommend reading a book like Randy Olson's Don't Be Such a Scientist []. Learn the jargon, and learn to internalise the jargon and be able to speak to non-technical audiences. the more you can communicate your message and research, the better you will be.

    Good luck!
  • Now is your chance.

    In between my Ph.D. and first post-doctoral stint, I took three months off. Bicycle touring, surfing lessons, and visiting friends across the country. It was one of the best things I've ever done (even considering the credit card debt).

    So whatever counts as an adventure for you, go and do it now. Unstructured time off is hard to come by in the sciences, except for the very few elite scientists and engineers who can manage their career on a 40 hour work week. I'm now in year 5 of my po

  • And once again, the collective /. intelligence drops a little.
    "What should I do the summer before I start my PhD program, party or work?"

    Jebus, dude, it's simple. Here ya go (budget 6 weeks for this):

    1. Buy/rent skis and a good road bike.
    2. Obtain plane/train/bus tickets to Zermatt in early June.
    3. Ski the glacier for a week.
    4. Ship the skis home (you don't want to haul them around for the next month)
    5. Bike down the Alps to the coast, meeting the water at or around Nice
    6. Continue your bike trip fr
    • And once again, the collective /. intelligence drops a little. "What should I do the summer before I start my PhD program, party or work?" Jebus, dude, it's simple. Here ya go (budget 6 weeks for this): 1. Buy/rent skis and a good road bike. 2. Obtain plane/train/bus tickets to Zermatt in early June. 3. Ski the glacier for a week. 4. Ship the skis home (you don't want to haul them around for the next month) 5. Bike down the Alps to the coast, meeting the water at or around Nice 6. Continue your bike trip from Nice, down the coast, until you hit Barcelona 7. Turn inland, through Zaragoza, Guadalajara, until you get to Madrid 8. In Madrid, find a little bar. It's kinda near the Plaza del Sol. Tell Nico that Pete (the weird American that used to go out with Asphen) sent you. He'll hook you up. 9. Party a couple more days. 10. Sell the bike and fly home 11. Continue with the rest of your life. 12. Profit! don't like doing that? Well then...find something else. (but don't blame me when you have a crappier time)

      I am interested in your life plan and would like to subscribe to your newsletter.

      And you're right, that's the way to do it.

    • And once again, the collective /. intelligence drops a little.
      "What should I do the summer before I start my PhD program, party or work?"

      Drops a little?

      To subby....WTF? You need to ask Slashdot what to do over the summer? Do you ask your parents for permission to stay out late on a school night too?

  • Go to Paris (not the one in Texas.) Seek out the company of amiable women (or whatever you're into.) Drink, eat, sleep, repeat. Do not take your laptop with you. Take the train to Barcelona of Brussels.
  • Counting from the start of my PhD program, I have spent over 15 years doing science (biology) -- most of my grown-up life. I'm still doing science, it's my life. And what I have to say to you, young padawan, is not nice.

    You are about to do the most thrilling (awesome, exciting, depressing, frustrating, crazy, fulfilling, everything at once) thing on Earth, you will be doing bloody science, and you think about getting hobbies? New interests? All that in a fashion of someone shopping for a new T-shirt?

  • Find a teacher and learn tai chi.

    You will never regret it and may well find the benefits profound.

  • Really, the only thing to do that makes sense is to spend your time enjoying yourself in the most hedonistic way possible.

    Once your classes start you will be working 16 hour days 7 days a week until your dissertation is accepted.

    And then if you choose an academic life it will start all over again until you get tenure.

    This is your last chance for what could be more than a decade. Make the most of it.

  • Because you're going to be busy.
    I suggest hookers, a case of viagra and pounds of coke or ex.
  • You don't want to pick up new interests unless they directly support your life/sanity as a PhD student. Things like learning to cook or getting into fitness, yes. Things like learning Haskell for a great good, picking up Arduino, not so much. Learning R, okay maybe that'll save you time down the road. You only have so many spare cycles for technical stuff, I've found, and any half-started projects will only linger around frustratingly.

    If you have a qualifying exam in your program, find out what's on it and

  • They've only found a position until the preliminary exam process, sometime in year #2. They have to pass the exams in order to have the remaining time they seem to be thinking they have.
  • No one has suggested this? Get yourself a wow account, huddle up in a basement somewhere and blow your year on a terrible addiction. Then you will not need your extra letters on your name, you will have a bloodelf that will do you proud!

  • I graduate from my PhD program this May (*epic sighs of relief*), and have a lot of friends who are going the PhD route.

    Some of them have a good time, more of them have been having a bad time. PhD programs have something like 50% dropout rates, and if you finally do graduate the job market sucks.

    Regardless of how well you like it, you will work your ass off. It will consume the next five years of your life, and that's before you even hit "real life".

    I actually had a pretty easy time during most of the fir

  • The best advice you will ever get: Starting today, spend every single day studying for your PhD exams. Next summer, after you finish the exams, you can hike the Appalachians. Your professors will consider you a genius, or at worst hard-working, and they will write you great recommendations. Don't waste time while you're in graduate school.
  • I had a short summer, as my undergrad got out late and my grad school started early. Lucky for me, my little brother had just graduated from high school.

    We started hiking the southern end of the Appalachian Trail, starting at Springer Mountain. After about three weeks, we managed to get to Clingman's Dome in the Great Smoky Mountains National Park.

    This experience changed my life. I absolutely loved it.

    Brother and and I got struck by lightning. On separate occasions. (more like shocked)

    We stopped for a

  • Some (many?) programs will let you start doing rotations and projects the summer before you start your program. There are a whole heap of reasons for getting there early. Once school starts you'll be expected to be taking classes, doing research, selecting a lab/PI, and getting familiar with a new area (going from a small liberal arts college to a research university may involve a change of city in your case).

    In your early years there is a lot pressure to do well in classes, and f you are coming out of u

  • Play video games, drink beer, and occasionally masturbate. I think that pretty much covers it, and it also covers things that you probably won't have time to do during grad school.

    /Uni prof
  • Pick a place that has always intrigued you and travel there. If you have to borrow the money to travel to the place, do it.

    You have a few months to experience life in another location and with another culture with few restrictions. Seize the day.

  • if you don't already have one. And maybe try something out of your research area.

    PhD students usually live their work, so you may be so used to not having hobbies that you don't realize it ;)

    Anything that involves moving around is probably a good place to start.

  • seriously...

  • My recommendation would be to spend some time looking at what jobs are available to PhD graduates in your field. Then look at the salaries. Make sure that you are happy doing the job and making that salary.

    If you aren't, it's not too late to switch to chemistry or bio-chem or whatever you want to be doing when you graduate.

    I cannot stress how important it is that you think hard about it now, because this will be your last chance to change fields without a massive hit to your resume or your personal life,

  • Jersey Shore
  • You're going to attract women like a shoe sale. There's a bar here in town where guys in med school and chiropractor's school hang out and women are all over it trying to land one. VERY HOT women I might ad. Females here Dr. and biology in the same sentence and you're going to think Brad Pitt is standing behind you.

  • The _last_ thing you want is to arrive to school already burned out. Realize that you will have plenty of opportunity for burn outs in school. Trying to look up and study something right now is probably a waste of time. Once in grad school, and under a watchful eye of your advisory, you will have the judgement on what to study and how to prepare yourself. For now, just take it easy and do something fun. I'd visit music festivals, national parks, travel abroad, etc. Enter the grad school well rested and read

  • But also, if you don't know how to program, you should learn, and quick. Not only will it help being able to create and run new simulations, it is also a fantastic fallback.

    If you struggle to get a job in a lab afterwards, you could go for scientific/engineering developer with great domain knowledge. Think the guys that write software for bio-engineers.

    • Doing 5 years research in a subject you're interested in is not "hard". Working for 40 years at a series of shitty jobs in which you have zero interest simply in order to house and feed yourself is hard.
  • Wow how about some advice that he actually asked for instead of a bunch of bitter, heres-the-reality PhD rants?

    The summer between undergrad and my PhD I went on a 3 week road trip with another high school friend who was in the same position. We hit most of the southwestern US and visited several National Parks. It was a ton of fun and a great experience for both of us. We camped out a lot or stayed with friends/family which saves cash and was fun too. This was before digital cameras took off and I also got

  • The largest problem that most scientists face, is that most people get involved in Science because they are not good with people. LEARN HOW TO COMMUNICATE EFFECTIVELY! That is the best advice to give anyone going into any area of science. If you don't volunteer as a journalist, spend the time communicating in some productive way. Practice practice practice. The better you get, the more entertaining you are, the more likely you'll be pushed up to the very top of your profession and with it have more fun

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