Author: thepinkglitterybrain

Possible Rules for Finishing Your PhD

This morning I stumbled across an editorial that list 10 Rules for Finishing Your PhD

Here are the rules, which you should read in full (citation below)

  • Rule 1: Plan Your Last Year in Advance
  • Rule 2: Make Your Priorities Clear
  • Rule 3: “The Truth Can Wait”
  • Rule 4: Enlist Support
  • Rule 5: Get Familiar with the Software
    • aka LaTeX >> Word
  • Rule 6: Know Your University’s Procedures and Regulations:
  • Rule 7: Exploit Synergies
  • Rule 8: Pay Attention to Your Career
  • Rule 9: Network
  • Rule 10: Leave on Good Terms
  • Andrea’s Rule 11: Find Time to Do Fun Things and/or Sleep

Ten Simple Rules for Finishing Your PhD

Jacopo Marino, Melanie I. Stefan, Sarah Blackford

Do you know what you need?

The term “mentor” does not mean one thing to all people. Really how can it? As graduate students we have a number of plates spinning above our heads. We all have needs that range from the personal/emotional to the professional. I find it highly unlikely that a single mentor, no matter how supportive and amazing, can or should be expected to cover each and every one of those needs.

As suggested in a recent email from the President of the National Center for Faculty Development & Diversity 

So instead of talking about “mentoring” and hoping that everyone means the same thing (when we know we don’t), let’s shift our thinking and our language to focus on two questions: 1) What do I need? and 2) How can I get my needs met?

Possible needs (edited from the list for faculty):

  • Professional Development: project management, attainment of certifications for future employment, etc… Possible sources: CETL, Grad Pathways
  • Emotional Support: dealing with experiments that don’t work, the qualifying exams, and figuring out what to do next is stressful! Possible sources: your fellow neurograds and postdocs
  • Community: UCD and Davis itself has a number of groups that would love to include you. Possible sources: student groups on campus, Rocknasium.
  • Accountability: with projects that span months, even years it can be easy to get lost in the forest. Being accountable can help you progress. Possible sources: PI and quals/dissertation committee.

This is in no way an exhaustive list. What other needs are the list missing?

Beyond Academia: Engineering & Scientific Consulting

Are you interested in consulting? Learn about a career in engineering and scientific consulting at an info session at UC Berkeley. (This event is being run by the Beyond Academia conference) Register here!

When: October 15, 5:30pm – 7pm

Where: UC Berkeley


Elements of training

Somewhere else on the internet (aka Drugmonkey’s blog) there is an interesting discussion about how the editing process qualifies as “training”.

Bill Watterson

Exposure to your PIs grant applications (and really any of their writing drafts he or she is willing to share) and passing on early, clunky drafts is important. Whether you are struggling with the writing process or not I recommend reading the post and its many comments here: Exposure IS training. A crucial comment is copied below:

The reason the back-and-forth is important is only partially based on the notion that the PI is a better writer. More important is that they are a different writer who didn’t write the original text. Anonymous seems to think that the only value to having someone else edit their writing is if they are a better writer. This is completely nutso. If it were true, then a whole [bleep] of professional editors in the publishing business would have no jobs.

Also, the back-and-forth isn’t just about making the writing better. It’s about trying out different things: ways to present data, analyze it, put it into context, structure the flow of the argument, etc. It’s not just about words and sentences, although it is about that, too. This kind of playing around with a manuscript is very difficult for a single person to do, and much easier as a back-and-forth.

— Comradde PhysioProffe

Grantmanship: know what works

Applying for an NRSA Individual Predoctoral Fellowships (F31) aka a Ruth L. Kirschstein National Research Service Award is a process almost every grad student in our program goes through. The Quals 2 proposal basically is the ‘Research Strategy’ portion.

Recently, the National Institute for General Medical Science published four sample applications that were successfully funded! Be sure to check them out!

Alternatively, many current and past students have applied and been awarded NRSAs. Many are happy to let you check out their applications and even read your drafts. It is hard to generate something if you don’t know what it is supposed to look like.

So keep in mind that sometimes there is nothing wrong with following someone else’s lead.

You will find the sample applications HERE

So you want to teach

So you want to teach at a college or university.

How many of them are on facebook and reddit?

The view from your future

Did you know that Teaching Statements are often a part of applications for professorships? Up until recently I did not. Now that I am writing them, I wish I had thought about them sooner.

In a teaching statement you provide the search committee insight into your teaching principles and evidence that you know how to implement them in the lecture hall. The best time to start drafting these principles is WHILE you are a teaching assistant, not months or years afterwards.

So if you stumble upon a moment of pedagogical brilliance make note when it happens! Heck, I’m sure it may be helpful to keep a record of what didn’t work too.

Learning from your missteps

As grad students we are tasked to assimilate into our field at lightening speed. We take in the literature to learn the history of and the current state of our field, with the goal that we learn how to tell the difference between the good and the dubious. We learn research techniques to acquire the tools we need to ask new, exciting* questions.

But how do we come up with these questions? This isn’t trivial since these questions are the meat and potatoes of your Quals2 proposal, your grant proposals, your publication, your dissertations, and your career**.

It means you are pushing yourselfThe Opinion piece published today in PNAS reminded me of my favorite piece of advice that makes my tummy hurt. I’ve heard it said in many ways but the point is that you need to learn to think that sometimes REJECTION can be GOOD. Obviously, you can’t be awarded grants/prizes/accolades if you don’t apply. On top of that, as a student you are standing at the edges of your knowledge and of human knowledge. Your dissertation pushes that border further. I’d like to think that building knowledge is akin to building muscle. Much like a rejection, a hard workout will leave your sore and hurting. But those microtears lead to a growth response that strengthens the muscle and helps it withstand future damage.

The second point is highlighted in my favorite paragraph from the article.

It may feel uneasy to count on the unplanned, and risky to pursue remote associations, but this is calculated risk. When I was discussing these ideas with Kenneth Arrow, he stated: “If you are not wrong two-thirds of your time, you are not doing very well.” He added, “if you are wrong you had better find out yourself, not only because it is more pleasant, but also because it helps you to learn.” Indeed, solid scientific skills are needed to weed out right from wrong. However, our current teaching and routines are focused almost exclusively on those skills, whereas the best science tends to come from a balanced mix of rationality and adventurous association. Why is half of that mix so hidden? If we know unexpected associations are important, and we know how they can be facilitated, why not act accordingly?

Read the whole article here: Scheffer, M (2014) The forgotten half of scientific thinking. PNAS. 111(17) doi: 10.1073/pnas.1404649111

TL;DR train your ego to get stronger by taking a chance. Allow yourself to be wrong*** — it is a great way to eventually be right.

*ideally exciting to the field and you, since you will spend serious time and energy on it.

** yuck, that sounds dramatic.

*** especially in front of your friends/cohort/labmates, even your PI

Fix 50

So you want to get to UCDMC and back. This summer, that mission will take some planning since Sacramento is going to do some needed renovations on the 50 aka Business 80 aka Cal99 aka Cal16 aka the 305 aka that straight bit between Tower theater and the UCDMC exit.


Here is some relevant info from the UCD – Fix 50 site

Intercampus shuttle — The university will beef up this service to add capacity and frequency, and all rides will be free during Fix 50, for employees and students.

Did you see the part where I said the shuttle is FREE from April 22 – June 25?

The revised schedule shows buses running every half hour (instead of hourly) during peak commute times.

  • Davis to Sacramento — Additional runs start at 5:40, 6:40, 7:40, 8:40 and 9:40 a.m., and 2:40, 3:40, 4:40, 5:40 and 6:40 p.m.
  • Sacramento to Davis — Additional runs start at 6:40, 7:40, 8:40, 9:40 and 10:40 a.m., and 3:40, 4:40, 5:40, 5:40, 6:40 and 7:40 p.m.

“Last Mile, First Mile” shuttle — New for Fix 50, this free shuttle will run between the Sacramento campus and Fifth and L streets, three blocks from the Amtrak station. Shuttles will run 10 or 30 minutes apart, from 5:40 to 9 a.m. and 3:05 to 6:15 p.m. Here’s the schedule. For more information, call Bert Contreras or Valerie Stevens‐Campos, (916) 734‐8630.

Amtrak — If you live in Davis and work at the Med Center, apparently, you can be reimbursed for your ticket. To do so email She will get back to you with instructions, but basically you need to sign up on a website and give her your name and id number.  This will put you on a list that means you can get reimbursed (in full) for any Davis-Sacramento Amtrak rides you make during fix 50.

Barbara Chapman Research Symposium

Barbara influenced so many here at Davis through her passion for science and education. Tomorrow we will celebrate that influence.
Barbara Chapman poster

Talks start at 9 am, lunch at 1pm, and current and past students present starting at 2pm. The Keynote is at 4 pm by Michael Stryker from UCSF with a wine reception to follow. Please attend as many presentations as possible.