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A McGillian in Paris

Screenshot 2016-07-26 07.01.54

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=vMoTHJ3gu3U

So here it is. My first ever video. Actually, that’s only half true. I have made videos before but only the type you keep buried on one of your external hard drives in case the day comes when you want to show your children ‘what life was like when I was a teenager’. So it would be more accurate to say that this is my first ever public video. Fingers crossed it won’t turn out to be one of those that should have remained hidden on my hard drive.

I was lucky enough to go back to Paris this month to see my family and stock up on some good wine, food and company. I wanted to start off with a fun ‘vlog type’ video so decided to film small snippets of Parisian life and show you one of my favourite places to eat: Le Camion Qui Fume. As you’ll see in the video this is one of the most successful burger joints in Paris and you’ll often see a long line of Parisians in front of the food truck on their lunch break hoping to secure an infamous burger. I must admit it’s not the most typical of French cuisine but think of it as a burger American in size and French in style.

I hope you enjoy the video and I’m so excited to share more content with you very soon. Hopefully the video inspired you to give yourself a break from your studying (#McGillianAbroad) or encouraged you to get out and see something new (although you’re probably already out and about chasing Pokemon).

Check out my fellow bloggers and instagrammers for loads more travel inspiration.

Enjoy and see you soon!

Smoothing Out The Grind.

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Part of being a graduate student is liberation! Finally, free of from the shackles of introductory undergraduate classes that are accompanied by the colossus that is studying. Regrettably, being a grad student also pins you into the category of very cheap labor. I personally felt an annoyance of three parts the day I found out that my assistant, a summer student, is paid better than I am because he is paid by the hour.

Though I cannot speak for all graduate students, I do know that for most of my fellow laboratory trainees there exists robots capable of easily automating the larger portion of the bench work we do. That being the case, I am old friends with repetition, a slow and torturous soul-killer that is known to many others as well. Of course repetition is our friend in many ways, helping to squeak our n-values towards significance, still it is also the bane of maintaining an interesting existence.

In my valiant attempts to combat the trials of monotony I have spent a good deal of time sampling the various options available to aid me in battle. Of course the go-to for most people is music, which is all well and good for a lot of people but I have grown to find it disappointingly unstimulating in the long-haul. So what was next for me? Technically I first tried listening to TEDtalk videos as well as talk-radio, but we’ll skip straight to the best thing so far, and that is podcasts! (more…)

Devoir concilier études graduées et maternité

PHDComics.com

PHDComics.com

 

Le 11 février 2013, vers 7h du matin, j’ai découvert avec surprise que j’étais enceinte. Vers 13h le même jour, je recevais un courriel de McGill disant que j’étais acceptée au doctorat en histoire avec une bourse d’entrée. Il y a des jours comme ça où une grosse nouvelle n’attend pas l’autre. Après avoir paniqué, je me suis dit que l’Univers m’envoyait un signe: « go, ma grande, fais les deux.»

Marion a écrit à propos de la conciliation études et travail à temps plein. Personnellement, je dois conjuguer avec la maternité qui prend – littéralement – tout mon temps. J’ai maintenant deux enfants. F-A qui vient de terminer (heureusement) sa phase de terrible two et M-A qui nous gazouille ses sourires du haut de ses 5 mois.

Et je fais un doctorat.

Ces deux aspects de ma vie ont vraiment beaucoup en commun.

D’abord, c’est du temps plein, tout le temps, en tout lieu. Quand je suis à l’école, j’ai toujours mon cellulaire pas loin au cas où fièvre-bobo-autre frappe l’un ou l’autre de mes héritiers. Matins, soirs et fins de semaine sont dédiés à la vie familiale, soit amuser, nourrir et laver l’immense tas de linge sale des petits.

Le doctorat est aussi un plus que temps plein: je travaille dessus la semaine, le soir après le dodo des enfants, pendant les siestes et j’y pense quand mon cerveau n’est pas occupé à gérer des crises de jalousie ou des fous rires. J’y pense quand je pousse la poussette, quand je me couche, quand je range (encore) les jouets qui trainent.

@gradlifemcgill / Instagram

@gradlifemcgill / Instagram

Faire une recherche prenante, c’est comme un bébé: l’immense fierté des progrès, l’incertitude, la remise en question de mes compétences, l’exaspération quand rien ne va comme je veux. Et des fois j’ai envie de tout balancer par la fenêtre.

À intervalle régulier, j’ai juste envie de démissionner de ma thèse ou de ma vie de mère et d’aller vivre sur une île déserte un petit moment ou, de manière plus réaliste, d’aller dans un spa et un bar (ben oui). Mais inévitablement, quand ENFIN j’y arrive, je pense… aux enfants ou la recherche. Surtout s’il y a quelqu’un avec moi. En effet, je passe 100% de mon temps à être mère ou étudiante: les sujets de small talk ne sont pas si nombreux en dehors de ça!

Bref, être mère aux études graduées c’est prenant, épuisant, énervant et… je n’ai envie de faire rien d’autre.

Comment conciliez-vous études graduées à temps plein avec le reste de votre vie?

 

Please don’t make me go on vacation

2016-07-14 22.07.24

I fully realize that this is really messed up. Tomorrow morning, my husband and I are heading off to Newfoundland, the only part of Canada we have never visited (it is all about those yummy ads). Now, I love to travel and see new places.  I have only heard wonderful things about the rugged beauty of Newfoundland. Anywhere that can say “Its about as far from Disney Land as you can possibly get” sounds great to me.

So what’s the problem?

Well, I just want to stay home and write and putter and write and putter.  I understand the importance of maintaining a balance while going to grad school.  Is it really unbalanced to want to stay home? (BTW – I know the answer to this, that’s why I’m going on a vacation).

In my defense, I work full time as a high school teacher, and I am doing this degree full time as well. So I see this as my one opportunity to just be a student and write and putter and write and putter. Of course, friends have said that if I go on a vacation I will come back refreshed and invigorated. But what if I come back stressed out about the lost opportunity to write and putter and write and putter? Pathetic, no?

I have a family member who was a university professor.  We watched him, and kind of judged him because all he did was work.  The entire family had to insist that he take a weekend off once ever summer to go to his daughter’s cottage for one night.  The only way he would go was if we promised that he could leave after lunch on the Sunday. 29 hours away from his work was the max. Here’s the thing – now I get it.

So is it ok if I bring my computer, encourage my husband to bring some books and go for long runs (fitness is important, right?) and hope for rainy days, not sunny days? Cause that’s my plan.

Writing this, I feel like a real slug. I read writing a blog had the potential to be therapeutic. Right now, all I can hope for is self awareness.  Whoa.  Wait a minute – it is going to be great to get away and see the rugged splendor of Gros Morne, the Viking trail and  L’Anse aux Meadows, and eat at awesome restaurants in St. John’s.  OK, its all good – I’m ready to go and have a great vacation.  Blogging IS therapeutic, and it is going to be great.  Really! Now I’m excited.  Have to go and pack.

And don’t forget, success as a grad student means keeping things balanced.  It’s the key.  As well as the ability to laugh at yourself.

Happy trails, to all. Have a great summer, whether you are writing and reading, or enjoying family, or discovering new places to go. Cheers, and all the best.

Francophone à McGill cherche confiance en anglais

Source: Unsplash / https://pixabay.com/fr/américaine-livres-boîtes-boîte-1209605/

Source: Unsplash / pixabay.com

Bonjour,

Je m’appelle Fannie, j’ai décidé volontairement d’étudier à McGill parce que c’est une université anglophone même si…  l’anglais n’a jamais été ma force. Ajoutons à cela une timidité que j’ai mis plus de vingt ans à vaincre pour pouvoir m’exprimer librement et facilement dans ma langue maternelle.

Bref, pour le dire en bon québécois: j’ai la chienne chaque fois que je dois parler ou écrire en anglais.

Ma première session à McGill, soit quatre cours de propédeutique avant de commencer mon doctorat, je l’ai passée avec un mal de tête presque constant. C’est une chose d’écouter des séries américaines et de lire quelques livres par-ci, par-là, mais c’en est une autre de vivre en anglais au quotidien. De devoir comprendre les accents, les termes techniques, de traduire, de lire près de mille pages par semaine dans une langue qui ne m’était pas si familière.

Les premières semaines de cours, je me notais des phrases à l’avance pour pouvoir participer en classe. J’attendais le bon moment pour les lancer, avant de soupirer de soulagement dès que je pouvais retomber dans mon mutisme.

J’ai toujours écrit en français, ayant peur que mes textes ne soient pas à la hauteur de mes idées. Et parce qu’il me faut beaucoup plus de temps pour écrire dans la langue de Shakespeare.

J’ai littéralement tremblé de peur dans mes premières classes en tant que T.A. Je m’excusais à l’avance pour toutes les erreurs que j’allais commettre en anglais.

Et… j’ai survécu.

Je dirais même plus: mon plan masochiste pour m’obliger à améliorer mon anglais a fonctionné. J’ai plus appris en deux ans de doctorat qu’en neuf années de cours à l’école. Plusieurs étudiants de ma première session en tant que T.A. m’ont dit d’arrêter de m’en faire pour le niveau de ma langue. J’ai commencé à penser – et même parfois rêver! – en anglais. Je sais pertinemment que je fais des erreurs, que je cherche parfois mes mots, mais je suis beaucoup moins stressée.

Sauf à l’écrit, the final frontier. Les paroles s’envolent, mais les écrits restent. J’ai encore peur de me jeter à l’eau.

C’est pourquoi la langue a été le thème de mon premier billet. Pour expliquer pourquoi j’écris en français… et pour me donner le défi de faire quelques textes en anglais. Merci d’excuser mes erreurs, n’hésitez pas à me corriger. J’ai plein d’autres qualités, vous allez voir.

Comment se passent vos expériences dans une langue seconde?

 

 

How to be a full time graduate student with a dream job?

Studying hard, getting into graduate school to get a better job – yes! Working part-time on the side to pay for your studies, your rent, food or any activity – yes*2. Finding your dream job while you’re still studying, keeping it for experience and potentially as a first job? Let’s try it.

A STUDENT JOB

Let’s talk about the different types of student jobs. You can work anywhere just for the income, with no particular interest in the field, potentially with a good team, close to your place or your university. Any convenience will be appreciated for this type of job but mostly, it pays your groceries and that’s all you need.

Then, there is the golden nuggets kind of student job. Basically, your dream job but two years too early. That’s what I got. I started working for an art gallery two years ago. It was an “on call” job where I was supervising art pieces during private events at the gallery. After a few events, they asked me if I wanted to get a part time job, two days per week working at the front desk. I had to welcome customers, answer the phone, learn a bit about the art, smile and basically just be there. I could even do my homework while working. The perfect combination.

Photo by Marion M.

That was a year and a half ago. I finished my bachelor degree, took some time off whenever I was in a rush for finals or needed vacations.

September 2015, McGill University. A whole new chapter of my life. I started with absolutely no idea of what being a graduate student meant. I thought it was going to be just like undergrad with longer papers and less exams. At the exact same time, I got an offer from the gallery: to become the new community manager, which meant, back then, maintaining our Facebook, Instagram and Twitter accounts up to date. I said I would try it for a month and see how it would fit with school. It worked pretty well.

MY DREAM JOB

I loved having the balance of work and school. On one side I was learning so much from amazing teachers, meeting new people in my field, discovering a new student life, a new campus. On the other side, I had concrete and instant results. I would write a newsletter, translate it, correct it and send it to 2500 people in one click. After that, those people would come and see our exhibitions, they would take photos, post them, tag us, like us, etc. You know how social media works.

Photo by Marion M.

Although I felt like I had found the perfect balance, I realised this only happened because I had seminars to take and credits to earn, in a nutshell, short term projects to focus on. Writing a 100 pages thesis seems like a completely different rhythm.

BALANCE?

Now the dilemma. I spent 20 hours per week at work versus 6 hours per week at school. Since I work on social media, I also get constant notifications and emails that go with the job. Our Facebook page response rate is 3 minutes… You see my problem? I love it so much and I take so much pride in this concrete result that I can’t disconnect. I want to (or do I?) but I don’t know how. I’m physically and mentally always working. At the same time, my thesis subject is great, I’m passionate about it too, but every time, it takes me a while to get into it. I need a few days to focus on school, not think about work and then I can write.

Summer is passing by, September is staring at me wondering how am I going to balance both my job and my thesis.

So far, the best solution I found is this new retreat concept called “Thèsez-vous“. More about it on my next post.

Do you also have trouble balancing your job and your studies?

Guy writes article, what he did next will amaze you. . .

So how much did you hate that title just now? That, my friend, is what they call click-bait, pure and simple. As unwitting participants and harbingers of the modern world, we have created an endemic distraction environment that is both disappointing and infuriating. When scrolling through Facebook, even I disappoint myself by way of where my cursor wanders. The sad truth is that click-bait works, no matter how aware of it we become. How much do you honestly care about the “What happens next…” of 99.999% of articles out there? After clicking on one of those links to an ad-ridden article have you ever later reflected that the experience bettered you in any way? I doubt anyone has, or at least a very small (trending to zero) percentage of the time.

Why does click-bait work so well? I’ll leave out most of the talk about dopamine release, but what it really comes down to is that humans like to gamble. We get pleasure from rewards, like an interesting video or article, and when you only get that reward an unpredictable fraction of the time your brain goes bat-shit-crazy for more of that stimulus; standard addiction phenomenon. The next time you find yourself mindlessly scrolling through your newsfeed clicking at every “Oo shiny!” moment, just remember that the only thing separating you from that old lady playing 24-hour slots at the local bar is that you don’t stand to make any money.

Now let’s go on a bit of a tangent so that I may indulge my own theories.  What are the things we click on most? That’s easy, cute animals and lists! But why? Things like this are hard to measure so let us do what all megalomaniacs do; take personal speculation for truth. Humans love both babies and cute animals by natural evolutionary instinct. This was likely a driving force for our ancestors when domesticating animals. This trait was quickly selected for and made ubiquitous in the surviving populations due to the massive advantages of domestic animals in early human life. Liking cute animals is no fault of our own, it’s just genetics so don’t feel bad about clicking on cute hedgehog pictures. The other titan of internet drivel is lists! We are innately lazy creatures so the concept of a list is an excellent shortcut to avoid exerting too much mental effort. Much less reading is required and, more importantly, much less cognitive processing because we need not do any meaningful analysis of content. All the information presented to us is already placed in order of importance or relevance by some arbitrary source and grading scheme.

As a whole, distraction is hardly our fault. If you need a scapegoat then biology is always right there, waiting to take the fall. It’s constantly inappropriately distributing awards and predisposing us towards interests that mass media companies can take advantage of in order to bolster their ad revenues.

Montreal: Moving Madness

A cautionary tale of busy friends and grumpy families.

What you are about to read is a true story.  I know because I was there.

The date:  June 15 at a family supper.  At the table, a student, a kid brother, mom, and dad:

Student: “Sooo, I was wondering what everyone is doing on Canada day.”

Kid Brother: “NO! NO! NO!  I’m not doing it! I told you last year, and the year before and the year before that I was never going to help you move again.”

Mother: “Well, you know I can’t help because I wrecked my knees.  Sorry.”

Dad: “Look, this is the fourth year in a row. This is getting ridiculous.”

The date: June 25. Out with friends

Student: “Sooo, I thought it would be great if everyone came over to my apartment on Canada Day.  I’ll supply pizza and beer.”

Friends:  Total Silence.

Only in Quebec, they say. In the end Dad is there with the van, kid brother, very pissed off, and one friend. Only in June, in Quebec does the offer of pizza and beer result in lost friends.  What is it with this annual relocation of a city? A 2013 source estimated that about 115,000 of Montreal’s 1.6 million residents relocate every year (Austin, 2013). I know because I was there.

Why does 7% of Canada’s second largest city move on the same day?  Even if you could afford it, the possibility of getting a moving truck or van is zero. Then there are the problems of all those abandoned pets at the SPCA.  And the old furniture on the curb. There has to be a reason.  So what is it?

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Thank you for your submissions!

GradLife McGill

Thank you for all the impressive applications you sent in to join our new‪ #‎GradLifeMcGill‬ Team! We cannot wait to introduce our new bloggers and Instagrammers to you!

If you missed our first recruitment call, please keep an eye on our “Join” page for future opportunities.

P.S. Follow GradLife on Instagram and Facebook to stay connected to the graduate student community.

Calling all Bloggers, Video Bloggers and Instagrammers! Join the new GradLife team.

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Want to share your story? We are looking for grad students and post-doctoral fellows who are energetic, articulate and passionate about their studies and life outside of academia. 

Apply to be a blogger, video blogger and/or, Instagrammer for our new GradLife McGill social media platform.

Deadline: June 15 - Apply here

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Cultivating Mindfulness & Emotional Awareness

Mindfulness. (Credit: http://www.kazoobooks.com/mindfulness-drop-in-class/)

Mindfulness

There is always so much to worry about in graduate school: from academic performance, finances, staying healthy and in a nutshell, trying to achieve a balanced lifestyle. For the past year, I decided to go on a path for finding (and keeping) balance. This included getting to know exercise; attending yoga and meditation classes; committing to healthier eating choices; and above all, emotional healing. I ended up enrolling in a 4-week workshop offered by McGill’s Counseling Services (MCS) on cultivating emotional awareness (currently being offered as “Skills for Emotional Regulation” starting November 2nd.) Throughout the workshop, Philip Lemieux, a psychologist at the MCS, emphasized that the most important message to take home from this workshop is “the planting of the mindfulness practice seed”.

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Sciencescape: A New Tool For Accelerated Efficient Research

Image from Sciencescape

Image from Sciencescape

When my father was a young professional working for a German company designing solar panels, they used to have team meetings almost every day to discuss the progression of the research. Every day, the secretary would be the first one to arrive to scour new articles published in engineering journals in order to keep the team fully updated. He would then type up his findings and make several copies for the attendees to discuss during the meeting.

Now imagine how easier this job would have been if, say, there was a Twitter-like platform where he could log onto from the comfort of his home; check his feed on current literature; receive notifications as soon as a paper gets published; organize the literature in a virtual library; and be able to digitally share this library with the team instead of printing copies. He would be able to cash in quite a few more hours of sleep! But sleeping aside, imagine if you could have a Twitter-like platform being updated 24/7 and notifying you of all the breakthroughs in literature the second they come out. Imagine having not to miss out on reading a recent paper that might greatly improve your research or that might discuss the same experiments you are working on, giving you hints on what works or not so you can change your course accordingly without losing time. Suddenly, being scooped doesn’t feel like the approach of the apocalypse, but a minor setback in the course of your graduate studies.

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Tightrope walking

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I don’t know if other students feel like this at any point in their PhD journey. For me, this sensation has come during the “home stretch”. In other words – at the worst possible time.

It is not uncommon for graduate students to feel down or discouraged at some points of their degree. Everyone knows the PhD road is long and replete with intellectual challenges, time-stealing setbacks, daunting skills to learn in very little time, and experiences that propel us far outside of our comfort zone. It is not uncommon for PhD students to feel fatigued, overwhelmed or disheartened. Waves of negative emotions may come and go, amplified by the constant pressure of deadlines and high standards. It is the small victories in between that make the waves recede and that keep us going, suddenly reminding us of why we love what we do and why we wish to keep doing it.

But that common feeling is not exactly what I am alluding to. This is something a little more difficult to put into words – a feeling of fragility and transience, uncertainty and instability, not only towards one’s work but also one’s own self. Let me try to explain.

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A Cup of Tea with Jini Reddy

instagram jini

Jini Reddy (Courtesy of Jini Reddy)

A couple of months ago, I was leafing through Psychologies magazine (December 2014 issue) and stumbled upon an article on a new rising economy: the economy of sharing and swapping that has taken bloom in the UK recently. By some mysterious force, I found myself drawn to the article: from the writing style to the engaging content that depicts a rare initiative of reaching out to people who are complete strangers – it inspired me.  I gathered up the courage and got in touch with the author of the article, Jini Reddy, to ask her if she would share some of her writing and life skills with me. An accomplished traveler and a writer/journalist who writes about eco-travel, nature-based experiences, wellbeing and sustainable living (pretty much everything I dreamed of becoming and still dream of becoming), Jini has quickly become a role model for me.

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Women in Science: An Interview with Dr Joan Steitz

Photo taken from ASCB (http://ascb.org/our-people-yale-s-joan-steitz-named-to-royal-society/) "HHMI Dr. Joan Steitz is seen posing for a portrait on the campus of Yale University on Friday, November 16, 2012 in New Haven. (Brian Ach/AP Images for HHMI)"

Photo taken from ASCB (http://ascb.org/our-people-yale-s-joan-steitz-named-to-royal-society/) “HHMI Dr. Joan Steitz is seen posing for a portrait on the campus of Yale University on Friday, November 16, 2012 in New Haven. (Brian Ach/AP Images for HHMI)”

This past July, McGill’s Department of Biochemistry hosted one of the most prominent female figures in the biological sciences: Dr Joan Steitz. Having been invited repeatedly over the past 13 years, the seminar finally took place in room 1034 of the McIntyre Building. The seminar saw a very big turn-out, including most of the biochemistry faculty members and graduate students from various departments in the life sciences.

Dr Joan Steitz walked in with an air of confidence and a general disposition of compassion. She was dressed in an elegant suit of sky blue and gray; hair beautifully coiffed up in a timeless updo and a naturally glowing complexion. The screen flashed with the title of her talk: “Non-coding RNAs with a viral twist”. For the next hour, Steitz discussed her current research and findings on how non-coding RNAs in the genome play an important role in viral infections and proliferation, specifically, the gamma-herpesvirus.

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Cornerstones of Academic Writing

Cornerstones of Academic Writing

My journey with academic writing began when I was a senior undergraduate applying for a fellowship. I had never written a research proposal before and so the result of my futile efforts came in the form of a very literary and romantic piece of writing about a faulty protein in Crohn’s disease – certainly not what you would present to a grant committee. The moment I laid eyes on the edits made to my proposal by my supervisor and saw the generous red markings, I almost fell over in my chair. That was a low moment in my writing career. But after I sat down with my supervisor and discussed the edits, things become remarkably clear, making perfect sense. The most valuable lesson I took from him that day was one simple word: Flow, which is the very first cornerstone I will talk about in this article.

Shortly after this incident, I enrolled in a course offered by Graphos and the McGill writing centre called “Cornerstones of Academic Writing”. It was truly a very fun and interactive course that I recommend to graduate students who are struggling with their writing, wish to improve it or simply want to try out an elective in an unrelated field. I’ll be sharing with you a few pointers I picked up from the course.

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Some (Random) Things that Uplift Me: An Anecdote

Random squirrel posing at McGill university. Photo taken by Yours Truly.

Random squirrel posing at McGill university. Photo taken by Yours Truly.

 

The Dilemma

I am the kind of person who gets annoyingly bored by the mundane and so I have developed an eye for those little obscure details in our surroundings. For example, after many months of observation throughout various seasons, I have noticed that there is a small conserved population of black squirrels that live specifically in that courtyard on the Atwater/Sherbrooke intersection, right at the 144 bus stop. That was the first time I had ever seen a black squirrel and probably the only place I have ever seen them in. I know black squirrels exist elsewhere, but please don’t burst my bubble and tell me otherwise. You see, it’s very simple: squirrels make me happy. The way they hop; search for food; naively miss the piece of walnut you just threw right in front of their scrawny paws; the way they stand up on their two hind legs while they’re checking you out (I mean, look at that guy in the picture, really!); the way their bushy tail is, well, bushy; the way they chase each other and interact with each other and the occasional human.

I’m about to pull a Miss Potter here and tell you a tale about black and gray squirrels. The only difference between me and Miss Potter is that I will actually be in the story – just very briefly. But let me do this properly like the good ole scientist that I am.

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Long Distance Supervisorship

I just finished writing my master’s thesis and I am now waiting for formal signatures before I can submit it. The whole experience is still too fresh in my mind for me to provide an objective assessment, but one aspect of my graduate studies is worth talking about: doing research under a remote supervisor.

We all had this experience: it is the lab’s holiday party and everybody is having a good time. When the night is over your supervisor wishes you luck on your next semester and assures you that he will keep contact next year. Your confused look prompts him to divulge more information. You didn’t know it, but he is going on a sabbatical next year so he will be abroad when you pursue your first year of actual research. Memories from previous unattended research come back to you! You steel yourself. At least, you had the experience before. Good night!

Sarah had a piece on long distance relationship during graduate studies. Let this be the post on long distance supervisorship.

Maybe not the best way to keep in touch with your remote advisor (Credits: science-notebook.com)

Maybe not the best way to keep in touch with your remote advisor
(Credits: science-notebook.com)

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The Writer’s Toolkit: 14 things that could change how you feel about writing

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Somewhere between now and forever. That sounds about right. Isn’t that the gist of your reply to family members and friends who just don’t get why you’re still a PhD student? So much has changed in the world, and you’re still at it. I mean, how long does it take to write a thesis? Just write it already!

But you know, and I know, and Cecilia knows — it’s not that simple.

Or is it?

Unbeknownst to him, my supervisor gave some stellar advice in one plain sentence, a few weeks ago. Although this advice was not directly meant for me, and was part of a general conversation about papers and publications, it’s something I took to heart and have applied ever since: “Just sit down and write it – tell yourself you are going to work for this amount of hours, and sit there and write it”. Just sit down – best advice ever, because it made me concretely realize that writing is not challenging due to a lack of inspiration, but due to a lack of focus. If you give yourself the time and the space to do nothing else but work on writing, there will be no shortage of ideas, arguments, counterarguments and – eventually – words on the page.

I have been writing my thesis full time for two weeks. Every day. The encouraging thing is that it seems to get easier and easier, as does anything after copious amounts of practice.

I think what one needs is a “writer’s toolkit” – some strategies that work for you, that you can stick to, and that can serve as a comfortingly familiar routine, to help ensure your success on this writing mission.

Here is my toolkit:

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You’ll never walk alone: Valuable resources for graduate students at McGill

One aspect of our graduate student life at McGill that truly stands out as exemplary to me is the sheer number of resources in place to buttress our burgeoning professional careers. I am amazed that, even as a senior PhD student, I am constantly finding out about organizations, workshops and tools that I did not know of the year before. We are blessed to have such an incredible framework of support at our university, and to have a wealth of information and support right at our fingertips. I’ve compiled a list of valuable resources for students who currently are or soon will be enrolled in a graduate program at McGill. In here is basic information I found out about when I first arrived, as well as information I found out about just last week! I hope that many of you will benefit from this information and will know where to turn when in need of more.

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