When I remember my days as an undergrad, I feel the good old nostalgia of those days when my friends and I gathered in the faculty cafeteria to prepare tests, homework or anything else. However, the challenges are quite different now. Back then the answers were almost absolute. If you were able to read the book and manage to improve your ability to solve logical problems, you were on the other side of the river. During a graduate research, who can say if something is correct or not? Of course, your supervisor (an expert in the field) must have a strong opinion about a subject, but if you find evidence rejecting his/her hypothesis, then who else can give a precise answer? In my own field, there are many questions that nobody has really answered, while some researchers publish papers with vague explanations to incredibly complex phenomena. And inside this whole chaos reside the real beauty of science. Many times we simply have no clue of what is happening. And our sole weapon was created a thousand years ago.
Ever speak with someone and not understand a single word they say to you? Then their incomprehensibility leaves you feeling like an idiot, and the other person treating you like one. Trouble communicating is a failure of both parties, not just the confused one.
Being a student at McGill gives me countless opportunities to interact with people from a plethora of diverse backgrounds. And while English may be an official language in many countries, only a little more than 5% of the global population actually speaks it. Even fewer than that speak English as their native tongue. The result: there is no small number of people in this world who don’t speak English, or don’t speak English well. That’s not even considering that we live in Quebec, where 80% of the population are Francophones. (more…)
During a conference, an individual with pamphlets will approach you talking about the incredible opportunities you can get when acquiring a student membership for the “(insert discipline here) Canadian/American/International Society”. He/she will tell you that for a yearly fee, you can get access to incredible awards and contacts for your future professional life. However, you should be careful when selecting on who are you going to invest your precious stipend. In my case, I was somehow suspicious about spending any money on something without any immediate benefit. But after a year, I found interesting things. It is important to note that my personal experience is limited to Engineering societies, but some points could be shared with other disciplines. Here are the benefits that I know first hand:
L’automne dernier, j’ai fait la connaissance de Camille Robert, historienne et étudiante en pédagogie de l’enseignement supérieur à l’UQAM. Quand j’ai appris qu’elle faisait des démarches pour publier son mémoire – «Toutes les femmes sont d’abord ménagères » : Discours et mobilisations des féministes québécoises autour du travail ménager (1968-1985) – j’ai été vraiment impressionnée! Comment publie-t-on le fruit de ses recherches?
Quel est le sujet de ton mémoire?
Mon mémoire porte sur les discours et les mobilisations des féministes québécoises autour du travail ménager. Par travail ménager, on entend généralement toutes les tâches d’entretien du logis et de soin des personnes formant l’unité familiale.
Dans mes recherches, j’ai voulu expliquer comment les féministes se sont appuyées sur le travail invisible exécuté par les femmes pour formuler de nouvelles revendications. Au début du XXe siècle, le travail des mères et épouses au sein du foyer a servi de levier pour obtenir certains droits, par exemple le droit de vote. Mais c’est surtout à partir des années 1970 que l’enjeu du travail ménager devient central dans le mouvement féministe. Plusieurs féministes y voient la source de l’infériorité des femmes dans plusieurs sphères de la société… Par exemple, le fait que les professions traditionnellement féminines (enseignante, éducatrice, secrétaire, infirmière, etc.), qui sont en quelque sorte des prolongements du travail ménager, soient sous-rémunérées et dévalorisées. Dans mon mémoire, j’examine également les différentes avenues de reconnaissance du travail ménager proposées par les féministes : salaire au travail ménager, socialisation du travail ménager et réformes gouvernementales.
À la sempiternelle question «que vas-tu faire avec un doctorat?», je ne sais jamais vraiment quoi répondre. Parce que j’ai quelques idées, mais que je ne le sais pas. Disons que les offres d’emploi qui stipulent que le candidat doit avoir un diplôme de troisième cycle en histoire sont plutôt rares – pour ne pas dire presque inexistantes – et qu’il faut se créer des occasions.
La réponse, toute simple, est que j’aime cela. J’aime étudier. J’aime lire. J’aime faire de la recherche. J’aime apprendre.
I never thought I’d wish that I were a bird, but by the end of this post you might also.
I exercise quite frequently, and though I’ve never been a big fitness buff (pun intended) I still make time to keep fit and healthy. Interestingly, not all species have to do that. Imagine not ever having to lift a finger, yet staying as lean as an Olympic athlete. (more…)
Literally, the word “solidification” means making or becoming hard or solid, making stronger. I like to think of this word as a phase change, like from water to ice, or from magma to crystals or marble. The story that I have told so far in “The beginning of a story” and “Successes: the story continues…” has a liquid status that this text aims to solidify. A character without name will get one, a spatial location will be drawn around his body, a past will carve out his shape throughout the page. (more…)
February has started already, so here are some new ideas to warm your life up during this winter month and to remind yourself for few hours that life is not only about work.
– Sport in great company
I know I have mentioned the idea of going skating before, but wouldn’t it be even nicer if you could share that experience with other graduate students, get to meet new people and possibly make friends? PGSS has organized two skating events, one in Ottawa on the 18th of February and one in the Old Port on the 23rd. If you have never been to the Capital, I would highly recommend joining them, there might also be very original ice sculptures close to the canal.
In addition, you should check out the events that PGSS organizes, they are way more than you expect. For example, if you want to keep fit in company, you can sign up for zumba classes for a more than reasonable price! Keep an eye on the PGSS events webpage!
If you listen to the radio or watch local TV with any regularity, then you know that last month (Jan 25) was Bell’s Let’s Talk day; a fundraising and awareness campaign that uses social media to raise money for mental health research. And if you’re like most of us, you’ve let the ads come and go, and you may not have thought about mental health since. But the reality is mental illness is still here, especially in grad school, and it’s an issue we need to talk about.
The University of California Berkley conducted a survey of their graduate students and found that mental wellness issues are alarmingly pervasive in academia. On their campus, more than half of graduate students reported issues with depression and anxiety! That’s close to 10 times higher than the national average for the US, and things don’t look much different here in Canada.
Why are grad students at risk? (more…)
As a grad student I constantly find myself strapped for time. There is a pile of experiments to be done, lab reports to mark, an apartment to be cleaned and even friends to see. Sometimes it can be hard to juggle all of these things and still keep up with my other interests. However I think that one of the important lessons I’ve learned is that you need something other than grad school to keep you balanced. Maybe it’s a sports team, or a community group, or maybe you volunteer and give back to your community. Healthy McGill is running the Self Care Challenge this week and one of their recurring themes is taking time for yourself. It couldn’t be more important. Personally, I volunteer as a Girl Guide Leader. (more…)
L’automne dernier, en attendant de payer mon café au Permis de Bière, je regardais les bières autour de moi. L’une d’entre elles sortait du lot avec sa bouteille en forme d’amphore: la cervoise Alésia. Curieuse, je lis l’étiquette. Ça alors! Cette cervoise est le fruit d’un minutieux travail de reconstitution historique! J’ai voulu en savoir plus.
Where we make our last stand
Today is the last day of January. The first month of 2017 comes to an end with a dark outcome that left me sorrowful. I will not talk about any political moves or news here, as this post is not intended to recap what we are seeing in the media.
The only thing I want to remind you, is what I mentioned in some other post lately (Do you Change the Ideas or the Way of Thinking?). Our role as Graduate Students is quite important, as we help to drive the mankind development from each one of our areas. It doesn’t matter if you are developing a new alloy, creating a new vaccine or studying an ancient text. Every single one of these works matters, as they are focused on improving our living conditions and/or our understanding of the past, present and future.
Photo by Luis Villegas. Bayfront park Hamilton, Ontario.
Before coming to McGill, I did not know what the expression Digital Humanities means. Now, one year and a half after, I’m focusing my research on this field. I presented it at the last Digital Humanities Showcase that this year took place at McGill on January 26th. It was not only an occasion to share my work with other scholars, but also an example of how this field has become paramount for the curriculum of any graduate student.
All good things come to an end. By that I mean, one day, when school is over, we must enter the real world. For me, this day may be sooner than I’d like to admit. The job search has begun, and resume building has taken over much of my time. One question that I’ve been asking myself for some time now is: What is the best way to find the right job for ME? Well, one option is through networking.
Ah, networking. Many people say to do it, but HOW do you do it? How do you actually make it work for you? Here are a few things I’ve learned about networking along the way, and some tips I’m using to (hopefully) become successful in this job searching process!
Firstly, attend events, and introduce yourself. Some people are bad with names, and some people are bad with faces – but giving them the chance to meet you in person will increase the likelihood that they remember either your name or your face, and ultimately actually remember who you are. After every networking session, no matter how informal, send a follow-up email to thank them for their time. If you specifically spoke about employment opportunities, you can include a cover letter in this email as well. You need to give them something by which they will remember you, something that makes you stand out. By increasing your chances to be in contact with them, you’re doing yourself a favour by staying in the front of their minds.
A huge part of the typical international student’s experiences consists in facing countless novelties and learning how to deal with them, whether they are good or bad. And given that we are in Montreal and just three days ago we survived one of the (to my mind) worst days ever from a weather point of view, here are a few suggestions for those of you who almost never feel ready.
– Don’t get discouraged.
It is easier than you think. I had no idea I could be affected so much by weather, and especially by the cold. When I lived in Milano, I had a very hard time getting through the extremely humid and hot summer, but winter was never very hard, even though the humidity could make a trivial 0°C feel like a -15°C. Then Montreal became my home and I realized that the length of the bad season here, and particularly the wind, have become my worst enemies. There is little I can do about them though, so I can just suggest you to spend time with friends when you feel blue, and hold on because summer in Montreal is pretty amazing. If it’s your first time, you’ll figure it out, otherwise you know what I am talking about.
Conference! Those glamorous days when we can wear a nice suit and demonstrate what are we made of in front of dozens of researchers. It can go pretty well and be a good chance to meet new people or make new friends! However, the preparation is essential to achieve your most ambitious plans. Why am I saying this? Well, let’s say that you don’t want to end up stranded in Tijuana on your next travel to a conference. Believe me, you don’t. My first huge conference was on a beautiful beach in the Pacific Ocean, but because of my poor organization, the things went pretty bad the whole trip.
Photo by Luis Villegas Armenta
What did I learn? Let me give you a hand:
- Always arrive one night before your presentation if you are planning to arrive by plane. You never know when the weather will look for some fun.
- Investigate more than one way to reach the conference hotel. Sometimes the roads can be blocked by a construction or maybe the sea just decided to swallow them (as in my case).
- Make sure you have a way to pay for everything you could need (extra cash, debit). It would be a shame if your credit card gets blocked out of nowhere (again, my case).
- Find a way to contact the conference staff in case of any complication.
- Upload your presentation to a cloud storage. USB´s gets lost just too often.
- Bring extra clothes. Always.
- Finally, have some fun! Even if something bad happens. At the end, you will always remember the beautiful sunset you saw while eating cold pizza on the beach.
Good luck with those abstracts!
Have you ever been stuck in your research, cannot find the article (any article) that will help you move forward? So you sit in front of your computer, gears spinning, groaning. Frustration mounting, grains of sand moving through the hour glass?
Go to the library. Ask a librarian. All your dreams will come true. Two or three focused questions, a bit of magic, and then papers, articles – everything you were looking for is there.
Are you familiar with Boolean logic? How to use AND, NOT, “ “, or *. Which data base to use? What key words will give you results? Or how do you adjust your search when you have too many hits? How to use filters? The glitches in a data base? If not, you need to talk to a librarian. What about setting up alerts to notify you when new articles come out from previous searches you used in a data base?
And what about endnote – if no one has told you about endnote – go ask a librarian. You want, no, you need endnote. I waited six months to figure out endnote, and then spent the better part of two days entering articles. Time well spent, but I should have figured endnote out day one. If you have not used endnote – well, let’s just say grad life is better with endnote. If you haven’t discovered endnote, don’t know where to start – go ask a librarian. There are 1.5 hr workshops. The librarian I spoke to described endnote as miraculously good software.
There are even ways to use Google scholar effectively. Did you know you can set up Google Scholar to link directly to McGill AND to endnote? (Go to the setting menu in Google Scholar) That blew me away! Cited by? Use it.
Any questions? – Well, you know what to do.
Once upon a time, I was doing my Master’s degree about a Latin text found in a big volume written by a Jesuit in 1710. I did a translation from Latin to French and wrote about the author and how his text was presenting the Native Americans. After two years of work, I finally submitted my thesis and started to work in communication, waiting for the result.
One day, I received an email from one of the members of the committee. I was wrong. The text’s author was not an 18th-century Jesuit, it was a 17th-century unknown layman. Please make again half of your thesis.
I would like to spend just a few words to recommend you to take part in an event that I will unfortunately be unable to attend. As I mentioned in a previous post, sometimes the Osler Library of the History of Medicine organizes events that are free and open to the general public, and that are of historical and scientific interest.
Whether this winter you followed Nick’s advice and got your flu shot or not, during the next event you will be able to join a vernissage about vaccination and its controversies nowadays and in an historical context. I find this topic extremely interesting, especially in an era in which more and more people seem to become skeptical about common practices like vaccination. Either if you are one of those people or you are strong supporter of this kind of prophylaxis, I am sure there will be a lot to be learnt and a good time to be shared.
If you finally decide to go, let me know how it was, and remember… there will also be wine and cheese!
Well it’s been a while since my last adventure, but next week I’m off on my next one. This time I’m heading to the opera! Now I know opera is not everyone’s cup of tea, but I think it gets a bit of a bad rap. Or maybe it’s just people don’t often have the opportunity to experience it. Well I’m here to tell you that it’s more accessible than you might think.
I attended my first opera during my undergrad. It was an university production at the University of Ottawa and a bunch of us went, mainly because we didn’t have other plans and it felt classy. But I was surprised how much I enjoyed the spectacle of it. The music, the vocals, the drama, it was astounding! And thus began my interest in opera. Since then I’ve been lucky enough to attend a number of performances both here in Montreal and elsewhere.
So, if you feel like checking out an opera, how do you go about it? Well I have 2 recommendations for you; Opera McGill or Opera de Montreal. I’ve seen several performance by both companies and not only were they spectacular, but they both offer student discounts for the budget-conscious grad student. (more…)