3 minutes to summarize 2 years

My master’s thesis is about 95 pages long. That’s a lot of information to reduce down to a two-page script that can be read in three minutes. But that’s what I did, along with 11 of the most inspiring young researchers I have ever had the chance to meet at McGill. It all happened on March 31st at McGill’s 3rd annual 3 Minutes to Change the World.

My fellow *amazing* presenters at 3 Minutes to Change the World

My fellow *amazing* presenters at 3 Minutes to Change the World 2014

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Formatting: An unexpected challenge of thesis-writing!

Photo credit Help Desk, reed.edu

As spring approaches, so do some important deadlines for graduate students. For many of us, we’ll be submitting an initial draft of our thesis in April, which is (eep) less than a month away!

As I putter on, editing my manuscripts, polishing my introduction and conclusion, I can’t help but notice something I truly didn’t expect. Who would have thought formatting could take up so much time?

Maybe you Word-savvy readers would scoff at the reality I’m facing. What’s odd is that I always found myself to be pretty competent at copy editing and formatting. Maybe it’s the size of the thesis that is making things a little complicated. For one, my citation management software, EndNote, is acting a little funny; like it’s tuckered out and can’t handle more than 70 citations at once. Or, maybe it’s that my table of contents is three pages long and his having a little meltie.

My table of contents just can’t handle it right now
Photo credit: Nancy K. Sullivan

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Getting discouraged

Feeling discouraged? Me too! The hauler of a boat, by Honoré Daumier.  Image from wikigallery.org

Feeling discouraged? Me too! And this guy…
The hauler of a boat, by Honoré Daumier.
Image from wikigallery.org

I’m sure it’s bound to happen to most graduate students during their thesis-writing days. It’s a feeling of deep discouragement. One that gets you to your bones, and makes you feel tired in a way that sleep cannot suppress.  (more…)

Interview tips for landing your dream internship

After being offered an internship position at McGill’s Institute for Health and Social Policy (IHSP), I wondered what made my interview successful.

Image from centralstory.com

To get a behind-the-scenes perspective on that question, I interviewed Ms. Denise Maines, the Student Affairs Administrator at the IHSP.

Denise Maines was on my interview panel.

Here are her thoughtful answers to my questions about preparing for a successful interview:

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There and back again

Here we go again!
Image from internetcafedevotions.com/2011/12/unpacking-suitcases/

The kitchen was packed with friends and family. The cat had just attempted, quite bravely, to jump onto the counter and eat the turkey. My mom was trying to dazzle her guests with anecdotes and drinks as my father rushed this way and that with charred ovenmits tending to gravy and potatoes and other piping hot dishes bubbling on the stove.

“Things are seriously never this hectic in Montreal,” I thought.

It’s not like every time I go home things are so chaotic. Winter holidays are so unique perhaps because of the increased expectations all mixed in with the nostalgia of holidays past.

I had been anxious about my return home for the holidays. After I had wrapped up my work, enjoyed some yummy food and drinks at the lab Christmas party, and finally packed my suitcase, it sank in: Oh my…here we go.

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Preparing a conference presentation: Part 2

Conference

Photo by AdamR, Freedigitalphotos

About a month ago, I wrote the first post of a two-part guide on how to prepare a good conference presentation. I had asked my colleagues to give me their best advice, as I had never presented in a panel session before.

Well, now that the presentation date has come and gone, I thought I would share some follow-up thoughts.

Here’s how it went:

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Teaching at CEGEPs: How to apply and what to expect

For those who are completing a master’s degree, a PhD, or a Post doc, and are passionate about teaching, working at a CEGEP might be a viable career strategy.

Going to CEGEP is a rite of passage for Quebec students hoping to go to universities in Quebec before the age of 21. Established in 1969, these institutions were designed to make post-secondary education more accessible, and to prepare Quebec students for university.  But as someone who experienced it first hand, I can tell you that completing a DEC at a CEGEP means more than the equivalent of your last year of high school and your first year of university.

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Concerns of women in research

How can women foster a work-life balance in their research careers?

Did you know Aretha was awarded an honorary doctorate from Princeton?
She had it right in demanding R-E-S-P-E-C-T!

How do we make tough career decisions?

Why do we sometimes feel we’re not good enough to be here?

These are some of the questions that were tackled at McGill’s 2nd annual In her own words 2: Stories from Distinguished Research Careers. The speakers on this panel were Professor Suzanne Fortier (our current Principal), Professor Grace Fong, and Professor Morag Park.

Their advice was thoughtful, but also sometimes discouraging—in the way the best can make success look so easy. This post is for all you who didn’t make it to the event but are curious as to what these power-houses had to say about pursuing a career in research. (more…)

How to prepare a great conference presentation:Part 1

Part 1:  The Dos and Don’ts

In approximately 21 days I will be presenting my first ever oral presentation at a conference as a graduate student. I have presented posters before but this is new, exciting territory.  Instead of 3-5 minutes of floor time, I have 15-20! Instead of a single poster, I’m generously allowed to present at least 15 electrifying slides!

The possibilities are endless, and apparently so are the jitters. Luckily, I work with a laboratory full of truly brilliant researchers, each of whom have had more experience than me in presenting at conferences all over the world. Looking for their guidance on preparing the best conference presentation possible, I asked them three questions:

  1. What was the best advice anyone has ever given you concerning presentations?
  2. What are some mistakes you have made in the past?
  3. Is there something you do every time you present?

I’ve summarized their golden nuggets of wisdom for your benefit and mine: (more…)

The risks and benefits of universal narratives

Classics buffs and economics enthusiasts rejoice! There is a play on at the Theatre d’Aujourdui that is well worth your attention, and quite relevant to stigma and graduate research.

Luc Picard and Sophie Desmarais perform at Le Théatre d'Aujourd'hui. Photo by Jérémie Battaglia.

Luc Picard and Sophie Desmarais perform at Le Théatre d’Aujourd’hui. Photo by Jérémie Battaglia.

Set in 2008 as the US markets begin to crash, the play tells the story of hedge fund agent (Luc Picard) and his relationship with a junior analyst (Sophie Desmarais)—an anxious mathematician with poor social skills who, after going through months of therapy, is learning how to communicate beyond numbers and models.

Her favourite new communication tool? Epic Similes. (Here I mean “epic” in the Homeric or Epic Poetry kind of sense, not the overused version my teenage cousins use to describe their youtube channels.) (more…)

Learning how to write again

Hi, my name is Alexandra, and this is my first-ever post for Grad Life!

I am very excited for the year ahead, but also a little nervous; taking this first plunge was harder than I thought, and for a long time I couldn’t put my finger on why. As I struggled with this inaugural post for Grad Life, I realized something important: (more…)

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