What can the Undergrads teach you?

Instagram @gradlifemcgill Photo by @kipunsam.daily

Being a teacher’s assistant (TA) can be hard work. As a TA you’re a font of knowledge, the solution to their problems and the keeper of their GPA. You’re also figuring out things as you go, putting out fires as they happen (hopefully figuratively!) and generally trying to keep up the aura of authority. So whether you are lecturing in a seminar, running tutorials or supervising a lab, like me, it’s as much as learning experience as a teaching experience.

So what have my students taught me? Well, I think you learn different things depending on what kind of teaching you are doing. Fannie described her experience leading seminars and I can only speak to my experience as a TA for a lab course, but here are a few lessons I’ve learned. (more…)

Top 5 Tips to Increase Productivity

Photo by @GradLifeMcGill instagrammer @steezsister

Photo by @GradLifeMcGill instagrammer @steezsister

Ah, grad school. Aka the years of your life where you’re learning how much you don’t know, pushing your personal and professional boundaries, and managing an outrageously busy schedule. Grad school schedules come with deadlines. Deadlines for abstract submissions, funding applications, and course work, on top of lab meetings, data collection, and social endeavours. Here are my top 5 tips to increase productivity, to maneuver these deadlines and actually get work done:

1. Make a list

This tip is probably the most cliché of all, but couldn’t be left off of this list. The fact is: it works. I find it much easier to prioritize my tasks when they’re all laid out in front of me. I can see what needs to be done, estimate how much time each item will take, and start working from there.

Make your list before you start doing any work. Include even the smallest tasks, because it’s a great feeling to check items off, and any progress is good progress!

2. Set a timeline and stick to it

When I’m working in the lab, I tend to pick a task to work on until lunch time, and then take my lunch break. Then, I pick another task (potentially the same one, if it’s larger), and work until the end of the day. I always have a time when I know I’ll be leaving the lab, and I stick to that timeline. This helps me set aside blocks of time for each task I need to complete in a day, and knowing how long I’m going to be working on something helps me stay focused and be more productive.


It’s time to pay my dues

Me, catching bugs in Kugluktuk, Nunavut. I'm thinking the whole thing is pretty awesome.

This is my sixth term as an Entomology (that’s the -ology of insects) PhD student at McGill, and I’ve been awfully busy. I’ve given my first departmental seminar, submitted my thesis proposal, survived my comprehensive exam, taught three terms’ worth of labs, and finished writing a book chapter. (I’m tired just looking at that list!)

Somewhere in the middle of all that, I also managed to squeeze in two field seasons in the Canadian Arctic.

I’m the first to admit that doing field work in the far north is pretty sexy stuff. I get to travel to gorgeous remote regions that most people will never get a chance to see. I spend my days driving an ATV over wide-open tundra, setting traps and collecting specimens and keeping an eye out for grizzly bears. I see cool things like muskoxen, the spring thaw on Coronation Bay, and the midnight sun. I get to meet beautiful, friendly people; sometimes I get to go bug-hunting with local kids.

Even when it’s cold and rainy, my ATV gets stuck in the mud and I discover that a reckless caribou has run through my trapline, it’s still full of awesome.


The DO’s – Advice on choosing a lab/supervisor

As promised, here is part 2 of the two part series “the do’s and don’ts of choosing a lab/supervisor” (more…)

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