Holidays at Home

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Photo by jill111 / Pixabay

Like many of my fellow grad students, I travelled home to spend the holidays with my family. I‘m half way though my vacation and things are following the same predictable pattern, more or less. There is the excitement of seeing my parents and siblings, followed quickly by the readjusting to suddenly living with 6 people (I normally live alone). We all open our presents together, play board games and enjoy lots of good food (though this year half of us got food poisoning!). And while I’ve experienced the holiday joy Heather talks about, I also experience the impostor syndrome Angel describes so accurately, especially since everyone knows I’ve been doing cancer research for the last 5+ years. (more…)

Grad School! But then what? (Part 2)

Photo by @aleksbud / Instagram @gradlifemcgill

Photo by @aleksbud / Instagram @gradlifemcgill

A couple weeks ago I expressed some of my anxiety about my future career plans, my decision to explore my options other than a post-doc and a Career Development Day I was organizing. The event was a rousing success! (I might be a bit bias.) Organizing the event was a learning experience in itself and I’ll talk more about my experiences working with BGSS in a future post but here are the 4 top things I learned from the event.

1. Know what is important to you.
This was an exercise from the Individual Career Planning workshop run by CaPS. Basically you make a long list of different values you might look for in a job (ie. work-life balance, high salary, security, flexibility, problem solving etc.) You take these and put them into 3 piles; needs, wants and neutrals. Then you take your “needs” and order them from most to least important. When you really sit down and think about it, you might be surprised by what aspects are the most important to you, I know I was. Once you have your list you can see patterns and maybe associate them with certain careers. Better yet, give it to a friend; they might see things in there that you can’t. This activity really helped put things into focus and is allowing me to look for careers that will fit with who I am.

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Grad School! But then what? (Part 1)

Photo by @christinekts, Instagram @gradlifemcgill

Photo by @christinekts, Instagram @gradlifemcgill

Do you ever think about what you’ll do next after grad school? Does that thought ever scare you? Over the last few months I’ve been thinking more and more about this. I have about a year and a half left and thinking about what comes next has left me with more than a few sleepless nights. It’s a big decision to come to grad school but there are also big decisions to make when you’re about to leave.

It doesn’t help when you’ve heard the stories about how hard it is becoming in academia, especially when you look at the statistics. In 2012, ASCB published a graphical representation of current biology PhD career paths that suggests less than 10% of current graduate students will get a tenure-track academic position. A NIH working group found that while PhDs awarded in biomedical sciences has doubled in the last 20 years faculty positions certainly haven’t and they found over 1/3 of biomedical PhDs are working in non-research related careers.

Now it’s not all doom and gloom, don’t get me wrong. But it is a reality we all need to be aware of and something we need to prepare for while we are doing our degrees. (more…)

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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Everybody needs energy

 

Note: my graduate research is focused on switchgrass, so conflict of interest alert!

I’ve been musing a lot about energy lately, so I finally decided to muse it all into a word file and this is what happened:

 

Left to right: an early steam engine, oil platform, nuclear plant, the future. Sources: Wikimedia commons

Energy could be the biggest issue in the world today. Its tentacles creep into nearly every sphere of public policy. In the era of climate change obsession, the sources of the energy we use to build and power our societies are under increasing scrutiny. The question is, how can we imagine meeting the planet’s insatiable demand without stifling ourselves in the process?

 

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Generation Us and Them.

Us and Them.  The digital divide.  The generation gap.  The age gap.  A sign of our times.  The Net Generation.  Generation Y.  It has always been that way – different generations have gotten different labels.  Now with the widespread use of social media (although, in reality the statistic is that only 23 percent of the world’s population has access to the Internet) there is a lot of talk about this notion of “Generation Me” – a narcissistic, self-centered generation.  We used to talk about the Hippies and then the Yuppies (both baby boomers), Generation X and Generation Y and now I think we’ve reverted to talking about the “net” generation.   (more…)

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