27 and a PhD

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Search terms – April

Welcome to my blog!

Hello there, awesome reader. My name is Dr. 27. I'm older than that now, but I'm staying faithful to the origins of the blog.

This blog started 2 months before completing my PhD in a pretty southern university back in 2009. It was a way to practice my writing and take a break from all things thesis. My PhD is in a branch of structural biology where I studied some rather impressive stuff.

After completing the degree, I packed my life of 6 years in 3 days and moved to Canada to do a postdoc in a completely different field. Two years later, and after attending a lot of seminars, workshops and doing some much-needed soul-searching, I ended up getting out and looking for an alternative path to academia and industry.

The blog chronicles my mishaps, ideas, musings and tips on entering, staying and finishing grad school. It also talks about some (or a lot) of personal stuff. For a while, the blog became a place to talk about the frustrations of not knowing what to do after PhD. I wanted to explore alternatives to the traditional paths of research (academia, industry and goverment) whilst going back to my field of training (if at all possible). Eventually a job materialized. Follow my quest as I navigate the waters of being a staff scientist at a core facility.

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I know it’s been a long time since I’ve posted. Between trying a few new things in the lab, the acquisition of a Wii, and a few other things I sometimes forget that I have a blog I *LOVE* and that I should keep it up. So, without further ado, here are the search terms I’ve gathered recently:

  1. Things to know before a PhD – I did a little series about this. You can start reading here. But mainly, as an awesome visitor of this blog (Polz) put it: if you’re coming directly from undergrad, realize that the environment in grad school can be super isolating, physically, mentally, emotionally and intellectually that other than give you the basic knowledge, undegrad does NOT prepare you for the challenges of grad school. I had a little study group. We’d answer take home exams by consensus, by each person reviewing the literature and then sharing what we’d learned (but careful, we each elaborated our answers alone). Also, the kind of work, the hours, and the pay may come as a disappointment. Having a PhD is NOT a guaranteed move to secure a job. Feel free to talk to a career counselor, or a prof who has gone through this (especially recently).
  2. Lab is out of money – how do you get your degree ? – You can still get your degree, but if your PI cannot cover the costs, the department may intervene to put you in a different lab. Mind you, you may need to start fresh from 0, so talk to your PI about your options. If there’s a grad counselor or a person who checks on your progress and protects the interests of the students in the department (which should be) talk to him/her. Harass if necessary. Someone like a director of education or a similar person should be a good source of info on what to do if your PI runs out of funds. One thing you can do before, or while this is happening is applying for funding sources for you. Usually these fellowships or training grants are independent of your PI, and extra money for research purchases and travel may come attached to it. But don’t despair, talk to the people in charge because they should have the proper info to ensure you’re taken care and provided for.
  3. As a PhD, why have you not published ? – This is a great question, and I think it somewhat depends on your discipline. You can/will get peer-reviewed publications if you’re in other disciplines besides biomedical research and science related areas, but usually the PI’s in the science areas tend to be more involved in the students’ lab life and get you to publish, sooner or later. I say this, since my BF is in a non-life science area. Sometimes PI’s wait until you’re finished, in order to submit papers. If say, you need to do an extra experiment or two before you’re completely done with school, that may be a reason why you still don’t have papers. It depends on the labs’ policies about when papers are submitted. In my case, I still have a paper that need to be published, but I had 1st and 2nd author papers published by the time I left. I do remember that before my grad school PI had her current job, her previous students could graduate if their manuscripts were ready for submission. What they presented to their theses committees were their papers in final form, before submission. That, I thought, was weird. But apparently that’s the way things were at her previous school/department.
  4. How old are you when you did your PhD? – I got my PhD a week after my 28th birthday. My boyfriend will be almost 30 by the time he finishes his (but he did a master’s before, which took 2.5 years). We both are the same age. I’ve met people who at 25-26 were done, mainly because they had been in their labs day and night (something I couldn’t bring myself to do). Some people in my class were about my age by the time they were done. Other were a bit older and had gone back to school after having been in the workforce for a few years.
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5 Comments

  1. Alexandra says:

    Yikes! I don’t want to imagine having to switch labs b/c there are no more grants.
    And I’m so releved that we can write an article thesis, where we just copy-paste the papers as they were published and be done with it. The thought of having to write papers and a thesis would be too much!

  2. 28 says:

    Yeah, that would be a tough one. I don’t know if there’s a standard procedure to work something out so you don’t have to switch, because I remember hearing something (at my old school) about the department stepping in to cover your stipend, but I don’t know how true that is.

    As far as the article thesis, my old department had something like that, but you still had to reword a few things here and there, divide by sections, separate the materials and methods and include them ONLY in the mats and methods section. Where my old boss used to work the students would just put a high-res print.

    Thanks for visiting!!

  3. nonphotogenics says:

    OMG! I so completely sympathize with your posts 😛 I’m glad to see I’m not crazy obsessing over what next step in my education and professional development I should and will take!

  4. 28 says:

    Thanks for visiting nonphotogenics! I’m flattered you found some sort of reassurance in this blog. You and readers like you are the reason why I (and others) blog. Thanks for visiting 🙂

  5. […] May I LOVE doing the “search terms” entries. As evidenced here, here, and here. I truly enjoy swifting through the terms that users have used and land them on my […]

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