Category Archives: Gradute students
- Invest time in learning tasks/project management – start here.
- Review all of your tasks/next action weekly
- Set time aside to review your projects/goals on a regular basis (at least monthly for projects and quarterly for goals).
- Set time aside to do something else: sport, tricot, …
From the author of Organizing Creativity, Daniel Wessel, here come an overview of the book in 75 minutes!
As I have said before, this is a must for all graduate students. I cannot recommend enough that you take the time, listen to the presentation and afterward download (free!) and read the book for more in-depth information.
Quite frankly, this book is so good that I bought the printed (color) version. Yes, a paper version, call me a romantic…
To Jean Pouliot (1958-2015)
Berkeley 1985 (left) and more recently (right)
The title of this post is from a wonderful and powerful poem by Walt Whitman, delivered to a large public by a passionate performance in the movie Dead Poet Society.
It is here dedicated to my PhD thesis co-supervisor whom, through the years, became of a colleague, a co-conspirator in many fruitful scientific projects for which we successfully “tricked” numerous students to undertake them (as we acted as co-supervisors), and more importantly a dear friend.
There is Nothing so Unequal as the Equal Treatment of Unequals
– Leadership and the One Minute Manager
If someone would have told me 15 years ago that I would write about a blog post on the link between some business management principals and student supervision, I would probably have reply “are you crazy, science is pure, untainted (yeah!). Business is all about money and nothing about peoples”.
Goals are dreams with deadlines.
– Diana Scharf Hunt
The last few days our research group has been literally perturbed by a deadline for abstract submission to a major scientific meeting. It happens a few times per year and almost every research group around the world live more or less the same level of excitement. Not only for the student trying to make sense of their data and get to present their work at key scientific meetings but also for the supervisor.
Over the last few years, I notice (though it might be anecdotal since I haven’t done a thorough review) that the less original content is present in a poster or talk, the less likely someone is to acknowledge that their work is a remake and seems to simply skip proper referencing. This year, I have seen a perfect (and I mean it!) remake of a work we have published three years ago. The talk did not even had a single reference, not just to our work but to any works…
These talks or posters are basically presented as original, totally new. Is this a failure of the supervisor when attributing the topic or that of the student for failing to do a proper literature review?
We have all heard of the 30 seconds elevator pitch. In fact, if you search for those terms in Google, you will get over a hundred thousand hits. It seems that this has even been push to an art or even “engineered” systems.
Traveling with colleagues and students to one of the major scientific meeting in our field.
Year after year, one word come to mind: exciting!
Recently saw a comment by a student about not being advised before hand that doing a PhD had many difficulties and challenges. However, my first reaction reading that text was to start laughing. Of course, all that was said was true. But the first thing that came to my mind was the famous warning when you ask for a sundae with nuts at a McDonald : you received (at least in North America) the nuts in a small, sealed separate bag (think allergies); this bag has a warning that reads (seriously): may contain nuts!
An expert is a man who has made all the mistakes which can be made, in a narrow field.
– Niels Bohr
Quite interestingly graduate studies usually take about 5 years total in order to obtain a PhD. It can sometimes be one year less or one or a few years over (too long is usually not seen as a good sign however). Assuming that this is basically your full time occupation, have you notice that at the end of this time frame, you will have reached about 10000 hours of dedicate training in your field.
If we knew what it was we were doing, it would not be called research, would it?
– Albert Einstein
How do you know for sure that you are at a particularly interesting stage of your thesis project?
When the excitement spread to your supervisor, fellow students and the extended team (collaborators and others). When you present at a meeting and peoples come talk to you with that look in their eyes. When you are asked by scientists or other students unrelated to your project if you have published/submitted your results.
The flip side of that coin is that the pressure is on you (and your supervisor) to convert in a timely fashion to peer-reviewed publications 😉
You’ve been working hard, around the clock to get all the data out. You might even have submitted an abstract about your current to the great scientific meeting of your field (and maybe got to travel and present it). Now is time to plant the flag, leave your mark i.e. publish!
Each research group has its own dynamics. In some, entering grad students get a very detailed “charge” list saying for example, there is a group meeting every week, so on and so forth.
What ever those dynamics are, as a graduate student you should learn quickly how busy is your thesis advisor and start planning regular meeting with him/her. Do not hesitate to initiate a request to meet. These, in my opinion after being involved in supervising or co-supervising over 45 graduate students, should happen:
- At least once a year to discuss the general direction of your research project and, starting at the end of year 2 (PhD), to plan the necessary steps toward your thesis completion 😉
- Every time you think you are ready to publish a manuscript (but before spending too much time writing it!).
- Every time you have significant new results (if not presented at the group meeting or if your group does not have group meetings).
- At least once a month to avoid getting “stuck” for too long (again regular group meetings really help in this regards).
Of course, thesis advisors are also busy peoples, won’t be available for you 24/7 and one of their goal is to get you on the road to become an independant researcher yourself. However as a grad student, you should know that most thesis advisors loved the interaction with students and are available on a regular basis to discuss with them.
The minority of advisors that are consistantly “unavailable” are usually well-known within their University / Department. It is your task as a prospective grad student to gather this information, to ask your future advisor the tough questions before signing for this significant portion of your life.
One must give credit when due. Organizing Creativity’s Daniel Wessel pointed out to me on the previous blog post “Time to go analog” that this concept of starting your presentation as an analog process gets a full chapter (Chapter 3) in a book entitled Presentation Zen by Garr Reynolds.
In the previous post, I touched on key questions to ask yourself before preparing a talk. This sets the general parameters (audience, length, …). At this point it would be easy to just fire up Powerpoint or Keynote, shuffle through your previous talks, pick, mix and make modifications.
Instead, I suggest you go analog.