Can’t believe I’m already a 2nd year PhD student. I realized how relevant my Washington post article about Katherine Johnson is for me right now. It’s already time for me to reach back to the new 1st years and be for them what I needed. You can read it along with my lessons learned from the Hidden Figures story here.
Some big takeaways from my 1st year are the following:
1. Be patient with yourself as a grad student, researcher, and human being. Grad school is totally new for a number of reasons and it’s not just academic. The environment, financial situation, etc. you need time to adjust.
2. Establishing a working relationship with your advisor from early on is super helpful. I was given the great advice to schedule regular meetings with my advisor. This helped me gain comfort with talking to him in general (I’m a bit awkward). Hes way less intimidating to me now. Now when I have a research problem, I feel emboldened to go to him directly for guidance instead of tip toeing. Now I have a great advisor, not everyone does. Regular meetings can maybe help you identify whether they are the right fit too.
3. Get familiar with all of your resources. I struggled in silence my 1st year. I did not understand fully how PhDs work and didn’t ask enough questions. I had great people available that I didn’t use. Ask questions, if someone can’t answer ask them to direct you to who can.
4. Go to Office Hours if you need it. Don’t be intimidated by “you should have learned this in undergrad” I came from a different undergrad school to GT and things are taught different between the schools and also between undergrad and grad. You’re not behind. Just different. If a professors condescends toward you for not knowing something that’s their personal problem. Just get what you need. As long as you’re learning, you’re winning. Peers included. (If it gets disrespectful talk to someone).
5. I work in a very collaborative lab. So if yours is too, make sure to lean on your lab mates. If you feel they’re smarter than you, they’re probably not. They just know different things and that’s great because you learn! Try not to get caught up in comparison.
Let’s think like scientists. If you had 2 data sets that had completely different constants could you compare them? No right? Well don’t compare yourself to people with completely different situations/backgrounds/etc. than yours!
6. Find your communities! This is major. Some times you have to look far and wide, sometimes you don’t. In this virtual Setting, it may be a bit harder or easier! Community doesn’t always have to be local (but that does have its benefits).