Wednesday, March 18, 2015

Being an Involved Grad Student

A.K.A How to being involved AND score free meals

I'm a fairly involved graduate student. Rachel is as well. The benefits are numerous, but some of the top reasons we like to be involved include contributing to our respective departments and universities, building our C.V., access to amazing workshops/events/etc, in addition to always knowing where the free food on campus is located! Below are some of our top ways for you to get involved within your own programs!


Thursday, March 5, 2015

Questions to Ask when Choosing a Graduate Adviser

A few weeks back, my graduate group had its prospective student weekend, where all the top ranked applicants get to come and meet professors and current students.  Meeting and greeting all these hopeful students got me and a few others thinking about the process of choosing a graduate adviser.  STS wrote a bit about how to find and contact prospective PIs in the past, but that post doesn’t touch on how to make a decision once you have a few professors interested in working with you.  In many academic fields, your relationship with your major professor is the most important professional relationship you will have for many, many years.  Even when you earn your degree, a prospective employer will still want to know what your mentor thought of you.  So, it’s crucial to choose a person who you feel will not only aid your academic growth, but who you are generally compatible with on a personal level.  You don’t need to be BFFs, but things like having drastically mismatched communication styles, academic expectations, or assumptions about levels of involvement can make the road to degree completion much more hazardous.  And, on a broader scale, it’s really not worth it to work with Bigshot-Publishes-Yearly-In-Nature if they are unkind, unhelpful, or unavailable.


Below, I’ve compiled a list of pretty well every question I have ever asked, been asked, or wished I’d asked during the process of choosing a graduate mentor.  I’ve divided it into three main groups:  questions to ask the professor, questions to ask graduate students in their lab, and questions to ask any graduate student in the program.  You certainly don’t have to ask all these things, but do a little soul searching beforehand and think about what really matters to you.  You are making a commitment to work with someone regularly for the next several years.  Sure, they are interviewing you, but you are also interviewing them.    


Despite the fact that this list is long, it’s obviously not exhaustive.  Give more suggestions in the comments below!        

Tuesday, February 17, 2015

Citizen Science: What, Why, and How

This is a post I’ve been intending to write for a long, long time.  It’s a lot easier to write about my day to day life as an ecologist and PhD student.  In fact, any time I turn my computer on to write something that isn’t about me or about my personal research, I get this super intense surge of imposter syndrome.  I’ll stop the unnecessary preamble there for now.  It’s just my attempt to keep my writing in this space authentic, as I think it’s important to be honest about the struggles we face, even if they are mundane (Ermahgerd, writing a blog?  What if someone *gasp* reads it?!)
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Training citizen scientists out at Stebbins Cold Canyon UC NRS
 The term citizen science has been buzzing around in scientific circles for a number of years now.  When I first drafted this last week, the first annual conference of the Citizen Science Association was just wrapping up in San Jose, CA.  This conference showcased the amazing body of scholarly research concerning citizen science, which is telling us a larger and more coherent story about the practice every day.  I have had the pleasure of working with professional scientists and educators whose whole course of study revolves around the design and training of participants for these endeavors.  I will offer here the briefest of introductions based on my own reading and experience and a little anecdote about a citizen science group I help facilitate in my area.  For a peer-reviewed take on the matter, look to the fabulous overview by Bonney and colleagues’ from 2014 in Science (so it’s short and sweet) entitled, Next Steps for Citizen Science1.


What is Citizen Science anyway?


First things first, what is citizen science anyway?  Well, first of all, it is science.  That’s a major point to emphasize.  Data collected by these projects should answer scientific questions or test specific hypotheses.  Second, this is science being performed by individuals who are (in most cases) not formally trained as research scientists.  There is a huge variety within the citizen science genre, but, in my experience, most projects fall into three main categories:  atlas/survey, monitoring, and manipulative/experimental.  

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