Getting ready for new projects, and advice for grad students starting out

I am leaving for a series of exciting research trips at the end of the week, and I have been preparing intellectually and logistically. I am giving a couple of talks next week, so I am expanding my defence presentation with material about future directions and research questions, and a little bit more nuance on past methods and results. I am then participating in a number of workshops in a different state, but I will wait to prep for that closer to the date.

Preparing for the P-FUTURES work though is by far the most demanding (but also lots of fun because I have amazing collaborators). I am understanding the enormous size of administrative and logistical tasks necessary to conduct large research projects (I knew about it but I had never “done” it except for my Montreal field work ). It was a lot of preparation to write the grant and we planned the timing, tasks, and budget for the project. But, now that we are actually doing the project, lots of little things we hadn’t explicitly mentioned in the proposal are popping up. For example, to do the workshop in Vietnam we hadn’t planned the translators, the ethics approval process for all universities involved, or the process of getting visas for everyone to attend. We are of course managing all these things, but when you add that to the tasks of writing “punchy” invitation letters and “so what” research summaries for stakeholders, and planning the actual workshops, it becomes a lot to handle. Thank god for skype, but collaborating with people on 4 continents and 5 countries means strange working hours.

Although I am moving on from graduate school now, I had the opportunity a few weeks ago to sit on a panel of other fellow finishing grad students to give advice to new grad students in our department. Although all of us had different research foci and experiences, we all had common advice. I would say these were the main points:

  1. Physical and mental health (take care of your self)
  2. Time management (you need to keep yourself accountable, but also remember that you do have time for other things than thesis work, which includes #1)
  3. Communicate and collaborate (including networking)
  4. Ask for help and help others (this includes your advisor, your labmates, and others, you are not in this alone!)
  5. take statistics classes (at McGill, online, or other university, and there are great books)
Bridge on a walk through the forest. I feel like mid-october to mid-december represent a time to bridge the end of the PhD to the beginning of the Post Doc.
Bridge on a walk through the forest. I feel like mid-october to mid-december represent a time to bridge the end of the PhD to the beginning of the Post Doc.

Over the past month I have been gathering a plethora of links and articles that would be interesting to link to my work or the writing/communication process but I will just share two today.

A post-doc in the lab shared this essay on creativity, and it really resonated with me. Trying to balance knowledge and systems thinking with boldness, and balancing working alone and in small groups (which need to be relaxed). There is also a recent PNAS piece on this creative part of the academic process.

Liz Banse shared on twitter a link to a photographer reporting on sea-level rise. I was really moved and deeply scared when viewing the images and explanations. I know I read about climate change, sea-level rise, and flooding in academic papers all the time, I have been reading about it since undergrad. But it is happening now! We need more than indicators and predictive models, we needs ways to cope with this complex issue (both the physical and the social equity components). I feel like these images are powerful communication tools about environmental change for the public, but also really puts into perspective the work we do as academics, and perhaps the need to make stronger links between the social and natural, and between science and policy.

1 Comment

Leave a Reply