2017 Graduate School Goals

Happy New Year to the student and adviser.

First year students who started in Fall 2016 now have a semester under their belt. You probably took two to three courses and tried to figure out the differences between undergrad and graduate school. Hopefully your adviser started your research trajectory by providing some key journal papers to read. The first semester is usually a period of adjustment and most advisers do not except a whole lot of research productivity. Notice I used the words usually and most and not always and all. Some advisers are different in their expectations. You may have attended team meetings where other students in the group presented research results.

For those in the second semester the research portion of your life will and should intensify. This means you need to be making a different transition, one from focusing on courses alone with courses plus research. For those of you on research assistantships, remember that your adviser is depending on you to generate results and analysis from your research that will translate into peer reviewed papers. This is a major deliverable or a metric for your adviser. The funding agency needs to see progress in terms of research progress in quantifiable metrics – papers! As a student in the first year moving towards a stronger research portfolio do not shy away from learning the tools of the trade, whether it is computer programming, laboratory skills, statistics, specialized software, or whatever is needed, now is the time to get going!

As advisers learn to be patient with your student’s progress. Recognize the strengths and weaknesses of your student. Spend quality time with your student on a consistent basis teaching them the skills necessary for them to succeed in the long run. Do not concentrate only on short term gains since it will hurt the students’ progress in the long run.

Whether you are a student or an adviser you need to set goals.

As a student, depending upon the stage of your graduate career set appropriate goals. Otherwise things never get done. For example, if you are a student who has been hesitant to set a schedule for your qualifying exam and if it long overdue, this is the year you must resolve to complete this exam. Whatever these goals are, you need to write it down, communicate it clearly with your adviser and finish that goal. Here are some goals that you need to be thinking about:

  1. Of course, on top of the list is ‘Write a journal paper’. This will help you focus your research and experience success.
  2. Attend a conference to present a paper and create networking opportunities.
  3. Take the qualifying exam. Evaluate where you are in your graduate career and set appropriate deadlines and complete the exam successfully.
  4. Improve you skills in programming.
  5. Take a course in Advanced Statistics. This is useful for all STEM disciplines.
  6. Give a seminar to improve communication skills.
  7. If you are a senior PhD student ask your advise if you can teach a few weeks of a course. There s nothing that helps solidify research material like teaching.
  8. Develop advanced laboratory skills.

Have a productive fun-filled New Year!


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