One of the absolutely best (and most fun) things that I did in graduate school was to take a course at Cold Spring Harbor. I encourage every student to consider doing this to learn more about your field or to learn a unique skill. I asked one of our students to give you her tips after she also went to a course and she did a better job than I could of outlining these opportunities. You should follow her path!
-by Lindsay Redman
Taking courses outside your required university credits is a fantastic way to enrich your graduate school experience and even jumpstart your project. While it is possible to have a perfectly acceptable experience having never left the lab, adding diversity to our learning/teaching experiences is beneficial in many ways.
I recently attended the Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory course “Statistical Methods for Functional Genomics”. This was a two week long, intensive course covering the statistics and methods used to analyze large genomic datasets. I learned about the statistics behind common analysis methods, the newest tools available, met leaders in the genomics field and learned how they use computational methods for their own research. Not only did I gain a framework for how I can best analyze my own data, but I was able to network with and learn from fellow course participants (ranging from graduate student to faculty) from around the world.
In summary, here are the benefits I gained from taking this course:
- I learned A LOT – about science, programming, statistics and even many non-scientific facts about other cultures.
- I met amazing people – You form a network with your instructors (who in my case are experts in the genomic field) and other course participants.
- I moved my project forward – I got new perspectives and ideas by being in an intense scientific environment. In the ups and downs of grad school I now feel energized and motivated to move forward with my project. Not to mention, I was able to get tips on how to analyze my own data!
- I got a formal training in programming – in our current data driven world it is becoming more and more important to have an understanding of programming/computational methods. I think having this knowledge will be an advantage in the future and I highly recommend that everyone try to learn some programming (either R or python). This is incredibly important for reproducibility purposes as well.
There are many opportunities available and many of them have financial aid available if your lab cannot afford to send you. Unfortunately, many of these courses are discovered by word of mouth, so I have compiled a list of the courses I am aware of:
Marine Biological Laboratory (Woods Hole, MA): The MBL offers advanced, graduate-level courses in embryology, physiology, neurobiology, microbiology, reproduction, and parasitology for six to eight weeks each summer. Course information can be found at http://www.mbl.edu/education/courses/.
Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory (Cold Spring Harbor, NY): CSH Laboratory hosts a variety of meetings and courses. The meetings bring together scientists from all over the world to present and evaluate new data and ideas in rapidly moving areas of biological research. The program of courses complement conferences in terms of diversity of topic across the spectrum of the biological sciences. Course information can be found at http://meetings.cshl.edu/courseshome.aspx.
The Jackson Laboratory (Bar Harbor, ME): The Jackson Laboratory sponsors a wide variety of stimulating courses and conferences on its campus in Bar Harbor and at other locations with cosponsors. Explore the cutting edge of research in genomics, genetic diseases and biomedicine. Course information can be found at https://www.jax.org/education-and-learning.
The Vanderbilt Center for Quantitative Sciences offers Summer Institute courses meant to improve quantitative research skills and give the methods and tools to deepen understanding in biostatistics and bioinformatics – https://www.vumc.org/cqs/cqs-summer-institute
Coursera – https://www.coursera.org/
edX – https://www.edx.org/