Seeking comfort in the discomfort: How to approach your first year

Today I will be starting a blog post series on the challenges and rewards of starting a new PhD program. I hope to write every couple of weeks, so keep an eye out for the links below to become active!

  • Balancing coursework and lab work: the breadth and the depth
  • Learning rotation dynamics: how to really understand a lab
  • Knowing nothing: keeping an open mind
  • Managing your position: where do you stand in your class

As a primer, Science just published and advice column with thoughts from upper-level graduate students. It is a great start to these important topics!

Why study that, Jim Patton?

What is better than hearing why a scientist is studying what she or he is studying? To me, this personal aspect of science is my favorite. Because our faculty are indeed people, I am adding a new feature to my blog where I ask a faculty member each month: “Why?”. I ask them to describe their work in the context of their interests. We’ll start with our IGP director, Jim Patton. What does he find most interesting about his work?
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The basics of the NSF Graduate Research Fellowship Program

Admission into most biomedical PhD programs come with tuition coverage and a stipend. However, as a young scientist, you have the opportunity to fund yourself by obtaining your own competitive fellowship. Writing for your own funding at this stage is a great training opportunity, and receiving a fellowship can make you a more attractive candidate for graduate program admission or for postdoctoral positions. Read on for an introduction to the most broad fellowship for prospective and early graduate students, the NSF GRFP.

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How to Have Your Voice Heard in the Lab

Today, we have a guest writer by a member of the Vanderbilt Summer Science Academy, Vandy’s summer undergrad research program. Mary Barber is an undergraduate Chemistry major and English Literature minor at Belmont University. She currently works in a cardiovascular research lab at Vandy and studies ways to model cancer therapy-induced cardiotoxicity in human heart cells. When she’s not doing research, she loves writing her own blog and hopes to one day be a physician scientist. Check out her excellent advice on a very important topic.
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Excel at an undergrad research experience

For many of you undergraduates, a summer research experience may be your first time in a biomedical lab at a research-intensive institution. For most it is likely your first time in a new lab. Getting started in a new environment and only being there for 8-10 weeks means learning and accomplishing a lot in a short period of time. Here, I outline tips for how to have a successful summer.
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Tips to communicate science to non-scientists

Today, research and scientific data are severely undervalued. Thus, it is increasingly important that the scientific community be able to communicate the value of our work broadly. You may be familiar with the 3 Minute Thesis (3MT), which has the goal of cultivating just that! The 3MT is a competition among PhD scientists around the world to communicate their theses to a lay audience in only 3 minutes. We’ve got a pro in house: Archana Krishnamoorthy, an IGP student, recently won first place in the Vandy 3MT competition! Because scientific communication is a pillar of training, I’ve asked Archana for her tips. Keep reading to check out her insightful rules!
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Final questions to ask before selecting a program

Congratulations! You have almost completed the graduate application season! You have your offers in hand and now all of the remaining decisions are yours. Exciting! You learned a lot about your options during your interview but now you may have some remaining questions. Here, I outline the final things you should ask before making the choice of where to go to graduate school. I have highlighted some of these considerations in previous posts, but I want to emphasize their importance.
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Inspirational “Beyond the Lab” career videos

Today, I have the pleasure of hosting Kate Stuart, the Program Manager for the Vanderbilt Office of Career Development. Her team has created a series of videos called “Beyond the Lab”, which feature Vanderbilt graduates in various careers they have followed. No matter where you are in your graduate school path-learning the fun of biomedical research, applying to graduate programs, rotating through labs your first year, or further along in your thesis work-these videos are a great resource for understanding different career paths on a personal level. Kate has separated the videos by different career paths for ease of navigating. Take a look…I know you’ll enjoy them!
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How the application review process works

Happy New Year! Well, we are well into the 2017 application season and have started reviewing a large number of applications. While it may be too late for 2017 applicants to change too much of their application, those applying in the future may want to know how the review process works. Today, the Vanderbilt IGP director, Dr. Jim Patton, is discussing what really matters during application review, and no time could be better as he is in the middle of reviewing hundreds of applications this year.
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