Tips for Personal Statement Writing

I am thrilled that at Vandy, our graduate students led an initiative to host virtual workshops on applying to grad school! As part of this workshop, they developed some tips and tricks for thinking about your personal statement, and are happy to share them with you! Read more for how to get started thinking about this statement, and tips for what to include:

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Get data-driven advice for grad school

“Do you have any advice for future graduate students?” I asked. The student had recently defended his Ph.D., and I was conducting an exit interview—something I do with every graduating biomedical Ph.D. student at my university, where I am in charge of evaluating our medical school’s Ph.D. training programs. He sat back in his chair and thought for a minute before responding: He wished he had started to plan for his post-Ph.D. career earlier. My shoulders dropped and I let out a sigh. “Program directors recommend this to incoming students every year, but some don’t seem to hear it,” I said. “How do you think we can get them to listen?” This time, he didn’t hesitate. “They are graduate students in science,” he exclaimed. “Show them the data!”

Read more in this Science Careers article, by Dr. Abigail M. Brown is the director of outcomes research for biomedical Ph.D. programs at Vanderbilt University School of Medicine in Nashville, Tennessee.

Succeeding in a Virtual Interview

As most, if not all, Biomedical graduate programs move toward holding virtual interviews for the Fall 2021 recruiting season, our faculty and students wanted to share their tips with you! For our 2020 interview season, we had to hold our last two IGP interviews remotely, so we have incoming students and faculty who have already been through the virtual recruiting process. Let their experience help you have a successful virtual interview season!
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How to pick the best graduate programs to apply to

Your decision for where to apply to graduate school is yours alone. Although it may be tempting, it is a bad idea to simply use someone else’s list or national rankings as the only criteria in deciding what programs to apply to. You should invest the time to do your own searching. The emphasis, strengths, resources, and location for each program are different, and you will only know which programs fit your preferences by analyzing them yourself. This process can be overwhelming, so before you start, get tips from some of our new students here in this post. Having recently finished the process of applying, interviewing, and accepting offers, these students provide fresh insight for how to weed through the huge amount of information available and provide some general advice about what they would have done differently in their application cycle. Also in this post, I contribute my thoughts from the admissions viewpoint (hear my thoughts on this HelloPhD podcast too)!
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Becoming a Resilient Scientist and more from the NIH

While I am writing this post, Vanderbilt and other institutions across the country are in “remote” mode. This has been challenging, but has given me a new perspective on the importance of resiliency in life and in graduate training. I have run across these incredible resources from the NIH OITE, that provide training outside of the lab to graduate students and postdocs. In addition to many others, I would like to point out 3 workshops that are especially important at this time and beyond:

You should watch them, no matter your stage in training! Watch them now and watch them often; I know I will!

Is a Gap Year Right for Me?

More and more, students are taking time between their undergraduate degree before pursuing graduate education. Is this the right decision for you, and is it necessary for you to pursue your next steps? Read this post that I recently wrote for the Leadership Alliance to see what I think will help your training and the strength of your post-graduate applications.
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Science Career Advice

I tend to limit the scope of this blog to early career advice, but a faculty member sent this resource to me and I had to make sure to share it! The 2020 Career Handbook by Sciencecareers.org, is a short introduction to the considerations you should have when thinking about the next steps after graduation. While it is mostly a focus on specific companies and career opportunities, it is a great introduction to become familiar with sciencecareers. Check it out as a source for career advice and a start to learning about other opportunities.

Updating your graduate school application through the season

I recently got an email from an applicant asking for advice about updating their application. I realized this is a topic that I haven’t discussed here before, so I thought I’d give my two cents. If you haven’t learned, I’ve got opinions about everything!
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Twenty things I wish I’d known when I started my PhD

I have recently posted a number of great articles with advice for young scientists. While some of the advice can be similar, you could never hear this too often! This list of 20 pieces of advice might seem a bit daunting (I might have been overwhelmed reading this during my graduate career!), I think you should really take it in and try to incorporate at least a couple of these things that you don’t already do! It is spot on! Don’t worry, no one will be perfect in following all of this advice, but hopefully doing some of this will make an impact!