18.09.2017 Plans for this evening consist of finally starting to read some review papers whilst listening to ASMR Rooms’ Harry Potter playlist! (My favourite cosy background noise!)

I once left my mildliners spread over the table and my mum put them back in the wrong packets but managed to unintentionally create some great colour combinations and I’ve never gone back since!

Some pointers my Prof gave me before I began grad school

Yesterday I visited my university (undergrad) after two years in order to collect documents since I’m moving to grad school. I contacted one of my profs there and asked for advice, as I was nervous about joining research after such a long gap. Here is the advice he gave me:

General tips:

1. Be truthful to your research. Do not copy down somebody else’s work, even if you know you won’t be found out. Trust me on this, being accused of plagiarism is the worst thing to happen to a researcher and if you are exposed later on in career, your entire reputation will go down the drain.

2. Don’t hesitate to ask for help. He screwed up an instrument and waited 6 months before asking one of his subordinate who fixed it in 5 minutes. Imagine the amount of work he could have accomplished in those six months.

3. Manage your time well. Grad school is extremely demanding and some days you may not have time for sleep. Do not put off important work if you have time else you’ll end up doing it all in a hurry and without quality.

4. Every professor/guide/supervisor has her own unique method of teaching. Respect that and try to adapt. Even if you don’t understand most of what they teach, just listen. You might get a fresh perspective on things.

5. Be in touch with your teachers from undergrad etc. and ask them if you get stuck. They might help you out or at least guide you to someone who can.

6. Choose your topic wisely. Study the trends and know what are thrust areas in your field. However, the choice of guide is a major one. Make sure you understand the ways of your supervisor. Ask around, google his papers etc. and make sure he is not someone you’d hate for the entire extent of your school.

Tips related to Science research:

1. Know that there are more than one ways to solve a problem. However you cannot try them all due to time/energy/resources restrictions (or simply because your guide advises you against it). You need to know your limits and try methods that are optimized to your situation.

2. Be like Feynman. He knew his theory but he was a good experimentalist too. Have a balanced approach and know your strengths. If you are experimentalist, interact with theoreticians in order to get an idea of their approach and vice-a-versa. Your goal is to get the result and understand how you got it. 

3. You are in research not only to understand a theory/idea but also to apply it. It is not enough to know your books, you need to be able to solve the problem you are tackling. You won’t find a complete solution because nobody has solved it (thats why YOU are working on it, aren’t you?). You need to create/discover the solution.

4. Every problem in science completes a picture/theory. However not all of them receive the limelight. Find a topic you are interested in and know something about rather than chasing a “popular” one that everyone is talking about.

5. The biggest one: Do not feel inadequate for not knowing everything.

Nobody knows everything. You are in grad school to learn too. When you get stuck, get help/ask around; do not let the fear of being inferior get in the way of learning. You have got brains enough to understand things and you can.

6. Do not rely only on teachers/guides. Often your guide/supervisor will not know anything about the problem you are struggling with and will not be able to help you. In those times, find an expert (if there is) or consult books/papers. You should be able to study on your own, without somebody pushing you or deadlines.

Well, this is all I can remember. I hope it is helpful to those of you who are in a similar situation.

Burnout Measure

You can use this measure to track how you’re doing this semester. If you start to get burned out, take a break! 

Rate these items using the scale below:

    1                 2              3             4               5            6               7
never    almost never  rarely   sometimes   often   very often   always

1. Tired
2. Disappointed with people
3. Hopeless
4. Trapped
5. Helpless
6. Depressed
7. Physically weak/Sickly
8. Worthless/Like a failure
9. Difficulties sleeping
10. Telling yourself, “I’ve had it”

Scoring: Add your responses to the 10 items and divide by 10.

Interpretation: 

  • >2.4 - you’re doing just fine 
  • 2.5 to 3.4 - if you keep pushing you may get burnout
  • 3.5 to 4.4 - you’re burned out, take a break 
  • 4.5 to 5.4 - very serious burnout, reduce commitment and increase self-care right now  
  • 5.5 - seek immediate professional help

Malach-Pines, A. (2005). The Burnout Measure, Short Version. International Journal Of Stress Management, 12(1), 78-88. doi:10.1037/1072-5245.12.1.78

Study Advice: make a course reading list. As a grad student, my professors often send out the syllabus a few weeks before school starts. They’ll often include a full course schedule, which also happens to include all the readings. As a grad student, I have sooooo many readings in each one of my classes. My advice is to make a list of all of your readings. I created this simple table in Word to include all the major info I need to quickly figure out what I need to read for each day and whether or not I’ve actually read it. Keep it in your class notebook or tacked to the wall by your desk.

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I’m so sad I’ll have to pack up my desk soon…the office is already strange now that everyone else has gone, but I’m clinging onto this last little bit of my Oxford life before I have to leave altogether