Advice from a Sixth Year PhD Student
The advice that follows is generalizable across many graduate institutions and programs: finding mentors and networks to navigate the program, “following the science,” and having connections outside graduate school.
Another graduate school year begins! That makes me a 6th year 😳 PhD student. A short thread with some cool resources and tidbits of advice for those coming in through @BiomedVandy.
#COVID19 is still around and @DrJMLuther has a great resource to follow the data: https://jmluther.github.io/TN_COVID19/ . Consider the opportunity to learn about communicating accurate science to those around you – it may protect them.
For those of you who listen to podcasts during your workout or commute, check out @HelloPhD. My favorite episode features one of my mentors @GannonLab offering advice for overcoming imposter syndrome. http://hellophd.com/2017/04/071-practical-advice-overcoming-imposter-syndrome-dr-maureen-gannon/ ….
Social media is a great way to find out about new papers, ask questions, and learn about ways to expand your research beyond the bench. You can find support in these communities. Check out a few of my favorites: @BlackInImmuno @ScientistsLift
Social media is also a great way to advertise yourself and to share your experiences. Some of us make weird personal websites ( http://mattacottam.com; work in progress!). Others make amazing Youtube channels, like @adricortee: https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCQdZyjSPk-QU0NjEgf3RLLg …
The most important task of your PhD is to seek out a good mentor. A good PI will challenge you to do great science, but also cares about you as an individual. Just to name a few: @ahasty4 @GannonLab @Mari_Byndloss @mcguinness_owen @TheErinCalipari
You can also look at your potential lab mates for guidance. In the @ahasty4 lab, our goal is to make sure rotation students end up wherever they will be happiest. Check out some of my awesome coworkers @NathanWinn12 @HeatherCaslin @jamiegarcia1014
@BiomedVandy is asking students to take bioinformatics courses this year. Your future PIs and colleagues may have not learned how to use R or Python yet, but don’t discount it’s value! I wrote my first line of code during my 4th year of PhD. More on that below.
Follow the science. Mine took me towards single cell RNAseq in 2019. With a lot of support and patience, I started learning from papers and freely available resources, such as those curated by @tangming2005: https://github.com/crazyhottommy/getting-started-with-genomics-tools-and-resources ….
My first manuscript from the @ahasty4 lab hit preprint servers last week https://www.biorxiv.org/content/10.1101/2021.08.20.455954v1 …. Almost all of the analysis was done in R – I wouldn’t have imagined this possible just two short years ago.
To nail a few points home – having collaborative colleagues and a supportive PI were critical. I coauthored this paper with @HeatherCaslin and @NathanWinn12. We even made a website for the community ( https://hastylab.shinyapps.io/MAIseq/ ) and shared all of our code online.
Finally, don’t forget to commit time to your needs outside of the lab and hold ground when those things are important to you. Reach out to your friends and family when things are unsure. Shoutout to @YunliEmilyChu and @_NathanWinters_ who are my go-tos.
You can follow @MattACottam1.