Ten rules for Graduate student.pdf - Editorial Ten Simple...

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Editorial Ten Simple Rules for Graduate Students Jenny Gu, Philip E. Bourne * C hoosing to go to graduate school is a major life decision. Whether you have already made that decision or are about to, now it is time to consider how best to be a successful graduate student. Here are some thoughts from someone who holds these memories fresh in her mind (JG) and from someone who has had a whole career to reflect back on the decisions made in graduate school, both good and bad (PEB). These thoughts taken together, from former student and mentor, represent experiences spanning some 25 or more years. For ease, these experiences are presented as ten simple rules, in approximate order of priority as defined by a number of graduate students we have consulted here in the US; but we hope the rules are more globally applicable, even though length, method of evaluation, and institutional structure of graduate education varies widely. These rules are intended as a companion to earlier editorials covering other areas of professional development [1–7]. Rule 1: Let Passion Be the Driving Force of Your Success As with so many other things in life, your heart and then your head should dictate what thesis project makes sense to embark on. Doing your best work requires that you are passionate about what you are doing. Graduate school is an investment of up to a seven-year commitment, a significant chunk of your life. Use the time wisely. The educational system provides a variety of failsafe mechanisms depending on the part of the world where you study. Laboratory rotations and other forms of apprenticeship should not be overlooked, for they are opportunities to test the waters and measure your passion in a given subject area. It is also a chance to test your aptitude for research. Take advantage of it! Research is very different from simply taking courses. If you do not feel excited about doing research and the project selected, do not do it; reevaluate your career decisions. Rule 2: Select the Right Mentor, Project, and Laboratory Finding the right mentor can be hard since it is not always possible to know the kind of mentoring that is going to work best for you until you actually start doing research. Some of us like to work independently, others like significant feedback and supervision. Talk to other students in the laboratory and get their impressions of how the principle investigator’s mentoring works for them. In a large laboratory, chances are you will get less direct mentoring from the principle investigator. In that case, other senior scientists in the laboratory become important. What mentoring are they likely to offer? Judge, as best you can, if the overall environment will work for you. A key element is the standing of your mentor in his or her scientific field. When you graduate, the laboratory you graduate from is going to play a role in determining what opportunities exist for your postdoctoral work, either in academia, industry, or other sectors. Your

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