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Advice from 2020 PhDs

Dr. Trevin Glasgow

Dr. Trevin Glasgow (IMSD 8, Geller's Lab) says, "I think one of the most important things to do while in graduate school is to find things you like to do outside of your graduate studies. Graduate school is tough and a lot of work, but it is manageable. Use your free time to exercise, to watch movies, to join a dance club, to go out to restaurants with friends, to do outdoors activities or even to just go to Hokies home football games and tailgates. Or anything else that you are passionate about that I haven't listed. You need to give your brain a rest and doing things you like will boost your mental well-being, allowing you to be even more productive when you have to get back to work!"

Dr. Cynthia Alicia Traughber

PREP Alum Dr. Cynthia "Alicia" Traughber has the following to say... 

You’ve already committed to this journey so I can’t talk you out of this grueling experience you’ve gotten yourself into. With that said:

1. If you’re a year 1 student:
    a. Identify your support system locally and abroad now.
    b. Find at least 30-45 minutes to exercise a day that you can sustain for the remainder of your program time (this will help with your mental health which is going to be under attack over the next several years.).
    c. Find an outlet outside of lab.
    d. If not implemented in your lab, advocate for bi-weekly individual meetings, weekly lab meetings, and journal clubs (attend other journal clubs and departmental seminars when possible).
    e. Take all of your coursework and qualifying exam (this has a lot of different names) as soon as possible (recommended by year 2).

2. Obtain and familiarize yourself with EndNote, Pubmed, Google Alerts, and GraphPad Prism.

3. Ask all the questions you possibly can in and outside of class and lab. Any and all questions are relevant (Asking helps your scientific development process. Don’t be afraid!).

4. Take on all invitations to present/speak/write about your research when possible.

5. Don’t compare yourselves to your classmates or cohort members. Doing so will either make you arrogant and mean or extremely depressed.

6. Start and keep reading and writing now.
    a. Get your papers into EndNote.
    b. Annotate and write summaries as your read.
    c. Start writing literature review (for both your manuscripts and dissertation).
    d. Try to secure a fellowship F31, F31-diversity, AHA, etc…
        i. This gives you bragging rights
        ii. Usually pays for classes and increases stipend money
        iii. Let’s you travel to conferences, buy computer and software that can be expensive.
        iv. Looks good on your CV

7. Keep good records of all experiments a. Make sure to keep track of negative data. b. Personally take responsibility and charge of all aspects your projects (reagents) and work from “more seasoned” lab mates that help on your project. No one is perfect and when sh*t starts hitting the fan this will help you know where things started to go wrong.

8. If using cell culture:
    a. Continually freeze cell lines when possible.
    b. Constantly check for mycoplasma contamination.

9. Work hard and remember this is not easy. Most of the stuff you do is going to fail, so keep pushing.

10. If you are an underrepresented minority (URM) just know:
    a. You’re a unicorn (rare/non-existent).
    b. Someone coming behind you needs you to succeed to give them hope!