We’re all guilty of having 10 internet browser tabs open at once on our laptops, but which websites should you be surfing while waiting for that incubation to finish? For “new” and “old” grad students alike, it’s important to balance researching specific details on your project with staying informed about the world outside of your bench. Take the time to give yourself perspective on how your research can be added to the body of scientific knowledge, as well as what is expected of you and what you should expect of yourself as a graduate student. Here are some tabs you can keep open that will meet these requirements:
Something outside your field of study
Staying up-to-date with the latest scientific publications (especially if they have nothing to do with your research) requires a lot of effort, but if you can put aside some time every day (or at least every week) to read about the latest news, it can be a pleasant experience! Start by taking note of which journals usually publish the most important articles in your field, and then browse the table of contents for these journals to see what other articles were published. Also, visit the homepages of Nature, Science, Cell, and other journals in these publishing groups to see which new research stories are highlighted. Lastly, visit the communications/public affairs website for your university to see which of your colleagues got published! (Obviously, these suggestions are in addition to using Scizzle and following our Scizzle Blog!)
Something outside of academia
As Science magazine is distributed by AAAS, the magazine’s website also contains the latest science policy news updates regarding decisions on federal grants, regulatory procedures, etc. It’s also worth your while to read Scientific American and the science sections of the New York Times, Huffington Post, and any other news sources you subscribe to, just to get a sense of how science research is portrayed to the public. This can also help improve your conservations about science with non-scientist friends and relatives! (Another plus for Scizzle Blog: in addition to highlighting the recent literature, we also have many other posts of interest for any scientist.)
It’s never too early to start thinking about your career, especially if you don’t want to stay in academia. Networking with professionals in other fields may seem intimidating, but never fear, LinkedIn is here! I am always surprised to learn how many PhD students are not on LinkedIn: everyone should be on LinkedIn! It’s the best way for you to display an abridged version of your CV for any potential employer to view. Yes, we are students, but we should also be establishing ourselves as professionals at the same time. Start by connecting with your friends and alumni from your PhD program, and you will quickly learn how large your networking circle actually is through 2nd and 3rd-degree connections. Join discussion groups and post on forums regarding your research interests or general scientific interests, careers outside of academia, alumni organizations, etc. Start following companies where you might be interested in working and make a note of how often they have job postings.
Science can be very frustrating, especially after repeating that PCR for the third time and still getting a blank gel. To let off some steam and commiserate with other PhD students, I recommend visiting whatshouldwecallgradschool.tumblr.com. This website contains an extensive list of the many unhappy (and some happy) moments we experience as graduate students, accompanied by hilarious GIFs to illustrate these feelings. I also suggest visiting phdcomics.com, which is a comic strip (started by formed PhD student Jorge Cham) with recurring grad student characters who have to TA classes, write grants, perform experiments, attend happy hours, and anything else you can think of. Being able to laugh about all of these experiences will preserve your sanity throughout grad school!