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So, you’re thinking about graduate school?

November 4, 2014 Leave a comment

Your interest in this piece might be to get an idea of how my graduate school experience has been at UC Davis. Perhaps you are thinking about attending or applying to grad school, or maybe you just want to compare your experiences in grad school with mine. If you are the former, congratulations on asking a few questions before you make a life-changing decision. If you are the latter, please leave a comment to affirm my experience or contrast my perspective with your own different experiences. I want to share these words for the people who are trying to find out about the graduate experience, what one may expect in this new environment, and how the first year will be like no other.

For me, I had no question in my mind. I was a non-traditional student returning to school for the best education I could get. I joined an undergrad science program at 24 and never turned back. Fully committed, I applied to a few schools in the Bay Area and went to all of my interviews. The choice I made was based on a number of things, but UC Davis was ultimately the best “fit” for me. Simply based on the feeling I got in the town, from the people and with the academic community, I knew there was something about the environment that just made sense. I arrived in the Summer of 2013 and began my first rotation early. Now, I have joined a lab, I am beginning my second year in BMCDB and I am learning more everyday. Experiments, mentors, seminars, and classes are all a part of this new stage in my development, and for the first time in my life, a text book is the least important source of information for my daily progress and learning.

The first year was designated for a core curriculum and finding a lab to join through research rotations. From my experience, I might suggest a few priorities and considerations for anyone in their first year of grad school. Funding, intellectual stimulus, and social competence are three things I was advised to consider before joining a lab. I feel lucky to have received the advice, and so, I share it with you. Above all, you must secure funding. This could be through a scholarship, fellowship or through a lab that is willing to support you for 5 years, but you must know where your support will come from. If you are not secure, you could face some dire challenges by working or teaching the entire time you’re in grad school or worse, you may not find a supporting lab = you’re out of grad school. They say we’re paid to go to school, but that doesn’t mean that anyone can foot the bill. If the University wants you, that’s great! But you have to find a lab that wants you for the following years. That’s both a personal and financial consideration. So, apply to every source of funding you can. Consider it one of your many jobs as you enter the world of scientific research. It also means you may need to limit your rotations to funded labs. Next thing to consider is your intellectual stimulation, and don’t be fooled by what you thought your interests were during undergrad research. Now is not the time to pursuit the same type of research all over again. Not that there’s anything wrong with that, but rotations are fantastic! Now is the time to explore other options and learn about new types of science and research. If you make it this far, you should think about meeting with as many professors as you can for one-on-one meetings to learn about up-to-date research topics and how different labs operate. Don’t make the mistake of weighing your decisions to rotate in a lab based on internet resources or lab home pages. Plus, if you are flexible, you will find that rotating in almost any lab can be incredibly stimulating. Then, you will only have one remaining task: find the best fit. Social competence can mean different things in different environments. Everyone fits in differently. It is important to find a lab where you feel competent to communicate with the professor and everyone else in lab. This also means you can get along with your potential future colleagues.

So many things that I have not mentioned might include keeping up your grades (yes, you still have to earn your grades), maintaining and building connections to people who can write letters of recommendation, devising research proposals, getting familiar with your new environments, managing your income taxes and living expenses, keeping a sliver of work/life balance, etc. This list can be different for everyone. There are a lot of things that may happen to fall into place, but everyone has a different experience and a different knack for getting things done. I wish everyone the best of luck! I’ll recount my 2nd year in 2015 when it has come to an end. From what I hear, I can expect another year of important grades, vigorous preparations for my Qualifying Exams, and some challenging days with variable rates of success in my research progress. I am looking forward to it! If you feel like you’ve had drastically different experiences, please let me know by leaving a comment. The world of undergraduates in STEM fields deserves to hear your opinion – especially if you disagree with me!

A final thought. I once believed that getting a PhD would be 5 years of my life lost, a delay towards starting my real life. In hindsight, I find this idea to be absurd. I do not feel stagnant. I do not feel restrained. I do not feel like I am missing anything or losing any time. I feel like the education and network I have and will continue to develop during this time is something for which there is no substitute. I was fortunate to have a life structure that allowed me to continue my education. However, graduate school is not for everyone for many different reasons other than life structure. Research requires exhaustive patience, meticulous focus, and perseverance through trial and error. Despite inevitable failures one faces during research, your desire to learn must be greater than ever now. I encourage anyone who is still considering grad school to fully commit and pursuit a program that is right for you. You will gain more than you ever could have imagined.

Adam Contreras

2nd Year Graduate Student

BMCDB Graduate Group, UC Davis

Chiu Lab, Department of Entomology

BMCDB Group Retreat March 2014

May 28, 2014 Leave a comment
Jesuit Center up near Auburn

Jesuit Center up near Auburn

Categories: Social Events, UC Davis

Fishing for UC Davis emails

August 1, 2013 Leave a comment

One of your moderators received the following email today. If you do too: ignore it.

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Categories: UC Davis

UC Davis news – Childcare reimbursement for all graduate students

June 27, 2013 Leave a comment

Dear Graduate Program Chairs,

I am pleased to announce that beginning Fall 2013, the current childcare reimbursement available to Academic Student Employees (ASEs: TA, Reader, AI, Tutor) will be available to all graduate students. Endorsed by the Chancellor and Provost, the new Graduate Student Childcare Reimbursement Program will provide up to $600 per quarter (including summer) to all graduate students to help defray the childcare costs for dependents aged 0-12 years. The existing reimbursement program was available to graduate students only during the terms they were appointed as ASEs and only for childcare expenses incurred for dependents aged 0-5 years. This expanded program will serve many more graduate student parents thanks to support from the Chancellor and Provost.

To minimize confusion and simplify the process for student parents, administration of programs providing financial assistance for childcare expenses will be consolidated to one access point under the campus WorkLife program, which currently manages the UC Davis Student Parent Child Care Subsidy.  More information will be distributed in the coming months. Until Fall, reimbursements should continue to be processed for ASEs as they have been in the past–through the hiring unit employing the graduate student.

Please share this information with students and faculty in your program.

Sincerely,

Jeff Gibeling

Categories: Recent News, UC Davis

Nonresident Supplemental Tuition (NRST) fellowship – a new program

May 29, 2013 2 comments

Dear Graduate Program Chairs,

Nonresident supplemental tuition (NRST) for graduate students has been a persistent concern of faculty and the administration for many years.  Although a number of policies have been adopted to mitigate the impact of NRST and the rate has not increased for 10 years (except for a technical shift of a small amount from tuition to NRST in 2011-12), NRST remains an obstacle to achieving our aspirations for excellence in graduate education.

As you know, present UC policy is that nonresident doctoral students do not pay NRST for a period of three years after they advance to candidacy.  As a next step to mitigate the NRST challenge, we will adopt a new policy for doctoral students who remain in candidacy beyond the three year waiver period.  These students will be eligible to receive a non-competitive fellowship to offset the cost of NRST each quarter using new funding approved by Provost and Executive Vice Chancellor Ralph Hexter.  The new policy will require a simple application in Spring Quarter for the following academic year with a request to approve the NRST fellowship for up to three quarters.  The NRST fellowship may be renewed for a second year.  The Major Professor and Program Chair or Graduate Adviser will be required to endorse the application.  The goal of this policy is to ensure that students are able to complete their degrees in a timely manner based on academic, rather than financial, considerations.

This new program will be in effect for Fall Quarter 2013.  Additional details and the application materials will be available in June.  In the meantime, please share this announcement with faculty and students in your program.

Thank you,

Jeff Gibeling

Categories: Recent News, UC Davis

Dr Famous published sexy but wrong paper – blog about it? via @pknoepfler

April 30, 2013 Leave a comment

We have all seen cases where a sexy research paper gets attention from the mainstream media. Often this results in oversimplifications of the results and overdrawn conclusions, while not providing a direct link to the original paper.

Now imagine that you have actually read this sexy paper.

Now imagine that the research has some serious issues.

Now imagine that the last author is a famous professor.

Will you devote  a blog entry to this paper or not?

On Paul Knoepfler blog you can answer this precise question (here).

Categories: UC Davis

Blueberry Sensory Panel

April 17, 2013 Leave a comment

Do you like blueberries?

We are looking for sensory panelist who can participate in our blueberry flavor research.

Each participant is expected to attend all training session in order to participate in the taste sessions starting from end of April to June.

  • Training session – starting from late April for 2 weeks with 3 training sessions per week (30-60 min each).
  • Taste session – May-June, 7 sessions over a 7 weeks period (20-45 min each). The exact dates cannot be determined until the day before harvest. But once the harvest date is fixed, the tasting days will be set once per week on the same day each week. (no taste session on the weekends)

Treats will be served, and gift cards given for attending sessions.

If you have time and are interested in participating, please contact Nobuko Sugimoto (nsugimoto@ucdavis.edu)

Nobuko Sugimoto

Postdoctoral Researcher

Department of Plant Sciences

1106 Wickson Hall

Categories: UC Davis