Words of wisdom: On standing apart from the crowd
April 4, 2014
Making your graduate student experience work for you - Part 3
Invited Post by Sofhia RamosThe Ontario Exercise Physiology Conference took place February 14-16. Sofhia attended the event and shares her takeaways in a series of blog posts; the third installment follows. As publisher of Applied Physiology, Nutrition, and Metabolism, Canadian Science Publishing was a silver sponsor of the conference.
As you progress from the graduate student world into the real world, and whether you going into industry, pursuing another profession or staying in academia, the experiences accumulated during graduate school are crucial. The tricky part is finding a way to best present them so you stand apart form the crowd - to be a shining star in a sea of stars.
Fortunately, in addition to the words of wisdom I presented in Part 2 of this series (imparted to us at the Ontario Exercise Physiology (OEP) conference), chief editor of the journal of Applied Physiology, Nutrition, and Metabolism, Dr. Terry Graham also shared essential tips for effective publishing and building a stellar CV.
- Listen to stories from your mentors. Their experiences have built the framework of where they and the field are today. Picking up tips and tricks from them can make your own experience smoother and prevent you from repeating their mistakes.
- Develop a thick skin. After working hours on end on a manuscript that both you and your PI believe to be perfect, it may still get rejected time after time. Learn to take criticism from reviewers and make it work for you. Incorporate edits or comments you receive to make your work understandable. Remember, you’ve been working on your project for a long time and know the ins and outs of it but someone reading your work for the first time only needs to know the most pertinent information, so they can understand your results and the importance of the study.
- Discuss authorship. Publishing a manuscript with 245 authors? Maybe you don't need to include on your manuscript the names of the three people who held a beaker for you during the experiment. Sit with your PI and discuss authorship. It might be a touchy subject but it needs to be done. Remember, you want to recognize the people who contributed to making your work outstanding.
- Present and publish. Presenting at conferences is probably one of the best parts of being a graduate student, but you’ve got to remember to keep your productivity up. A rule of thumb suggests preparing one publication for every two presentations you give. In the end you want your CV to reflect all of the hard work you do not simply show one project presented 18 times.
- Communicate well. Keep the lines of communication open between your PI as well as your lab mates. Some of the simplest problems can be avoided if you speak up about something that is bothering you, whether someone doesn’t put away the metabolic cart after using it or just double checking who is using the centrifuge that day so two people aren’t fighting for it and valuable time is wasted.
- Get involved at your institution and in your community. While it is good to be a dedicated researcher, being involved in organizations or community projects will highlight your versatility while building your repertoire of skills. If you want your CV to stand out from the pile you need to show your unique skill set, your productivity, and your involvement in lab and engagement in your community.
Good luck!Read more in Sofhia's series "Making your graduate student experience work for you".
Words of wisdom: an Editor's advice to grad students
About Sofhia Ramos
Sofhia Ramos is a second-year MSc student at Brock University, studying skeletal muscle lipid droplet proteins under the supervision of Dr. Sandra Peters. In addition to her research done at the Brock University Center for Bone and Muscle Health, she is a Graduate Student Association senate representative advocating for graduate students on campus.
About Dr. Terry Graham
Dr. Graham has been a journal editor for 13 years. A professor in the Department of Human Health and Nutritional Sciences in the College of Biological Sciences at the University of Guelph, his research areas are muscle glycogen regulation and postprandial responses to carbohydrate ingestion. He is an active member of both the Canadian Society of Exercise Physiology, the Canadian Physiological Society, and the Canadian Nutrition Society. Dr. Graham held an informal workshop at the Ontario Exercise Physiology conference in February 2014. Here, he had the opportunity to speak with a number of grad students on writing and publishing as well as other important career considerations and opportunities.
As I read what Sofhia has written I recalled this by Alan Ashley-Pitt:
The man who follows the crowd will usually get no further than the crowd. The man who walks alone is likely to find himself in places no one has ever been before.
Creativity in living is not without attendant difficulties, for peculiarity breeds contempt. And the unfortunate thing about being ahead of your time is when people finally realize you were right, they’ll say it was obvious all along.
You have two choices in life: you can dissolve into the mainstream, or you can be distinct. To be distinct, you must be different. To be different you must strive to be what no one else but you can be.