200 episodes

Science is hard work, but making it through a PhD program and into a rewarding career can seem downright impossible. Wouldn’t it be nice if someone shared the secrets for success at every stage? Admissions, rotations, classes, quals, research, dissertations, job-hunting – avoid the pitfalls and get back to doing what you love. It's like getting a PhD in getting a PhD!

Hello PhD Joshua Hall and Daniel Arneman, PhDz

    • Science
    • 4.8 • 141 Ratings

Science is hard work, but making it through a PhD program and into a rewarding career can seem downright impossible. Wouldn’t it be nice if someone shared the secrets for success at every stage? Admissions, rotations, classes, quals, research, dissertations, job-hunting – avoid the pitfalls and get back to doing what you love. It's like getting a PhD in getting a PhD!

    129. Grad School Rejection: Why it Happens and How to Get Accepted (R)

    129. Grad School Rejection: Why it Happens and How to Get Accepted (R)

     I feel a little disheartened because I’ve been rejected from many of the places I applied to and haven’t heard back from a number of others. Is it worth it to hold out hope for the ones that haven’t sent out updates?

     I have been rejected from 5 schools and am expecting 3 more rejections soon enough without any invitations for interview. I’ve had my time in regret and disappointment and I’m now thinking about what to do next. 

    Should I just give up at the thought of me obtaining a PhD? I feel like a mess right now.

    These excerpts are from just three of the many messages we received this year from grad school applicants who were moving through the stages of rejection grief.

    Some understood it would be an uphill climb, and half-expected the bad news. For others, it was a surprise because they had followed all the advice on how to craft the perfect application.

    For everyone, it was disappointing, demoralizing, and confusing – what can I do if I’ve been pushed off the only path I know to a career in science?

    This week, we explore the arcane inner workings of an admissions committee, and detail not only WHY you received that rejection letter, but what you can do about it next year.

    Why Not Me?

    The first question many applicants have is, “Why did I get rejected?” In many cases, they have experience, grades, and strong letters of recommendation. So what gives?

    The answer will be different for every person, of course, but there are some common threads that could lead to rejection. We take a look behind the scenes in an admission committee meeting to learn what makes some applications rise to the top, while others are cast aside.

    Fierce Competition

    If you only apply to schools your mom has heard of, like the Ivy League Yale, Stanford, or Harvard, then you’re much more likely to receive a rejection letter. The same may be true for schools on the coasts, or in heavily populated areas.

    These programs receive thousands of applications from the most qualified students in the world, some of them with first-author papers. If you ONLY applied to extremely competitive programs, odds are, you got a lot of rejections.

    Next year, treat grad school the way you did undergrad: with a mix of reach-schools, target-schools, and ‘safety-schools’. Having options is a good thing, and the research training at these other schools will be as good as, or better, than the Ivy League.

    Early Birds

    They say timing is everything, and that’s true in grad school applications as well.

    Applications may arrive in the admissions office between the open date and the deadline, but the admissions committee will review those applications in batches. Their goal is to find the most qualified students to offer interviews, but the staggered nature of the review process presents a few challenges.

    Early in the cycle, the committee may offer interviews to a few top-t...

    • 57 min
    189. Crafting an Unforgettable Job Talk w/ Dr. Andres De Los Reyes

    189. Crafting an Unforgettable Job Talk w/ Dr. Andres De Los Reyes

    Think about your favorite action movie that kept you on the edge your seat. Did it look certain that the hero would fall, only to emerge at the very last moment to save the day? Now picture a great movie trilogy or TV series. Did each episode introduce a dangerous cliffhanger at the end, enticing you to watch the next installment to see how the tension would resolve?

    Those filmmakers know something about storytelling – crafting a narrative arc that brings the audience along for an exciting ride. Within just a few hours, they have to introduce you to the characters, invest you in their stories, and then take you along on a journey of conflict and resolution.

    This week, we talk about how your scientific presentation or job talk can use those same storytelling tools to engage an academic audience, and maybe even land you a new job.

    Every graduate trainee has experienced the highs (and lows) of scientific seminars. Typically, your department will host an invited speaker from another University. She’ll take an hour to present her research and then field questions from the audience.

    The speakers at these seminars obviously want to make a good impression, as an engaging talk might lead to new collaborations. But there’s one type of seminar where the speaker’s entire future career hangs in the balance…

    Of course, we’re talking about the dreaded ‘job talk!’ When a department hires a new faculty member, the search committee might review hundreds of applications, and invite just the four or five best candidates to host a seminar describing their work.

    This week, we caught back up with Dr. Andres De Los Reyes, Professor of Clinical Psychology at the University of Maryland. We spoke with him way back in Episodes 135 and 137 about his book The Early Career Researcher’s Toolbox: Insights Into Mentors, Peer Review, and Landing a Faculty Job.

    He joins us this time with advice on how to make that fateful transition from postdoc to faculty hire by using the tools of great storytellers to craft your presentation.

    He’ll describe his ‘Trilogy Tool’ and tell you how to curate just three pieces of research that you’ll describe in your job talk. Choosing the three elements, and how you link them together, is critical to the narrative structure. In the end, you’ll take your audience on a journey of academic discovery, and help them see all the potential that your future research holds.

    • 1 hr
    188. Grad School Time Management According to ChatGPT

    188. Grad School Time Management According to ChatGPT

    We get asked all the time about strategies for more effective time management during graduate school. Not surprisingly, some of our most popular past episodes deal with time management. While we have covered a lot of ground over the years on this evergreen topic, there’s a new expert on the scene who seems to know a whole lot about… well, almost everything! Therefore, we welcome to the show the AI chatbot sensation, ChatGPT, to determine if there’s anything this new technology has up its sleeve (?) for helping us be more effective with our time.

    Will ChatGPT replace us as podcast hosts moving forward, or does it instead provide word jumbles that sound nice but lack real substance. We put AI to the test for your benefit, this week on this show!

    Check out some of our past (AI-free) episodes on time management tips and strategies:

    175. Four Research Traps (And How to Avoid Them)

    162. Get More Done with LabScrum w/ Dr. Lisa May

    158. Five Strategies for Defeating Distractions

    059. Simple Tricks for Time Management – The Focus Funnel

    015. Simple Tricks for Time Management: The Pomodoro Technique

    • 40 min
    187. Pro-Tips For Creating a Scientific Poster

    187. Pro-Tips For Creating a Scientific Poster

    Scientific conferences are a great way to meet other scientists and share your research. Perhaps your advisor got lucky and was invited to give a talk. If your research doesn’t get time on stage, how can you make connections and tell others about your project?

    The poster session is your ticket to fame and glory. Nearly anyone – from tenured faculty to summer undergraduate – can submit a proposal and tack up a poster.

    That unlocks a world of opportunity to share your science, meet like minds, and network your way to a new project, job opportunity, or collaboration.

    But creating a poster is more than simply clicking ‘Print’ on a few figures. Crafting your story takes planning, and we’re here to help with advice from real-live poster presenters!

    Josh and Dan attended the American Society for Cell Biology’s Cell Bio 2022 conference in Washington, DC. It was a great opportunity to chat with scientists about their work, and life in the lab.

    During the poster session, we interviewed some presenters – not about their research – but about how they approached the poster presentation itself.

    Their advice is a great introduction to anyone wanting to create their own poster!

    Seeing the Structure

    Before you start choosing your favorite figures or writing an introduction, you need to give some thought to your poster’s format and layout.

    Deborah recommends paying careful attention to the poster dimensions dictated by the conference organizers. She made her entire poster before realizing the sizes she chose wouldn’t work.

    I waited until 10:00 PM before I checked and I realized I needed to make these dimensions different, therefore I had to start all over from scratch. So don’t make my mistake!

    Sarah from Oglethorpe University used a creative approach to reduce the printing cost and to make transport much easier.

    It will cost you less to be able to print it in sections. So instead of having a big 44″ by 40″, you can cut it in half and have it be printed for free, potentially at your University. And that’s what I did with my poster, chopped it up into two sections, and then on my board I pinned it together and it looks great.

    Omar thinks about his poster design in sections, as if they were a series of individual figures or statements.

     I “grew up” in the era where when you made posters, each panel was an individual 8 1/2″ by 11″ piece of paper, and I’ve essentially kept that organization for large poster printing. Design it in a way where if you are only reading the section headings, you get the gist of the whole story. So in a sense they’re sort of like topic sentences, but the entire set of section headings on their own tells the full story, and then you can fill in the details later.

    Omar’s section headings act as summary statements, and are readable from a distance.

    Make It Visual

    While you want enough text to help a viewer understand the story if you’re not standing right next to your poster, it shouldn’t be a wall of 10pt text. Posters are a visual format, so make your images vibrant and compelling.

    Leia recommends making your own images, rather than cobbling them together from various sources.

    • 38 min
    186. Scientists Share Their Goals and Strategies for Attending a Scientific Conference

    186. Scientists Share Their Goals and Strategies for Attending a Scientific Conference

    Since the pandemic, we can honestly say that Josh and Dan “don’t get out much.” But we broke out of that rut to attend the annual conference for the American Society for Cell Biology – Cell Bio 2022 meeting in Washington, DC.

    A scientific conference is a unique experience AND opportunity. Thousands of academics, researchers, students, and vendors are all in one place in order to ‘talk science.’

    There’s so much potential to build relationships and drive breakthroughs, but there are also plenty of pitfalls. A meeting with this many people can be chaotic, overwhelming, and well, just plain exhausting.

    So we got out the mobile recorder, dusted off the microphone, and asked attendees for their advice on navigating a large scientific conference with the best chance of success.

    In Their Own Words

    Over the course of two days, we asked ASCB 2022 participants to tell us their best advice for attending such a large conference. Here’s a summary of what we heard:

    Never Always Talk to Strangers

    The number one piece of advice we received was to talk to everyone. Introduce yourself to the person sitting next to you in the seminar. Engage the student standing in front of her poster. Chat with vendors about your research plans.

    Many of us follow the unwritten rule that in public, you shouldn’t strike up a conversation with a stranger. Don’t make eye-contact on the subway, and don’t chat up the person in the middle seat on your airplane!

    But at a scientific conference, those rules are suspended. Think about it: if all of these scientists just wanted the latest data or research, they could read the literature. When they attend a scientific conference, they’re looking for something more: human connections.

    A human connection might turn into a collaboration, or future job opportunity. Talking about research might spark a new idea or a new approach to an old problem. These are interactions that simply can’t happen online.

    So muster some courage, introduce yourself, and ask “Can you tell me about your research?” You never know where it will lead.

    Get Comfortable

    It might surprise a first-time attendee just how grueling a conference can be. You’re on your feet for much of the day, and the festivities can start at 8 AM and stretch well past midnight.

    You need to be strategic about finding places to rest and take comfort during the day.

    One great piece of advice: wear comfortable shoes. You’ll probably be walking to the conference from your hotel. When you arrive, you’ll migrate from one seminar room to another, possibly standing in the back if seats are limited. During poster sessions, you’ll make laps around the exhibition hall, again standing while you chat. Do your feet a favor and put comfort over style.

    Many attendees focused on food. Keep snacks in your bag, take advantage of the coffee and snack spreads, and make advance plans for lunch and dinner. You won’t be able to talk coherently about your research if you’re hungry!

    Finally, carve out some time to relax. Many scientists are introverts, and a scientific conference can be over-stimulating. Find an out-of-the-way nook to check your emails, or grab a seat in a quiet place next to the elevators. If the seminars and poster sessions have sapped your energy, consider skipping dinner with your lab-mates or drinks at the bar. Use that time to rest and refresh for the next day.

    • 36 min
    071. Practical Advice for Overcoming Impostor Syndrome w/ Dr. Maureen Gannon (R)

    071. Practical Advice for Overcoming Impostor Syndrome w/ Dr. Maureen Gannon (R)

    Impostor syndrome might make you feel all alone in the world, but ironically, many graduate students, postdocs, and faculty members experience the same feelings of inadequacy.

    This week on the show, we interview Dr. Maureen Gannon, PhD, about the sources of impostor feelings and the practical steps you can take to work through them.

    By every objective measure, Dr. Gannon’s career has been an unqualified success.  She went from private high school through a Masters degree with full scholarships, finishing her undergraduate training in just three years.  She completed a PhD at Cornell and is now a tenured faculty member at Vanderbilt University with appointments in several departments. She leads and chairs multiple organizations and committees, and is invited to speak internationally about her work.

    And yet, for much of her training, Dr. Gannon didn’t feel successful.  She sometimes attributed her personal wins to outside forces or good luck. She wondered when others would discover her shortcomings as a scientist.

    Then, she attended a workshop that put a name to the feelings: impostor phenomenon.  With the name came a realization that many of her peers were experiencing the same thing.

    Now, she speaks to students, faculty, and professional groups about her experience of overcoming impostor syndrome and getting on with her career.

    In this episode, Dr. Gannon shares some of the common triggers for impostor feelings and the steps you can take to work through them.

    Here are the books and resources she recommends:

    Take the test yourself: The Clance Impostor Scale

    The Impostor Phenomenon: Overcoming the Fear That Haunts Your Success

    The Secret Thoughts of Successful Women: Why Capable People Suffer from the Impostor Syndrome and How to Thrive in Spite of It

    Creative Visualization: Use the Power of Your Imagination to Create What You Want in Your Life

    Man vs. Machine

    Science in the News brings us another reminder that computers are going to take our jobs.  This week, machine learning algorithms outperform human doctors on predicting which patients will suffer from heart disease.

    Now, when the robots rise up to kill us, they’ll be able to make it look like ‘an accident.’

    We also sample a tropical ethanol with the Big Wave Golden Ale from Kona Brewing. It’s not clear why this allegedly Hawaiian beer was featured on a cruise in the Caribbean, but it’s best not to argue.  Any port in a storm, as they say…

    • 46 min

Customer Reviews

4.8 out of 5
141 Ratings

141 Ratings

Chitran963 ,

This is a gem of a podcast

I heard 2 episodes and realized that I should support this podcast. This is a gem being a grad student hearing to these while driving.

slamajamapajama ,

Great content!

I don’t know why it’s taken me so long to write a review because I love this podcast and I am constantly recommending it to people interested in grad school or in it already. There is such great content here and it’s delivered in a multitude of connecting ways for all types if listeners to enjoy.

amberberry07 ,

Good but get to the point

They waste so much time (sometimes 15+ minutes) before getting to the point of the episode. Only downside, otherwise I really enjoy the content that actually relates to the episode.

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