My Experience: Online Grad School

Man Using Laptop on Table Against White Background

Before I decided that I wanted to go to grad school, I was a civil engineer. I take that back, I did consider grad school, but the thought of making money out of college was really appealing, so I went that direction. After a few months of work (yes only a few months), I decided that I wanted to do a master’s in engineering. I figured that getting a master’s would really allow me to stand out and possibly make more money. I did still want to work full time so the only option was to do an online master’s through UF’s EDGE program. Here’s my experience in online grad school.

EDGE Program

The EDGE program was a cool concept because the live lectures would be recorded and you could watch them on your own time. You would be fully remote, but you would still feel like you were part of the in person class. It also isn’t one of those “go at your own pace” type deals. No, you did the course on the same timeline as the in person class.

I took classes like this for about a year before I decided that I should just go back to school. There were other reasons why I decided to get a PhD and they mostly dealt with my overall satisfaction in life. I was not as fulfilled as I wanted to be and felt pretty stuck. Also, I needed something to get me out of my comfort zone. Going back to school was the only decision, honestly, and it turned out to be the absolute best decision.

Pros and Cons. My Favorite!

I wanted to give some pros and cons of doing an online grad degree. These are all from my experience and it may be completely different for you. I think online grad degrees are just as good as in person, but there are some differences that kind of threw me off. Without further ado, here is my pros and cons of doing an online graduate degree.

ProsCons
The degree shows up as a master’s degree on a diploma.You miss out on the in-person experience. Meaning, you don’t have hands on learning with the instructor. It can be frustrating.
It is convenient and you can do it after work or on the weekends.If you work full time, you will be giving up weekends and nights to catch up on work.
The exams are all take-home (obviously) so you don’t have too much stress from taking it in a room with others.Exams might still be timed so there is some pressure.
You can take one class or several classes at one time, depending on your schedule and time commitmentThis may delay the time it takes to get a master’s. Usually they are 30 credits, so like 10 classes.
It is cheaper to do an online course. Tuition is still the same, but you don’t have to pay additional amounts for housing and food and such. You will be working at the same time too, so you’ll have additional money. You miss out on the college life. It may seem like a good thing to not have to deal with that again, but something about being poor and only focusing on school is exciting and joyous. I don’t know, I’m weird like that lol
The work is the same difficulty and you are getting the same education as being in an actual class.The work is just as hard lol
You can email a professor whenever you like and they can help out.You have to schedule time to see them. This may mean scheduling a time at night to zoom meet with them. My advisor actually did this last night while I was in the lab. It was about 8:30 pm and he was talking to EDGE students since that was the only time they could meet.
You will get really good at using the computer, especially zoom.You will need to spend a great amount of time on a computer.
online grad school

Final Thoughts

I thought doing a master’s online was awesome. I was even able to come to in person classes and take exams and give presentations. It made me feel like I was back in school again and I had a wonderful time doing it. If you are considering applying for an online master’s, I highly suggest doing it. The acceptance rates are extremely high and you can even do your master’s at top schools in the nation. You get the same quality education as in person students get as well. Here is a list of the best online degrees of 2021 from US News. Check it out.

Gifts for Grad Students

It’s Black Friday so of course today’s blog will be about buying things lol. This time of year can be extremely stressful because of spending a ridiculous amount of money and also because you really don’t know what everyone wants/needs. I hate it because I have so many people to get gifts for and it really stretches my budget. If you are buying gifts for grad students then here are a few ideas that will help you find the perfect gift for them.

1) School supplies

Pens, paper, binders, and literally anything like that are always appreciated by grad students. A really good gift to give them is just a basket full of school supplies. Make sure to include really good pens, sharpies for sure, oh and dry erase markers if they happen to have whiteboards nearby or in their offices. This is a great gift for grad students right here.

2) Pay off one of their semester fees

Crop anonymous person calculating profit on smartphone calculator near banknotes

If someone was to just pay for my semester fees (around 300 dollars) that would make my day/year. Even just paying a little of it is grately appreciated by all grad students. It stinks we even have to pay it in the first place but such is life.

3) A one month subscription to a food delivery such as Misfit Market or Hungry Harvest.

Assorted Vegetable Lot

Here is a link to a blog about the different ranks and which each is good for (here). I think these are wonderful ideas because sometimes it is really hard as a grad student to get healthy food. You often work very weird hours and don’t get to the store as often as you should. Plus, the quality of food choices tends to go way down as you start getting busy with your PhD or Master’s. This is a great way to make sure the grad student in your life stays healthy so they can finish their degree strong.

4) Get them assorted coffee, if they drink coffee.

I think this is one of the best gifts you can get someone. It’s cheap, easy, and they won’t say no to a good assortment of coffee. Read about my favorite coffee flavors (here). If they buy coffee each day because they don’t have a coffee machine, I suggest getting them a Hamiliton Beach single serving coffee maker or possibly just a French press like this one. You don’t have to go crazy and you can get a very small and cheap one. Ask the student if they drink coffee and need a coffee maker. They most often will say yes to both.

5) Toys for their animals

Orange Tabby Cat on Penny Board

This is different but very appreciated. Whenever people buy Sirius gifts, I am the one who is always so delighted. I love when people give gifts to my cat and I would rather have that for Christmas than something that just takes up space. If the grad student has an animal, I suggest getting gifts for said animal.

6) A scooter! or bicycle, but probably scooter.

Man Riding on Bird Electric Scooter

College towns are getting overrun with those electric scooters all of a sudden. They might seem cheap to ride to school each day on one but the trips add up. I think they are like 80 cents per minute so each day, you might spend 4 to 5 dollars, one way. Why not get to school about the same time and have something that doesn’t cost you anything to start it. I suggest getting a scooter like this one. The Razor A6 is what I have and it’s the best thing in the world.

I can get to my office and back in about 20 minutes. Plus, you don’t have to really abide by the rules, unlike a bike. I can go on sidewalks, in the street, on paths, basically everywhere with it. Bikes are great to have but a scooter is where it’s at. Also, scooters are much cheaper to buy for the grad student.

7) Just take them out to eat and talk with them

Man Wearing White Top in Front of Woman Wearing Blue Long-sleeved Top

Sometimes, the best gifts are the simplest. I know, personally, if someone just took me out to eat and just got my mind off of working, that would make my whole day/week. Grad students are often isolated and can go a very long time without just talking to people. It creates a ton on mental issues. Taking the student out and talking can be what gives them the strength to not fall into that mental trap. I highly suggest just doing this if you are able to.

8) Pay for some therapy if needed

Free stock photo of adolescent age, adult, chair

This is a gift that you definitely need to be close with the individual to talk about. If the student is truly struggling, maybe bring up that you’ll pay for some therapy. They may take this the wrong way but hopefully not. Maybe they were already thinking about it but were too afraid or broke to start. Offer to pay for a few sessions if you can. That may be the best gift that that student ever gets. Here is a link to online-therapy, the same one I post at the bottom of most of my blogs.

There’s also BetterHelp and Talkspace, which are both really good. Also, seeing a therapist in person is good too, just a tad expensive.

In the End

Grad students are easy. Get them anything that will help with their studies and they will be grateful. For me, the best gift that I could recive right now would be school supplies and a thing of Mac and Cheese lol. When in doubt, and if this blog didn’t help with ideas, go with scratch off lottery tickets. You really can’t go wrong with those lol.

It’s Ok to Treat Yourself

Grad school is a time where you may get very few wins. By this, I mean you may fail a ton of experiments. The paper you spent months on gets rejected. Your adviser might hate you (hopefully not). Stuff like this makes grad school extremely mentally taxing. I have said this before and I will say it again. You will be desensitized to the word “No” by the time you leave grad school. You will hear it and see it so many times that it won’t even phase you later on. You’ll be numb to rejection.

You may not win all of the time, but you will get victories. Honestly, getting a few wins feels so much better in grad school because of all of the rejection. When you get those small victories, Treat Yo-Self!

treat yourself

Small Wins

Small wins are a great way to boost your self esteem. If you get a good grade, treat yourself to something fun. You don’t have to go crazy and buy a car or something. Maybe go see a movie or get ice cream. Do something to really solidify that win. You don’t get too many in grad school :(.

Big Wins

For things such as passing your quals, or getting a paper published, I suggest treating yourself to time off. Guilt free time off that is! These are huge milestones in your academic career and deserve some time away from work. One thing that I did when I passed my qualifying exam was go to Disney. Something big like this really makes you feel like you did a great thing, well, because you did do a great thing.

One thing that I have notice though, and this is from not just me but others, is that when you do something successfully or accomplish something, it is almost anticlimactic. When I passed my qualifying exam, there was no overwhelming sense of accomplishment. I didn’t feel a wave of excitement come over me like I imagined. It was very, blah. Like, cool I passed, but nothing more. This is how others have felt too. That is why you need to celebrate so you can get that feeling of excitement that might not come from just accomplishing the goal.

Person Wrapping Gummies In An Orange Paper

Just Treat Yourself

Whatever you do, celebrate it. You are working on stuff that is very hard and you are succeeding in it whether you think you are or not. Celebrate the small victories and it will make this time in your life so much more enjoyable. Grad school is what you make it, so choose to make it exciting and fun.

I hope you guys have a wonderful Friday. I am celebrating surviving another week without going insane by having a nice cup of coffee.

**If you or someone you know is suffering from mental health issues, I highly recommend that they seek help. Online-Therapy.com or TalkSpace.com are great ways to reach out to a licensed therapist and get the help needed. Therapy has 100% helped me and I know it can help you.

Starting Your Thesis

I have a friend who is in a bit of a struggle mentally right now. He is currently in the process of trying to get a paper published. In my program, published articles are your chapters, so he is essentially writing one of his thesis chapters. He is experiencing panic because this is the only chapter that he has written and he graduates next year! This is causing a ton of anxiety because what he’s doing is thinking about the future and everything that he has to do. This is a major problem in graduate school.

I have the same problem. I see how much work needs to be done and the timeframe it has to be done in. This has kept me up at night on more than one occasion. Writing your thesis is a herculean task and that’s why not many people go to grad school. Honestly, writing a book practically, on a subject that might be pretty insignificant, doesn’t really appeal to many people. It has to be done, unfortunately.

If you are doing grad school and have to write a thesis, here’s a couple of suggestions for getting started and not going completely insane. I know I haven’t written a list in a while, so I figured I would :).

Grayscale Photo of Man Thinking in Front of Analog Wall Clock

1) Stop thinking about how much you have to do.

This is sooooooo important. When you think of having to write three papers, do experiments, water the plants, feed the chickens, pass your classes, etc., this will create anxiety like no other. Instead of thinking in the future, ask yourself “what do I need to do today?” Start off small because small steps get you places. If you worry about all of the stuff you need to do, you may not even put forth effort to do those things. You are more likely to procrastinate.

Person Holding Blue Ballpoint Pen Writing in Notebook

2) Write a little each day.

This is good for many reasons, but I want to share 2 in particular. 1) writing each day will get you used to writing in general. I have this blog to sort of dust off the cobwebs. Writing takes practice and you need to work your way up to being able to write a whole paper. It’s a hard skill, but over time you get better. 2) You will begin to chip away at the thesis. You do not have to write 4 pages a day, everyday. But 500 words a day will help you finish your thesis is no time. 500 words is also quite sustainable and realistic. That will take you maybe an hour a day. Check out my blog on writing each day (link here). This can help you get started.

Man Writing on Table

3) Never go for perfection. Well, at least at the beginning.

The hardest thing is just getting started. My best advice is to just write. Don’t worry about formatting. Don’t worry about spelling. Just write. Write down everything. This will get you started and going. You can always go back and edit. Heck, if you have an adviser that edits a ton, just write and make them do it lol. Just writing will create the motivation to continue. I have a pretty decent article on motivation and how it’s created by doing something instead of waiting for motivation (link here). This is the same situation. Just write and edit later.

Smiling young ladies in overalls standing near bench with wicker baskets with flowers near gloves and pot with books near trees and green grass in summer day in garden

4) Find someone in your department that is also starting to write.

Be their accountabilibuddy!!! Keep them on a schedule and they will keep you on a writing schedule. You can almost make a competition. One day you write 100 words and they write 200. Well you have to outdo them the next day. Next thing you know, you are both writing 5 pages a day and your thesis is done. I am hoping to try this in the spring. I want to finish by the end of summer so I need to stay on the writing grind.

High Angle View of Lying Down on Grass

5) Make sure to take breaks form writing.

This may be the most important one of all. The best thesis is a finished thesis and you can’t finish unless you are able to write. Burn out is a major problem and taking breaks is how you prevent that. I write about taking breaks in grad school, check it out when you are taking your break! (link here). Rest is essential to continue this journey. Take time off to recoup.

Photo of Planner and Writing Materials

6) Stick to a schedule. This includes a workout schedule!!!

Sometimes it is really easy to just do stuff sporadically. This may work, but establishing a schedule will increase productivity. This means incorporating exercise into your schedule!!! Make a schedule where you work hard from 9 to 5 or something then go to the gym afterwards. If you follow a pretty set schedule, you’ll be productive in multiple ways. I would stick to your phd work as a full time job. 9 to 5 each day then rest afterwards. This works for me, but it may not work for everyone. Try something similar and see what works best for your productivity.

Writing your thesis is exciting! It means you get to finish your degree and you are contributing something to the world. It is a difficult task but you can do it, I promise. If you have questions about starting or just want tips, email me at benswaringen@yahoo.com. I can give you more advice and maybe you can give me some more advice too and I am sure need some when writing this beast of a paper lol. I hope you all have an awesome day. Thanks for reading.

Grad School Jokes and Comics

It’s almost the weekend! If you are reading this on a Monday, eh, pretend it’s almost the weekend. So for today, I thought I would share a few comics that I found funny as well as some grad school jokes. I hope you enjoy.

Comics

Grad school Jokes
Graduate school Jokes
xkcd: Thesis Defense
Piled Higher and Deeper
I don't miss grad school too much. - Album on Imgur
PHD Comics: How Grad School is just like Kindergarten
Opening Up About Stress In Graduate School
Some of my favorite comics from this person. - Album on Imgur

Jokes

what do you call a cruise full of college graduates?

(a Scholar-ship)

A dentist graduated from Hogwarts…

He’s now known as the “Wizard of Aahhhs”

How many grad students does it take to change a light bulb?

One, but it takes 7 years

A graduate student submits his thesis to his advisor…

A few days later, the advisor returns in with a single note: Needs Improvement.

So the student makes a few changes and resubmits it. Again, the advisor returns it with the single note: Needs Improvement.

This time, the student pores over it, double checks every word, adds every reference he can find, and adjusts the layout to make it more readable. He walks into his advisor’s office and says, “I have done everything I possible can, this is absolutely perfect.”

The advisor takes it from him and says, “Okay, I guess I’ll actually read it this time.”

When I first started college, the Dean came in and said “Good Morning” to all of us. When we echoed back to him, he responded, “Ah, you’re Freshmen.”

Then he explained:

“When you walk in and say good morning, and they say good morning back, they’re Freshmen.

“When they put their newspapers down and open their books, they’re Sophomores.

“When they look up so they can see the who’s talking over the tops of the newspapers, they’re juniors.

“When they put their feet up on the desks and keep reading, they’re seniors.

“And when you walk in and say good morning, and they write it down, they’re graduate students.”

Have a great day

I hope these jokes and comics have made your morning or afternoon a little bit better. I thought some of these jokes were quite funny. If you haven’t already, go check out my blog about the must haves when going back to school (link here). I hope you have a fantastic day!

What to Watch on Your Down Time

There is one thing that all grad students love to do and that is tell everyone how hard their program is and how much work they have. I happen to fall into that category more often than I would like. Yes, grad school is hard, and you will have tons of work to do, but, you will have a ton of free time as well. If you take away all of the time you spend on social media, you’ll be surprised how much time you actually have.

Experiments also have a ton of down time. You might be running simulations or waiting on a very slow reaction to occur. You might be like me and spend countless hours watching water drip out of a tube at a rate of 1.5 mL/min. So, there’s a ton of free time whereyou can watch a few shows or movies!! Of course, you can use this time to blog or start a business or, my favorite, meditate, but sometimes you just want to be lazy.

So, I want to list off a few shows/movies/documentaries that I found really great and I think you will too. Some are super helpful with motivation. Some of these are informative and others are just a great way to enjoy the moment. Let’s get started.

Movies and Shows

1) Good Will Hunting

Good Will Hunting is my all time favorite movie! I have honestly watched this about 50-60 times and quote it quite often. Matt Damon and Robin Williams are both fantastic in it. I don’t want to give too much away and would highly suggest that you watch this one. There is a reason why this is my favorite movie ever.

2) My Octopus Teacher

My mom actually forced me to watch this and it was well worth it. My Octopus Teacher is about friendship, life, compassion, nature, and understanding how much we don’t know. I think this is still on Netflix and would suggest heading over to there as soon as you can. If you don’t have Netflix then I bet you know someone who does, if you catch my drift.

3) The Buddha: The Story of Siddhartha

So, I just started watching this about 3 days ago. It is very difficult for me to sit still and watch movies, so it has taken a while to finish this. This tells the story of the Buddha and all of his teachings. It is fantastic. Most of the mindfulness blogs are all based on the teachings of the Buddha, so it is cool to see the origins. They interview a ton of people and even the Dalai Lama. It is an easy movie to watch and you learn a ton from it.

4) Chef

I watched this movie in 2016 when my mental health was at its worse. This was the only movie that I could watch all the way through without having a serious panic attack. What makes this film one of my all time favorites is because there really aren’t any sad moments. The only moment where there is some conflict is towards the beginning. I won’t give anything away, don’t worry. This movie is just such a feel good one and there really aren’t any sad moments at all. Actually, I take it back, when the movie is over is a sad moment :p. I suggest checking this one out.

5) Jungle Cruise

I am going to end the list with this, Disney’s Jungle Cruise. I “did my research” aka went on rotten tomatoes and saw that it did very well. I figured “hey, let’s give it a chance and maybe we will be happy with it”. Oh man, this movie was hilarious and awesome. It kept the goofiness of the ride (jokes and puns and stuff) but brought a really interesting and unique story with it. If you have Disney+, go watch this movie. It’s phenomenal.

Let me Know

Of course there are many more videos and movies and stuff that I would love for you to watch. I just wanted to post a couple to get you started when you get bored of watching Parks and Rec for the 15th time. Oh, Parks and Rec is fantastic and super easy to watch while you are in the lab. That will be the very last recommendation. Wait, Schmitt’s Creek is also super amazing, oh, and IT Crowd. Ok, Ok, I’ll stop lol. Let me know in the comments of any good shows that you have watched or if there is a great movie or documentary that everyone needs to see. I would love to fill my down time with great entertainment.

If you haven’t already, go check out my blog on the best study music (link here). It’s a good alternative to watching movies in the lab. Also, here’s a good link to the best movies for PhD Students (link here). Check it out.

Is Graduate School Worth it?

Is graduated school worth it? You probably typed this in a few times while either applying for school or while actually being in school. Honestly, the answer is always going to be “it depends”. Every situation is extremely different and going to graduate school can be 100% worth it and 100% a waste of your time. From my experience, it has totally been worth it and I’ll explain why in this blog. For you, you might really want to consider some things before going. You can be extremely successful without graduate school. It really depends on your goals.

Green Typewriter on Brown Wooden Table

Your Goals

Before you start applying, really ask yourself “what are my goals and will grad school help to achieve those?” Let’s say your goal is to make a ton of money, will grad school cause that to happen/. You could be going into a program that really doesn’t make a lot of money afterwards. So, in this case, grad school is not worth it for that goal. If your goal is to further your education and possibly go into an academic research position, grad school is essential.

Why I chose graduate school

Going to grad school was a pretty easy one for me at first because I was money driven. I wanted to get a master’s to be able to make more money and be highly sought after by employers. Getting a master’s in engineering is pretty difficult so I figured people would really be interested. It wasn’t until I looked more at what my real goals were that I realized what my true passion was for. My goal for grad school changed drastically. I wanted to become a research scientist because I was curious about the unknown. Money would be nice, but thanks to many of the realizations I had about money, I knew that that wasn’t something to really chase after. Now, 4.5 years later, I am preparing to exit grad school with very new goals that I have set. So for me, grad school was worth the time and many, many headaches.

Person Holding Yellow Leaf

Some more perks in graduate school

Here is a list of some of the perks that come with graduate school and why it may be worth going:

  1. You meet a ton of really intelligent people. You also get to network with scientists that may have come up with some of the concepts that you studied in college. I have met many people that have revolutionized the field that I am studying, water chemistry.
  2. You get to make long lasting friendships with like-minded individuals. The friends that I have made these past few years are some of the best friendships that I have ever had. Sure, you can meet people outside of grad school, but it can be very hard to find people just like you in this huge world. College brings all of these people together and almost makes it easy to find them.
  3. You will obtain a master’s or PhD at the end of it. These degrees last you the rest of your life and can open up doors that you never knew existed. This is a huge perk to grad school.
  4. You get to work on some really exiting projects. If you do a thesis based grad degree, you may get to work on some cool scientific studies. FOr me, I get to play with water, lead pipes, and some super concentrated acids. I also get to work on projects that can help make people’s lives better. That makes all the work I do extremely satisfying.
  5. You can go on trips to present your work. Conferences are a huge part of grad school. You might go to one, you might go to 50. Each one is unique and you get to meet some really cool people from around the country or even the world. I have only gone to one, but I learned some cool things about similar research and got to talk with other PhDs about their experiences. I made some friends too.
Side view of frustrated bearded African American businessman in formal wear sitting on street near building in city after workday

Some other things to Consider for Graduate School

Unfortunately, there are some other things that you need to consider first before going off. I list those here:

  1. How much it costs. I don’t know about your schools, but UF is 1.5x undergrad tuition. It’s expensive to go to grad school. Luckily I have a tuition stipend so it’s paid for, but master students pay out of pocket, mostly. If you are an international student, you are paying much more.
  2. You may be very far away from friends and family. I am fortunate enough to only be about 2 hours away from my family, but I am about 6 hours from my girlfriend. This is always extremely hard to deal with. Some people move half way across country from grad school and spend months or years away from loved ones.
  3. You might get addicted to coffee. This is a real concern for some people lol. If you do find yourself in this position, check out my blog post on coffee. You’ll need it (link here).
  4. You’re mental health will be put to the test. If you have mental health problems already, grad school may cause those to be worse. It is extremely stressful in 1000 different ways and will stretch your mental health to the limit. If you don’t have mental health problems, you might get some unfortunately. Read up on if before applying. Here is a great place to start.
  5. You might hate it. Grad school can often be an acquired taste. Sometimes you get a terrible adviser or your project just doesn’t go anywhere. These happen but you are taking a risk by going to grad school. And, you probably won’t go anywhere if you don’t take risks.
grad school

In the end

Do you want to go to graduate school? Do you feel like it will help make your life better than it is now? Have you considered everything that is on this blog? If you say yes to all of these, I say apply somewhere today. Graduate school has been such an amazing, scary, frustrating, exhilarating, and fulfilling experience for me and for many of my colleagues. Would I do it again? That’s a hard no, but would I say it was worth it, oh yeahhhhhhh. I have about 6 months left in my program before funding runs out and I am forced out. I honestly love what I do and thinking about what comes next is scary. But life isn’t worth living unless you conquer those things that scare you.

If you are thinking about graduate school, and have questions, send me an email at benswaringen@yahoo.com. I’ll try my best to help you out. Also, check out my other blogs on my website. Until next time, peace!

Interesting Halloween Facts

Halloween is Sunday, so it’s a perfect time to blog about some cool facts that I have learned. Some of these I learned a long time ago in elementary school when learning useless facts like these was actual a thing. Now, in grad school, we have to learn about things that “matter”. I’m sorry, but knowing that the Bermuda Triangle exists and that a tomato is a fruit are pretty important, in my opinion. Anyway, Here is a list of some really interesting Halloween facts that you may or may not have known about.

1) Halloween developed out of the ancient Celtic festival of Samhain

View of Dark Hallway

2) The National Confectioners Association estimates that around 35 million pounds (over 15,000 metric tons) of candy corn are sold annually.

3) According to candyindustry.com, Reese’s cups are Florida’s favorite Halloween candy. Check out your states favorite.

4) The holiday was not called All Hallows Eve until 1556.

5) In Walnut Creek, California, USA, you actually need a permit to wear a mask on Halloween. They created this law to try to prevent people from causing trouble.

A Family Wearing a Diy Cardboard Box Mask

6)According to an old Irish legend, the practice of carving produce for Halloween comes from a man named Stingy Jack who once invited the devil for a drink.

7)Halloween is the second-most commercial American holiday of the year.

8)Candy wasn’t given out to trick-or-treaters until the 1950s

9)Skittles are America’s favorite candy.

Colourful Candies

10) The fear of Halloween is called Samhainophobia.

11) The world’s longest walk through horror house is the Dragons House of Horror in Albuquerque, NM.

12)The most lit jack o’lanterns on display is 30,581

Jack-o'-lantern

13) Michael Myers’ mask is actually a William Shatner mask

I hope some of these facts were brand new to you. I know they were to me. Let me know in the comments other interesting Halloween facts that you know of. Also, if you haven’t already, check out my list of things that I am grateful for (link here). Have an awesome day everyone. Also, enjoy the funny video below.

Love the Journey

“I learned to love the journey, not the destination. I learned that this is not a dress rehearsal, and that today is the only guarantee you get.”-Anna Quindlen

I have a pretty bad problem of always thinking about the end goal. I always tell myself that once I get to the end of my PhD, I’ll finally be happy. If I finish something in the future, I will finally have the satisfaction that I have been craving. This is extremely toxic thinking and it has taken me quite a while to actually understand this.

My Journey

I was told about 3 months ago that I would be graduating next May. This really hit me hard because I was finally close to “happiness”. I was finally at the end of my program and all of my dreams would come true. Thinking this way really brought a ton of excitement and a bit of dread as well. I had to starting thinking about careers and where I wanted to live and all the good stuff that comes with big changes. I was excited until about a week ago when my advisor told me that they found funding for me and I will probably be in my program for a bit longer than expected.

All of the excitement that came with thinking that I would be happy soon came crashing down. But, something quite interesting happened. My happiness came back, and fairly quick. This was odd but I understood what it meant. I love the journey. Being a grad student is amazing and I absolutely love the process of getting my doctorate.

I have grown so much as an individual in the past 4 years that people have taken notice. This is the first time in my life where I honestly don’t mind putting in a few extra hours of work or staying up late to figure out a problem that I have. I love what I do and the vast unknown that I am entering in to. This stuff excites me and I am OK continuing to struggle through this program. The struggle is just a component of learning.

Your Journey

journey

I have talked with many individuals about how “we will be better off after college” but frankly, I don’t know if we will. This isn’t supposed to be discouraging or negative, all I mean is we really don’t know what the future holds. I write about uncertainty a lot and this is one of those situations. I really have no clue if I will be better off after grad school. Yes, grad school can suck some times, but I know so many people that hate their careers and dream of being elsewhere.

This is why it is important to find happiness right now. Don’t tell yourself that you will be better off and happy after you hit some goal because you really don’t know if you will be. Find the happiness you desire through the journey. Learn to love the whole process and I guarantee that it will stop being as bad as you think it is. In other words, learn to love the suck lol.

Grad school is a journey that is not supposed to be easy. Learning new things is not easy and this is a time where you will learn more about life and yourself than probably any other time in your life. If you can learn to love this ride, I guarantee that it won’t be as bumpy. I hope you have a wonderful Sunday.

**If you or someone you know is suffering from mental health issues, I highly recommend that they seek help. Online-Therapy.com or TalkSpace.com are great ways to reach out to a licensed therapist and get the help needed. Therapy has 100% helped me and I know it can help you.

Working On The Weekend

Working weekends while your friends and family are doing fun stuff can be depressing. You work so hard during the week just to see that you are still behind and can’t enjoy two days off of work. But, it happens to all of us. Heck, some people never stop working and really have no sense of what a weekend is, so be happy you’re not one of them. I am currently 5 hours deep into work and decided to blog a bit to get grad students aware that they will work weekends.

Photo Of Female Engineer Wearing Lab Coat

I am extremely fortunate to have worked a full time job prior to coming to grad school. This taught me a valuable lesson…how to be productive in 45 hours a week. I only had to work one weekend and man that was awful. In the 2 years I worked, I would rarely stay after 5:30 PM. My brain would just shut off at this time and I needed to go home. Also, I am a morning person, so productively is at it’s peak around 10 AM. I brought this with me to grad school. Most days, I will come into my office around 8-8:30 and leave around 5 PM. In that time, everything that needed to be done would get done so I could leave my work at school. There are only a few times where I will stay longer.

This weekend is unfortunately one of those where I did not catch up on work. I did tell myself that I will be done by 5 today so I can at least spend the evening doing something fun. I will have to come in tomorrow, but not as long.

Grad school is difficult because you aren’t really on a set schedule. At first, your classes pretty much make up your schedule, but when you get into research only, everything gets weird. You will work odd hours, eat at weird times, and honestly forget what day it is. This is why creating a schedule, like I have (8 to 5), is essential. It also keeps you from having to spend weekends in the lab, unless you really like that.

Unfortunately, having to work a few weekends to catch up on things is inevitable. You will have to give up plans to come in and run another experiment or, like what I am doing, dilute samples so a half a million dollar machine doesn’t explode. Coming in on the weekend doesn’t have to be that bad though. There are a few perks like being the only one on campus or being able to blast The Phantom of the Opera soundtrack without having someone yell at you to turn it down.

So, if you are in grad school, still make plans to do stuff on the weekend. Remember to rest. But most importantly, be flexible. If you make plans to hang with a friend and then you have to come in to do work instead, be honest with them. True friends will understand. I truly hope that you can get away with only working the week. If you can, please let like 99% of grad students know how to do it lol. But, realistically, prepare to spend a few weekends in the lab. Honestly, it’s really not that bad.

Until next time friends, stay awesome!

Handling a Rude/Mean Advisor

I have a friend who is in the last year of her PhD. She has been working extremely hard lately because her advisor is asking a lot from her. Unfortunately, it’s a bit overwhelming for her. Her advisor, who may be a great researcher, is a complete jerk. In fact, none of his students like him. I don’t know the man personally, but he does come off a bit pretentious. I have nothing against him but when my friend is hurt due to things he has said to her, I really take offense to that.

She has a rude advisor. Now, I am very fortunate and have an amazing advisor. He is super supportive, incredibly helpful, and also helps me grow as a researcher. These are all really good qualities to look for with an advisor. My friend’s advisor does little of this and it is really affecting her self esteem. I can offer some suggestions if you happen to have an adviser that you may not get along with or is just a jerk. Hopefully you don’t have to deal with this, but it can happen.

Woman in Black Jacket Sitting at Table

1) Talk to your advisor about the situation.

They could be completely oblivious to the fact that they are treating you this way. Make it know that it is unacceptable to be treated this way. This is often extremely difficult to do, so many students will do everything but this. Talking with them may make things much worse. This should be the very first thing you do, but it might be the hardest.

2) Ask yourself if they are actually rude or if you are just thinking they are.

Some things that people think are rude are actually not. I struggled with this for a very long time, especially in grad school. Some times constructive criticism is seem as being rude or mean, when actually it’s really not. So, before thinking your advisor is being rude or mean, ask yourself if it’s actually rude or you are taking it the wrong way. This may save a lot of unwanted suffering later.

3) Talk to the Department Head

Go straight to the boss. This could be the department head or the dean of the college. Let them know about what is going on and see if there are ways to handle this. Your advisors boss may actually talk with them and let them know that they need to be better. This can be very difficult to do as well. But if you are in a position where you feel down all of the time, this might be the best option prior to going to #4.

4) Get a new advisor.

Life is too short to be miserable. After a while, you may realize that your advisor is not the right fit. This is totally fine and you can find a different one. I knew a grad student that was a doctorate student since 2013 and went through I believe 3 advisors until he found the right fit. He is now a research scientist with his doctorate and a great career. His first advisor didn’t care much about him only because the student was being funded by someone else. I thought this was crazy that someone wouldn’t like their student because of funding.

Hopefully you never have to experience a mean or rude advisor. They can really cause a ton of unwanted stress in grad school. If you are in a situation like this, look for help. You do not need to have a bad experience that could have lasting effects. You may have a stressful experience (check out my blogs about anxiety and stress here), but you don’t have to experience a bad and hostile 4 to 5 years.

**If you or someone you know is suffering from mental health issues, I highly recommend that they seek help. Online-Therapy.com or TalkSpace.com are great ways to reach out to a licensed therapist and get the help needed. Therapy has 100% helped me and I know it can help you.

Dealing with Office/Lab Mates

If you are in a grad program, more than likely you are going to be getting an office somewhere close to your adviser. Fortunately or unfortunately, depending on how you look at it, my office is on another floor than mine. This is good because I don’t have to look like I am working all of the time but can also be bad because I never know when he’s around or when he will suddenly pop up. I have to be on my “A” game most of the time.

office

Unfortunately for grad students, the dream of having your own space, where you can have plants, maybe a TV, and possibly add your own couch, is not a reality, yet. You will be with other students. Some of these will be other PhD students, while other’s could be Master’s or even undergrad students. If you are fortunate, you won’t get too many other people.

Having office mates is good and bad. One advantage to them is having someone to talk to. Being in the office and lab all day can get quite lonely. Talking to someone that does the same thing as you really helps. In fact, this is exactly how I’ve made friends. It’s a total win. Also, another advantage to having someone in the office is that they may bring snacks and treats. This is especially true if you tell them when your birthday is!

office mates

The bad things about having someone share an office are actually not too bad. You will have to figure out how to have Zoom meetings with them in the room. You may also have to find a way of reheating the fish you brought for lunch without causing them to run out of the building. One disadvantage that I found was not being able to use the other desks to work on side projects. I used to have my office to myself, which was good and bad. But, I would have multiple different projects going on at once on almost all of the desks. It was nice being able to jump around from desk to desk. I can’t anymore.

These advantages and disadvantages occur in the lab as well. Having someone in the lab with you is nice because you can talk to someone while your experiments are running. This makes lab work a heck of a lot more enjoyable, if your experiments are boring of course. It can also be a pain to have to share bench space with someone else. One of my labs has like 3 different groups using it at one time. Luckily, I don’t work in that lab that often because having that many people in there at once would be a nightmare.

One surprising disadvantage to having someone else in the lab, especially an older grad student is the pressure of doing everything right. Sometimes I feel like I don’t pipette right or sometimes I feel like I don’t allow my glassware to soak in an acid bath long enough. I don’t want to be told what to do by someone else or be told that I am doing everything wrong. I understand that it’s helpful to get criticism, it is just anxiety inducing at some times. Other than that, having a lab mate really isn’t that bad.

If you are working in a lab currently, do you enjoy having others around? What about having office mates? Let me know, in the comments, how you are able to cope with having people in your space. I hope you guys have a wonderful day. Also, if you haven’t checked out my blog about sharing your lab and office with a ghost, then I highly suggest reading about that lol. (link here). It is spooky season!

**If you or someone you know is suffering from mental health issues, I highly recommend that they seek help. Online-Therapy.com or TalkSpace.com are great ways to reach out to a licensed therapist and get the help needed. Therapy has 100% helped me and I know it can help you.

Feeling Old in Grad School

I know, I know, I am not that old, but I still feel old on campus. I turned 29 last Saturday which is pretty awesome. Don’t get me wrong, I loved my 20’s, but I am ready to move on. Frankly, some of my darkest days were in my mid 20’s and I want to say goodbye to them. Anyway, compared to my undergrad counterparts, I am a dinosaur.

Feeling old

The freshman are all wearing UF 2025 shirts which makes me realize that I am 10 years older than they are. That is insane to think about and kind of scary. If you are like me, and much older than most of the people on campus, don’t fret. There are plenty of ways to feel right at home and not ancient.

One thing that makes me feel less old is actually asking how old other grad students are. Compared to them, I’m a baby. I know we had one guy that graduated a year ago who was almost 50. Another grad student from last year was almost 40. This definitely helped to make me less sad that I was still in school at my age. I also read that the average age for grad students is 33 (link). So I still have a long way to go.

I want to encourage those that are thinking about grad school to do it, regardless of your age. Honestly, you spend so much time with other people that are similar in age that you aren’t really bothered by the undergrads. I read somewhere about a girl who was contemplating grad school. She was talking with her mother and brought up the fact that she would be 30-something by the time she had her doctorate. This really made the girl feel bad. Her mother told the daughter that she would be 30-something whether she wanted to or not, but at least she would have a doctorate.

So, if you are deciding to go back to school, or thinking of doing a grad program after undergrad, just know that you will feel old. But, that’s a good thing. You don’t want to be part of the undergrad world anymore. Honestly, that time kind of sucks. The parties and friends were awesome, but now you get to work towards your dreams and your future goals. You get to do fun research that might be groundbreaking stuff! You have also matured way passed that phase of your life.

If you haven’t checked out my blog about the pros and cons of going back to grad school, I highly suggest doing so. (link here). I hope you all have a wonderful Thursday, and I will see you in the next blog.

When You Feel Stuck: Experiments

There comes a time in every grad program where you just don’t really know what to do. This could be while you are doing experiments, studying for exams, looking for jobs, really just anything. Currently, I am feel stuck on a problem trying to justify results that I am getting from an experiment. The results are significant but I can’t really explain what’s happening.

Feeling stuck on something is actually very good. With experimental results, getting stuck gives you an opportunity to look for other ways to look at the problem. This is learning at its finest! It can really be disheartening when you spend a ton of time feeling stuck, but it is all part of the process of becoming a scientist. I wanted to suggest some things on how to work through these moments of feeling stuck. If you are currently having experimental problems, like me, take a look at these ways of dealing with them.

Portrait of woman in hat and skirt

1) Go far away from the problem at hand.

This can literally mean just leave the problem for a bit or stop thinking about it. When I feel stuck, I go on walks. I listen to music and try not to think about what’s frustrating me. Most of the time, my subconscious figures things out for me.

Free stock photo of adult, alarm clock, antique

2) After leaving it for a bit, look at all the components of the problem.

Write down the problem, your solutions, as well as anything else that might be important. In experiments, writing down everything that you did may shine light on why you are getting results that are different than what is found in the literature. This also means, write down what data other people are getting too.

Photo of a Sign and Eyeglasses on Table

3) Stay positive.

So this is important. If your data is different than other people’s, you may have found something out that is quite significant. Tell yourself that this is the case, because if you are negative about what is happening, you may overlook some really cool findings.

Photo of Woman Writing on Tablet Computer While Using Laptop

4) Keep working at it.

Do not give up on the project/experiments until you have exhausted all possibilities. You might have made a mistake and contaminated the results. Yes, this happens to the best of us. But, you may have also found something really significant. If you give up early, you may not find the answer to your problem.

High Angle Photo of Woman on Ladder

5) Ask for help

If you are smart, you will ask for help. Problems may have an easy answer that just needs a fresh pair of eyes to look at it. So, ask your adviser what they think or go to your committee members. They may just have the answer you are looking for.

These are problems that no one else has tackled, and you are the one to do it. I think that’s extremely exciting to be honest. I promise you that you will get through whatever it is that’s happening. Just remember that you have survived 100% of the hardships that you have experienced and you’ll survive this one.

If you haven’t checked out my blog about ways to reduce stress, I suggest you do. Who knows, you may need it when tackling hard problems (link here).

**If you or someone you know is suffering from mental health issues, I highly recommend that they seek help. Online-Therapy.com or TalkSpace.com are great ways to reach out to a licensed therapist and get the help needed. Therapy has 100% helped me and I know it can help you.

My Typical Day as A Grad Student

I wanted to share a typical day as a grad student. This is my typical day and may vary significantly based on many factors. These include deadlines, your adviser, when you wake up, as well as if your lab is available to you during a certain time. Some of these factors are a bit weird but grad students understand.

Black Analog Alarm Clock at 7:01

I usually wake up around 7:30 AM to either my alarm or my cat, Sirius. If you are a cat owner, you understand the struggle of trying to sleep in and not being able to. Lately, Sirius has been letting me sleep longer which is kind of bad, since I do need to get up and do work. But if I do get up at 7:30, I usually have coffee, get ready and get out the door by 8:00.

I walk to campus instead of riding the bus. I found out that it takes about 10 minutes more to walk than ride the bus so it just makes sense to walk. Also, Gainesville has been absolutely beautiful this time of year, so the walks have been amazing. Walking takes about 30 minutes and I tend to listen to music or audio books on the way over. (Link to audio books that I listen to).

I will get to my office at about 8:30-8:45 and make a second cup of coffee. I really love coffee, if you guys didn’t know already (lol). So after my second cup, I am usually ready to tackle the day.

My days consist of either writing or lab work mostly. On weeks where I do lab work, I come in at really weird times. Depending on the day, I may get to lab at 7:30 AM or noon. So, for this blog, the day I am referring to is a writing day.

Around 9:00 AM, I start off with a blog post. So blogging has had many benefits, and one that I have noticed is that it warms me up for scientific writing. There are days where dissertation writing is difficult, so blogging beforehand gets me ready to do even more writing later. I have noticed that writing articles has become easier and I have blogging to thank for that. I usually am done with this writing by 10:30-11.

Lunch is at 11 and then start actually writing for the day. I try to get at least 500 to 1000 words in a day. When writing, I don’t focus on the flow of the paper, or the grammar. I mainly focus on getting the words out. If I focused so much on perfecting my writing then I would maybe get 100 words in a day. Going back over what I wrote later and correcting is way better than correcting as I go.

I usually write until about 2 PM. I do need a break, right? 2 is usually a good time to either get coffee or go on a walk. Some days I will have meetings at this time, so it’s a good time to change up the day. I will also go to my friend’s office and talk to her for a bit. PhD students don’t always work. We may complain that we do, but there is plenty down time.

I will usually get back to work around 3, after coffee, of course. From 3 to 5 PM, I usually write a bit or read some papers. My research topic doesn’t have too much to read about, so I will branch out and maybe read about physics or other engineering topics. Reading bores me easily, so in that time, there is plenty of phone time.

I will usually leave my office around 5-5:30 to go to the gym or do stadium workouts (check out my blogs about those here). My brain just shuts off at 5:30 for some reason. If I don’t get the work done by this time, it won’t get done haha. I think it is because I conditioned myself to not think of work after 5 when I was a full time civil engineer. Of course, if there is a deadline, my day does not end at 5-5:30, but those occasions only happen once in a while.

After the gym, I usually go home and hang with Sirius. Lately, I have been just playing with him for an hour to wear him out. I think this might be the reason he doesn’t get me up at 7:30 anymore. He has been sleeping a ton. I will usually make dinner at this time too and possibly catch up on email reading.

I know this isn’t too exciting, but this is a typical day for me, when writing. If it’s lab work, well that is a different story. I will probably make a blog about that one of these days. If you are just starting off and are trying to compare your day to other PhD students 1) Don’t do this because people will lie and maybe make you feel like you aren’t doing enough and 2) if you really want, look at reddit forums (here‘s a good one). Just know that a PhD is different to everyone. Some people will work constantly and other’s won’t.

I would suggest keeping a schedule that does not keep you in the lab/office forever. There is a whole life for you outside of work and it is very easy to forget that. Do not feel like you need to work on something constantly because that will burn you out faster than you know. Make time for friends and family. Join a club or sports league. Make sure the hours after 5 PM really count. You will have busy weeks but way more slow weeks. So occupy the time with things that make you happy.

Pros and Cons of Grad School

I want to take a few moments to go over what I think are the pros and cons of going to grad school. It seems like more and more people are considering grad school these days. I think it is because jobs are getting way too competitive.

Entry level job

People just jump into grad school without weighing their options first. So here is a list of some pros and cons of grad school that you need to consider before applying.

Pros

  1. You will get to focus on an area that interests you. In fact, if you do a PhD, you get to only focus on one thing that interests you!!
  2. You will stand out among your peers after graduation. Jobs will higher you before someone with a bachelors (in most cases).
  3. If you are in research, you will most likely be working on a cool project that not many people even know about.
  4. This may cause a pretty decent advancement in your career.
  5. You have higher earning potential.
  6. After graduation, you’ll be an expert in your field.
  7. You get to meet some amazing and brilliant people
  8. You have access to all of the cool software and hardware that the college provides.
  9. You’re creativity will increase significantly.
  10. You’ll be able to make career changes a lot easier.

Cons

  1. Grad school is expensive.
  2. You will be spending even more time in school with people much younger than you.
  3. Grad School is mentally taxing.
  4. Grad school is extremely difficult.
  5. You will most likely have a loss of income. You are exchanging 2 to 4 years worth of income for this degree.
  6. When you graduate, you may not have as much work experience as someone who has been working
  7. You may be in school for 8 more years.
  8. There’s no guarantee that you will get a good job after graduation.
  9. You may be turned down from jobs because of “over qualification” but, I’ve never met a person that was applying to jobs below their qualification.
  10. You will see friends come and go while you are still working away at school.

These are a few of the most important pros and cons that you need to consider. If you are still on the fence about going, I suggest looking into more blogs about whether it is the right decision for you. A good article to read is “When is Grad School Worth It?”(link here). Also take a look at all of my blog posts about mindfulness as well as education. Those posts can help you determine whether grad school is right for you or not.

10 Facts about Grad School

I thought I would add something fun to my collection of blogs today. There are hundreds of facts that can be posted about grad school, but I want to focus on 10. These are facts that surprised me and were just down right interesting to know. I hope you enjoy the list.

1) About 13.1% of the population has an advanced degree. This includes Master’s, Professional Degrees, and Doctorates.

2) On average, a Doctorate program takes about 8 years to complete. This varies significantly from field to field.

doctorate

3) Doctoral attrition rates in North America are estimated to be about 40-50%. Half of the people that start will not finish.

4) The United States has more doctoral graduates than any other country.

5) Individuals that hold a master’s degree earn about 38% more than those with a bachelor’s degree.

Focused African American teenage chemist working on formula in scientific center

6) One average, only about 1.1% of the world’s 25-64 year olds who have been to university, have a PhD.

7) Walden University has the most graduate students as of 2019-2020 academic year.

8) The most common type of graduate degree is a Master’s.

Person in White Shirt With Brown Wooden Frame

9) There is a Master’s in Imagineering which you can get at Breda University of Applied Sciences, in the Netherlands)

10) There are nearly three times as many men and women becoming attorneys as there were earning a medical degree (MD)

This list was extremely fun to look up and share with you guys and gals. Do you happen to have any interesting facts? They don’t even have to pertain to grad school, I just like reading weird and interesting facts lol. If so, please share them in the comments. I would love to read them. Also, take a look at my other blogs about education (link here). I am sure you will find some other very interesting facts in those articles.

Write Often in Grad School

This is really the first time in my life where I have been eager to write almost every day. I was never a writing. In fact, writing was my least favorite activity, right behind getting my teeth pulled. Grad school changed that completely. I remember the first semester of my PhD research, I was taking the last 2 or 3 classes for my Master’s and I collectively wrote 100 pages worth of content in that semester. That seems like a lot, because it was.

Woman Typing on Laptop

One of the best things that I have learned is to write as much as possible while you are in grad school. This is a skill that you are almost required to have to graduate. Actually, it is a skill you need to graduate because you have to write a dissertation! Starting early in the key, though. Gather the skills that you need to be able to write a mammoth of a research paper early, and I guarantee it will be much easier to do so.

Blog Letters on Brown Wood

This is one of the reasons I blog almost every day. Writing is a skill that gets better the more you do it. Having a blog can serve multiple purposes for you. For me, I get to share inciteful things about surviving grad school with your mental health in check as well as I get to write and hone those skills. Sure, my writing is not the best, but it’s way better than it ever has been! Also, writing 20 pages of materials is a cake-walk compared to what it used to be. That was extremely beneficial in regards to my qualifying exams. One committee member gave me 8 hours to answer 4 questions. I gave him 20 pages of written material in response. It just came so easily. That’s definitely a perk of writing each day.

Photo Of Person Typing On Laptop

If you struggle to write good material (though any material is good material in my eyes) then I suggest writing content each day. It does not matter what it is on, just write. One suggestion, pertaining to mental health, is to journal. This is an amazing way to just put all of your feelings and thoughts on a piece of paper. First, you are helping to elevate mental stress (huge thing in grad school) and also, you are gathering the skills to be a good writing. Both of these actions will come in handy when you are writing your thesis.

Person Writing on White Paper

If journaling is not your thing, start a blog. I wrote about how a blog has significantly helped my mental health (link here). If you don’t want to blog and immediately get into writing your thesis, do that too. There’s a neat little book that you can buy (link here) that has a page for each day of writing your thesis. I may buy one myself here soon because I think I am getting close to the 100 day mark O.o.

Free stock photo of art, artistic, arts and crafts

Regardless of what you do, I say just write. I find that writing is a great way to take all of the buzzing information in my head and lay it all out. There are so many benefits of writing that it would take a whole week to write them all out for you. Writing has become a hobby for me and I hope I continue this journey well into my later years.

How has writing helped you in your life? Let me know in the comments!

Things Not To Tell a Law Student

I am surrounded by law students. My friend’s girlfriend is a law student, same with my other friend’s roommate, my roommate is, and my girlfriend is a lawyer. By default, that makes me a lawyer, right? It is funny because I actually have considered law school, but watching my girlfriend as she went through it really turned me off on that idea. I will stick to what I am good at, playing with chemicals and praying I don’t destroy my lab.

There are a few things that you should never say to a law student or a fresh lawyer, unless you want them to really go off on you. I have learned my lesson and figured it’s best to let you guys know. Some of these will be generic things not to say and other’s will come from the perspective of a PhD student.

  1. You’re not a Doctor
Lawyers Posing for a Photo

Do not say this!!!! I made the mistake of telling my girlfriend that she can not call herself a doctor because it is not a true doctorate. Getting a law degree is 100% a doctorate and they are doctors, though they probably won’t use the label. Just because law student’s don’t follow the same college structure as a PhD, that doesn’t mean it’s not a doctorate.

2. Asking them if they are starting to prepare for the Bar.

Close-up of Hands

Save this one for after they graduate, please. Asking a law student about this while they are still in school will likely cause a panic attack for them. They have enough stress already and the Bar is probably the most stress they will experience, ever. I remember when my girlfriend was studying for it. She spent 12 hours a day, every day, studying for it. This was also during the initial quarantine phase (Tiger king, bread makers, and lots of free time). When law students graduate, ten you can ask them. Some may take some time off, others go right into it. Just don’t ask them when they are still in school.

3. Asking them about legal advice

Businesspeople Talking

Sure, law students really only talk about lawyer stuff, like all of the time. I know more about the court system now then I ever have or ever wanted to lol. Asking them to give advice on some legal troubles you may have or someone you know has will be more detrimental to you and not them. The law students I have in my life love dumping all of their knowledge on the subject, all at once. You may ask for some advice about getting a permit for you house and next thing you know, you’re learning about a Supreme Court decision from 1987.

It’s wild how much they know. Also, they are students, remember! They do not have the license and skills yet to really help with any problems. If you really need advice, I suggest saving up money for a year and go see a really good lawyer. You’ll definitely need that year’s worth of money lol.

4. You’re going to pass

Happy African American remote worker tossing papers in air happy to get rid of boring paperwork while sitting in green park

I wish someone told me this a long time ago. I know this is supposed to help give the law student some confidence, but it doesn’t help. Those tests that they take are long and difficult. That may be their only grade in the class too. Just imagine you studied every day of the semester, was told you were going to pass, then you took one test and failed. That would be devastating, and that is also what many law students experience. This also pertains to the Bar. Imagine studying for 2 months straight, never taking off a weekend, and fail the Bar exam. Now imagine someone assuring you that you will pass. That would hurt a ton, so I would advise just not saying it unless you want one of those 50 pound law books thrown at you lol.

These are a few things that I learned while being surrounded by lawyers and law students. If you know someone that is in law school, I suggest sending them a care package of candy and perhaps their favorite coffee. Also, be supportive but please try not causing them any more stress than they already have. Law school is a hard three years.

Does GPA Matter in Grad School?

Grades

If you are just starting off grad school, this might be one of the questions that you may be asking yourself or others. I guarantee that you will either get a yes or no answer and it will be fairly split among your colleges. I have spent a ton of time in grad school and have asked many individuals if they think GPA is important in there graduate studies. This is my opinion, so many people may have differing opinions, but I don’t think GPA is important.

GPA is important if you in undergrad. You can still have a bad GPA and get an amazing job, but you may need to work a bit harder. In grad school, your main focus is on research. Spending all of your time focusing on classwork takes valuable time away from what they are paying (PhD) you to do. I have heard of stories where advisers have actually told their students that they need to spend less time studying for exams and more time working in the lab. The advise would say that the effort that was put forth to receive an A in a class could have gone to publishing a paper, or running another experiment, Things that are much more important.

One reason why I don’t think GPA matters in grad school is because not a single recruiter that I have talked to has asked me what my graduate GPA is. They only ask about my research, publications (now I have one!!! WOOOOO), as well as my job experience. In grad school, you are less of a student and more of an apprentice. You are learning how to do the work and think like a professional rather than just taking tests and partying every night.

Also, and this comes from talking to many grad students, getting higher than a B is extremely easy. Getting an A can be a bit more work but you will probably never see below a B in your whole time in grad school. They want the students to focus on research and less of the class work. The only time I would really suggest putting a ton of effort into classwork is when it pertains to the project that you are working on. Make sure you master that class and get an A.

Overall, go into grad school with the thought that GPA won’t matter. Pass your classes of course but focus extensively on your research. You can be extremely book smart but a terrible researcher. There are many skills that you need to learn to be a researcher and that is what you should focus on. I will have a blog about those skills soon.

Anyway, let me know if you think GPA is important or not. I would love to know other’s opinions based on their experiences. Also, if you haven’t already, check out my blog about grad school hacks(found here). Have a great day everyone. I’ll see you in the next post.

Publishing Your First Manuscript

publication

I think one of the hardest parts about a PhD is putting forth so much effort into one thing and having someone tell you it is wrong or it is not good enough. Talk about breaking you down and making you feel bad. The PhD process is grueling and no wonder people don’t want to go through it. I know the struggles that PhD students face and they are quite taxing on mental health. One of the things that may cause mental stress is getting a manuscript published. Getting a publication is part of the process, though.

It’s required

One of the requirements to graduate at my university is getting a first authored publication. Many of the students in my department will send in their research. I sent in a review paper. Literature reviews are required for dissertations but not necessarily for publication. My adviser wanted me to get a paper in quickly because my research project takes quite a long time, and data won’t be sufficient until the end of this year. So, we decided that it was best to get a literature review over with and send that in for publication.

Well, after 2 years of working on it, it was accepted to a journal. I am super excited so I wanted to spend some time telling you what it’s like to publish and the process of peer review. If you haven’t checked it out yet, go read my blog about writing a literature review. I’m sure it will help those in the process.

Pay attention

When writing a paper for publication, you need to really pay attention to ever little detail. Make sure grammar is correct, punctuation is appropriate, and that all figures are up to the quality of the publisher. When in doubt, check out the website of the journal you want to send your paper to. They will always have a list of requirements that need to be met for them to send off to be peer reviewed.

Where to send it

Prior to sending your paper anywhere, do some research on journals. The worst thing is to keep picking journals where your paper is out of their scope of work. You don’t want to send a physics paper to an ecology journal. I highly recommend using Journal Finder. It is a free service by Elsevier. Here you can see the most appropriate journals with the highest impact factors. This is how I made the decision on where to send my manuscript.

Send your manuscript and hopefully the editor sends it to be peer reviewed. Honestly, this is a very nerve wracking time because the editor can just flat out reject your work. But, if you are fortunate enough, they will send you an email saying they are sending your paper to peer review. Now it’s time to sit back and relax. The paper is in good hands, I promise you.

What’s next?

The peer review process is awful!!! It is definitely needed but you may get comments back that are just flat out mean. They may tell you that this paper is bad or that everything you did was wrong. They may even suggest that you redo the experiments. My experience was with review papers. The reviewers must have gone through every citation because they had a comment for literately everything. It will take you some time to address all comments, but know you will most likely have help from your adviser, so do not fret. They have done this a million times.

After addressing the comments, you’ll send them back to the editor who will read over them. They may accept or reject your paper right then and there. It can happen but sometimes they will send the paper back to the reviewers to see if they are ok with the responses. If you are luck, like me, you will get even more comments from the reviewers -_-. Have no fear, this means that the reviewers are really taking the time to make sure you have a scientifically sound paper. This is a good thing.

After peer review

By the time all the peer review is over, it is up to the editor to make the final call. After all, it’s their journal that you are asking to be published in. Hopefully they send you an email, like they did with me, that states that they have accepted your article. It is an amazing feeling knowing that you will have contributed a tiny bit to the academic world. Maybe you might have people even cite your paper. That is a cool thing.

If your paper was rejected. It is not the end of the world. Read all of the comments very carefully and make adjustments where it’s necessary. If you have a good project that is scientifically sound, it will get published with some work. I remember reading a comment on Reddit about how someone always sent their manuscripts to Nature. They were rejected every time after peer review, but that is what the person wanted. They wanted to see how to make their experiments and papers better. The reviewers would give them amazing feedback and they were able to use that to make their paper good enough to get into vey impactful journals. So, getting rejected is a learning experience.

How did it go?

If you have gone through the publication process, let me know how it went for you. This was the process for me but everyone has a different story to tell and I would love to read about it.

Dealing With The “Lab Ghosts”

If you do research in a lab, you will be fairly familiar with lab ghosts. Every time an experiment goes wrong, it’s because of the ghost that haunts my building. It’s not because of me and my mistake. No….never! lol. But for those that have ghosts in their lab, here’s a list of how to stop them from causing trouble. If you have goblins or trolls, this guide will not be able to help. That’s a very different problem lol. This guide will only protect you from lab ghosts and nothing else.

  1. Bring in offerings.
Assorted Fruits on Baskets

I often bring in cookies to make sure that my lab equipment works that day. I mean, my graduation depends on my equipment working. The lab ghost of my building often causes things to go terribly wrong unless I bring them something fun and delicious.

2. Bargain with the ghost.

Photo of Two People Shakehands

If you are constantly getting upset over your machines failing, make a bargain with the lab ghost. I find that ghosts really mess things up when you decide to stay and do work at night. Maybe tell the ghost that you will only work early during the day and leave before it gets too late. I had to agree to not work nights in my lab with my ghost. Every once in a while I have to go in late but that was part of the agreement. Haven’t really had a problem since.

3. Scare the ghost away

Get yourself a ghost in a bottle (here‘s a link to some). It is guaranteed to scare away any ghost that tries to mess up your experiments. I have one on my desk after all of my experiments started to fail. Like., I was getting terrible results before I received one of these as a gift. My data has never looked better now that my ghost in a bottle is here to protect me.

4. Sage your office.

Ceramic Plate with White Sage Smudge Stick

You have probably heard about burning sage to cleanse the area of ghost. 100% true. I just use sage scented spray (here). It works just as well, and afterwards, you’ll definitely feel like a ghost has left the area. Spray it near your experiments when you desperately need good results. This will make you happy, your adviser happy, as well as the peer reviewer for your paper happy. Good results make everyone happy, unless they are so perfect that it looks like you made them up. Then no one is happy.

5. Sacrifice an Undergrad’s experiment.

Person Holding Laboratory Flask

This one should be the last thing you do. I understand that undergrads are just not as cool as grad student, but remember you were one prior to grad school. Also, they may have a very good experiment, and losing that to a ghost could be very detrimental to a lot of people. If it comes down to it, sacrifice their experiment. Try and convince the ghost that your experiment is less important and boring. The ghost will start messing with the undergrad’s after this. According to the Law of Haunting, section 34.6.7 paragraph 4 “Ghosts can only haunt one experiment at a time.” You won’t have to worry about failed experiments ever again.

If you truly believe your lab is haunted, follow these guidelines. I promise you that you can convince the ghost to leave you alone. I have had quite a bit of success with these methods and so will you. For other ways to make sure your experiments go well, check out my other blogs (here). I’m sure you’ll be a research master in no time.

Best YouTube Study Music Playlists

I often listen to very calming music to help me focus on work as well as calm the anxiety that I feel from said work. It’s amazing how simple tasks can become so complicated because of anxiety. Study music is my go to method to calm myself and get in a very relaxed state to hopefully complete the task that I am working on. I want to share with you a few channels that I think are definitely worth listening too as well as some music mixes that can help brighten your day and make you extremely productive.

The first one I want to tell you about is Lofi Girl.

This channel is wonderful and defintiely helps to keep my attention. I put this channel on when I write since it’s uplifting and there are no lyrics to any of the songs. If you are like me and just want something that you can listen too in the background, this is the channel for that.

The second channel is the Studio Ghibli Relaxing Jazz playlist on Café Music BGM channel.

I usually play this when I am not really feeling good, mentally. The music is very uplifting and definitely helps with those days where I feel a bit down. I think I will add this playlist to my blog post “My Favorite Things on Days I Feel Sad”. Check that post out here. This playlist is also perfect afternoons when you need something to get you going. After lunch, when I am full and sleepy, I’ll put this on for a bit of an energy boost.

I am a huge Legend of Zelda fan, and if you are familiar with the games, you know they have an absolutley amazing soundtrack. Frequently, especially when it’s raining, I put on “a storm of songs || zelda ost + thunderstorm ambience”. Here’s a link to that playlist.

The combination of music and rain is extremely soothing. This is another one that I will put on when I am writing. Be warned, you may fall asleep to this one lol so I suggest listening to it if you aren’t on a tight schedule.

When I am doing experiments, I have very long periods of just waiting. It’s usually like 30-40 minutes of just waiting, so I sepend that time watching movies or shows. One of the latest movies that I watched wat Interstellar. If you haven’t seen it, please stop everything you are doing and go watch it. It’s absolutely amazing. Anyway, Hans Zimmer does the soundtrack to that movie as well as many others and you can listen to those soundtracks on YouTube. Interstellar’s soundtrack is by far the best and really get’s you motivated to do work. I’ll put this on when doing dilutions or prepping samples. A good channel to listen too is Timeless Music channel and listen to The Hans Zimmer Ultimate Mix (here)

This music will motivate you to do literally anything. As I said earlier, I’ll play this soundtrack to give me some motivation to do dilutions or sample preparation. Honestly, without this, I’d probably get nothing done.

I’ll leave you with one last one. When you are having a tough day, or you just aren’t in a happy mood, the music you need is Disney music. I am not the biggest Disney music fan, but something about Disney music on the piano just puts me in an amazing mood. kno Piano Music channel has a playlist of songs that are all on the piano. I highly suggest checking this out and playing it when you are working/studying/relaxing. Here’s a link to that playlist.

I’ll be listening to this playlist for the rest of the day.

Whatever you do during the day, listening to good music can always make it an awesome day. I hope you check these channels out. They have really helped me focus at work and have been super helpful to help me relax.

Take Vacation in Grad School

Selective Focus Photography of Yellow School Bus Die-cast

I’m writing this because I am in desperate need of a vacation, and you probably are too. I am finishing my qualifying exams next week. The exam consisted of writing a proposal, defending the proposal, and taking 5 written exams, one from each committee member. I will have a post on how to pass (hopefully not fail) your qualifying exam very soon. I wrote about preparing for your qualifying exam. Check it out here.

The beginning of the semester

Anyway, let’s get back to why we are here, vacations. Now, school just started for many individuals this week. But for the majority of grad students, this week is just the same as any other week. There is an influx of students but that’s the only difference. Summer is the time to get work done for many grad students. In fact, it could be the only time of the year where you get research done at all (looking at you people who teach each semester). With the constant stress and pressure of having to do a lot of work at once, it can really lead to burnout, or worse…getting kicked out!!!

It’s important

This is why taking a vacation is so important. This also pertains to those who work for a living too. I’ve been in your shoes and know that about half the day is day dreaming about being somewhere else. So this post is for all of you. Vacations are a time where you can relax and not be bogged down with the stressed of work. We live in a society that thrives off of telling people how busy they are? Why is this a thing? Anyway, this is extremely toxic and can really cause problems mentally. A vacation is a good time to get away from this.

Search for how many days you get

Look into vacation days for grad students. Usually, they allow 5 days of paid vacation each semester, sometimes more. These days are separate from holidays so I would suggest taking time off around holidays so you can spend more time away from work. I tend to go places or take time off around Christmas and at the end of summer. My spring semester tends to be really chill towards the end so I may take a few days off then, but more-so during winter break.

Why take vacation?

The main reason to take vacations is so you do not burn out. I believe I wrote a very long time ago that attrition rates for PhDs was roughly 50%. Like holy cow. Many of these students leave for various reasons, but a great deal of them leave due to burnout. Here’s a good article to read about burnout and drop outs (here). It’s sad that some professors don’t see that this is a problem. I had one professor tell me that, because they had to work all the time, their student had to as well. This is flat out wrong. One needs time to rest, because if they are constantly working 1) they will not be productive and 2) they will snap.

Enjoy the ride

When you start grad school, remember that it is a very long process. In fact, it can be much longer than your undergrad. I am finishing up year 4 and could potentially go well into year 5 without finishing. 5 years is a long time to just continuously work and be miserable. Plan to go one trip. Go see friends that you haven’t seen in a while. Go to a new country and explore all of the food places there. But most importantly, just go do something that is not work. Life is so much more than spending your day working on something you probably hate. Life is a gift that was given to you and you need to go out and make the most of it. Grad school is a great way to make your life better, but the journey through grad school needs to also be good.

Rest=success

Most of your best ideas that you will have will come when you are not working. In fact, all of the ideas that I have come up with have been while walking, going to Miami to see my girlfriend, or on a boat, fishing. You give your brain to actually focus on problems subconsciously, and you get the best ideas this way. If you are struggling with a problem, I would suggest you go on a miniature trip somewhere and try and forget about school and that problem. I will bet money that some form of solution will arise. Just make sure to write it down when it does pop up lol.

Final Thoughts

It’s a great time to start planning your next vacation. First, get vaccinated for covid so you don’t risk spreading that to places you go. Next, plan your trip wisely. It’s not a good time to travel to other countries, but going to see your family, that can be an awesome vacation, as well as a cheap one. My next vacation will hopefully be to Canada. I absolutely love going up there during winter and it isn’t that expensive either. Whatever you do, make sure that you commit to it. It is so easy to work all of the time, but that’s not healthy. Live life and I guarantee that you will not regret it.

What to Expect On the First Day of Grad School

Today is the first day of the fall semester which means multiple things. 1) Freshman and sophomores will be lost. 2) There will be a new influx of grad students. I want to focus on the second point lol. For incoming grad students, the first day of your grad school journey can be quite daunting. In fact, the first day for me was one of the scariest. But have no fear, because it really isn’t as bad as you think. Here are a few things to expect on the first day of grad school.

Adviser First

If you are a PhD student, you might be looking for where your adviser’s office is. This is assuming that you haven’t already visited them prior to the first day. This should be the first thing that you do, unless you have class, then go to class. After class, though, go to your adviser and say hello. They will probably show you your new office, introduce you to the other grad students, and get you set up.

If you are a master’s student, you will most likely be just going to class. Depending on the type of master’s you are getting, you might be doing some research as well. In this case, do the same thing as PhD students and go see your adviser. If you are just doing class work, go to class first.

It can be overwhelming

On your first day, there are going to be the most people that you have seen on a campus, ever. This can be pretty overwhelming, but just know that it will thin out soon since people just stop going to class after the first week. You may run into people on the way to class or potentially come close to getting hit by a bus (This happens alot). This may all happen within the first few hours of the day.

People on Sidewalk Selective Focal Photo

I would suggest taking the time after your class to walk around campus. Maybe scope out where your other classes are located so you don’t feel so lost. Take this time to really get to know the campus as well as the dynamics of the campus as well. Find out the most congested areas, find out where there are a ton of obnoxious flier people, and find out cool spots to go to have lunch.

Research and lab stuff

For those of you doing research, the first day is a great time to get to know the other students in your research group as well as taking a peak at the labs you will be working in. Since the majority of the next 3 to 8 years will be in a lab, you might as well get familiar with it. The first day is a great time to just pop in and check out where your lab is located and the stuff inside of it. This will help later when you start to do experiments.

Chemical Engineers in Laboratory

No matter what you do, the first day of grad school is going to be a blur. The amount of information given is quite overwhelming. Fortunately, you can prepare for this. Get a planner and just write everything that you need to know down. Check out my blog about all the must haves when starting or going back to grad school. Congrats once again on starting this journey! It’s a tough one but so worth it.

Is Grad School Hard?

I typed this exact question into google maybe a hundred times prior to accepting my offer from UF. I had come from an engineering background and knew how hard that was, but I always assumed that grad school was way out of my league with difficulty. Boy was I right and wrong at the same time.

If you are just starting or thinking about grad school then you are one to value a higher learning experience. You either want to continue learning more complex problems or maybe you just want to further your career and force your friends to call you Dr. (That’s my plan). Either way, you are starting an amazing journey, that few have done before.

Grad school can best be described by the cartoon below:

Rachel - ppt download

At the beginning, you think you have it all planned out. You start your classes, you get good grades, you move on. Then things get a bit more tricky and more complicated. No matter how much you plan something out, it will always be different. That is especially true in grad school. You may think the project you are working on is easy or the classes seem fair but then things go all over the place and it becomes a bit more difficult. But have no fear, this is how life works and you are resilient.

Grad school is hard but there are far more difficult things in life. You may moan and groan about the difficulties of grad school (being poor, eating ramen for the 10th time this week, lots of work, etc.) but know that those don’t compare to hardships that people actually face in life. I know way too many people that come from pretty tough backgrounds and don’t complain one bit. They have had it so rough but manage to stay kind and keep going. I also know people that complain how hard life is after they just got their second car, paid for by daddy.

In the end, you will face difficulties that will push you to a breaking point. You may not as well. I am finding grad school to be challenging but not enough to where I am miserable. I hope you find it that way as well. The most difficult thing that I face is mental health. This is why I write these blogs, to help you cope with the issues that will arise.

In conclusion, grad school is however hard you make it. It can be quite easy or it could be hell. If you have a good mindset going in, and keep that mindset, you will find much more joy in grad school than you could imagine. On the other hand, if you go in thinking the worst and being negative about things, you will find it quite difficult. Believe in yourself and you will do just fine. If you are having a rough time, check out my other blogs on ways to make it better.

Also, if you need a laugh, check out lovephdmemes on Instagram. Here’s a link.

**If you or someone you know is suffering from mental health issues, I highly recommend that they seek help. Online-Therapy.com or TalkSpace.com are great ways to reach out to a licensed therapist and get the help needed. Therapy has 100% helped me and I know it can help you.

Here Come the Freshman!

Whether you want to admit it or not, you are old. Being in grad school, you are probably 23 at the youngest, which is kind of old compared to the 18-19 year old’s that have just taken over your campus. I am 28, so the incoming class are 10 years younger than me. Holy Cow!!!! Since, apparently Covid is over, there are much more students on campus compared to the past three semesters. With the amount of new people, there are bound to be some things that will annoy you. I want to list off a few of those and give ways to put your mind at ease, as well as, enjoy the new transition. If you haven’t read it yet, check out my blog about coming back to campus and how to transition back to an on campus setting after zoom.

With an influx of freshman, you will notice quite a few things.

1) They look tiny. I saw a kid during summer that could have passed as a 12 year old. I honestly think all of these kids are looking younger and younger, but maybe that’s just how it is? This always happens though. The older I get, the more I notice how young the new students are. Trust me when I say, you probably looked just as young. Heck, they look at me and probably think I am old a dirt.

2) They will get in your way, especially during the first few days when they are trying to get used to their new life on campus. This is completely normal. Some of the new students are completely lost. Assuming you did not just start grad school, you probably know the campus inside and out. After a while, things tend to lose their “shimmer” such as the campus. This may be the first time that these students see the campus so they are trying to take it all in. Be nice to them and remember what it was like to be in their shoes.

3)You will start feeling quite nostalgic, thinking about when you first started school and how that was like 5, or for me, 10 years ago. I remember my first day in college. I had no clue where anything was and I didn’t have any friends to help me out. This is probably true for the freshman. You will look at them and be brought back to the first week of school. You may even have feelings that you haven’t felt in a long time. This is natural and wonderful all at the same time. If the feelings are good, try and hold onto them. If the feelings are bad, it’s time to let them go. Grad school is all about new beginnings.

4) They will hover over every bench and squat rack in the gym. If you are an avid gym goer, you know this is the worst time of the year. The gyms are packed, the benches have a crowd of 5 freshman at them, and every squat rack has a line. This is frustration at its peak. Time to head over to my blog about exercising at the stadium or exercising outside.

5) They may come up to you and ask you a ton of questions. Remember that you probably did the same thing. They don’t really know too much about the campus and may have questions. This is something I always look forward to because I like helping people out. It makes you feel good. So, be nice and help them out and answer their questions!

6) The one’s in your department will look at you as a god or goddess. All the freshman that come in will likely peak in my office. I am a grad student and am superior lol. As a grad student, you went through all the stuff that they are about to go through and survived! Engineering was so difficult so the freshman really look at you like some form of genius. Bask in it but do not let it inflate your ego.

These are a few things that I notice each year that I spend in grad school. For me, this will be the last incoming freshman class that I will get to experience. If all goes to plan, and I pass my quals (currently taking), then I will be done by next May. For those of you just starting, or maybe a year into the program, be kind to these freshman. One day, you may be the one teaching them or being an adviser to them. You know how hard college is. You know the struggles that you will face in undergrad. These kids may not know those struggles yet, so don’t make it harder for them.

**If you or someone you know is suffering from mental health issues, I highly recommend that they seek help. OnlineTherapy.com or TalkSpace.com are great ways to reach out to a licensed therapist and get the help needed. Therapy has 100% helped me and I know it can help you.

How to Prepare for Your Qualifying Exam

The two words that cause so much anxiety for grad students, “qualifying exam”. This is also known as the entrance exam to candidacy. Basically, it’s an exam, created by a committee of professors, that tests your knowledge and skills. After passing, you become a PhD Candidate! Exciting but also the most stressful few weeks/months of your grad school experience.

See, Master’s students have it easy(I kid, getting a masters is difficult). They just present their thesis at the end of 2 years and that’s it. For PhD students, you have to take the candidacy entrance exam and more than likely present your proposal to your committee too. So if you read my post Oral Qualifying Presentation :Grad School Stress (here), I go in depth in how to prepare for the presentation. That is probably the most stressful portion due to actually getting in front of your committee and presenting your research.

For my qualifying exam, each committee member will submit questions to my adviser along with time requirements. My adviser will then give the questions to me, one exam at a time, not all together. I will then need to finish the exam in the allotted time frame and submit directly to my committee members.

Some exams are closed book. These exams cover classwork that you have done and you have to pass each section in order to go on. I believe other engineering departments do it this way, which I find terrible because you can immediately be kicked out just from not passing one section of an exam. That’s my opinion though.

Now, I want to go over how to prepare for the written part. Most of this can be used for both formats of the exams, testing you knowledge on classwork or my type of exam.

Two Pencils Near Book

Before the Exam

1. Make sure you know everything that is in your proposal.

This one is super important because the committee uses this to understand what your area of expertise is. Read papers on the different aspects of your research. Learn the methodology of the experiments and be prepared to defend why you did your experiments a certain way.

2. 2 hours before the exam, stop everything and relax

You may want to read more and cram as much into your brain as possible, but you need to rest. By working more, you are just tiring yourself out and you need the mental strength to continue this marathon of an exam. Spend this time doing something you like or watching a movie. If you want to, I say meditate sometime during his time frame. You will be way less stressed and more focused to tackle whatever is thrown at you.If the exam is open book, expect that the exam is going to be harder, not easier.

3. Remind yourself that you belong here and that you are ready.

Self talk is so important. Often, you will have doubts and imposter syndrome will slide in. You will experience imposter syndrome but don’t let it overtake you. You belong in this program and you will be a doctorate one day.

4. Remind yourself that you will pass

Your adviser would not let you do the exam unless the felt that you are ready and that you will pass. Remind yourself of this. It comes back to that stupid imposter syndrome and our anxiety. You will have the “what if thoughts” such as “what if I fail?” or “what if the exam is so hard, I die?”. Replace the negative what ifs with positive ones like, “what if I pass?” or “what if I do so well that they just hand me a Nobel Prize?” Train your brain to think of positive situations, especially when you are in a stressful situation.

Close-up of Hands

During the qualifying exam

1. Do some breathing exercises after you finish a question or one of the exams

After you finish a question, or one of your committees exam, take a 3 minute break to just focus on the breathe. This will relax you and reduce any anxiety that comes from preparing for the next exam.

2.Try not to drink too much coffee

I think we all know why you shouldn’t drink too much caffeine during an exam. There are actually quite a few reasons not to go overboard. I am not saying to cut caffeine out. That’s a bad idea, especially if you are a coffee drinker. Just don’t overdo it. Drink enough to wake you up and get your brain functions running. It will definitely help. Just make sure it’s in moderation.

3.Tell yourself that you will be fine

You will be fine regardless of the outcome. My friend didn’t pass his qualifying exam and now he’s building satellites and launching them in space. Look at both sides, if you pass, you go on to get your doctorate. If you fail, you get your masters and you can start making a difference in the world sooner. You will be fine in the end, I promise you that. Plus, you are ready for this exam so you’ll pass regardless.

4.Write until your hand falls off.

If you think you answered the question, keep writing. Over answer ever single question that you have. Write until your hand hurts and you form blisters. This will guarantee that you pass! that came directly from my adviser who has been doing this for longer than I’ve been on earth. When in doubt, just keep throwing out information. Committee members want to see that you are willing to go above and beyond and this is one way to show that just that.

People Running Near Seashore at Daytime Photo

After the Qualifying Exam

  1. Relax

Go do something that does not involve reading or writing. Go to the movies or go swim in the ocean. Do anything else and get your mind off of thinking about the exam. You may not feel good about the exam afterwards, and that’s normal. Find things that give you joy. You deserve it.

2. Prepare to hear back from your committee

You may hear back from them right away, or maybe not for a bit. They will tell you if you passed or failed and hopefully it’s a pass. Once you hear back from them and you passed, congrats you can finally put “PhD Candidate” after you name in your emails! If you failed, you have a second shot at passing. If this is the case, start back at the first set of advice, and we will see you relaxing on a beach somewhere in no time.

Good luck to all of those preparing for your qualifying exams. You will do amazing! I have mine next week so I will let you guys know how it goes when I am done.

**If you or someone you know is suffering from mental health issues, I highly recommend that they seek help. Online-Therapy.com or TalkSpace.com are great ways to reach out to a licensed therapist and get the help needed. Therapy has 100% helped me and I know it can help you.

Before Starting Grad School

You have probably seen quite a few of these articles where they tell you the # number of things that they wish they knew before (blank). This is going to be one of those posts but with information that those blogs don’t really cover. There are so many things I wish I new before coming to grad school that has affected my mental state. I will go into those in a second because they are real and you will face these challenges. If you are thinking of grad school, make sure you are prepared for what will come up. I find that the work is easy but the mental strain is the hardest part. 1 in 3 PhD students will be at risk of developing a mental health issue. That’s nuts!

Helping to prepare students for grad school has been a goal of mine for quite some time. That is why I started this blog. I was not seeing the right information online to help me get through these years. I have had some pretty dark times while on this journey and I don’t want others to go through that. Here are 5 things I wish I was told before I started grad school.

  1. You will experience imposter syndrome
grad school

More than likely, you will experience this in grad school. You will feel like a fraud. You may even question how you got into a school as good as the one you are in. Looking around your class, you are bound to compare yourself to others and that leads to a feeling of inadequacy. I am here to tell you that you are exactly where you need to be. Grad school classes can be quite difficult and you may struggle. That is why you are here though! You are a student, not the professor, so you are learning the material and training yourself to one day be an expert. You are also surrounded by very intelligent individuals which is intimidating. Have you ever though that they may be intimidated by you and your accomplishments? You are not a fraud and you most definitely belong in your program. Keep going!

2. No one will really care about your work

This one makes me sad because I want everyone to be as interested in lead pipes as I am. You will find that no one really cares what you are doing other than the people working on the project with you. This is totally and completely normal. You are hear to contribute a tiny sliver of knowledge to the world then move on to bigger and better things. Just keep at what you are doing now and eventually you will work on stuff that is extremely meaningful and exciting, not just to you, but to others as well.

3. You will say goodbye to a ton of friends

Persons Left Hand on Airplane Window

This time in your life is a hard one because people are just starting to branch out and start their own lives. You may have to say goodbye to them. I like to say “see you later” because goodbye implies some form of end, in my mind at least. I have said “see you later” more times than I would like. My friend group has been on the decline since undergrad, but that doesn’t mean that I am super sad about it. The people that mean the most to you will be there and you will have lasting relationships with them no matter where you end up. The friendships that you get in grad school may end though, and frequently. I have had many friends come and go while I slave away at the computer, writing all day. It happens and that’s life, but be prepared to say goodbye.

4. You do not have the metabolism like you did in undergrad.

Assorted Sliced Fruits in White Ceramic Bowl

I am a pretty active guy. On average, I think I burn about 2800 to 3400 calories a day. This is including basal metabolic rate (BMR) of course. But for some reason, I gain weight so easily now. In undergrad, I could eat 2 pizzas and then lose weight lol. It was crazy. You are older now and you may find it harder to lose weight or maintain weight. This is normal. Prioritize exercise and eating right and you will go good to go. That can often be difficult because of how busy you are, though. To combat overeating or to track calories, I have used a Fitbit in the past. Lately, I use my Samsung Galaxy Active Watch 2. Both have been amazing.

5. You are not in undergrad anymore

Person in White Shirt With Brown Wooden Frame

You will have way more responsibilities in grad school. Going to bars every night then waking up at 12 to go to class is harder now. You have things to do such as early morning experiments, grant writing, being a TA, writing blogs, taking care of lab rats, etc. I am not saying you can’t party, what I am saying is partying will change. I was the one to go out on a night right before an exam. Don’t do this! That was my form of partying, though. Now, that has changed. Having friends over, talking about ideas, having a few drinks, then being in bed by 10 is the best partying that I can think of lol. It takes a bit to transition, especially if you are fresh out of undergrad, but you will change. That’s the beauty of life. You will change whether you like it or not.

These are 5 (very harsh) things that I wish I knew prior to grad school. It’s hard for everyone and you are not alone if you struggled with these like I did. That is why I write these posts. Let me know if you have anything else to add to this list in the comments. The grad school experience is difficult and different for everyone so it’s interesting to see what else people deal/dealt with. Thanks for reading!

How to Survive the First Year of Grad School

I am currently in my 4th? 5th year of graduate school, I think. Honestly I have been in school for so long that I really don’t know what year I am in, but that’s fine. Today, we are going to talk about your very first year of grad school. First off, congratulations on getting into a program and taking this wonderful and exciting journey. You will have a ton of questions and I implore you to check out the rest of my blog posts to answer hopefully some of those questions.

The first year is the most exciting and probably the scariest. If you are just doing a masters, you will just focus on school and possibly some research, if that’s the path you want. If you are going into a doctorate program, well then it’s just a year of confusion lol. I kid on the last one, a little, but either way, the first year of any program can be a bit of a tizzy.

Here is a list of things that I believe will help you get through that first year. This list will incorporate stuff for a masters as well as a doctorate. I use many of the suggestions below even today so I know these tend to work.

  1. Meet with your adviser often. I would say at least once a week. If not that then at least twice a month. This is important because they will help you keep on track as well as help you when you hit a snag. This is number 1 because it is the most important thing to do.
  2. Keep to a schedule. You will have classes at different times of day and homework galore. Make sure to try and keep a schedule. Try not to stay up until 3 am every night doing work unless you work best at that hour. Establishing a work time and a play time is essential for your mental wellbeing. I aim for the 8-5 schedule then just do other things afterwards. This allows me to have a life and I am more productive, since I have to be to get work done before 5.
  3. Write every day. It doesn’t matter what it is on, just write. This will help at the end of semesters when you have multiple 10-15 page papers to write as well as when you write your proposal or thesis. I blog and have noticed that it makes me motivated to continue to write, which was great because my dissertation is coming together nicely.
  4. Reach out to fellow classmates and study with them. You will make friends this way, and if you are lucky, you may make friends with the genius of the class that has all of the answers :p. Studying with someone always helps because that other person may be able to help you learn complex material or you may help them learn that material. It’s a win-win.
  5. Exercise each day and don’t get into the eating habits you had as an undergrad. No need to dive further into this one lol.
  6. Go to as many free events as you possibly can. Have fun while you are in grad school. You have worked really hard to get here and you might as well make the most of it. There are a million events happening all of the time on campuses. Go to these events. Here you will meet other people and you may make some really good friends this way.
  7. Stick to a budget. This may be the first time in your life where you see a paycheck that is more than $300. This does not mean you need to go crazy and start buying a ton of things. Figure out what you need, spending wise, and how much you want to save. Your future, not broke, self will thank you.
  8. Remember that you are never alone. You may feel lonely, isolates, removed from the world, but know that you are not alone. This is why the best thing to do is connect with other grad students. They know what you are going through and you might just be their saving grace. This is a very important thing to get you through your first year.

Good luck to all of those that are just starting grad school. I find this experience so much better than undergrad. You will learn so much about yourself and about the world in just a few years. Plus, you will be an expert in something, which is super exiting. If you have any questions about grad school, please reach out to me at benswaringen@yahoo.com. If you are feeling anxious about going back due to covid, check out my last blog here. See you next time!!!

**If you or someone you know is suffering from mental health issues, I highly recommend that they seek help. Online-Therapy.com or TalkSpace.com are great ways to reach out to a licensed therapist and get the help needed. Therapy has 100% helped me and I know it can help you.

Zoom to Classroom: The Great Transition During Covid

Every single news outlet has something saying how a different variant of Covid is spreading all over the world. You have some news channels saying that it’s “just like the flu” while others say that you are guaranteed to get really sick and die. Seriously? How am I supposed to function with everyone telling me that I am going to get really sick and cause others to get sick? Unfortunately, this is where we are at currently. On top of knowing that different variants are present, we are being forced to go back to school and have in person classes. Talk about stressful times.

Most universities in the US are going back to in person classes which really has many people concerned. I have been back on campus for a year now but I am still extremely concerned when 50,000 students come back to occupy the halls once again. That is quite a good chunk of people coming from all over Florida as well as the rest of the US. On top of that, Florida is the hotspot for Covid cases. Great! Just writing this blog is making me mad as well as a tad bit more concerned.

If you are feel the same way, well, you are definitely not alone. Most of the grad students that I talk to on a daily basis are just as concerned as I am. We are more concerned to get the virus from an individual that just doesn’t care and goes to bars, concerts, and anywhere else where a ton of people are. I get it, those things are extremely fun and I miss going to them, but I also want to be able to see my parents and family without exposing them to something that could potentially kill them.

Like me, you are probably scouring the internet, looking for some way to prepare for the transition back to in person classes. I hope you are finding some really good information that you can share in the comments. These are a few of the best ways to prepare that I have found. I hope that they help you and bring some peace of mind.

  1. Get Vaccinated

The vaccines on the market have all been thoroughly tested and are safe. Please, if you haven’t been vaccinated, go and get one. They are free. This is the best way to prevent going to the hospital. One thing that I don’t understand is why people would rather go to the hospital than get a vaccine. Have you ever been to the hospital in the US? It’s expensive! So, if you want to spend the rest of your life paying off bills, then go right ahead.

However, if you are like me, you’ll see that getting a free vaccine is way better than paying hundreds of thousands of dollars to pay off a visit that was preventable. Also, the vaccine’s side effect is that it prevents you from going to the hospital. That’s it. There are some cases where there might be a case of some other serious side effect, but those are so rare. Hopefully you have taken statistics and can see that the chances of getting a serious illness from a vaccine is slim to none. Trust the science.

2. Talk to someone about your fears

Woman Wearing Teal Dress Sitting on Chair Talking to Man

Talking with others about your concerns is a great way to easy your worried mind. This is a common fear among grad students and you may find peace in knowing you are not alone. Virtually every grad student that I have talked to has looked for many ways to prepare for this transition. They have talked to their advisers and brought up their concerns. By talking to other people, you may find that there are options that you can take to reduce exposure to Covid. Also, with enough people, you can bring up your concern to the school and they may change in person classes to online for grad students. You never know until you try.

3. Move to the front of the classroom

Brown and Black Wooden Chairs Inside Room

This is one that many people don’t really think of. Where is the least populated area in a classroom? The front row. No one wants to sit right in front of the professor because they think they will get called on constantly, and that’s super anxiety inducing. By sitting in the front row, you will be away from everyone else and have less of a chance of getting Covid. This is what I will be doing. Also, it forces you to pay attention, so you will definitely do better in these classes. There was actually a study done on seat location and performance. Read it here.

4. Learn to meditate to ease your mind

Woman Meditating in the Outdoors

I practically right every article with meditation in mind. This is by far the best reducer of stress and anxiety that I have found. Covid brings a ton of uncertainty which brings anxiety. It’s a vicious cycle, so you need a way to cope. Meditation will allow you to relax and almost troubleshoot your mind. Think of anxiety as a virus in your computer. You need a way to eliminate that virus without paying $100 for virus removal software lol. Mediation is what allows you to go into safe mode, find the virus (anxiety) and eliminate it. I hope this makes sense. I am an environmental engineer, not a computer science major lol. If you haven’t read my blogs about mediation, you can find them here. Please check them out.

5. Wear your mask

White Ceramic Sculpture With Black Face Mask

Other than getting the vaccine, wear your mask!!! These two simple things will prevent you from getting Covid, or seriously reduce the chance of getting it. Listen to the medical experts and stop listening to some person on YouTube that “Did their Research.” No, they did not. There research was reading blog posts from anti-vaxxers that have no clue how to do research. You are an intellegent person and know what good science is. They don’t. If you happen to meet one of these people, ask them if you can see their lab where they test their hypotheses. They probably won’t even know what the word “hypothesis” is. Don’t listen to them. Wear your mask.

6. Exercise outside

Woman Running On Pathway

Gyms will be packed in the fall. New freshman love to congregate in large groups around the machines which will mean that a ton of people may be exposed to Covid. If you are concerned, exercise outside. I have great exercises that you can do that are just as good as going to the gym. Check them out here. Also, if you have an office, spend some time each day and maybe do some yoga. Get your office mates to join you as well. If you don’t have an office, exercise outside is a great alternative. This will keep you far away from crowds as well as increase your mental health. Your mental health is as important, if not more important, than your physical health. Studies have shown that spending time outside increases mental health. Strengthening physical and mental health are essential to getting through this pandemic.

7. Be Smart

Text

If you feel unsafe in any setting, get out of there. Some things may make you feel extremely uncomfortable such as lab meetings, grad school events, etc. If you feel very uncomfortable, please don’t feel like you have to go. For lab meetings, reach out to your adviser. They will understand and probably will make the meeting online anyway. I don’t know a single professor that isn’t concerned about Covid. If you are going back to the lab, be smart by cleaning everything. Wear a mask if you are with someone else. We have been doing this for over a year now so we are all aware of the procedures.

This will be quite the experience for all of us, especially those in states where Covid cases are through the roof **cough, cough, Florida**. We need to work together and do our part to reduce any chance of getting this persistent virus. If you are concerned with going back, you are not alone. ‘ve been back for a year now and I am deeply concerned. But, I do everything that I possibly can to reduce the chance I get sick. I wear a mask, I clean, and most importantly, I practice mindfulness to mentally prepare. Get vaccinated first. Trust me, there’s plenty of evidence that shows the vaccines are safe. Don’t listen to anecdotal evidence because that’s not science based. Trust the experts. Practice mindfulness and mediation to strengthen your mental health and I guarantee things will be fine.

If you happen to get sick, stay away from people. Let your adviser know so they can take the appropriate measures that your college has laid out. Get plenty of rest, and if you feel good enough as well as lost your sense of taste, try a new food that you find disgusting lol. If I lose my taste, I might try mayonnaise…well maybe not. If you have made it this far on my blog, please share with us how you are preparing for this upcoming semester. I would love to know and I know a thousand grad students would also love to know as well. Stay safe friends! And remember, This too shall pass.

**If you or someone you know is suffering from mental health issues, I highly recommend that they seek help. Online-Therapy.com or TalkSpace.com are great ways to reach out to a licensed therapist and get the help needed. Therapy has 100% helped me and I know it can help you.

Habits of a Successful Graduate Student

Surviving grad school can be a tricky thing to do. You will be faced with a significant amount of road blocks in the 2-8 years that you are in school for. Some of these roadblocks are easy to traverse around while others may be a bit more difficult. But, with a few good habits, you can train yourself to take these head on and be quite successful, or at least survive. Here are 8 Habits that I have found quite useful to have when in grad school.

  1. Stay consistent. Stick to a schedule and try and keep that such as getting to the lab every day at 9 am and staying until 5 pm. By having a routine and sticking with it, you will find getting things done way easier. I stick to being in the lab from 8 am to 6 pm. This gives me enough time to get stuff done and doesn’t have me doing extra work in the evening.
  2. Make time for joy. Remember that life is so much more than your work. Why people say differently is so mind boggling. What do you enjoy doing outside of work? Figure that out and do it after your work day is up. Or, doing it during the work day when your experience are running lol. A grad program can be long but that doesn’t mean that your life stops. Finding joy in your life with increase productivity, I guarantee that,
  3. Exercise. I have a ton of blogs on exercising and how it helps. Stay consistent and exercise often. You will be happier, more energetic, and a much better grad student.
  4. Sleep at a reasonable time. Sleep is as important, if not more, than anything on this list. There are many effects that can occur if you do not sleep enough. Read more about it here.
  5. Learn to motivate yourself and don’t wait to be motivated. There is a great video by Therapy in a Nutshell about motivation. I suggest watching it. Here it is.
  6. Make your bed. You have probably seen this all over the internet. It’s true, making your bed is a great habit to have. Here is a great video to watch that is also extremely motivating. I hope it helps.
  7. Stay off social media. Social media is such a distraction, especially when you don’t want to do work. By learning to stay off of it, you will be more productive, and, to be honest, happier. You can get way more done in a shorter amount of time so you can leave and go do things that bring you joy. This is a habit that I am currently trying to get. It is hard but worth it.
  8. Meditate. Mental health is as important or even more important than physical health. Making this a habit can be the difference between finishing your doctorate/ masters or not. Trust me when I say, meditation is a life saver. Read about how to start here.

These are a few habits that I think will help you finish this journey. Grad school is tough, but with help, you can survive and thrive. I hope you already have some of these habits down or you are willing to try and create these habits. I know they will help you significantly. If you are having trouble getting motivated, I highly suggest taking a look at some of the courses at INeedmotivation.com. Here’s a link to those courses.

Oral Qualifying Presentation: Grad School Stress

Today, I had my proposal presentation. Forty minutes of presenting, followed by an hour and a half of questions from my committee members. I am honestly surprised that I even slept last night due to the crippling anxiety from the past week. This was stressful and may be one of the most stressful things you will face in grad school. I have heard and read horror stories about this presentation as well as the following exam that my committee members will craft up. But you know what, I am ready and I expected this stress. If you are a grad student, here is some advice that will help you: 1) reduce anxiety and stress and 2) allow you to own your quals.

  1. Make sure to get to know your committee members early on. I am fortunate enough to work with all of them and see them quite often. If you have committee members that you don’t know well, familiarize yourself with what they do and maybe even reach out to them.
  2. Prepare your proposal and send it to your adviser. DO this early on so you can make corrections prior to your committee presentation. I made sure to have my proposal ready for my committee members to read over, and honestly, they didn’t have too many questions or concerns about it. I was ready and you can be as well.
  3. Follow my sets on how to make a presentation found here. Making an amazing presentation will score you more points with your committee. They have to spend a decent amount of time watching your presentation and the last thing you want is for them to fall asleep lol.
  4. Do not drink too much caffeine prior to the presentation or you’ll either talk too fast or just have to use the bathroom the whole time. This is a terrible idea. But if you must have caffeine, stick to coffee. I have a great post about coffee, here.
  5. Meditate prior to presenting. Schedule your presentation in the morning to early afternoon so you can relax and meditate prior to the meeting. Your stress level will decrease significantly and you will have clarity. The last thing you want is brain fog. Check out my blog about getting started with meditation as well as my blog about how to cope with stress.
  6. Make sure your cat is in a different room! Sirius woke up and decided that the best time to make an appearance to my committee was during my presentation. It was funny.
  7. Relax and trust yourself. You are the expert and your committee is there to help you, not hurt your chance of passing. They will ask you questions that might not make sense to you or something you are not too familiar with. This is totally ok because they want to know the extent of your knowledge and steer you in the right direction. Present what you have and own it. Every graph, every statement, every bit of information, be confident with. They will admire that.

The pass rate for qualifying exams are fairly close to 100% if you are prepared. Your adviser will not allow you to present until you are ready. Some colleges force you to do other exams. I am not familiar with those so I am going off of my experience. You are worthy of a PhD, and if you don’t pass, at least you get a masters and you don’t have to worry about the headache of a PhD ever again. You can only win. I believe in you and so does everyone else. You got this.

Having a Part-Time Job in Grad School:6 Jobs for Busy Grad Students

You started grad school and realized that you are poor, but you have the hopes of not being poor one day! Your stipend is the only income that you will unless you work another job. Now, I want to say that school is your main priority. Please keep this in mind when getting a job on the side. Also, some grad program prohibit having a job on the side. If this is the case then this blog won’t really help you too much, but I will try and include something for you. Here’s a list of 6 jobs that I believe are perfect to have in grad school, if you are able to find the time and energy.

1.Waiting tables or bartending. This is a great job to have that will get you quite a ton of money on the side, especially in a college town. You get to meet quite a few people and working in a restaurant is definitely an interesting experience, one that everyone needs to do at least once in their life. This job can be extremely part-time so you can spend your day working on your studies.

Person Holding Pastry Dishes on White Ceramic Plates

2. Tutoring. This is a perfect job because you know the material and can really tutor any subject. Tutoring is also a great way to hone your teaching skills in case you need that for your career or if you just so happen to be teaching a course that semester to get a stipend.

Serious female teacher wearing old fashioned dress and eyeglasses standing with book while pointing at chalkboard with schemes and looking at camera

3. Grade Papers. I get emails every semester of professors looking for graders for their classes. They usually pay a decent amount and you only have to put in about 10 hours a week, max. One professor was advertising 10 hours at a rate of $15 per hour. $150 a week or and extra $600 a month is rent money right there. You can also do this work any time of the day. Say you are waiting on lab results, grade some papers instead of just sitting, scrolling on Reddit. Get paid and feel more relieved that you have enough money to eat this month.

Student with documents and laptop happy about getting into university

4. Work as a Personal Trainer. I added this one because this is a side gig that you can do and you do not have to tell your adviser that you are doing it. One hour a day, 3 times a week and you can make about $60 extra. $20 a session per person is not bad at all and people are willing to pay that. All it takes is getting a certification and then insurance. Afterwards, you are good to go. Just find a client by posting fliers around campus and the clients will come.

Woman Doing Exercise

5. Teaching Assistant. For my program, to be a TA, you must be a masters student. They do not allow PhD students to do this since we already work for our funding. This is a great opportunity to gain experience in the classroom as well as meet people. Often times, being a TA will pay for your tuition as well as give you a bit of a stipend too. Grad school is super expensive so working for free education is ideal.

Cheerful young female home tutor with sketchpad in hands

6. Blog. I highly recommend blogging your journey through grad school. First off, writing is essential to be a good/decent grad student. By blogging, you will be writing each day which will make your thesis writing a piece of cake. You can make some money by ads and affiliated marketing. You won’t see a ton of money at first, but by the end of your first year, you may have another couple of dollars in the bank. Plus, blogging gives you freedom to express yourself and that’s what college is here for, right?

Person Holding Turned-on Silver Laptop Computer

I hope this list was inciteful. I recommend trying to find an easy way of making money that doesn’t rob you of the grad school experience. Let me know if you have a part-time job and what it is. Until next time, peace!

Top 7 Phone Apps That All Grad Students Need Right Now

We are a society that is obsessed with our phones. Everyday I walk across campus to my office and every single person I see is on their phone, doing something that seems to be the most important thing in their lives. (Probably just texting someone or scrolling through TikTok) It is almost sad to see but that is life now. So, if you can’t fight it, join it, right? Here is a list of 7 phone apps that have helped me through grad school These are apps that I will probably delete after graduation, but some I will probably keep on for as long as I have a smart phone. I recommend getting google rewards first. Many of these apps have premium versions that you can pay for by taking quick surveys on Rewards. That is how I pay for most of the premium services on my phone. This This post will have pictures too!!! HURRAYYY. I am learning to make blogs better 🙂

  1. Headspace
Headspace: Meditation & Sleep - Apps on Google Play

This is a mediation app that has helped so much. I have blogged about it before and I will blog about it again lol. Trust me when I say, this is the best mediation app that is out there. You do have to pay for most of the features but it is discounted if you are a student. I believe it was around $5-$6 a year for students. Take advantage of this please.

2. Audible

Amazon.com: Audible for Fire TV: Appstore for Android

You will have a ton of time where you are waiting on experiments to finish up, data to be ran through different simulations, or even time where you should be writing but instead you would rather do anything else in the world. This is a good time to pop in your headphones and listen to a good book. I wrote about my favorite audible books here. It is $14.99 a month with membership and you get one book. I suggest going for longer books because you will definitely get your money’s worth.

3. MyRadar

How many times have you been stuck inside because of rain? Here in Florida, it happens daily so I need a good weather app to tell me when I can leave my office and not get drenched. This is my favorite weather app of all time. It has everything that you wanted and more. I use it to see when it will be the hottest during the day so I can stay inside and I also use it to see where hurricanes are moving towards so I don’t die lol.

4.Spotify with Hulu

As a student, you get many discounts and perks. One that you definitely need to jump on is the Spotify discount. I believe I pay $6 a month and I get Spotify premium as well as Hulu. You get two amazing services for really cheap and it’s totally worth it. I listen to Spotify at the gym and watch Hulu during the 30 minute time frame where my experiments are going on. This is a great deal for sure and I am glad I got it.

5.ColorNote or some other notepad app

Get yourself a note pad app. I use ColorNote because it got the best reviews, but honestly, any of them will be fine. You will have thoughts that just pop in your head all of a sudden that can help your research or maybe you just need to write something down. Do it in the note pad app. It saved my butt so many times. I walk a ton and on the walks ideas tend to just pop in my head. The app is filled with these ideas because I just write them down.

6. Alarm Clock

PSA: Oreo is causing Google Alarm Clock app to fail for some - GSMArena.com  news

This one is self explanatory. Having a good alarm clock can save your butt. I also have an Echo Dot that I tell to wake me up but having an alarm on my phone is just as helpful.

7.YouTube Vanced

I hate ads when I am watching YouTube videos. This is why I downloaded YouTube Vanced. Trust me when I say, this is the best app on this list. Ads are gone and you can listen to videos in the background. If you have unlimited internet on your phone, you can watch videos anywhere without worrying about ads. Check this one out for sure.

I hope you consider getting some or all of these apps for your phone. They truly make my life easier and I know that they will make yours easier too. If you happen to have any more suggestions, please comment them. In a few weeks, I am going to update all of my blog posts to include stuff that people have commented. I hope your day is awesome and I hope your week is even better. See you in the next one.

Giving Presentations in Grad School

Some say that the scariest thing you will do in life is give grad school presentations. Something about standing in front of a ton of people and talking scares the pants off of most people. I remember talking to a few of my classmates and they brought up that Speech class was one of the only classes they needed to do to graduate, and they were putting it off until the last semester because it scared them. I, fortunately, love giving presentations. i love talking about a subject that I am passionate about to a ton of people. Yes, I feel nervous and scared, but the feeling after giving the presentation is totally worth it. You feel a weight lifted off of your shoulders, and you are almost weightless. Such an amazing feeling.

You can do it

I have always been very comfortable standing in front of people and talking to them. Ironically, the most anxiety inducing thing that I refuse to do is talk to someone I don’t know on the phone. This is a common fear that I am slowly working on.

When you are in grad school, you will give a ton of presentations. Some on subjects you like, others on things you are not familiar with or just don’t care about. The biggest presentation and probably the scariest one, other than the qualifying exam presentation, is your thesis defense. This is the culmination of all of your hard work given as a presentation to people that are the best in their fields. It’s tough, but most people pass so your chances of graduating are fairly high.

Helpful List

I get it, giving presentations are hard, but they don’t need to be with some tips and tricks. I use these tips every time that I present, no matter how long.

  1. Create a PowerPoint presentation and practice it way beforehand. This means creating it days before, possible weeks before, and just getting so familiar with the slides that you don’t even need to look at them to know what it includes.
  2. Write notes. When you aren’t quite in the “groove” while presenting, take a look at your notes. They will help you stay on track and make you very organized and not all over the place.
  3. Make eye contact, if you are comfortable, if not, look at someone’s forehead. I like making eye contact to make sure my audience did not fall asleep. Other people prefer looking at the back of the room or someone’s forehead. That’s fine too as long as you are scanning the room. Do not just stare at one person the entire time. That’s just weird.
  4. Bring humor into the presentation. Tell a joke or bring up something funny. It will keep the audience engaged and make you more comfortable. No one wants to watch a boring presentation anyway. Have fun with it.
  5. Breathe! Deep breathes beforehand will calm your nerves and help you not sound nervous.
  6. Practice in front of friends first. You will get used to presenting in front of multiple people and you will feel comfortable. Use the feeling of comfort and try and feel that before giving the actual presentation.
  7. Bring water. When you are talking, you may lose track of where you are, on the PowerPoint as well as your notes. This is a good time to drink water because you can stall for time to get back into your groove. Also, it is good to stay hydrated.
  8. Lastly, have fun with it. It is a scary moment but a vital one. If you don’t have fun, you’ll associate all presentations with bad experiences. You do not want to do this. Have fun, learn a lot, and just be yourself. The presentation will be amazing because you are amazing.

I hope this list helps a bit. My qualifying presentation is next week so I will be using my own advice fairly soon. I hope you have an amazing day/week/month and I will see you guys in the next blog.

You Are Good Enough

Often, in grad school, you will feel inadequate. You will feel like a failure, like someone that doesn’t deserve the degree you’re going to get. This is normal. We all feel this way and that is the wonderful part of growing as an individual and becoming a researcher. You will learn that there is so much more to life than we know and it will make us feel a bit weird inside.

Feeling like you are not good enough is something that you will have to fight. I just want to let you know that you are not just good enough, but wayyyyy better than “enough”. You will face some very difficult uncertainties in the years that follow which will cause self doubt but know that no matter what anyone says, you are enough!!!

People will tell you “no”, Experiments will tell you “no”. Advisers will tell you “no”. Things in life will not go the way you wanted but that does not mean you are less than perfect. You are perfect and beautiful and smart and you will overcome whatever you face in graduate school. You make so many people proud and that is good enough to keep you going.

I often feel that I am not good enough but then realize that I am in a difficult major, with the brightest people around me, learning stuff that people spend their whole lives studying. This is so cool and of course I may feel lost but that moment is when the adventure starts getting good.

I often just pretend that I am in the Lord of the Rings. They had is quite difficult and often felt like they were not good enough for the job of taking the ring to Mordor, but they did. Grad school is that journey for you. Sure, you will face a ton of monsters along the way. Sure, you may get chewed up and spit out, but you will prevail and the end will be so amazing.

You can do it. You are good enough. And you will PREVAIL.

**If you or someone you know is suffering from mental health issues, I highly recommend that they seek help. Online-Therapy.com or TalkSpace.com are great ways to reach out to a licensed therapist and get the help needed. Therapy has 100% helped me and I know it can help you.

Graduate School Hacks

I am going to just have fun with this blog and see where it goes. These are a few ” grad school hacks” that I do which has made my PhD much more fun.

grad school hacks

Grad School Hacks

  1. Interreact with as many professors as possible. Get to know them on a personal level. Professors are great resources to have and it’s so nice to be able to talk with them like they are friends. Plus, some professors have really expensive lab equipment that you can use!!
  2. Drink coffee. Do not drink energy drinks because it is extremely hard to do work when you are bouncing off of the walls. Coffee will give you a great boost in the morning and help you focus. Just be careful not to overdo it or you will be jittery all day. Check out my favorite coffee here.
  3. Drink water, and drink it often. This “hack” is to keep you hydrated and healthy. Frankly, this is not a hack at all but a recommendation. Drinking water is essential to your health and a healthy student is more productive than a sickly one.
  4. Meal plan and cook at home. We do not make that much money and going out to eat is expensive. You will have time to cook food. I promise that you won’t be busy 20 hours a day. If you are, then you need to learn to say no or get out of school completely lol. That’s ridiculous. Meal planning will help you stay within a budget as well as keep you health, that’s assuming you don’t bring pizza everyday for lunch.
  5. Focus on learning the material rather than a grade. Grades do not matter in grad school as long as you receive a B and that is fairly easy to do. Focus more of understanding the material rather than getting an A on the exam. There have been several times where I have received an A but could not recall the information from the class. That information was essential to my research, also :(. That class was statistics, by the way.
  6. Get a planner and actually use it. Stay on schedule! You will forget to do stuff. It happens…we are only human. I have a to do list that I use each day. There have been so many times where I forgot what I had to do that day because I did not write it down. Seriously, this hack is important. This is my favorite planner.
  7. Workout. Studies have shown that exercise increases brain function and you just feel great. Type in to Google Scholars “Effects of exercise on the brain”. Just do it.
  8. Write. Each. Day. This is not a hack, but for some reason, people tend to want to think it is. I created this blog to help hone my writing skills as well as share information that I have learned over the years in school. I write each and every day. It honestly sucks at first. I won’t lie. After about a month of writing, you will see that 500 words is a piece of cake (Publix Ice Cream cake to be exact. YUM). Aim to write 500 words each day and see how easy it becomes. Also, if you write a bit of your thesis each day, you’ll have it mostly finished way before you defend. It’s a win-win.
  9. Take advantage of discounts and free things that are given to students. This includes food, clothes, trips to places, fitness classes, anything really. Take advantage of it now while you are a student.
  10. Lastly, find happiness in what you do. You will have days where nothing goes right. Experiments fail, your adviser yelled at you (if this happens then you may want to get a new one), maybe you left your lunch at home and have to live off of Panda Express from the student union. Bad days will happen but DO NOT let one bad incident turn a good day into a bad one. You will make mistakes. You will “fail”…I hate that word and you can read why, here, but you know what? You will thrive! You just need to find something good each day. It can be a small thing like getting pizza or seeing a friend. If you can find a bit of happiness each day, it will make grad school so much fun.

Final Thoughts

I hope you made it to the end without falling asleep. I actually fell asleep around #6 so… Anyway, I hope this list helps you on your journey through grad school. These are things that have really helped me all throughout the 5 long years I have been here. If you have questions, do not hesitate to reach out to me. I know many people are thinking about going back to school but may be a bit uncertain of what to expect. I am here to help any way I can. Let me know if you have any more “grad school hacks” that I did not touch upon. Also, I hope you have a wonderful day doing whatever you do!

Must Haves For Grad School

It is Summer B semester currently and the freshman are back in full force. This will be the first time that colleges will have people back in full, at least here in Florida at least, and that might be scary for a few people. I honestly don’t want people to come back because the gym gets overcrowded. For those coming back to campus, whether it’s for grad school or undergrad, I wanted to put a list with links to stuff that I find very helpful. This will be a short list because I don’t want to be one of those bloggers that post something like “33 must have items to survive grad school” or something like that. I’ll keep the list fairly short but these are all things that I have found to be the most helpful.

  1. A portable monitor to connect to your laptop

So I bought one of these additional monitors that connects to my laptop so I can work literally from anywhere and have two screens. This was a game changer. I use it all of the time when I am out of the office. It’s super helpful for presentations, writing, having multiple tabs open at once on different screens, etc. There are cheaper ones but this is the one I got.

2. Good pens.

Ok these pens may be cheap on Amazon but they are by far the best pens that I have ever received, and they are cats. They write so well and they give you a ton so you can share with your friends…if that’s what you want to do lol.

3. A “to-do” list/Planner

This is all you need right here. Something super easy and simple. You can go out and buy a fancy one but I like simplistic planners. I personally bought this one ad use it every day since I forget to do stuff constantly.

4. A good water bottle

This is a must have, especially on campus when you are running from class to class. I was buying water bottles from the vending machines and wasting so much money and plastic. I bought a water bottle, the space one to be exact, and have been quite happy with it. It is a bit difficult to clean so you may want to shop around for an easier one to clean.

5. Last, a Watch or Fitbit

Ok I apologize for this one. These are quite expensive so they really don’t follow my grad school on a budget lifestyle so you may need to wait until there is some money to use to get one. I received the Active 2 for Christmas and it is probably the most important thing I have on me, other than my phone. Since I am a personal trainer, this has been extremely helpful. If you are trying to lose weight, I would say the Fitbit is the way to go.

I hope this list was interesting for you. These are just essential items that I have that have helped me survive this long in grad school. What things should be added to this list that has helped you? I would love to know.

Audible Books You Must Listen To

Link to start Audible Premium

I am not the biggest fan of reading. In fact, I can probably count on one hand the amount of books I have read in the past 10 years. I know, I know, it is quite sad but I lack the ability to sit still for more than five minutes, so reading is difficult. I do, however, listen to Audible books.

As a grad student, my schedule is often quite all-over-the-place. I try and keep a consistent schedule but that never works out since my life often revolves around timed experiments, meeting, running to and from labs, as well as trying to find time for food. I do have a good chunk of free time most days where I am waiting on something so I tend to either try and read journal articles, or listen to books. I frequently walk pretty long distances, so to pass the time, I listen to books as well. Sometimes I go on extra long walks just to finish a chapter or find out what happens next.

Here’s a list of my favorite books that I have listened to. They aren’t in any specific order but I will tell you my favorite afterwards.

  1. All of the Harry Potter novels https://amzn.to/3hP8yri
  2. The Shining https://amzn.to/3htEpiv
  3. Red Rising https://amzn.to/3hw4X2L
  4. The Martian https://amzn.to/3k5QV9q
  5. Ready Player One https://amzn.to/3APsaEB
  6. Ready Player Two https://amzn.to/3xBtOb0
  7. 11-22-63 https://amzn.to/3e5k9Bv

So my all time favorite book to have listened to is a tie between Ready Player One and Ready Player Two. Will Wheaton narrates both book and HOLY COW it is amazing. The story is just so fun and it really makes you wonder if something similar to what is going on will happen in the future. I highly recommend listening to these rather than reading them. It is a whole different experience.

The Harry Potter books are also amazing to listen to. They are narrated by Jim Dale, who does a fantastic job at it. For days where you are driving long distances, I suggest Harry Potter to keep you company lol.

Let me know in the comments what books you have listened to and what your favorites are. I am always looking for more to get. Peace!!

What I do

So I have been working on an EPA funded project that deals with lead contamination in environmental settings, particularly potable water sources. The ultimate goal is to build upon a modelling system that predicts how sick a child will get from lead exposure in household settings. Our team deals with the lead that comes from lead service lines, copper fittings, and solder. We analyze the amount of lead that comes out of lead pipes by subjecting the pipes to different water characteristics such as changes in pH, alkalinity, dissolved organic compounds, dissolved inorganic carbon, and phosphate. The pipes that we used contain a mineral compound on the inside of the pipe called “scales”. these scales are minerals that have been created to protect the pipe from corrosion. We want to know how they react under different water conditions. 


The other part of our project deals with identifying sources of lead in the environment through the use of lead isotope ratio analysis. This basically gives a fingerprint to lead sources by looking at their isotopic composition. Then we take blood samples from individuals exposed to areas with high concentrations of lead and see if the isotopic composition of the lead in their blood matches that from an environmental setting. 


It’s freaking cool science. Plus, I get to work with some state-of-the-art, and quite expensive, equipment. I would love to go more into the data I have collected once I get it published. Hopefully people read this blog and ask questions. I love being able to teach people the stuff I do and also gain feedback. It allows me to grow and thrive in the scientific world.