What to expect at the end of a PhD

My years as a doctorate student are coming to an end, and quickly. I am currently in the process of finishing up my research and writing papers for publication. I was told that I will be defending in October of this year, which means that I need to have my thesis written by the end of September!!! WOW. I have less than 6 months before I can (hopefully) call myself Dr. Ben. That is exciting, yet oddly terrifying. I don’t really know what to expect at the end of my PhD, but I have some idea I suppose.

Today I want to talk about the end of your PhD and what to expect. There will be a ton of things that will occur in the final year of your doctorate and you’ll need to be ready. I assume that the final year is different for everyone. Grad school is much different than undergrad because you are finishing up your research instead of finishing coursework. Of course the end of a master’s might be very similar to an undergrad, so we won’t really talk about that today.

what to expect at the end of a phd 1 year out

What to expect in the final Year of a PhD?

Let us start off with the final year of a PhD. If you are in a doctoral program, getting to this is a heck of an accomplishment and I applaud you. It is not an easy task being able to continue all the way to the end. You have gone through some tough times to get to this stage of your doctorate. Don’t slack off yet, though.

The final year of your doctorate will be you finishing up your research and writing your thesis. If you are the few that are able to complete their research earlier than this, congrats, it’s time to write. For the rest of us slackers (lol), we need to start considering wrapping our research up so we can start the very long process of writing. At the one year mark, start planning out when you are going to be able to finish the research and when you are able to focus on writing your chapters. Many people often write while they go along. This is the smart thing to do but it is often difficult, because you know, writing! If you are in the last year, start to at least put your introductions together. Just starting now will help you so much later.

Start finishing up your experiments or at least planning out when to finish them. There might be a chapter where you still need to do those experiments. Start those as soon as you can. If you are not able to for a bit, at least write a bit of the chapter so you can put in the results later, after you finish doing the experiments.

One year out will be the time to plan the end game for your doctorate. Start laying out a timeline of when to finish, when to write, and when to start job hunting. Stick to the plan and I promise that your final year will be a lot less hectic than your mind is telling you, or what reddit is telling you lol.

what to expect at the end of a phd 6  months out

What To Expect in the Final 6 Months of a PhD

This is where I am currently at. It is April and I defend in October. That gives me 6 months to get ready for the final exam (aka my defense). There is a ton going on and it is keeping me really really busy. This is how it will be for you. You might spend countless hours in the lab, finalizing some experiments. The amount of writing that you will do will be insane. And on top of that, you will have to be considering jobs. All in the final 6 months of grad school.

You may have to give some things up to make sure you finish on time. Free time may be taken up with writing or editing your thesis. Weekends might be taken up by going to the lab or possibly creating graphs of your data so you can finish one of your chapters. The weeks are going to pass by so quickly and the amount of work is going to get a bit overwhelming at times. This is just at 6 months out. Imaging what 3 months out will be like lol.

In the last 6 months, expect to actually be finishing all of your research. By 4 months out, you should be completely done, minus a few small experiments to check your results from your larger experiments. I would say, give yourself at least 4 months to write your thesis, if you are just starting. If you have already started, 4 months is still a good time frame because you won’t be rushing too much towards the end.

what to expect at the end of a PhD 3 months out

What to expect the final 3 months of your PhD

When you get to about 3 months from defending, start looking for jobs. If you are like me, you’ll probably want to secure something by the time you graduate. Three months is a good time frame because companies will see that you are about to graduate so they can have you fill the more immediate positions. Of course, you can apply for companies or professorships even further out than 3 months. I just found that the closer to graduation, the more interviews you are likely going to get.

The final month to two months prior to defending will be late nights of writing and probably days of doing interviews for positions that you applied for. I haven’t gotten to this yet, so I am only speculating. I am expecting that the final two months prior to defending will be chaotic.

what to expect at the end of a phd after you defend

What to Expect after you Defend

So this is it, you’ve waiting your entire 3 to 8 years to get this point and you finally did it. You defended your research and have become a doctor! Congrats! Now what? What to expect at the end of a PhD, the very end? You will be told to do revisions on your thesis for sure. Everyone gets them and you are going to be somewhat busy doing those. The revisions are mostly to make sure the school accepts the thesis for publication and then you’re done. Celebrate, go on vacation, bake a cake, do something to celebrate your accomplishment. It is well deserved!

The final 2 months after you defend will mostly be you writing, going on trips, sleeping a ton, and finding your next career. Once all of that is settled, it is time to start the next chapter of your life, whatever that may be.

Final Thoughts

For those that have finished their PhDs, what were the last few months like? Were they similar to what I have posted in here or were they different. Let me know in the comments. I hope this blog about what to expect at the end of your PhD was enlightening or though provoking. What other posts would you like me to cover? Let me know in the comments or send me an email at benswaringen@yahoo.com. I would greatly appreciate either.

If you haven’t’ already, go check out my blog about travelling while in grad school. Link here. It may give you some cool ideas after you finish writing your thesis. Ok, now go write a chapter and get to sleep early. I will catch you in the next one. Peace!

More of My Favorite Quotes

I wrote a few months ago, a blog about my top 10 favorite quotes. Since then, I have read and heard many more quotes that I want to share with you today. If you want to check out my last blog, here is the link to that page. I figured that motivation might not be as high today to do work so hopefully these quotes give you that boost of energy and motivation to get right back to being productive. If not, then I suggest checking out my blog on how to be more motivated (here).

Photo of a Sign and Eyeglasses on Table

Anyway, let’s get into the quotes that I have read/heard recently that I think are worth sharing.

1) “If we do it now, we’ll never run out of time”-some Redditor (lol) 

2) “If you want to succeed you should strike out on new paths, rather than travel the worn paths of accepted success”-John D. Rockefeller

3) “There is nothing permanent except change”-Heraclitus

4)”If you want to live a happy life, tie it to a goal, not to people or things.”-Albert Einstein

5)”In order to write about life first you must live it.”– Ernest Hemingway

6)”The master has failed more times than the beginner has even tried.”-Stephen McCranie

7)”Forgive others, not because they deserve forgiveness, but because you deserve peace.” -Jonathan Lockwood Huie

8) “It’s okay to look back at the past, just don’t stare.”-Dover

9)”Two of the most important days in your life are: the day you were born and the day you find out why.”-Mark Twain

10)”In three words I can sum up everything I’ve learned about life: It goes on.” -Robert Frost.

Final Thoughts

I hope these are some good quotes that are inciteful and possibly inspiring. Let me know of some more quotes and I will probably make another post with them. Until next time friends, stay amazing!

5 Stages of Grad School

Today’s post might be a tad bit longer than usual. I have been doing some really interesting lab work and have been quite busy, so I am going to take a break for a bit and write a little. I am the person that does things in bursts. Unfortunately, this is extremely exhausting and tires me out really quickly. So, I am quite the “break taker” I suppose. During my breaks, I don’t really relax because I have to be constantly doing something that stimulates my brain. One thing that surprisingly helps is writing. Writing has been my go to for a while now, when I have down time or need to break.

So, this morning, I am going to do some writing before I have to get back to work. I am also trying to warm myself up for a task that I have been putting off for some time now lol. Anyway, todays wonderful and exciting topic is The 5 Stages of GRAD SCHOOL (oooooooooo). I actually thought about this topic on the way over to my office and I felt like I should write about it. I have gone through most of these stages and the last stage will be what I will face in the upcoming year. This is aimed more towards new grad students to kind of help them be ready for some very interesting stages in their academic tenure. So, let’s get right into it!

The 5 Stages of GRAD SCHOOL! (OOOOOOOOO)

Group of Friends Hanging Out

1) Classes and Pre Quals

This one of the stages of grad school is one of my all time favorites. See, classwork and getting to know the lab was such a fun and exciting time. Learning new materials, building up my familiarity with professors and colleagues, and being able to go home at a decent time was the bees knees. This one of the stages of grad school usually consists of the first 2 years. You are taking all of the course work required to finish the PhD requirements. You may have some work with your research, but it is mainly stuff to prepare you for after class work. This is the time to develop friendships and get to know the other’s in your program. It is also a great time to develop great habits that will make the rest of the time in grad school much easier.

Take full advantage of this time. Join a sports league, maybe join a club, or just do a bunch of things while you have the time and energy. The later stages can make it more difficult to do these things. Also, take the time to read up on anything and everything that there is about your research. You don’t need to be an expert at this time, but knowing a bit of information about the subject always gives you brownie points with your PI. I loved this phase of my time in grad school. The saying “you’re gonna miss it when it’s gone” truly applies to this. I miss the classwork and being surrounded by super motivated and intelligent individuals.

Person With Tattoo on Arm Holding Pen Writing on White Paper

2) Qualifying Exam Prep

So you’ve made it this far. You did not “masters out”. I have heard of many people getting funded for a PhD with the intent of just leaving after they get their master’s. I think this is why many professors bring on individuals that already have their master’s. That, and funding lol. Anyway, thisstage of grad school is one of the hardest, and frankly, the most stressful. Pre qualifying exam includes writing up a proposal, getting your committee to agree on a day for you to present it, and also reading more papers than you ever have in your life. The proposal write up is quite difficult because you have to come up with unique ideas on what to do research on. By this time, you have discussed with your adviser about what you will be doing, so the only thing to do is write it up.

Now the qualifying exam is a different story. It is a combination of a written test and and oral presentation. The written test can be over literally anything that your committee find fit for you to test on. The oral presentation is there to present your proposal as well as answer anymore questions that they have. My qualifying exam took over a month to complete and even longer to find out if i was a PhD Candidate. You can read more about it on my blogs about the qualifying exam, here and here.

Heck, some grad school programs are trying to get rid of them all together because they are almost like an academic hazing ritual. You will feel defeated afterwards and many people leave just because of it. It is a rough time, but it is do-able. Trust me, I’ve done it and so can you. Unfortunately, it leads into some of the hardest times, motivationally wise that is.

White and Tan English Bulldog Lying on Black Rug

3) Post Qual Slump

Welcome to year 3! Many people on the internet have warned me about this particular time in grad school. You are done with classes, you just finished your qualifying exam., and you are ready for research. Unfortunately, this is the hardest time to find any form of motivation. You will go weeks without accomplishing a single task. Burn out is a real thing and I’m quite sure that is what you deal with during this portion of your grad school experience. I know I felt sluggish, unmotivated, and do right lazy. This is normal and it will pass.

During your third year, you might get very little done because you are burnt out. Just remember to keep going. You will also ask yourself quite often “is this still worth it”? The answer to that question will always be yes. Do not get in the mindset where you think all of this work is for nothing. Remember, your PhD is an apprenticeship. You are supposed to go through all of this to become a competent scientist. Some things need work like lack help with mental health, though. (One of the reasons I started this blog). This year will pass very quickly and you will see motivation come back again. There is hope, I promise.

Text

4) The “Now What?”

Ah, this is where I am at currently. I am coming to the end of my research as well as the end of my PhD. Unfortunately, I haven’t gone full force into my writing yet, though that may come sooner than later. I am in the “now what?” phase. This phase is where you start thinking of the next step. What will I do with my degree? What types of careers are out there for me? This stage can be scary and quite confusing. You’ll scour the web, looking for jobs that require a PhD and realize that most are post docs. It can get discouraging, especially if you are like me and probably heading to industry after college.

This phase is exciting though. You are pretty much a the finish line and can almost call yourself, doctor. All of the years of studying, the late nights in the lab, the packages of ramen, all come down to this phase as well as the next. You are probably ABD (all but dissertation) at this point, so all you need to do is write. Unfortunately, you are too overwhelmed with figuring out what you want to do in life that you put off writing until your adviser starts asking for papers to read and correct. This is the time you hit the last stage of grad school.

Standing Woman Facing a Speeding Train

5) Fast and The Furious

This is it, the final hurdle between you and sweet, sweet freedom. Why do I say this is the fast and the furious? Well, because it’s going to go by fast and you’re going to be furious going through this lol. i have a friend who is currently going through the writing and editing phase now. She spends hours each day writing. I mean like 14+ hours writing. I haven’t seen her in weeks and I’m pretty sure she hasn’t stepped outside in weeks as well. Unfortunately, her thesis first draft has to be submitted in like 3 weeks so she’s going full force.

This stage in grad school is nuts. You might get some more experiments in, but you really should be finished. Writing can be awful and writing a 300 page explanation of your research is awful. This is also the stage where you will defend your thesis and graduate. It is exciting, goes by in a flash, and can cause you to break. At this point in your PhD, you just want to finish just for the sake of finishing. you really don’ care about the project anymore. You might have a ton of motivation with very little energy.

As I stated before, this is where you defend. I have been to a few defenses and they are all the same. If you passed the quals, you will pass the defense. No one that I know has ever failed the defense and I honestly think it is there for you to show off. Many people present their research in the “victory lap” manner. They are confident, have published papers, and know that they will be a doctor. I like those presentations because it takes away the stress. You did it, you made it this far, let’s have fun and learn about the years of research you did.

Final Thought

These are the 5 stages of grad school that you will likely face when doing a doctorate. Of course, all doctorates are different so these stages of grad school might be different than yours. Let me know in the comments if these are experiences that you had and if this blog post even makes sense lol. I think I have sufficiently warmed up my hand and now I am ready to do work. I will see you all in the next blog. Peace!

Traveling in Grad School

This post about traveling in grad school contains affiliate links. For more information see disclosure at bottom of home page

COVID 19 will end one day and it will be ok to travel. I guarantee this. Until then, traveling in grad school right now may not be the best idea, especially if you are not vaccinated. If you are like me, you are feeling the travel bug, bad. Every year since I graduated undergrad has had at least one trip to another country or multiple countries, so I am ready to get back out there. I know for a fact that I am not alone. My girlfriend seems to spend more time on Skyscanner, looking for cheap flights everywhere than she does on work lately lol. I am pretty much the same way right now, so it’s ok.

Traveling in grad school can be quite the experience. First off, you are pretty much limited to travelling places you can afford currently. You might be able to buy that plane ticket to Australia, but I know for a fact you’ll be staying at a hostel lol. Don’t worry, hostels are extremely fun places to stay and you get to meet some amazing people there. I wanted to take this time this morning to share a few places that I thin are really great to visit in grad school. These are all places that I have personally been. I have only been to 7 other countries, and have a ton more to get to. But, I have been to some fairly cool places. So, grab your passport and let’s get into it.

Places to go: Traveling in Grad School

1) Canada-Anywhere

Canada is one of my all-time favorite countries. The people are extremely nice, the food is amazing (and cheap), and best of all, they speak English! I have been to Ottawa, Toronto, Montreal, and Quebec City. Out of those four, Montreal is my favorite. If you are able to make a trip over the border, go for it. Each town that I spent time in had so much to do and it was really cheap. I mean, the flights from Orlando to Toronto are like $150 right now so it may be good to go there right now. Below is a picture of an alley way in Quebec City. If you like climbing stairs, I highly suggest visiting here lol

Traveling in Grad School to Quebec
Quebec City

2)Ireland-Dublin

Dublin reminded me of Pennsylvania so much. I was fortunate enough to go during New Years and actually celebrate New Years Eve in The Brazen Head, which is the oldest pub in Ireland. So, that was cool. The town is super fun to explore and the people are some of the nicest. Hostels can be a bit expensive here though, so be ready for that. The flights are not too expensive to get there. I think honestly, travelling to Dublin is the cheapest to get over to Europe, so it’s a good place to travel. Also, you’ll love Ireland, especially if you love the color green. Everything there is green lol.

3) Luxemburg-Luxemburg City

If you have the chance, go to Luxemburg City. This is, by far, my favorite location that i have ever visited. It is a combination of Germany and France. I can’t really say that since I haven’t been to either of those countries, but my girlfriend has and said that it’s pretty much that. The city is straight out of a post card. Let me add one of the photos I took while there.

traveling in grad school to Luxemburg

The city is surrounded by a giant wall as well. It was really cool to just walk around the city, take in all of the sites, and truly just be a peace there. I loved the food as well and loved the pastries especially. French pastries are the best. The hostel that we stayed at was extremely cheap and right down the street from where I took this picture. I highly suggest making a trip here. It is a good 1 to 2 day place to visit.

4) USA-New York City

If you want to experience some of the craziest people, the best food, and possibly see a celebrity walking there dog, New York is where to go. I have only been twice, but have experienced quite a few things in the like 5 or 6 days that I spent there. You may have to save a bit of money for a hotel or try and find a friend that lives up there to stay with but it is so worth it. Once you get there, just walk around the city. Take in all of the sites, sounds, and smells (the good smells hopefully). Grab some pizza and make sure to get a bunch of bagels. Please send me some bagels too.

traveling in grad school to New York

Here is a picture of me in Times Square. This was also the face I had literally every where that I went in New York. If you are a grad student, put this at the top of your list on travel locations. Maybe apply for some conferences up there. Just make sure to bring back bagels for me. Seriously. In fact, if you want to send me bagels, I will personally give you my address to send them lol I love NY bagels.

5) China

I am going to end this list with what started my travels. China was the very first country that i travelled to and it was a gift to myself for graduating engineering school. My girlfriend was going to visit her sister there and asked if I wanted to join. I was hesitant course, but eventually agreed. If you want to feel truly alive, I suggest going to a place outside of your comfort zone, such as China, and immersing yourself in everything there is. This trip was by far, the best trip that I had ever been on. While there, we climbed the great wall of China.

We saw the Terra Cota soldiers

And, we were able to freeze our butt’s off at Shanghai Disney

I was there for a month prior to having to come back to start a new job :(. It was an amazing adventure that I hope to go on again some day. If you want to travel here, you will have to get a visa, so keep that in mind. It can take a very long time to get one too.

Why take a trip?

Grad school is all about growing as an individual and becoming a professional. Traveling in grad school is one of the best ways to grow as a person and get out of your comfort zone. It is also amazing to be able to explore places during your short time on earth. Take the time to just wonder and not worry about life’s problems. Go to places that few people have seen and go explore what life has to offer. The problem is getting started. So, I was completely fine with just doing my thing in the USA and maybe travelling as far as the Keys. Going to China made me realize just how much there is out there to explore. I mean, there’s sooooooo much to explore in this world and really not enough time to explore it all. When you are in grad school, you will have opportunities to go and explore these places. Yes, it will make you poor, but the experience is worth more than any amount of money. Trust me, it’s better to be poor and travel than save money and stay where you are.

Final Thoughts on Traveling in Grad School

Traveling in grad school, well just in general, is the best thing that I have ever done. I have become such a different person. There is so much in this world to explore and experience that it’s almost insulting not to go and experience it. I highly suggest taking a trip as soon as you can. Life is more than work, I promise you that. In fact, a trip somewhere else may make you leave that work life and possibly become a travelling blogger. How cool would that be? In the end, start small and branch out. Explore life because you only get this one chance to. I hope you all have a wonderful day and I hope you enjoy the pictures.

Is Grad School Hard?

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I’ve written about whether or not I think grad school is hard. You can read that here, if you like. The overall answer to whether grad school is hard or not is “it depends”. For some people, this may be the easiest thing they have done. For other’s, not so much. It really depends on a ton of factors. For me, I find grad school pretty difficult, but not the hardest thing that I have done. Today, I want to do one of my new favorite things. Instead of a list, like usual, I am creating tables now! I think tables are way better anyway. So today will be about the easy and hard things about grad school.

Full body of young man in sneakers and jeans pushing and falling boxes saying Work Problems Anxiety Stress and Deadline while fighting with problems

I feel like it is a really good thing to know both ends, especially if you are about to start a grad program or you are just beginning. Things can get difficult really quickly if you are not prepared. This can actually be one of the more difficult things that you experience in grad school, but it can be better if you come prepared. Hopefully I hit a ton of topics on the difficult and easy things about a grad program. This list will be based on my observations of being in a grad program for 4.5 year. Holy cow, have I been a grad student that long?

Table 1. Well, is grad school hard or easy?

The table is self explanatory. To the left will be all the things that I find easy about grad school and to the right will be all that I find difficult. I would love some input from my readers. What did you find easy and hard while you were in grad school. Heck, what do you find easy and difficult while you work full time? Let me know in the comments.

Easy Difficult
Classes. Hear me out. For some reason, the classes in my grad program are pretty easy. There is alot of work but I have a much higher GPA now than in undergrad. You will probably be the poorest you will ever be. This is very difficult especially if you have a spouse or a family that relies on you.
Making acquaintances. Friends are a bit different but you will have a ton of acquaintances. It’s good to even have these so you can talk to someone.Your mental health will be strained. I find balancing my sanity very difficult some days because of all the uncertainty that comes with grad school.
Waking up early. I feel that this has become way easier now since I don’t party at nightIt takes forever to finish. You may even go much longer due to unforeseen circumstances (*cough cough* COVID). It’s a long time and a longggg journey
Getting plenty of sleep. You can only work so long. Grad school is a marathon and you need plenty of rest.You may not make many friends and you may even lose quite a few.
Seeing family. This is easy for me, not so much with other’s. This will also be on the difficult side.Seeing family if you live far away from them. It’s actually really sad seeing some of the international students coming into the office during breaks because they can’t go home to their families. Also, why am I in the office during breaks with them???
Getting the help you need for your mental health. Many times colleges pay for therapy services such as talkspace.com or online-therapy.comWriting your thesis, and manuscripts, and presentation articles, and well just writing.
Getting help with your class work. It seems like professors give special care to grad students more than undergrads. They may treat you somewhat better in most cases and be nicer. Take advantage of thisSeeing your other friends or collages getting high paying jobs and “living their best lives”. I have friends making far more money and working much less than me. It’s hard to see this happening while I continue my pursuit of academic excellence.
Man Relaxing and Working on his Laptop

Overall

Grad school, especially a doctorate, can have very easy and very difficult moments. You need to understand that this journey will test you in a whole bunch of ways and you will come out a totally different individual. I know I have changed so much since I have started and I still have a ways to go. Grad school, essentially, is as hard or easy as you make it. You can make it extremely difficult by being just a bad student. Bad student’s aren’t teachable and they think they know everything. Don’t be this person. You can also make it easy by getting the help you need, creating good habits, and practicing mindfulness. Understand that this journey will not be the easiest but you will make the best of it.

Anyway, I hope you wonderful people have an awesome day. I am going to get ready for office work today. It’s getting close to winter break so things are slowing way down. Also, the undergrads are leaving which means the gym is finally not packed. I think I’ll get a workout in today, sometime.

Who Cares What They Think

This post about who cares about what they think may contains affiliate links. For more information see disclosure at bottom of home page

Why does it always take a lifetime for the weekend to come, and then when it does, it’s gone in the blink of an eye? Seriously, someone needs to develop a mechanism to slow time so weekends last way longer than they do. This weekend came and went, but I was able to get a lot of nothing done. Just the way I like it! I was at my parent’s house because I wanted to see my relatives coming into town and hang with my brother. My brother is about to be a father so everyone was coming in for his girlfriend’s baby shower. Everything went well and I think all the attendees had a great time. Because of the “no boys allowed” policy, I took my dad and brother fishing.

Anyway, back to the post. The short weekend had a lot of down time which really got me thinking about life and such. This is a fairly new thing that has happened in the last few years. I think I am finally getting out of the stage of life where I really care what other’s thought of me and now I am focused on finding happiness with myself. So, I want to share some insight with the young grad students that I think will be helpful along your journey into a academic career.

Who cares what they think

No one cares

One of the things that kind of bothered me, but I came to terms with it was that no one cares. Well, let me rephrase that, no one cares as much as you do. You are going to put a great amount of effort into doing grad school, passing classes, losing 10 pounds from stress, stuff like that. People will not celebrate as much as you will when you accomplish things and it may hurt. They just haven’t put as much effort into it as you have and don’t know the struggles. Do not be upset if they don’t celebrate your small wins. They are currently going through their own battles. This is definitely something you will experience as a grad student.

People will tell you that you can’t do it. Don’t listen to them.

I know many people (other grad students), myself included, that get criticized for what they do. People, some very close to me, make fun of because I have a blog and spend a good amount of time trying to make it worth reading. People may not understand why you are doing something, and they may make fun of you or tell you that it isn’t worth doing. Don’t listen to them. If you are passionate about something, or just want something to do, go for it. Create a blog about spearfishing, though you’re afraid of water. Start a YouTube channel about art history, though you are an engineer. Do something that will bring some form of happiness and don’t let other’s discourage you. I see so many other grad students stopping their passions. Please don’t do this because someone didn’t understand it.

Some people will never understand

Some people will never understand why you study European history from 1867-1868. They will never understand why you love researching squirrels in Ethiopia (if there are any) or why you wrote a whole research paper on the solubility of lead in drinking water. Who the heck cares what they think! If you love what you do, that is all the really matters at the end of the day. Some people go their whole lives taking into consideration what other people think about what they do. That is not what living is about. Find what you love and do that.

Do what you Love

Whatever you love doing, keep doing it. There will always be people in your life that just won’t understand why you are doing things. Recently, I was caught off guard because an employer asked my why I was getting a PhD in engineering when it really wouldn’t make a difference. I was taken aback by this comments. What I really wanted to say was “the reason I am doing my PhD is to not get stuck in a position like the one you are offering”. I held my tongue. I love doing research and I love engineering. Why can’t I get a doctorate in engineering?

What I really am trying to say is do what you love and you will find your path. People may tell you that what you do is dumb, but one day, you might make millions because you are doing what you are passionate about. Also, who the *&^# cares what other people think? They are just jealous that you found something that truly makes you happy and they haven’t. So please, don’t care what they think.

Final Thought

I really like to blog. I love how there are a whole bunch of people, all over the world, that read what I write. Heck, some people even message me and tell me what to write about next or to tell me that they love my content. This is why I do this. I want to make a small contribution to the world. Do I care about the people telling me that “this is a phase” and “you need to focus on something else. Blogging get’s you nowhere”? No, I do not. I laugh, say thanks for your input and I continue on with my blogging. I hope you can just say “thank you” and continue your passions. It is how you will find happiness. I hope you all have an amazing day doing what you love. I know I will.

**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.

Sick Days in Grad School

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Today, I feel pretty terrible. I did this to myself, though, and before you ask, it’s not Covid. I will explain. This whole week I have been dedicating myself to all that is fitness. I am trying to keep up with my walking challenge. Personal training at the stadiums is going on too. And, I have been getting on those early morning workouts, to top t all off. I have been extremely active, and today it is all catching up to me. That is just the source of pain. I feel king of sick because I received my Pfizer booster yesterday. The first two times were easy peasy. Apparently, third times the charm…So, I figured today I will write about feeling sick while in grad school.

Sick days

Oh no, I woke up sick

It probably won’t be like that, though. It will be more like “Ugh, I feel awful”. Waking up feeling sick in grad school can be the absolute worst. Probably the first thing you ask yourself is, ” is this Covid”. That might be the worst thing for grad students, particularly those with lab work, because you need to quarantine yourself. During this time of year, it can be a ton of different things that make you sick, so you might only feel lousy for a bit and then be fine. If it is Covid, and you don’t feel really lousy, it might be a good time to just binge watch every show that you can or get some writing done. See, there can be good things from these situations.

Woman with bracelet taking bath with foam

Treat Yourself

On days where you are feeling a bit sick, make sure to treat your body right. Drink plenty of fluids, try and eat decent foods, rest, and literally everything else the doctors tell you to do. The last thing you want is to feel even worse or have to go see a doctor. Treating yourself also means forgiving yourself for not being able to really do work that day. Getting sick is one of the worst things that can happen, especially if there is a deadline. It may also be a gift because your body is telling you to “stop”. Listen to your body. Work will always be there and you will never be or feel “caught up”. Take a day or two off. Treat yourself to easy activities such as watching Netflix, listening to audible books, heck, if you feel up to it, carve a wizard into a block of wood lol. Just make sure not to push yourself.

Photo Of Person Using Black Laptop

Let your adviser know

Sometimes, you may not see your adviser for months and then, all of a sudden, they pop up. I guarantee one of the days they pop up will be on the day that you feel sick. It’s a fact. Send them an email and let them know that you might not be in today or you may not do any work because you are feeling sick. They will understand. 99.9% of advisers will be happy that you stayed home. They need you to feel good so you can produce data for them, so taking a day off to recover is good. My adviser will send me emails to let me know when he’s sick. Most of the time it’s because I sent him papers to read or something he needs to look over. So, it’s totally fine to let them know you are sick. Your adviser is a person too, not some crazy boss.

Black and white from below background of Relaxation Deadline and Money titles on gray wall

Deadlines

If you get sick and there is a deadline, a hard deadline, then you need to email your adviser right away. If you feel a little under the weather then doing work won’t kill you. But, if you feel awful, you need to let them know that you cannot do work. There are very few deadlines that can’t be adjusted. If you are submitting a paper, those deadlines may not be able to change. For those deadlines, you may need to reach out for help from your adviser.

Deadlines that can be adjusted are good to have in this scenario. It’s easy, just push back the deadline a day or two. In the case of Covid, you may have to go longer. Unfortunately this may create some anxiety, but you have to just accept it. Life is uncertain and getting sick is one of those things that will happen but you don’t know when.

sick days in grad school

What to do then?

I feel like I could write a ton of information on this topic. I’ve had my fair share of sick days in my college career and probably so have you. Grad school sick days aren’t nearly as fun as when you were a kid. I loved sick days (not the feeling sick part) when I was a kid because I could watch The Price is Right as well as Jerry Springer (shhh, don’t tell my mom). I was able to hang out with my dog and eat ice cream all day. Man, those days were amazing. Also, my mom would bring home ginger ale and other snacks. It was nice having someone take care of me. You don’t really get that in grad school. Hopefully you have someone to help, but often times, you are on your own.

As I said before, take the day off! Don’t do anything related to your work because that may create some stress and your body cannot take anymore stress right now. Watch a ton of movies or shows. Heck, watch both. Hang out with your pets. I have my boy, Sirius, to watch over me and make sure I feel fine. Here are a few pics of him with his Slytherin and Gryffindor scarves on.

Also, being sick is a great way to catch up on some reading. I don’t mean for you to scour the literature, looking for research articles. No, read a fun, adventurous book that you haven’t read before. Lay down in a cozy chair or on your bed and spend a few hours reading. It’s easy and will make you feel better.

After your binge watching and book reading, make sure to take a nap. Sometimes, the best way to break a cold is to just sleep. Sleep is extremely beneficial and you’ll feel better afterwards. Take a hot shower prior to sleeping then nap for a few hours. Wake up and repeat the binge watching lol.

Final Thoughts

I hate feeling sick, but I know it will happen eventually. I try my best to eat right, exercise, and stay away from sick people, but sometimes you just get sick. If you are in grad school, you may get sick at a very inconvenient time such as a deadline or when about to go to a conference. This stuff happens and it’s part of life. Unfortunately, it’s not the best part of life. If you do happen to get sick, take a break and rest. Your body is telling you to slow down. Keep your health at the top of your most important things list. Research is important, but you can’t do it if you are sick all of the time.

Anyway, I hope you guys aren’t sick or feeling sick today, if you are, and want to do something, I suggest checking out my whole blog at love-and-bean.com. Go on there and give me some good advice on how to make it better. That would be amazing.

How to Fail a PhD

This post about how to fail a PhD may contains affiliate links. For more information see disclosure at bottom of home page

Every PhD is different. You will have some where an individual spends all of their time in a lab just to produce 1 paper. And, you may have a few where the student seems to be on vacation all of the time, yet they produce 3 to 4 papers a year. I know both of these types of individuals which makes a PhD a slightly weird experience.

There are a million blogs and articles on how to successfully do a doctorate. Heck, my whole blog is pretty much about being a successful grad student without going insane. But, very little articles that I have found talk about the things that cause students to fail. I want to talk about a few of the most important ones so you, the doctorate student, will thrive in your program. Here is a list of a few ways that you can fail your PhD.

List of Ways to fail a PhD

Black and White Checkered Paper Bag

1) Not asking for help

This is such an important part of doing a doctorate. You are going where few have gone before and that is exciting and down-right scary. At first, you may be working on stuff that is fairly straight forward and easy to do. But, soon you will find that doing a doctorate will take you places that may cause confusion and doubt. Ask for help! This can be asking your advisor for guidance on the next step or asking a friend to help you with some stress that you are having. Being stubborn and thinking you can handle everything alone is dumb and will cause you to fail. Reach out to people for help. I know you will find it.

2) Thinking you know everything

No one knows everything. Acting like you do will only lead to failure. Doing a doctorate is understanding that you don’t know everything, but you are willing to find out. I knew one individual that thought they knew everything there was prior to starting their grad program. Undergrad is a lot easier if you are like them but grad school is a different game entirely. In grad school, you are finding something out stuff that no one else has found out. You are contributing to knowledge. Those that think they know everything will become extremely frustrated in grad school because they will learn very quickly that our knowledge is extremely limited. The best way to succeed in grad school is know you don’t know everything but you are willing to learn as you go.

Crop unrecognizable coworkers in formal wear standing at table with laptop and documents while greeting each other before meeting

3) Always agreeing with your advisor

Your advisor may know quite a lot but they don’t know everything. Grad school is about becoming an independent researcher. It is about doing stuff that even your advisor doesn’t know. If you agree with everything they say, and take what they say as truth, then you will fail. Question everything they say because it may be wrong. In fact, it is often wrong because they are not doing your research, you are. You are the specialist in this field and it is Ok to question or even disagree with what they tell you. Don’t be afraid to disagree with things they say, especially if you know it is false.

High Angle View of Lying Down on Grass

4) Not taking time off of work

Rest is an essential part of work. If you are working at all times of the day, you’ll burn out quickly. Burn out is so sad to see, especially when it is with first-year students. A doctorate is a marathon, not a sprint so you need to rest to keep up your strength. Taking days off is a great way to increase productivity. In fact, I have written about how it helps (here).

Rest is essential because it allows our minds to recover and strengthen. If you work out, you know onset muscle soreness sucks. Burnout is like that but for your brain. If you over work tour brain, you’ll just be “sore” even more. You need time to recover. After working out, you are a tad bit stronger, and this is the same way with your brain. The days that I take off are usually the days where a “eureka” moment occurs. Try it out.

Woman Sitting in Front of Macbook

5) Not controlling your stress

You are going to be stressed in grad school. If you can control it, you have a great advantage. Stress can lead to all sorts of problems (read about them here). Stree management is key to your success. I have a few ways you can reduce it in my blog (link here). Check it out. Reducing stress will not only allow you to continue this journey but it will make it an enjoyable one. I think the stress that comes from grad school is the reason many people fail. If you can control this stress and use it to your advantage, you will be extremely successful, I guarantee it.

Person Holding Red Book With Silver Link Bracelet Round Analog Watch

6) Being afraid to fail

No one likes to fail, but failure is the way to being successful. One way to absolutely fail your PhD is being afraid to fail, period. I think in an age where we are put down for failure has made us afraid to try anything that may lead to failing. Social media doesn’t help because you look at everyone’s accomplishments, not their failures. Grad school is about failing at stuff so many times that you become desensitized to it. Your experiments will fail, you may fail exams, you will fail in writing and friendships and everything. This is good. It means that you are trying. If you are afraid of failure, you will never take any risks. You will stay in your comfort zone and miss out on the wonderful things that can happen outside of your comfort zone.

I am currently listening to the book The Subtle Art of Not Giving a F*ck. In it, the author talks about how people are afraid of failure and that is why there are a ton of missed opportunities. He emphasizes that failure is essential for growth. You try, you fail. You try again, you fail again but learned something from it. This is how growth occurs. If you want to grow as a researcher, you need to be ok with failure. Remember that a failed experiment may lead to a discovery that could change the world.

Final Thoughts

I want you to know that a doctorate is hard, life is hard, everything is hard. There is no right way to go about doing a doctorate but these things that I have mentioned are great ways to fail at it. For those just starting out, welcome. You will succeed, I know you will. This journey is an interesting, scary, exciting, and down-right awesome one. Enjoy the ride.

These were 6 ways on how you can fail your PhD. There are way more but I think these are the top few that really stand out. The journey is long, but at the end of it, you can be proud of what you accomplished. Also, the title “doctor” stays with you for life, which is kind of cool. Let me know in the comments of any other ways in which you can fail a PhD. I will update the post with your suggestions! Until next time, peace!

A Typical Day as A Grad Student

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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

On Days Where There are no Deadlines

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).

Getting to the Office

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 Time

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.

typical day as a grad student relaxing

After The Lab

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.

On Days Where there are Deadlines!

So, you will get to a stage in your grad school tenure where you will be busy beyond belief. The typical day as a grad student during these times will be quite different than most of the other time. You will be working many hours, and feeling quite overwhelmed at times. There have been days where I have been on campus for 15-16 hours, working. These days usually occur close to your qualifying exam, the deadlines for paper submissions, as well as when you are getting close to defending. I will give you a taste of what the typical day as a grad student is like during times when things are hectic.

Waking Up

On days or weeks where it is hectic, I usually get up at 7 am to start my day. This has occurred so much lately that Sirius is now my alarm at that time since he knows I need to get up lol. I usually drink so water to truly wake up, get ready, and I am out the door by like 7:20 at the latest. I have been riding my scooter lately to get to my office quicker. If you are thinking about getting a scooter to ride to class or your office, I highly suggest getting the razor A6. It’s the one I have.

typical day as a grad student waking up

Getting to the office

I get to my office around 7:45 and make sure that all my labs are open and the coffee is brewing. I have really tried not to drink a ton of caffeine lately, but coffee is just so needed on these days. I have been staying away from energy drinks so my anxiety doesn’t go through the roof. After 15 minutes of enjoying my coffee, I am off to do work.

typical day as a grad student in the lab

Lab Stuff

If I am doing experiments, I spend a great amount of time in my lab. It takes forever to clean and set up my project so I will end up spending maybe 3 to 4 hours in my lab before I give up to take a break. Breaks may consist of eating lunch at my desk or taking a quick walk around the campus. I usually don’t spend too much time away from work on these days.

I will usually end these days whenever my lab stuff is finished. Some times I am so tired that I won’t really clean up my lab and just put it off until the next day. I have had days where I get to campus at 7 am and don’t leave until 11 pm at night. These are the days I dread the most because I know that I will come home and Sirius will be pissed off lol. These are also extremely long days.

typical day as a grad student writing

Writing Days

Writing is a major part of the typical day as a grad student, when grad students are busy. On the days where I need to write a ton, I will spend hours at the computer. I’ll get into my office and just start writing. I hope to get at least 2000 to 3000 words written that day, but it often comes short of that. If my anxiety is super high, then I will definitely be able to finish my writing for the day.

These days usually end at 4:30 because I am usually brain dead by that point. I will go home, relax for a bit, possibly hit the gym and get food, then I will end my day with at least an hour more of writing. That little extra at night is what really allows me to sleep. If I just give up completely for the day at 4:30 then I usually have bad anxiety at night and can’t sleep.

When I Get Home After These Days

I hate the busy days because I get home late and don’t have the energy to work out or do anything else. Usually these days are even worse because I end up eating very ad food that’s convenient. Unfortunately this will be my life for the next few months as I finish up my PhD. I think most doctorate students will get to this point eventually. You get used to it though and it’s somewhat exciting. It means you are close to being done and getting out of school completely. It also means that you are a researcher, a true scientist.

typical day as a grad student

Final Thoughts

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.

When things get really rough and you are forced to stay in the lab or write for hours on end, make sure to take ample breaks. You do not want to hit burnout at any stage in your academic career. Take care of yourself in grad school.

For those that are in a PhD program, what does your typical day as a grad student look like? Is it similar to mine? Way different? Tell me about it in the comments. As Always, thank you all for reading my blog and supporting this grad student as he works his way through the PhD process. I hope you all have a wonderful day and I will see you in the next one. Peace!

Publishing Your First Manuscript

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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.

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.