You got into grad school, now what?

As I am starting to wrap up my degree, I figured I could share some tips that may help other students who are either in their rotations or starting to choose labs for their graduate studies. (people in life sciences particularly, may find these helpful)

#1 Choosing a school: If you are thinking about grad school, you probably have some idea about what interests you. Make sure the school (or the department) that you are applying to has at least 4-5 faculty you’d really like to work with, this will be important when choosing what labs to rotate through. Sometime you only learn about frequent mishaps with your favorite faculty member AFTER you join your dream school. So it’s nice to have more choices.

#2 Choosing the right lab: You have rotated through different labs, and now its time to choose. Here are some questions you need to consider before choosing the lab: Does the research that is being in the lab interest you? Does the lab publish frequently? What is the lab environment like?

Note: I considered these things when I was choosing labs for post-doc.

First of all, if the research in the lab is completely off with your goals, it may not be the best fit. You can also use your rotation to explore things that you hadn’t thought about. But ask yourself, “Is this what I want to do for the next 4-5 years, and what can I do with the things I learn?”

Another main metric, in my opinion is Publication. Believe it or not, funding agencies and prospective employers care about the number of papers you publish (also care about where you have published, but less important in my opinion). It shows whether the lab is productive in advancing the scientific knowledge or not. It is VERY important that you choose a lab that publishes frequently. Frequent publications not only boost your prospects for opportunities later on in your career, but also help to develop you as a scientist. You become a better writer, better thinker, and become more articulate.

It is also important to consider the lab environment. While you can usually tell whether the lab environment is suitable for you during your rotations, it is always good to ask other people in the building, and in the floor about their experiences with the lab members. If you don’t like someone, it is very likely that they feel the same way about you!

Some other things you will want to consider are:

1. Previous student placements (What has happened to people when they come out of that lab? Do they have successful careers?

2. Will the faculty have adequate funding?

Once you choose a lab, enjoy the ride, keep calm and science on!

Next surviving years 1,2 and 3….

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