How to be a good graduate student
April 17, 2008 8:43 PM Subscribe
Help me be a better graduate student.
posted by peacheater to education (18 answers total) 48 users marked this as a favorite
I'm a first year computational biology PhD student at Cornell. I came here directly after my undergrad and I'm having a hard time transitioning between my undergrad and graduate school. I think I'm a good undergrad student. I go to classes and participate enthusiatically, I do homework regularly, take exams seriously etc. I have a 4.0 GPA here. I find, however, that there's a whole other skill set that graduate school demands -- steady, persistent work with no immediate payoff. I'm easily distracted and am always leaping from one shiny idea to another. It also doesn't help that my undergraduate school was in India and allowed me far less freedom in terms of what courses I could take and choices I could make. While I have spent my first year taking courses that have direct application to my research I can't help but be tempted by courses on, for example, Women and Science or Science Writing for the Mass Media, especially since I really didn't have an opportunity to take courses unrelated to my major in undergraduate school. Would it be completely irresponsible to take a "fun" course once in a while? Cornell seems to encourage students taking courses unrelated to their work. So far I've been lucky in that all the professors I've done a lab rotation with have expressed interest in my joining their lab (it helps that I come with a generous fellowship). But I find myself awkward and unsure of myself around them. Everyone else seems to slip into this casually deferential relationship with their advisor so easily. Finally, I find it amazing how graduate students here seem to maintain this mental directory of the people involved in their area of expertise: who knows whom, who worked with whom on what, who is whose student. It's all so confusing and impenetrable to me. How does one begin to do that? So, in sum, give me your advice for being a better graduate student -- especially regarding work habits, classes, making connections with faculty and figuring out who's connected to whom.