Tips for New Students from the Scientific Twitterverse


Labor day has come and gone, and while summer doesn’t officially leave us until September 21st, we can agree, for all practical purposes, that the season has in fact come to an end. Just in time for the beginning of the academic year, I enlisted the help of my fellow researchers and scientists on twitter to share their advice with new students in the science field. The following is a short compilation of their words of wisdom.

Choose a good adviser:

Probably the most popular tip I received emphasized the necessity of working with a good adviser. @PolymerPhD suggests that students choose their adviser wisely. “Your adviser must ideally fulfill the roles of mentor, teacher, colleague, boss, friend, and advocate all at once. This is the person who will guide you in your research.” Brian Krueger (@LabSpaces) recommends listening carefully to what other students and faculty tell you about potential mentors as there are “lots of horrible slave drivers in science.”

Communicate with your adviser:

Once you find an adviser, many suggested that you do your utmost to keep him or her happy. As Dr. Zen Faulkes (@DoctorZen) pointed out, “Grad school is all about making personal connections” Even more important is staying in touch with your adviser and making sure to keep him involved in your work. While some advisers are incredibly busy, BioData’s Hamutal Lotan stresses the importance of making sure to set up (and pursue if needed) routine meetings with him to make sure you don’t lose track of your work and so that you know where it should be headed.

Be persistent:

As any person involved in research and science can tell you, its not easy and it will take a lot of time and patience to get results that work. At some point, Dr. Faulkes warns, writing your thesis or dissertation will feel like unending river of pain, but Dr. Josef Ashkenazi (@yossipossi) encourages new students not to give up easily when they have difficulties. @Toraks reminds you that your PhD “is a marathon, not a sprint. Work steadily & hard throughout—don’t burn out immediately!” Another way to cope with constant adjustments in the lab is to be flexible says Christie Wilcox (@NerdyChristie), “Things change a lot – whether it is funding or experiments. You have to be able to adapt.”

Learn from the experiences of others:

After hearing all sorts of ideas, I have concluded that the best advice I would give to new grad students is to consult with other students and learn from their experiences and mistakes. Who better to help you through the long process of grad school and PhD student than those who have been there before you? Just be wary of the advice you do receive, Jonathan Gross (@rubp) cautions – make sure you ask advice from the right people as bad advice can cost you valuable time and cause unnecessary frustration.

Other tips worth mentioning:

  • Read a book that demonstrates the art of reading journals, organizing their thoughts and designing experiments. (@ScienceLifeNY)
  • Read, think, and experiment broadly. Narrow specialization is for postdocs. (@Boraz)
  • Use all your intelligence and passion to take ownership of your project! (@Epigenetique)
  • Formulate an innovative and testable hypothesis ASAP! (@RibogeniX)
  • To decrease future frustrations, eliminate unknowns in your power like contaminated buffers and wrong reagents. (@ScienceLifeNY)
  • Make sure you know not only what you’re working on, but also the general field & how your work fits in. (@toraks)

Find more tips for new students on @BitesizeBio’s blog which provides pointers for new grad students as well as do’s and don’ts for PhD students. @Aemonten also wrote an article with a few ideas for grad students to keep in mind.