Been there, done that.

After six years of grad school, there are a few things I've picked up from personal experience and a whole lot of time talking with other female grad students (AKA procrastinating). I've always wished there had been some kind of handbook about how to handle the whole world of graduate school, so I figured I'd start a friendly place to discuss what it's like to be female in grad school, and maybe pass on some wisdom too!

Sunday, June 12, 2011

Graduation Reflection

While I'm not completely done with my degree (I still have comments on my dissertation to wait for, and trust me, I am already stressed about what might come of that), graduating was a big milestone for me. It was just great to feel like I have accomplished something. Honestly, right after publishing my first first-author paper, this ranks high on the "YAY!" feelings. While sitting back and listening to the hooding ceremony go on (and on and on and on--oh, and somewhere in there they turned off the AC and those big poofy robes are not cool!), I was trying to keep myself awake by paying attention to the students and their advisers. Some of the main points I came to while trying not to doze:

-There were just as many women as men graduating. This is an established fact by now, but it was still refreshing to see in person. The degrees were skewed depending on the department (with fewer females in physics, and less men in child psychology), and it was really interesting to watch how it played out.

-The advisers conferring hoods were more male than female, but not by much. Those with huge batches of students (I couldn't believe it when there were advisers up there giving out 5 or 6 hoods in a go--sheesh!), were more likely to be male. What this says about science in general is interesting to think about. More of the big labs on campus are run by men? They have more research funds to support grad students? Something to look into.

-There were a lot of degrees in entomology. I don't know why I started noticing this, but one does get bored sitting there for a couple of hours...

-The sheer numbers of doctorates awarded was almost frightening. There were about six from my department alone, and I know only two of them have jobs. I know the job market is depressed due to the economy, but looking around I really started wondering how many of the graduates were looking at unemployment. It is a frightening thought. It also makes me wonder if there is something fundamentally wrong with the academic process as it currently stands. Do we need professors to retire earlier (as some have suggested to me) so that those of us just starting out have a chance at a job? Or does something else need to change? This is a topic I would love to discuss more here if anyone is interested in a post!

-The women obtaining their degrees appeared younger than their male counterparts. Now, I'm really bad at estimating age in general, but it did seem to me that a lot of the women looked younger (had less wrinkles and grey hair) than those males finishing up. Why is this? Women more likely to "power through" like me, so they are still reproductively viable once they're done? (That doesn't sound very good, but you know what I mean :) Either way, it was interesting to note.

At any rate, I loved seeing all the pomp and circumstance of the celebration. It may be out of date and kinda strange, but it was fun. It also made me think this:

There are some very important people missing from the bottom photo, but I haven't had a chance to photoshop them in! At any rate, I owe so many people such a huge debt of gratitude for all that they've done to help me reach this point that I will never be able to repay them! All I can say is a giant THANK YOU!!

Thursday, June 9, 2011


Today was the big graduation day! It went off without a hitch, including having my family descend and a large party for friends and family before the ceremony. Now, I'm exhausted and really just want to sleep for a few days :) I'll post some pics and thoughts later, but I can't resist a little YAYAYAY!!!

Sunday, June 5, 2011

The summer before starting

(Wow, I swear I'm going to be better about posting here more often. Really. It's just the looming graduation ceremony later this week has kind of taken over my life. Oh, and that pesky dissertation thing, too. Funny how that is...)

Okay, for most people out there, summer has already started (for those lucky semester system people), or is getting underway shortly (for those of us stuck on the quarter system). For some people, this means getting ready to start grad school at the end of this season. Some are working still, others are on break, but probably a lot of you are looking forward to the big change of grad school starting in the fall.

So, what are you doing to get ready? Wait, did you think you didn't have to worry about this yet? Um, no. Really, this should already be on your mind. Like, I'm sure you've probably already gotten housing plans underway. Maybe rented the u-haul and have a move-in date ready to go. But there are other things that would be helpful to think about before fall come barreling down on you faster than a mag-lev train. Why? Well, let's be honest. Your first year of grad school has one main objective: wear you down and really show what you're made of. Luckily, there are some things you can do to get you started. Here are a few things I did, or I saw other people do, that I think might be helpful. Got some others? Please share!

  • Start reading now. I mean it. If you can find some of the reading that will be assigned in the stock classes that will be offered in your department, get your hands on them and get reading. Take good notes. This means that when it comes to class time, hopefully you'll just have to review them, and that takes a whole lot less time. You'll thank yourself later!
  • Start networking. The graduate coordinator in your department probably has a list of the other incoming grad students. Not only is this a great resource to find a roommate if needed, but it's also a great way to get to know people. Chat, go out of a drink, get to know your cohorts, if possible. The friendlier you are with them, the easier things will be later. Plus? Study partners!
  • Move early. Really, this can be helpful. Get to know the area you'll be living in for the next few years. Find good study places and where the grocery store is. It'll cut down on stress later if you aren't trying to find the only place in the region that sells your favorite ice-cream once you really need to chow down on Chubby-Hubby.
  • Get friendly in your department. Many people use the summer to get some serious research done, so don't be a bother, but stopping by to say hi, talk to people, and get your face known (in a good way) is always helpful. If you can find a way to help out (move someone into their place, or do a little lab work) earning those brownie points early goes a long way.
  • Find the best places to chill. Whether it be the best place to go for a long run, or a good bar for a beer, this will be essential later in the quarter. Good places are hard to come by, so knowing where they are now can't hurt!
  • Have a little fun. Don't get burned out before classes start! Seriously, take a little vacation. Get your head in the right place. Be calm, cool, collected, and start off your grad career on the right foot!
Okay, those are my thoughts. Some of these I really wish I'd done, and others (like reading early) totally save my butt when I was starting out. Happy summertime, peeps!