I have answered this question more times than I can count since September. My colleagues, friends, and family members have been curious as to why someone who studies plants, can suddenly switch to studying fish for a semester.
Many of us have taken up the noble cause of communicating our science to nonscientists. Casting ourselves as the heroes, it’s important to remember, however, that even the best of intentions sometimes have a way of resulting in unintended consequences. In the original Star Trek, a young Captain Kirk of the USS Enterprise rescues a ship full of super-humans in suspended animation with their life-support on the verge of failure. In return for his good deed, Khan Noonien Signh and the other superhumans whose lives he saved turned out to be one of the Enterprise’s most dangerous adversaries.
So, we’re in graduate school, ready to throw ourselves into a new chapter of life as “early career scientists.” Now what? We’re in a new world with endless possibilities and unknown limits - where do we even begin?
My first year in Fairbanks, AK I worked as a technician at the University of Alaska Fairbanks (UAF) and spent much of the first few weeks of the academic year pestering any natural sciences professor that would listen to me.
“I don’t have any funding - come back with a question and maybe we can figure something out.”
The past three months have been the most hectic for me in quite awhile. In August, I started on the final stages of my dissertation, putting everything together to finish my Ph.D. All of it culminated right at the end of October with my defense. Thankfully for me everything came together, and I passed!! Yes, I was nervous and stressed out (and occasionally frustrated) in the weeks prior to my defense, but I didn’t lose my sanity. What got me through it? Three things: balance, support, and perspective.
Last week, I attended the National CSC Student and Early Career Training held at the University of Massachusetts Amherst, and left feeling inspired, empowered, and with many new friends. From November 2-3rd, students, postdocs, and professionals from the Department of the Interior’s National Climate Science Centers came together to share research, learn from one another, and improve our skills as collaborators and science communicators.
After working outside of academia for eight years I decided to earn a graduate degree. In my first year back to school I was encouraged to apply for the National Science Foundation’s (NSF) Graduate Research Fellowship Program (GRFP). The GRFP is a prestigious award for graduate students providing a stipend and cost of education funds for three years. Practically speaking, it enables students to focus on research instead of how to pay their bills.
As March comes to a close, we have once again celebrated the many contributions of women to society. For many of us conducting research at the Climate Science Centers and partner institutions, women who have made tremendous strides in our various scientific fields like Marie Curie, Rachel Carson and Jane Goodall, come to mind.
Three weeks ago I passed my general exams (aka comprehensive exams or preliminary exams). It’s something Ph.D. students must successfully accomplish before advancing to candidacy, but achieving it requires more than just knowing stuff. Here, I would like to share my experience and maybe give some tips to everyone who still has to climb this mountain.