Thoughts, as I begin my second year of graduate school

Well it’s been a busy week, so I haven’t posted much. I’m always thinking, when I’m out and about on my days, about what things I might share on my blog and what I might write about this or that…but then I get home and prefer to veg on watching tv or playing my new computer game expansion, The Sims2 Vacation. So today I’m finally going to write something, yay!

I wanted to write about my thoughts at the beginning of the second year, because I’m really feeling like I’m coming into my own as a researcher – I’m feeling more confident, more directed, and more motivated. This is the start of my second year of graduate school, but I feel that I am ahead of many of my peers as far as research goes. There is a good reason for this – I stayed at the same institution at which I did my undergrad. Many people frown upon such decisions, but I made it for my own reasons and I think it was the right choice for me. So I’ve been working in this research group for many years, but I still feel the difference as I become a more mature graduate student; I feel that I am getting more out of the group than I ever did before.

This fall, I am only taking two classes; the remainder of my credits are for research. This is supposed to be my last semester of Master’s studies, and then I get my Master of Science degree in January and after that the rest of the time I will be registering for residence credits, which means I don’t need to meet a full-time course schedule since I will be researching more intensely. I thought I might have had to take more than two classes this semester, and I’m quite happy that my schedule has worked out so that I only have to take two. Those two classes are not in my department, but are very related to my research. One is all about an area and technique that I work with closely in my research – so closely, in fact, that the paper that was just published in print this month, on which I am first author, is in the main journal for this area/technique. Which also brings me to the point that I am officially a published author now, as the paper which has been online since the spring is now in a print copy of the journal as well. Yay! So the class is good practice for me to review the underlying mechanics of the technique and area that I am familiar with, but I also feel fairly confident in what is a challenging class because of all the experience I already have in the area. I really feel like I know why I am in this lecture, and it makes it easier for me to apply myself and focus during the class.

Another reason that I am feeling as though I am becoming a more mature researcher probably has less to do with me than it does with my other group members. When I started in this lab, there were three more senior graduate students. One of them graduated last Spring, and the other two will be graduating this semester. Which leaves me, a young 2nd year, as the eldest member of the team under our adviser. I have been gaining more choice in which projects I work on and in where the projects go, so much so that I am giving input now as to which topics my adviser uses to write grant proposals and where we might want to go next with our work. I know in many labs this is always totally up to the students, but my lab has a more hands-on adviser, and as such we tend to get a little less choice in our projects – but much more guidance. Now I feel like I’m getting the best of both worlds with an adviser that offers plenty of support and guidance but also now values my input on which projects might be most fruitful to pursue at this time. So many people spend much of graduate school complaining about their advisers, and I am both happy and lucky to not be one of those people. I work so well with my adviser, and this makes all the difference in a graduate school experience.


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