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FINDING A HOME: A STUDENT’S PERSPECTIVE TO CHOOSING LAB ROTATIONS & A MENTOR August 19, 2013 Prepared by: Amie Eisfeld (MVM) Amanda Boehm (Pathology) Jake.

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Presentation on theme: "FINDING A HOME: A STUDENT’S PERSPECTIVE TO CHOOSING LAB ROTATIONS & A MENTOR August 19, 2013 Prepared by: Amie Eisfeld (MVM) Amanda Boehm (Pathology) Jake."— Presentation transcript:

1 FINDING A HOME: A STUDENT’S PERSPECTIVE TO CHOOSING LAB ROTATIONS & A MENTOR August 19, 2013 Prepared by: Amie Eisfeld (MVM) Amanda Boehm (Pathology) Jake Hughes (MVM) VJ Rubenstein (BMG) Robb Tomko (Pharmacology) Hillarie Plessner (Immunology) T. Brooke McClendon (MGDB) Emily Wickline (CMP) Hilary Stevenson (MP) Hilary Stevenson and T. Brooke McClendon

2 Always keep in mind…  Everyone has an agenda  Communication is leadership  You are your best advocate

3 Before you start looking  Assess what’s important to you  What qualities did you admire in past mentors? What qualities didn’t you like?  In what environments do you work best?  Hobbies/recreational activities  Family/friends/partner  What might you be interested in doing after graduation?

4 Lab Rotations  Three options for finding a good home  Take your time deciding (but not too much time)  Not every rotation is going to turn out perfectly  Choose rotations that will help you reach your career goals  (or teach you a new technique)  (or let you work with someone/something exciting) “You think you know what's to come, what you are. You haven't even begun.” Tara, Buffy the Vampire Slayer, “Restless”

5 Step 1. Look around  Websites  IBGP website (www.gradbiomed.pitt.edu)  Program websites  Pubmed  Ask around  1 st year advisors  Program directors  Grad students  Attend seminars/research in progress

6 Getting around  University of Pittsburgh Shuttles  UPMC shuttles  Port Authority Buses (www.portauthority.org)  Bike (http://bike-pgh.org/campaigns/commuter- bike-maps/)

7 During your search  Be OPEN MINDED  Projects outside your comfort zone  Different programs  Other buildings  Be REALISTIC  Reasons for rotating  Commute time “I work from midnight to eight, come home, sleep for five minutes, eat breakfast, sleep six more minutes, shower…then I'm off to the power plant, fresh as a daisy.” Homer Simpson, The Simpsons, “Lisa’s pony.”

8 Step 2. Set up a meeting  (more than 3 PIs)  Face-to-face meeting  Send thank you s afterwards

9 Preparing for the meeting  Be familiar with their research – do your homework  Come with questions  Come with proposal(s)  Come with an air of excitement  Be prepared to sell yourself and talk about your lab experiences  Potential is more important than experience

10 At the meeting  ASK QUESTIONS. LOTS OF QUESTIONS.  Project options: Can your rotation project turn into a thesis project?  Mentoring experience/mentoring philosophy  Their expectations for you/your expectations for them  Is there a spot/funding for you?  Travel schedule/availability  Who will you be working with?  Are they tenured or up for tenure soon?  Program affiliation

11 Step 3. Check out the lab  Talk to everyone in the lab!  Especially grad students  Pay attention to nonverbal cues  Note available resources and space  Quality and quantity of equipment  People are resources too!  Will you have a desk and bench?  Talk to program directors  They know if there were issues before “It’s 12:02 [am], just me and you – and seven other dudes – waiting for the centrifuge.” Most Beautiful Girl in the Lab (Flight of the Conchords parody), youtube

12 Transitioning into a lab  Learn where common equipment/consumables/ reagents are  Read protocols and understand the principle behind each step  Helps with troubleshooting and finding shortcuts  Be mindful of others’ time and resources  Plan ahead and schedule help if needed  Ask informed questions Goal: become independent as quickly as possible

13 Be stupid “One of the beautiful things about science is that it allows us to bumble along, getting it wrong time after time, and feel perfectly fine as long as we learn something each time. No doubt, this can be difficult for students who are accustomed to getting the answers right. No doubt, reasonable levels of confidence and emotional resilience help, but I think scientific education might do more to ease what is a very big transition: from learning what other people once discovered to making your own discoveries. The more comfortable we become with being stupid, the deeper we will wade into the unknown and the more likely we are to make big discoveries.” MA Schwartz. J Cell Sci (2008) 121:1771

14 Ideal Lab (…Is Different For Everyone)  Funding for supplies (at least for your project)  Technique gurus  The opportunity to share your data and have it critiqued  Right environment for you

15 Warning signs  High turnover rate, students rotate but don’t join  Grad students and postdocs have been there awhile with little to show for it  You find yourself making excuses  “I don’t get along with my PI/lab mates, but that will change when I join the lab.”  “If I just work harder, things will get better.”  Your PI downplays your needs and your input  It’s difficult to communicate with your PI well when things go wrong

16 If you haven’t found a lab to join  DON’T do nothing  TALK to an advisor/gets lots of advice from professors you trust  Don’t be afraid to switch rotations, even at the last minute  Think very carefully about what you are looking for and be proactive

17 Part 2. Project

18  Project options  Risk vs. reward

19 Is the project reasonable?

20 1. Look up papers in the field. How many authors are on the papers? 2. Are all the papers coming out of one or two labs? 3. How much optimization is required? 4. Will this project win the Nobel Prize?

21 Is the project reasonable? 1. Look up papers in the field. How many authors are on the papers? 2. Are all the papers coming out of one or two labs? 3. How much optimization is required? 4. Will this project win the Nobel Prize?

22 Is the project reasonable? 1. Look up papers in the field. How many authors are on the papers? 2. Are all the papers coming out of one or two labs? 3. How much optimization is required? 4. Will this project win the Nobel Prize?

23 Is the project reasonable? 1. Look up papers in the field. How many authors are on the papers? 2. Are all the papers coming out of one or two labs? 3. How much optimization is required? 4. Will this project win the Nobel Prize?

24 Part 2. Project  Project options  Risk vs. reward  Back up projects  Publications and meetings  Collaborations in and out of the lab “In my rotation, you said guaranteed/One year first author is all I would need/But you just lied/Lied, lied, lied, but you just lied.” I “Bad Project”, Zheng lab (Baylor College of Medicine), youtube

25 Part 1. The Mentor  What type of relationship  “Hands-on” vs. “Hands-off”  What do you need to work best?  Travel schedule and availability  Time commitment  Policy on vacations, weekends, classes  Past mentoring experience  Previous grad students? How long were they there and what are they doing now?  Publications and meetings

26 Part 3. Funding  Can he/she pay my bills?  Short-term  Long-term  RePORTER (http://projectreporter.nih.gov/reporter.cfm)  Predoctoral Fellowships  NRSAs (individual)  NIH Training Grants (university)

27 If there is trouble…  Step 1: Talk to your mentor or a PI you trust  Step 2: Consult your program director  Step 3: Talk to Dr. Horn  THERE ARE ALWAYS OPTIONS!

28 Anticipating change

29 Transitioning into grad school  Your first semester is especially challenging, but it won’t stay that way  You will probably feel mediocre/pathetic/stupid/ill- prepared/alone/lost/etc…it’s normal and it’s not true  It is possible to invest a lot of time into something that doesn’t work  Sometimes, no one knows the answer  Be proud of your challenges…they build character

30 Helpful reading  At the Bench: a laboratory navigator. Kathy Barker  MA Schwartz. “The importance of stupidity in scientific research.” J Cell Sci (2008) 121:1771  K Powell. “When personalities clash.” Nature (2006) 439:758.  K Powell. “Mentoring mismatch.” Nature (2006) 440:964

31 Questions?  Hilary Stevenson   Brooke McClendon 


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