Shelli Waetzig - Visiting Assistant Professor at College of the Holy Cross
While it’s true that different environments (school, area of study, degree) contribute to vastly different experiences in graduate school, I believe there are a few things that can help make every student successful.
First, I learned during my own experience that both scientific and nonscientific communication is vital for success. The ability to communicate with your adviser, other professors, your peers, and (Gasp!) even strangers at a conference will be a practical skill long after graduate school has ended.
Next, I believe that a successful approach includes a strong work ethic. Obtaining those much-needed results is a grueling task and requires a large degree of perseverance and diligence. A strong work ethic is an invaluable tool that helps shape a budding career and, as an added bonus, can be highly contagious.
Lastly, I found that some time away from the lab provided relief from the intense focus that graduate school demanded. For me, this included sports—such as softball, volleyball, and running—as well as cooking and baking. For others, this can include volunteering, music, community activities, or happy hour at the pub. Finding a release is an important way to help refocus in the laboratory or classroom.
These are just a few suggestions that worked for me. In the end, there is no magical solution to succeeding in graduate school. But, if you begin with hard work, throw in some communication, and add a dash of recreation, I think you will find a recipe for success!
Shelli Waetzig completed her Ph.D. from the University of Kansas and her postdoctoral fellowship at the University of California, Irvine. This fall, she will be a visiting assistant professor at College of the Holy Cross in Worcester, MA.