Getting back on the GTDA horse

When we last spoke, some two years ago, I had said pretty much all I had wanted to say on developing your graduate school survival kit. Why am I back? Well, things have changed. Pretty remarkably, for only two years. For example:

  • On a plane flight from Boston to DFW, I read (on my Kindle) a fascinating analysis of why Netflix has been so  successful. Jonathan Knee suggests that the big media companies are increasingly aware that aggregators, not content providers, can make a big difference in people’s lives by sifting through the tidal wave of media and presenting it in a thoughtful, accessible way. Content is still important, of course, but selecting among content without judgement, can be pretty random.
  • There has been a lot going on–new second brain software, the “cloud”, social media (my second post on this blog was a scornful analysis of Twitter, I was right on top of that, wasn’t I?), pads and e-readers–all potentially useful to the evolving academic.
  • I’m still as obsessed with doing things efficiently as I ever have been. I’m still clicking away on Evernote, and squirreling neat stuff away in Devonthink. It’s time I revisit some of these notes and jottings, make some judgements, and share them with you. And, just as importantly, hear what works for others. And lots of my friends and colleagues have pretty cool things to say on creativity, writing, time and life management.

Put all this together: aggregators can be useful; the academic environment continues to change; many of the old rules may no longer apply and need to be replaced.

Consider this as one place to stop by to see which rules help you survive and thrive in graduate school.

So, as this Blog hums again to life, what’s on your mind? What topics would you like us to spend some time on?





23 Responses to Getting back on the GTDA horse

  1. Anonymous says:

    Nice! Welcome back!

  2. Ethan says:

    Welcome back Mike! It will be great to have GTDA back to show all of us young whipper snapper bloggers a thing or two.

  3. cb says:

    I’ve kept you in my RSS all this time. Let’s call it expectations not inertia.

  4. Matt says:

    Glad to see you’re back! I’ve been using GoodReader and iAnnotate to review articles and papers, then exporting the highlights and notes as plain text.

  5. Grant Loney says:

    One question that I have that would be good to discuss in Advanced EEB is why do eusocial Hymenopterans invest so much into an evolutionary “dead end” of non-reproductive sisters? Wouldn’t it be adaptive to raise more queens and spawn more daughter colonies? If so, what factors (environmental, insufficient workforce, lack of suitable living space, bullying by the queen) keep workers from raising more queens?

  6. Jackson Helms says:

    Mike, with all the reading a grad student has to do, what ideas do you have for organizing reading notes in a way that makes it easy to go back and cross reference sources and tie things together? Second, again on the subject of reading, do you have any suggestions about what current research or journals all grad students should keep up to date on?

  7. Andy Harris says:

    With so many funding sources, how do you decide where to start, and to what extent to pursue these? For research grants, what do you typically do with proposals that have been denied? Is more time usually spent on reworking the content of the project itself, or on re-formatting for a new source of funding?

  8. alexbarnard says:

    Any advice for students starting a PhD program without having gotten a MS first? I keep hearing that I need to “hit the ground running,” but I’m not entirely sure what that entails. I would also appreciate guidance on narrowing down research interests into a manageable dissertation project (and how to identify the “size” of a potential project).

  9. Erin Fender says:

    It seems as though many of us new PhD students are trying to find balance. I would like to discuss what really matters on our CV and the best way to prepare for when we will be job searching. I know funding and publications are key but what else are search committees looking for? How do we give ourselves an edge as beginning graduate students?

  10. Amber Makowicz says:

    I would like to know how to build a NDIG, how much preliminary work should I get done prior to writing my first grant and what make a great grant a great grand? Also, writing up your research, what is the best strategies to use when starting from scratch?

  11. Jelena Bujan says:

    First of all I would appreciate any reading advices, especially now at the beginning when we are overwhelmed with amount of reading material. That was already mentioned, so I guess it’ll be discussed.
    Secondly I would like to know what is the proper way of approaching to writing? It doesn’t matter if it’s for a grant proposal or a paper. How to dose it, especially for if we’re suffering from a serious long sentences problem?
    Also I think it would be useful to discuss collaborations during the our grad school. How to plan them, what to do if they’re not encouraged?

  12. These are my questions for EEB:

    Considering your interest in the changing academic scene, I would like to see some more discussion on integrating technology into the classroom in a useful manner. The most effective lectures I’ve had have been fairly traditional, with a slide show or power point, allowing students to pipe in with questions at any time. Anytime clickers or laptops were involved, they just seemed to be in the way. What about incorporating clickers, laptops, smart-phones, etc. into a class to create another level of interactivity, without creating large distractions at the same time.

    As far as EEB as a topic goes, I have a few questions:

    What selective pressures cause extremeophiles to begin living in extreme environments to begin with? What challenges must be overcome, both for micro- and macroorgancisms to begin living an extreme environment?

    I’m not sure if the class will focus only on understand and methods of modern ecology and evolutionary biology, but we if do look at life historically, I’d like to have some discussion on community development. How is a certain collection of organisms established in any given habitat? Are there “rules” governing what is included/excluded? How much “wiggle-room” is there for a species to leave or join an established community? How do communities respond to environmental change over time-does each species evolve relative to the changing environment, or do some evolve relative to evolving species? All of those questions kind of tie into one another.

  13. Aaron Tyler says:

    On a scientific standpoint, I would like to know if there are any environments where toxins are a leading selective pressure.

    As for grad school, I would like to know more about the process for finding funding.

  14. Xuecheng says:

    Well this blog confused me what this class would be about. Is it for sth out of EEB itself ?
    And will this blog be used every year in the class?

  15. Diane says:

    I’ve been a grad student for three year, and before that, I was an undergrad for 4 years. Something I have never figured out how to do efficiently, and this may be easier or harder now with electronic access, is how to keep up with scientific literature. How do you keep up with literature that is being churned out about topics that are relevant to your own field and about topics that are important or that you have an interest in in a way that doesn’t eat up all of your time, but allows you to be up to date on current research?

    Something else I’ve had a hard time with is balancing the amount of time I, as a grad student, have to invest in the many different pursuits we are supposed to be involved in. Teaching or RAing often takes up a great deal of time, as does coursework. We are also supposed to attend General Seminar, are expected by our peers to participate in journal clubs, and then there is the ever important (and often times most important) part of academia, research and writing. What is a good way to balance these things? Is there any rule of thumb about time investments?

  16. Jin says:

    Hi Mike, this is the first time I participate in a class by blogging, and this feels cool! I am also impressed by the fast development of informatics technologies and their growing integrity in scientific researches and our daily life. I wonder if we are going to have some talk on how to prepare ourselves to survive the academic life under the context of informatics technology development. Also, it would be interesting to discuss how the EEB researches contribute to the practice outside the laboratory.

  17. carburt says:

    I would like some advice for how to manage my time. This is my first time being a TA, so I am feeling like most of my time is spent teaching, rather than working and thinking about my own research projects. I am also finding it difficult to begin planning out my research.

  18. BrentTweedy says:

    What is the most effective way you have found to both stay on top of recent articles in your specific field as well as being aware of major articles in more general and peripheral areas? Are there tools or websites you use? How useful is viewing full editions of relevant journals?

    Also, on a related note, do you have advice for efficiently finding your footing in a new body of literature in a specific field you haven’t really been exposed to before?

  19. Joseph Frederickson says:

    The question I have is about general scientific pursuits. It appears that there is a professional goal in academia to become an authority on a specific subject. Personally, I feel a strong urge to follow this path, but as someone with many interests in the general field of paleontology, I can’t help but stray to topics that are far removed from my initial area of expertise. How would you (or did you) find a balance between these interests in order to make a name for yourself in the academic world?

  20. Ana Rodriguez says:

    My questions lean more towards general graduate student work checkpoints
    1) How/what is the best/more efficient way to write your thesis?
    2) How do you know if your project has gotten too out of hand for the time frame that you are given?
    3) What is the best way to manage time and resources?
    4) How to guide yourself when academia is not your planned route after graduate school?

  21. Karl says:

    As an expansion to Joseph’s question, I am interested in hearing your thoughts on side projects which may or mat not be directly associated with a proposed thesis or dissertation. While one of our main goals remains to be the production of relevant and publishable material in our specified field, I can’t help but feel that by limiting myself to one specific area I may be missing out on exploring and answering interesting questions that will undoubtedly arise. Essentially how did/do you not stray from your path?

  22. Francisco says:

    Again with side projects: even if they are closely associated with your topic, what happens with those high-risk, high impact projects? How can you really evaluate when they are worth it? Having spent during my masters about a month and a half of work on a project that amounted to nothing, I can imagine how frustrating that would be for longer projects during a PhD – not to mention the waste of money, time and effort.

  23. Jie says:

    I believe AEEB will be a special class. I am impressed by the point about aggregator and judgement. As a new PhD student, how to plan my grad life and prepare for my academic research? How to find my real research interest?

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