We wrap up the Graduate Student Series with a summary of the amazing things our volunteers shared for us. Each of these graduate students had different perspectives. Some worked around, some took a year off, some came from other countries and some moved to other countries. However, you could definitively see some similarities. Not only in methods, but also in funding, and problems that people notice.
I hope if you did watch all 7 episodes, you took something valuable from it. Here is what I found.
Consider Graduate school in Another Country
If you loved Fiona Salim’s and John’s interview about graduate school in Europe, definitively try it! You don’t have to email professors and you don’t have to do complicated GRE BS so you might actually find it less stressful to apply out of country.
As you know, people do this all the time. Eleni Gallata and Deepak both came to the United States
Don’t you find that beautiful? That we can switch and intermingle different cultures and ideas and still progress in science. I find that really cool that people from all over the world want to work with other people.
From what I’ve learned, going to graduate school to a different country is a lot easier than you think.
The Power of Communicating as a Scientist
About half of the guests agreed that communication was one of the key challenges the food industry has to face. John and I had a very insightful discussion on how to communicate as scientists. Yes, scientists do suck at communicating, but we can get better.
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Some actionable tips to be a better science communicator is to talk to your friends in casual settings. I used the example of how you can tell if a burger is done. You know, when the blood starts to rise to the top, then it’s almost ready to flip.
What’s hard about communicating is the farther your education goes, well, the most likely you will be further away from the people who aren’t informed. This is a common concept we call “the curse of knowledge”. Can an advanced degree make you a better communicator? Not alone. Being a better communicator is a soft skill that I believe you need to study and practice.
Join something like IFTSA
Amy DeJong, Caroline and John all were top dogs in the IFT student association and they absolutely loved it. Not only did IFTSA give them a powerful, unforgettable network, but they learned a ton of administrative leadership skills. All of them now know the importance of setting efficient meetings and creating polished Agendas.
Joining a group like IFTSA gives you a tremendous network and you can actually start right in your undergraduate. Katie joined IFTSA in her undergraduate and she used her connections there to research graduate school.
Though IFTSA is a great option, you can do other things. As Amy pointed out, you need to do something different. Do something like sports, or community gardening. You can’t be in research mode 100% of your time. You will miss out on amazing opportunities.
Really Love What You Do (alternatively, if you don’t like it, it’s ok to leave)
Some people do it because they like teaching, or innovation, or they just love food. You need to really love what you do before committing to this. It will make things easier in the long run.
In all of our interviews, our guests loved being a graduate student but I’ve heard stories where this isn’t the case.
For example, there are so many people who leave graduate school after a year or two because they either received a better opportunity, got bored, whatever. I know people who went their first year, hated their life that first year, and are still feeling quiet miserable.
I had a friend who finished her first year of graduate school and she always told me when we meet up how much she hated it. I told her, “why don’t you quit?” There’s no good ending to the story. She decided not to quit because she didn’t want to be labeled as a “quitter”. I ended up not talking to her. Maybe she likes it now.
In my opinion, if you don’t love what you’re doing for a consistent 6 months, then you should leave and do something else. Life’s too short to be miserable for longer than 6 months.
It Will be Tough, But It’s Worth It
Graduate school is tough. From the application process, to actually doing your thesis, every step is hard to accomplish. However, it’s for a great cause. You are learning the soft skills to actually become a better scientist and hopefully a better leader.
Sticking with graduate school yields to higher prestige, a better network, and most importantly, a higher pay.
With an advanced degree, you can teach and inspire students, get mad money from consulting or become a director of science in a multimillion dollar company.
It is an amazing opportunity to be in a job that has a potential of benefiting mankind.
I’ve gotten a ton of positive feedback from this little series. I will definitely do it again next year.
So I think the final thing I have to say is that did this change my mind about graduate school? Recall episode 30, where I didn’t have such a good experience. I have a job now, I’m making money… do I even have time to get an advanced degree and will it help me progress in the future?
I have 2 years of experience, an amazing network, and friends I can easily get letters of recommendation from my podcast guests. Should I apply to graduate school?
For me, I don’t think I need it yet. But now I know, through the people I’ve interviewed and through the amazing graduate school time line, I can do it, and this is important to really realize.
No matter what age, or where you are at life, as long as you are moving forward, you can always go to graduate school as a next step.