Open Channel: Advice to Pre-Quals Grad Students

Hey folks. This week, I thought we could tap into the accumulated experience of those Neuroblog readers who have made an excellent life decision, and entered graduate school. In honor of my first Neuroscience Superfriends* seminar, let’s discuss the many potential answers to the following question:

What advice would you give to first-year students in a Neuroscience PhD program?

I’ve had a response to this question ready and waiting for the past 2 years. Here it is, verbatim from communications with the talented graduate student who introduced me before my seminar.

Over the next few years, your science is going to fail. A lot. It'll suck. Like, soul-crushing levels of suckitude. Lest you take all that failure to heart, get yourself an external control. Pick an activity, one you aren't already extremely good at. An activity where there is a reasonable chance that as you continue to do said activity, you'll get better at it. Practice that activity. Watch yourself get better. Remind yourself that you are capable of learning; that working at something will make you better at it. Then, when your experiments fail for the 50 billionth time in your fourth year, you can remind yourself that you aren't a complete fuck up. Science just sucks, sometimes.

So that’s my bit of advice.

Senior graduate students (or not so senior students), what is your advice? What do you all think is the one bit of advice you’d give to the newly minted Graduate Student in Neurosciences?

The comment section is open. Send in your thoughts!


*A seminar series wherein senior-level graduate students give 30 minute talks to the Stanford Neuroscience PhD community.


Astra Bryant

Astra Bryant is a graduate of the Stanford Neuroscience PhD program in the labs of Drs. Eric Knudsen and John Huguenard. She used in vitro slice electrophysiology to study the cellular and synaptic mechanisms linking cholinergic signaling and gamma oscillations – two processes critical for the control of gaze and attention, which are disrupted in many psychiatric disorders. She is a senior editor and the webmaster of the NeuWrite West Neuroblog