How to be “that” efficient graduate student…
Completing a Ph.D. can take anywhere from 6-9 long, long, long years. But it does NOT have to be that way, AT ALL. So, what is the secret to be “that” really efficient and productive graduate student that everyone in the department speaks of ( with a bit of envy of course since they can’t figure out your secret)?
It’s easy, just..
Conduct several large big experiments instead of lots of small experiments.
So, what the hell does that even mean? You may think the key to being an efficient graduate student is to multi-task 10 experiments at once. Yes, you CAN do that but this easily leads to burnout and too many frustrations. Instead, do several large big experiment that investigates several variables at once (don’t forget your positive and negative controls)! That’s what I call doing multitasking, the EFFICIENT way.
Why is this more efficient? Because time is precious! Let’s take an organic chemist, for example, who runs the same reaction over-and-over again which takes 12 hours to complete each time. She wants to investigate how changing the concentration of her reactant affects her overall yield. To explore 3 different amounts, a typical graduate student would run these reactions one after the other. However to be an efficient graduate student, she runs all 3 reactions in parallel with each other. This saves her about 24 hours of reaction time! That’s a whole day! This does not even account for the time it takes to prepare glassware, weigh samples, set-up the reaction, work up the reaction, and analyze the product. Wouldn’t it be easier to slowly do this all at once instead of quickly repeating all these steps three separate times?
Biology based-experiments are PRIME ways to multitask using this strategy. In another example, let’s take a biochemist performing a cell assay in 96-well plates. The biochemist wants to explore the efficacy of her cancer drug in a CHO cell line at 3 incubation times using 5 different concentrations. This may seem like a lot to handle but I guarantee it is manageable to do in one full scoop! If you have worked with cells before, preparing cells can be a HUGE-pain which take days JUST to prepare for the experiment! In another example, if you want to study a particular protein expressed from E.coli cells, that takes about a week JUST to harvest the protein! Don’t allow biology and living experiments to dictate the time of your PhD journey!
Now how do I make sure I can plan my experiments properly? Check out the following blog post that breaks down 3 Key HACKs that will guarantee to make you a more efficient researcher in the lab. Here’s to (about) 4 years of graduate school!
Hit the follow button and check back for our next post soon.
-the Grad School HACKERS