Everybody Needs A: PhD
Feb28

Everybody Needs A: PhD

Way back in 1996, Norman Cook (you might know him better by the alias Fatboy Slim) released the album Better Living Through Chemistry, containing the song "Everybody Needs a 303." Although I was only 7 when it was released, I still greatly enjoy the song, and most of the album. Furthermore, the album/track serve as an excellent jump-off point for me to make terrible puns, and share some wisdom. And that's really the most important part...* Although I haven't been doing this whole chemistry thing for that long, I've picked up some good ideas along the way that can make time in/out of lab much more enjoyable. In the effort to better everyone's living while doing chemistry, I'd like to present a series of posts about certain things that everybody 'needs'¹ to help them get by as a researcher in chemistry. 1: 'Needs' is obviously a relative term. Some are serious, some are not, and some are more opinionated than others. *For the music geek, compulsive wikipedia-er: If you're curious, the "303" is the Roland TB-303 synthesizer. It's that bubbly sounding synth, featured most prominently in "Everybody Needs a 303" after the 2:25 mark. Cousin to the TR-808, and -909 drum machines, it's pretty classic/oldschool. So, if you're still curious, go check out it's wander around its wikipedia page or something - it's...

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Fear and Loathing over Recruitment Weekend
Feb28

Fear and Loathing over Recruitment Weekend

Plain and simple: recruitment weekends are awesome, if not a little bit overwhelming. Generally, there's 48 hours or less to figure out three important things: Is this the department for me? Which professors would I actually want to work for? How best can I take advantage of free drinks, while not getting too drunk? It's definitely taxing, especially when you start mixing 1 and 2 with 3. With my first weekend down, here are some extensive tips I've rapidly developed (prototyped?) to not just survive recruitment weekend, but to really 'overclock' your experience. Have a notepad: I strongly suggest you take notes. Not full lecture notes or anything, but little blurbs to help jog your memory. If you think of a question but can't ask it just yet, write it down, lest you forget. If you're really on your game, you might find little stretches here and there where you've developed a backlog of 5-10 questions and when you finally get to ask those questions, you don't want to be left with the lingering feeling of "crap... what else did I want to ask, and was it even important?" As soon as you're done meeting with an individual professor, dump anything you can remember about the interaction into the notepad. Their research, follow up questions you'd like to ask, their general demeanor - anything. It might help you later on. You're more than likely going to be on the move all day, and you'll probably end up with hands full of an admissions folder, and perhaps handouts from individual professors. I found great success with a pocket sized notepad - something that's virtually weightless and out of your hands, but with easily accessible for quick/discreet notes while somebody's giving you a presentation.The Rhodia No 12 is my weapon of choice. Know when to speak up/keep quiet: Yes, yes, it's a recruitment weekend, and that means ask questions about anything and everything. However, I think there's a better way to go about asking all those questions, and that sometimes discretion is the better part of valor. Consider the following: Sometimes, you're going to be in group situations, where your guide presents information to you in a general manner, but you have a very specific question. This happens a lot during the facilities tour. Rather than slow down the tour with questions/geeking out over remote data accessibility, Bruker vs Varian, or how accurate the auto-probe-tuning is, you can just jot down your question, and ask it later. That way, as your on your way out, you can pull the NMR tech aside, ask a quick question or two, and then catch...

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Welcome
Feb22

Welcome

For the past week or so, perhaps you've noticed the curious "Transition States" link just beneath the search bar, without any content. After getting things situated, we're finally ready to open up shop. So, welcome to Transition States! In general, our focus here will be about the transition from undergrad researcher to grad student, and all that goes along with it. Maybe one day from grad student to post doc and beyond, but let's not get ahead of ourselves. We hope to document the process: between applications, campus visits, talking with grad students, post docs, and professors, it’s all new territory to us, to the point we’d like to write about it, and share it. It’s our hope to generate response, and advice for our own situations, and more importantly, we hope to develop a detailed account of the whole endeavor, with tips, tricks, and questions we wish we would have asked, to help future batches of up-and-comers. Obviously, life as an undergrad researcher extends beyond grad school applications, and we'll be covering those aspects, too, including life in lab, classes, ‘the literature,’ the future job market, ethics, trends, or just general musings. It’s all stuff we (still) find exciting enough to write about it, even after working all day around it; we want to present it in a way that even those who also work in chemistry will still find it interesting to read. C&EN has been gracious enough to ask us to write for them, and we're beyond excited to oblige. Now, that the official 'mission statement' is out of the way, who's the "we?" Well, I go by Chiral Jones, and my co-blogger is Sidechain Bob (who will be making his introduction shortly). Best pseudonyms ever, right? Anyway, I'm a senior undergrad in my second full year of research, and I've been blogging for over a year at Chiral Jones. Primarily, I'm interested in total synthesis, but I also like to dabble in diversity-oriented work. Luckily, I get to do both right now, and I hope to continue this kind of work in grad school. Check back soon for full "About" sections, and the introduction of Sidechain...

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