Managing Time as a Graduate Student

Written by Priyanjana Pramanik, Economics M.S. 2018

Having been a Jumbo now for one semester, I now feel entirely qualified to pass on the wisdom I have learned since arriving at Tufts in September. During orientation week, one of the pieces of advice I heard a lot were ‘You’re going to have to learn how to manage small amounts of time’. Another was this: ‘No matter what, try to maintain some semblance of work-life balance’. And I thought, ‘Piece of cake.’ As you can imagine, I was very, very wrong. In grad school, the workload creeps up on you: it is very reasonable and completely manageable, but you have to stay on top of it, all the time.

It’s Monday. You have an assignment due Thursday, and you think you have lots of time, because you do. You can’t get to it until Wednesday, but that should be okay, right? Except that on Wednesday, you receive a stack of papers to grade, plus there’s a recitation section you have to teach immediately after class, and now there’s a paper you have to read for Friday’s class. You wanted to go to office hours before your Thursday class, but now you won’t have time because of everything you need to do. And you need to do the dishes. And laundry.

Oh yeah, and next week, you have a project due, and your partner for it tells you he’s leaving town tonight and won’t be back until the day before.

That kind of snowballing kept happening to me towards the beginning. So I ended up staying up late to grade, waking up ridiculously early to finish assignments and generally turning into a sleep-deprived mess. I felt like I was working all the time, but was never getting on top of my work. I’m pretty sure this is a pretty common problem in grad school, but when it happens to me I feel like I’m out of control and everyone else has it all figured out, which is probably not true.

Anyway, while I haven’t figured everything out (I’m writing this at 7 a.m., think what you will), things are definitely better. I set a few rules for myself, and since I started making an effort to follow them, my workload hasn’t been quite as overwhelming.

  • I take sleep very, very seriously, and would probably spend more than sixteen hours a day at it if I could. One thing I’ve learned is that the less you sleep, the less you get done.
  • Do things before you need to do them. In my admittedly limited experience of grad school, there are times when you have a mountain of work and times when you have none, at not too many in between. Get things over with long before they’re due, and you can stop worrying about them.
  • Make notes on everything you need to get done. Until I got here, I’d never had a planner, or used the calendar app on my phone. Now, I use both. I schedule obsessively.
  • If things are already overwhelming, get a handle on it before you take on more. If you feel like you’re completely swamped, communicate. If you’re behind on your grading, or struggling with an assignment, talk to the professor you TA for, or your course instructor.

Problems with time management take away from how much rewarding and enjoyable graduate school really is, exhausting as it might be. And it’s okay not to have things completely under control from the beginning: we’re all learning as we go along.

The Sweet Sweat of the Sauna

Written by Sam Woolf, Mechanical Engineering M.S. 2017

A university campus is a perfect place for ideas to evolve and and grow. I am drawn to the specific locations that enable this idea incubation, places that foster interactions with interesting people of varying backgrounds. A handful of of these places on campus come to mind; the small coffee shop (Brown and Brew), the president’s lawn on a beautiful day, sharing a table in the dining halls. Though, the most fruitful location is the Tufts Sauna.

There isn’t a strong sauna culture, in the US, and definitely not in California, where I grew up. So, I wasn’t fully convinced of the virtues of pure sweating, until the jolliest Swede you’ll ever meet dragged me in. The first few sessions were painful, hot humid air overwhelming my senses, reducing my conversation to a slow trickle. Though, as my mind and body adapted, I began to see the true magic of the place.

The Tufts Coed Sauna is a small cedar walled room in the heart of the gym. The brown walls, and benches are lit by a warm incandescent bulb, and by the light that trickles through the windowed door. A single heating unit keeps the room at a balmy 105 degrees Fahrenheit and humid. Each time a ladle of water is tossed on the rocks, a wave of even hotter air washes over the place, tingling nose celia and jolting the senses. Unless you were specifically seeking it out, you could easily trot by, completely missing the best place on campus.

It is here, throughout the day, that minds from across the university meet to share a 10 minute sweat. In the sauna, everyone is equal. Occupants embrace the fact that they are a sweaty mess, and all cloaks of social preconceptions fall away. Whereas in the external world, things like appearance, power dynamics, and new friend anxiety permeate. Here, they fall to the floor, encapsulated in that first drip of perspiration.

A simple, “How is your Tuesday going?”, opens the levee, and my favorite conversations pour through. People share their hearts, thoughts, and stories. In just the last few weeks, I’ve shared sweat with a wide population of people who have stretched my mind.

I chatted with a Fletcher student who is currently attempting to solve an impossible problem: looking at Arctic oil drilling, how do we balance the economic benefits with the inevitable social and environmental costs? A friendly and heated conversation ensued, as we discussed the fallibility numbers, and the poorly placed incentives of capitalistic businesses.

I sparked a conversation with a retired firefighter, who spent 45 years working for the Medford Fire Department. His eyes lit up as he described the old Davis Square, a cross roads containing a handful of Dive Bars and Sandwich joints. He reminisced about the long weekend nights spent waiting for his twin 6’4” sons to stumble in, and give him the full details of what ever brawl had occurred that evening. Though be warned, this gentleman likes his saunas quite hot, and I had to excuse myself to a cool shower before I caught the end of his story.

Another day, two chatty Seniors in the Psychology department joined me. The conversation whisked me back a few years to when I was considering my life after undergrad. Their words were laced with both excitement and anxiety as they pondered what a future could look like.

There is no other place in my life where I deeply connect with people from so many walks of life. Every person that enters the room has gems of wisdom stored in their mind, the sauna provides a safe place where these ideas can be shared and expanded. Each time I enter the room, I am reminded of the genuinely interesting and interested people who spend their time around this Somerville-Medford hill. All it takes is a few words shared in a humble place to feel connected to this community.

The Story of Us All

Written by Alexandra Carter, English Ph.D. Candidate

After two years as a graduate student at Tufts, I have learned a lot, but one thing sticks out to me as I sit down to write this blog post: writing is perhaps the most demanding, anxiety inducing, and gratifying work we undertake as graduate students, especially in the humanities. And yet, I actually don’t believe this challenge is limited to humanities students. Indeed, what I am really suggesting is that we are all writers, no matter our discipline, and, additionally, that writing is hard work.

Because I am a Ph.D. student in the English department, I spend basically all of my time reading and writing. Thankfully, these are (not surprisingly) my two favorite things to do. But just because I take tremendous pleasure in reading and writing does not mean that they are easy tasks. Novel fatigue is real, and saying what you truly mean is actually quite difficult. In fact, sometimes it feels like reading and writing get harder and harder, despite the fact that I’m theoretically getting better and better at both.

I’m not alone in this. As graduate students, we all devote a lot of time and energy to reading and writing. Right now, though, I want to focus my attention on the issue of writing as a graduate student. While it may not be the only thing we do—we might find ourselves in the lab, on a stage, or conducting fieldwork—it remains a challenging aspect of nearly all of our graduate student careers.

My aim here is twofold. First, I want to acknowledge that figuring out how you write might be one of the trickier things you do during your time as a graduate student. I know that I am still very in much in the process of pinpointing how I do my best work. In truth, teaching in the First Year Writing program here at Tufts has prompted serious self-reflection on my own process, which has been an invaluable, albeit stressful, experience.

Second, I want to offer some suggestions and resources. The Academic Resource Center (ARC) offers writing tutors for graduate students in any discipline. I cannot urge you enough: go meet with one. Just try it. The tutors are trained to help with writing at any stage in the process, and they can be instrumental in getting you un-stuck and back on the right track.

This leads me to my next point: share your work with your colleagues. If you wait for what you have done to be perfect before you let anyone else see it, you will never let anyone else lay eyes on your work. If the spirit behind all of our work is communicating complex ideas with as much rigor as possible, then we should use the resources at our disposal: each other. (Plus, sometimes you just need to talk things out to see if you are making any sense.)

Finally, just get started. As a graduate student, it can be so easy to spend too much time second guessing yourself and not enough time allowing your ideas to flow. Questioning our work is one of the most important things we do, but don’t allow that to keep you from getting started. Challenges will undoubtedly arise along the way, but try not to let them get you down.

In fact, writing this blog post prompted a series of peculiar challenges for me. How do I write about writing? Is it possible to make my readers chuckle while talking about graduate level writing of all things? Can I make my readers realize that they are not alone in the pursuit of perfect prose? I suppose what I would like whoever is reading this to take away from my own experience is that yes, you are a writer, and while writing may be a challenge (and it likely always will be), it is not one that you have to tackle on your own.

New Year, New Bloggers!

Medford/Somerville, MA 4/23/08 -- Bendetson Hall on the Medford Campus on Wednesday April 23, 2008.

Greetings from the Office of Graduate Admissions! I’m Gabrielle Thomas, one of the many faces behind the scenes in admissions, and our Tufts ASE Grad Blogs! When our office started this blog a year ago, we wanted it to be a space where our graduate students could connect across the two schools, the many academic disciplines, and social platforms. However, this connection is not limited to our current students. We hope to give prospective applicants a peek into life as a graduate student here at Tufts, as well as provide our alumni with the opportunity to remain up to date on all things Jumbo. Basically, these blogs are diary entries of our students that thread the story of our past, present, and future as part of the Tufts community.

Of course a diary would have no pages without someone to write them, and in this case that would be our amazing graduate student bloggers. We started with a wonderful group of 4 bloggers that helped to launch the site last year. They spanned both the Graduate School of Arts and Sciences and School of Engineering with research that included stomatopods, clever robots, and bees! They shared updates on their research, how to maintain a social life while in graduate school (!), and the paths that have ultimately lead them to Tufts.

We found these blogs to be such delightful reads that we’re continuing the fun! A new school year of course means…new graduate bloggers. We now have 9 bloggers to continue filling the pages of our diary, and their stories will provide you with some great reading material. Our new cohort of bloggers can be found in many places around campus; the psychology department researching the role of media in body image issues, working on the social committee of the Graduate Student Council, or making the sauna in the gym the new social hub of campus.

We are very excited for the second year of our blogs and hope you all enjoy! Don’t forget to keep in touch by following us on Twitter and Instagram.

Happy holidays & happy reading!
Gabrielle

Pollen. It’s what’s for dinner.

Written by Rachael Bonoan, Biology Ph.D. Candidate

Imagine if your diet changed with the seasons. And it was out of your control.

During the spring, you can only eat cheese pizza. That’s it.

During the summer, you can eat pizza with any toppings you want. Finally, you have variety!

During the fall, you can either eat mushroom pizza or pepperoni pizza. No more variety.

And then during the winter, you must survive on any leftover pizza you might have saved.

That’s essentially what it’s like for honey bees.

I study nutritional ecology in honey bees; I am interested in how seasonal changes in honey bee diet affect honey bee behavior and health. Honey bees get most of their nutrients from nectar and pollen in flowers. Their diet naturally shifts with the seasons, and they have no control over it.

In New England, honey bees start the spring with mainly dandelions. In the summer, they have lots of diverse wildflowers and weeds to choose from. In the fall, there is basically only golden rod and aster available. And then in the winter, honey bees survive on the honey they made from the nectar they collected throughout the year. Their leftovers are really important.

This past summer, my interns and I set up 9 bee hives at the Tufts University Cummings School of Veterinary Medicine (more on that here). Once our hives were set up, 3 hives were left alone as our control hives, 3 hives were fed a semi-synthetic protein-diverse diet, and 3 hives were fed a semi-synthetic protein-deficient diet. The protein-diverse diet represented a diet made up of lots of flowers, or a polyfloral diet. The protein-deficient diet represented a diet made up of just one type of flower, or a monofloral diet.

Throughout the summer, we asked a couple questions.

First, would the bees fed the monofloral diet spend more time looking for food than the bees fed the polyfloral diet? To answer this question, we sat outside each hive and counted the number of bees leaving the hive. Since bees only leave the hive when they’re on the hunt for food, these counts gave us a good idea about the time spent collecting food. With 9 hives to collect data from, I had a lot of help this summer. Data collection would not have been possible without my interns!

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Tufts NSF Research Experience for Undergraduates intern Joanna Chang measuring foraging effort of a hive.

Lexington High School student Adam Winter measuring foraging effort of a hive.

Lexington High School student Adam Winter measuring foraging effort of a hive.

Second, would bees fed the monofloral diet collect pollen from more diverse floral sources than bees fed the polyfloral diet? In contrast to bees fed a nutrient-rich polyfloral diet, bees fed a nutrient-deficient monofloral diet likely need to supplement their diet. A way to supplement your diet? Eat different foods! For this question, we installed pollen traps on our hives. The pollen traps allow the bees to forage freely but there is an extra barrier to get through when they return to the hive with pollen. Bees carry pollen back to the hive on their legs.

Video of honey bees returning to the hive with pollen

The pollen trap has bee-sized mesh holes that returning bees need to crawl through. Since the mesh holes are just bee-sized, the pollen pellets get knocked off their legs and fall into a drawer. The drawer can be pulled out from the back of the hive and we have our pollen samples!

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Pollen trap drawer full of pollen.

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Close-up of inside the drawer of pollen.

Just last week, I sent our pollen samples out to Jonah Ventures, a company that will run DNA metabarcoding analyses on our samples. DNA metabarcoding allows Jonah Ventures to take our mixed sample of pollen, and identify which plants our bees collected pollen from. I should have that data back from Jonah Ventures by the end of the week!

The data analysis is ongoing so I don’t have any conclusive answers to our questions just yet but stay tuned!

Summer: Sun, travel and research

Written by Amanda Franklin, Biology Ph.D. Candidate

The dogwoods are flowering, there are tulips in the garden, and Tufts campus is becoming pretty empty: it’s summer break! It might not be summer break like in undergrad (several months of part time work and lying on the beach for me), but it does mean fewer commitments. I am no longer a teaching assistant, I don’t have lab meetings, and I don’t have a department seminar. So much more time for research, travel, and conferences!

And that’s exactly what I’ll be doing this summer.

In a few weeks, my family is visiting from Australia. We’re going to travel around some of the US national parks. Previously we’ve been to a bunch on the west coast, so this time we are heading to the Midwest and Northwest. It’ll be my first time in this region so I’m super excited not only for the national parks, but also to see a new part of the country. It’s great having the opportunity to see the US whilst living here!

My brother and I are going to fly into Denver, quickly check out the Rockies and then drive up to Rapid City, South Dakota to meet my parents. Many people have looked at me like I have no clue what I’m doing when I mention we’re going to South Dakota. But in South Dakota, there is The Badlands National Park, Black Hills National Forest and Mount Rushmore. From here we head to Grand Tetons NP and Yellowstone NP. I really hope we see some bison there and maybe, if we are really lucky, some wolves. We then take an 8-hour drive to Glacier National Park, which will still have a lot of snow and ice around, before finishing off in Banff National Park in Canada. It’s going to be a fantastic trip!

Summer is also when a lot of academic conferences are held. One of my favorite conferences is ISBE – International Society for Behavioural Ecology. It is held every second year in different places around the world. This July/August, it will be in Exeter in the UK. I am really lucky because I have secured funds from the Tufts Graduate School of Arts and Sciences as well as ISBE to help cover the costs of attending this conference. It is going to be really beneficial for me to meet people in my field and hear about the latest research. I’m also hoping I can fit in a visit to Harry Potter Studios in London!

The last, and most important, benefit of summer is the extra time I have to do research! I can spend the days conducting experiments rather than fitting experiments in around my other commitments. This summer I am starting two new experiments, so the extra time is really beneficial to get them up and running. One project will be investigating whether changes in environmental conditions affects stomatopod (mantis shrimp) communication. Stomatopods are very visual, so any changes that affect the light environment could reduce the effectiveness of visual signals. The second involves recording stomatopod punch force. Stomatopods can punch extremely hard (they have been known to break aquarium glass) and I’m investigating whether they signal their strength before punching. The biology department at Tufts is really broad, so I have the opportunity to work with the Tytell lab to complete this project. They are experts in biomechanics, so it’ll be great to collaborate and learn from them.

Summer is a great time of year for a grad student. The extra time for the activities mentioned above is really wonderful. But in addition to that, events start popping up left, right, and center. Porchfest in Somerville, free jazz on the Harbor Islands, and outdoor craft and farmer’s markets all over. Everyone loves to get out and about after the winter. Summer in Boston really is my favorite time of year!

My year in review and one thing I wish I knew when I started

Written by Vasanth Sarathy, Computer Science Ph.D. Candidate

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Super Mario Bros. 2

It’s hard to believe that I am done with my first full academic year at Tufts. I know everyone says time flies, but I often find that expression to be meaningless in the moment and unhelpful in hindsight. When I am going through a challenging time I rarely feel like time flies and when it’s done, I don’t find myself at peace with the knowledge that it went by quickly. But, sometimes, not always, that expression can bring to bear something quite empowering and confidence-boosting: the idea that experiences, both good and bad, are fleeting and must be, for the lack of a better term, experienced and learned from. I learned a lot this past year, and if there is one thing I wish I knew when I started is to have confidence in myself and in my commitment to learn. It can be challenging entering a new environment, but I think it is okay to strive to be confident in your own abilities and experiences.

I am a Computer Science and Cognitive Science student, which means I am required to take CS classes and also classes in other cognitive science topics like Philosophy and Psychology. I love learning new things and this past year has been all about learning fun new concepts. I learned about interesting questions in Computer Science like what is the computational complexity of video games like Super Mario Brothers, which by the way was proven to be NP-Complete (math-speak for really, really hard for computers) by our own Tufts Professor Greg Aloupis. For the mathematically inclined amongst us, see here for proof. I was able to learn about fascinating and profound philosophical questions about our own minds, consciousness and the ties between cognitive science and artificial intelligence with none other than Professor Dan Dennett. Philosophy, math, and computer science came together in a single class this semester for me as I learned about Turing Machines and the limits of what computers can do, all from Tufts’ award-wining Professor Ben Hescott. Ben brought a level of excitement, entertainment and humor to theoretical computer science that I have never seen. Check out this news story about him. Who knew humor could help with learning. Apparently researchers looking into this very question did all along!

Besides learning how to answer questions, I also got the opportunity to learn how to ask them in my research. I explored some interesting questions around how we perceive objects in our environment. How do we reason that sometimes we can use coins as screwdrivers or pens as bottle openers? Believe me, I tried it and it really works! Asking these questions and beginning to find answers to them has allowed me to travel to scientific conferences this past year and afforded me the opportunity find mentors and discuss my work with other researchers.

I also discovered all the great programs and opportunities Tufts has for folks who want to learn to share their ideas. We had Tufts Ignite, Cognitive Science Graduate Symposium and the Tufts Graduate Research Symposium, to name a few. In addition, the Greater-Boston area celebrates Cambridge Science festival every year and this year, the postdoctoral researchers from Tufts and MGH put together a great spotlight talks event at the Rattlesnake in Boston. Several graduate students and postdocs from Tufts and MGH gave short talks to the general public (and I really mean general public) about their research. I had the good fortune of being involved in these talks and I really began to appreciate the importance of communicating your ideas to the world.

So, looking back, it has been an exciting first year. I thought being confident was about how much you knew. If you wanted to be confident in programming then you should know Java, right? But, having completed my first year (and learning Java), I am humbled by the discovery of all the new things I must now learn. It appears as I learn, the amount there is left to learn keeps growing, and growing at a faster and faster rate. As daunting as this sounds, I began to realize that this is a good thing. It means I can now shift my focus from maximizing what to learn to instead optimizing my learning process. Being confident is not about how much you know, but about your commitment to learning and the quality of your process of learning.

I am looking forward to the summer, when I get to dig a bit deeper into my research, work with and mentor some talented undergrads, and build robots!

Happy summer!

Join a Tufts GSO, Meet People, and DO Things!

Written by Rachael Bonoan, Biology Ph.D. Candidate

At Tufts, the Graduate Student Council (GSC) sponsors twenty-one (and counting!) Graduate Student Organizations (GSOs). Most GSOs are departmental, such as the Tufts English Graduate Organization, but there are also interest-based GSOs such as the Tufts Graduate Student Anime Club. Being a part of a GSO is a great way to get to know people both inside and outside your department—any GSO event that is funded by the GSC is required to be open to all Tufts graduate students! For example, the Biology Union of Graduate Students (BUGS) hosted an ice cream social on May 13, 2016. Since the event is funded by the GSC, the event goes on the Tufts GSC Online Calendar and all graduate students are welcome! There’s almost always something going on!

Being a part of a GSO is also a great way to DO things. Last month, I attended the USA Science and Engineering Festival in Washington D.C. with my GSO, BUGS. The festival’s mission is one close to my heart: “to stimulate and sustain the interest of our nation’s youth in science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM).” Last year, two BUGS members, Emily Pitcairn and Kyle Jewhurst, put together a BUGS USA Science and Engineering Festival committee. Over the course of a year, our committee got broken up into sub-committees, each in charge of a particular aspect of planning for the festival. When it was time to attend the festival, BUGS had three interactive activities to present at our booth. All of our activities went along with our booth’s theme: “Life is communication.”

During the 3-day long festival (which hosted over 3,000 interactive STEM activities and 50 stage shows), an estimated 350,000+ visitors came by our booth! Thankfully, we had a team of twelve BUGS at the festival. Three BUGS at a time took shifts (about two hours long) at our booth—taking turns kept us refreshed and focused on the activity—and outreach!—at hand.

The activity my sub-committee worked on was The Bee Box. The Bee Box allowed visitors to see how bees see by shining a blacklight on a “garden” inside the box. The blacklight revealed UV patterns on flowers (called nectar guides) that bees use to find pollen and nectar. Without the help of the special light, these patterns are invisible to us!

We also brought flatworms (planaria) that allowed visitors to learn about cellular communication. If a flat worm is cut in half, the head portion grows another tail and the tail portion grows another head. You end up with two healthy, functional flatworms! If you block cellular communication with certain drugs however, you will end up with double headed or double tailed worms. Visitors used a microscope hooked up to a tablet to investigate these worms for themselves.

Our third interactive activity taught visitors about the communication between DNA and RNA. Visitors used DNA “building blocks” to build their own model organism.

While off duty, we wandered around the festival. Among other things, we got to hold hissing cockroaches, found out which plant pathogen our personality matched, and visited Mars. We also got to hear Wil Wheaton (Stand by Me, Stark Trek: The Next Generation, Big Bang Theory) give an inspiring talk about the role of art in science. Without art, it’s difficult to get the general public excited and interested in science! (Wil’s first exposure to the awesome-ness of science was watching Stark Trek.) As a field biologist myself, I have seen how important creativity is in science as well. (I spend a lot of time at the hardware store during the field season.)

In the end, the festival was a success—for for both the science communicator and the science nerd in me—and and if it hadn’t been for BUGS, I would not have made it there! The festival is held every two years—we’re already looking forward to 2018!

Other Tufts groups represented at the festival were the Center for Engineering Education and Outreach, the DevTech Research Group, the Cummings School of Veterinary Medicine, the Medical School Center for Translational Science Education, and the Bioinformatics Inquiry through Sequencing (BioSeq) group.

Rachael Bonoan USA Science & Engineering 1

From left to right: (TOP) Marcus Lehr, Varandt Khodaverdian, Kyle Jewhurst, Ishtiaque Quasem (MIDDLE) Taylor Sands-Marcinkowski, Brenna Gormally, Clare Parker, Emily Pitcairn (BOTTOM) Rachael Bonoan, Kaylinnette Pinet, Elizabeth Landis

How Bees See

Rachael Bonoan USA Science & Engineering 5 Rachael Bonoan USA Science & Engineering 6 Rachael Bonoan USA Science & Engineering 7 Rachael Bonoan USA Science & Engineering 8 Rachael Bonoan USA Science & Engineering 9

Rachael Bonoan USA Science & Engineering 10

 

What to do in Philosophy at Tufts?

Written by Jiali Liu, Philosophy M.A. 2017

Hi readers! Medford has officially entered its early summer season. With moderate humidity and pleasant breeze, it is neither too cold nor too warm. For the past two months, I’ve been busy with coursework and preparing to get back to China in the summer (yay!!!). I’m also very excited about the new cohort in the Philosophy Department!

For today’s post, I want to talk about some programs organized by Tufts’ Philosophy Department that engage faculty members, graduate students, and philosophically inclined undergraduates. The first has to be the Philosophy Club (aka free pizza club)! Every month on a Thursday, two professors from the department would lead a discussion and pose philosophical questions on a chosen topic from current affairs. I joined the past discussions on the justification for punishment, children in philosophy, pornography, and issues involving consent. I was able to talk with other students from all majors and years and we challenged each other’s opinions on the topic. The philosophy club is a great avenue to exchange knowledge and find for oneself some like-minded philosophical pals.

The second is the Graduate Student Writing Seminar. As the name suggests, it is exclusively offered for graduate students as a course in the first semester of the second year in the program. The seminar is dedicated to a semester-long peer review and editing on potential PhD applicants’ writing sample. Even for students who are not applying for the coming school year, the seminar helps them to produce a philosophically insightful piece of writing before graduation. I’m in particular excited about this seminar because all graduate students in the department get to work together, with each of their own interests and experiences in philosophy to cross-examine different philosophical arguments and deepen an intellectual bond with others. The Master program is only for two years—many students decide to continue in philosophy and many others transition to something else. It is indeed a precious opportunity for all of us in the program to collaborate on one project for an entire semester during which important career decisions are made.

The third is the Intercollegiate Ethics Bowl, a competition at the department where teams of undergraduate students explore contemporary ethical problems and dilemmas. We graduate students usually volunteer to moderate or judge the competition on the day of the event. The one last team will take the championship and move on to compete in the Northeastern regional competition. Everyone, including me, participating in this year’s Ethics Bowl made their contribution to a lively intellectual environment at the department as well as across the campus.

The department also sponsors Graduate Student and Faculty Discussion series throughout the academic year. The series usually takes place on a Wednesday afternoon where the guest speak, usually a professor in the department, talks about his/her current philosophical project. The series has proven highly efficient in bringing together research ideas and offers a great chance for graduate students to discuss vis-à-vis with faculty members on latest developments and trends in philosophical research. I remembered the talk given by Professor Jody Azzouni where he talked about his book in metaphysics, and it’s named “Talk about Nothing!”

Has reading about all these programs ignited your passion in philosophical discourse? For many graduate students, academic life is intermingled with professional networking. I try to strike a balance between intensive philosophical training and building up friendships and relationships. The department provides ample opportunities in both regards and encourages me to continue enjoying philosophy both at work and in life.

 

Mastering Your Time

Written by Rachael Bonoan, Biology Ph.D. Candidate

Rachael Bonoan Mastering Your Time blog picOne of the hardest things about my transition into graduate school was becoming the Master of my own time. As an undergraduate at UMass Dartmouth, I took more credits than were necessary (I am a biology nerd and wanted to take as many upper level biology classes as I could), I was the president of two on-campus clubs, I did research on zebra finches, and I worked 20-30 hours a week (off campus) as a pharmacy technician. I had syllabuses, meeting schedules, a set research schedule, and a work schedule. Homework and studying got done whenever there was a spare moment. (Most often, this was at my favorite coffee shop near campus.) I was not the Master of my own time.

When I first arrived in graduate school, my advisor told me to take a couple weeks to read everything I could about my topic of interest (honey bee health and nutrition!). Easy, right? Not for me. As an undergrad, two of my closest friends were in most of my classes; studying and homework happened in a group. Sitting in a library, reading by myself, was HARD. I sat in the library reading for what seemed like hours, only to look up and find only minutes had passed. I am in the sciences to discuss ideas and collaborate with people, not to shut myself out and read (though I do understand this is sometimes necessary). That first year, I figured out two ways to make my days spent reading bearable and productive.

First, I needed a good playlist. I tried Spotify and Pandora, but I quickly got bored (and there were too many ads if you didn’t pay). Then, I discovered Songza—now Google Play music. What I love about Google Play is that you pick your playlist based on activity and/or mood–and there aren’t a bunch of ads! This allowed me to discover playlists I would have never imagined, like “Relaxing Film Scores” for getting through a dense paper.

Second, I needed a change of scenery. Sitting in the library all day wasn’t doing it. I scheduled blocks of time to read, followed by short breaks to walk and find somewhere else to read. While studying for my qualifying exam, I went to nearly every coffee shop within a three-mile radius of campus.

Regarding planning blocks for reading, and breaks for walking, I needed a planner. I have tried a few different types of planners; the one that works best for me is the Passion Planner. The Passion Planner breaks down each day into half-hour increments—allowing for some serious scheduling and time management. I have also discovered some amazing erasable pens that allow me to color-code and move things around in my planner without it getting messy (I’m a bit type-A like that).

The Passion Planner also has a space to create a prioritized “work” to-do list as well as a “personal” to-do list (can’t forget to buy groceries and do laundry) each week. Every Monday morning, I sit down with my Passion Planner and erasable pens, and plan out my week. My plan often changes as the week goes on and things come up (hence, the erasable pens). The prioritized list helps me decide what can be pushed off and what needs to get done (for example, writing this blog post was in the “top priority” section of this week’s to-do list).

This is what works for me—it won’t work for everyone. If you are having trouble finding your own style of time management, there are people that can help you! The Academic Resource Center at Tufts actually has Time Management Consultants that will sit down with you and help you work out a personalized time management strategy! The Graduate School of Arts & Sciences also puts on a time management workshop (this is where I discovered the Passion Planner) that is a bit of a survey of various strategies.

One last tip that I learned at the time management workshop that I think everyone can benefit from—no matter their work style—take effective breaks. Take a coffee break, a snack break, an exercise break, a power nap break, a coloring break. Do whatever it is you need to do to keep your mind and body fueled. You will be a lot more productive!

I like to take a break by taking a walk to the Rez (a student-run coffee shop in the Campus Center) for some caffeination and a treat (they have delicious muffins). If the weather’s nice, I also enjoy sitting on the Tisch Library Roof where there is a beautiful view of the city and fresh air. With the beautiful city lights at night, the Library Roof makes a great place to clear your mind day or night (grad school can sometimes mean late nights in the lab)!