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Graduate Education

The chemistry graduate school experience

The journey to becoming a Ph.D. can feel like a roller coaster. Here’s how to hang on

by Linda Wang
September 9, 2018 | A version of this story appeared in Volume 96, Issue 36
An illustration combining various scenes from a graduate student's experience.

Credit: Ryan Inzana



The chemistry graduate school experience

Graduate school. For those who have been through the experience, those two words can conjure up a roller coaster of memories and emotions. Because graduate school is such a unique and defining experience, we wanted to trace the journey from beginning to end. In the next five stories, we tackle the major milestones: deciding whether to go to graduate school, choosing a research program and adviser, navigating the ups and downs of the experience, coping with unanticipated changes, and finally, preparing for life after grad school ends.

But really, who better to describe the experience than graduate students themselves? So in the second part of this package, we invited graduate students to give us a glimpse of the issues they have faced. They shared tales of battling impostor syndrome, confronting sexual harassment, pondering a future in chemistry with an undocumented status, and much more. Lego Grad Student injects a dose of levity, and Chemjobber offers tips on getting a head start on the job market.

We also asked some of chemistry’s most promising young scientists—members of C&EN’s Talented 12 and the CAS SciFinder Future Leaders—to offer their advice for making the most of the grad school experience. We invite you to share advice on social media using #chemgradlife; we’ll feature some of your best tips in C&EN.

If you’re considering graduate school, let this package serve as your road map. If you’ve been through graduate school, let us take you down memory lane. If you’re currently in graduate school, hang on, because this experience is unlike any other in a chemist’s journey to becoming an independent scientist. And remember—you’re not alone. You will survive.


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