I’m fascinated by the question of how someone learns to be a good scientist, academic, colleague, collaborator, mentor, etc. The obvious answer is that we learn from our peers and mentors during our PhD and postdoctoral training. However, especially as a graduate student but occasionally now, it can feel like I’m flailing around in the dark about how best to handle a problem or respond to a situation. Like any true millennial, in addition to turning to friends and colleagues for the answer, I consult the interwebz.
In graduate school, I didn’t want to bother senior students and mentors with “silly” questions like how to write a specific type of email or how to ask someone to be on your PhD committee. Luckily, scientists and academics have been blogging about being a scientist and an academic for years. Many of their posts include suggestions for these questions as well as much broader and harder questions like “how do I apply for a faculty job or get tenure?” or “how to respond to reviewer comments for a manuscript?”
As a graduate student, I discovered these blogs just by googling my questions. But the other content was also interesting and relevant – eventually I decided to dedicate some time every week to reading these blogs to get other perspectives on being a scientist in academia. For me, this time became part of my professional development, something I did as a mental break during lunch or instead of browsing social media. When others ask me for reading recommendations about grad school or being a postdoc, instead of suggesting books I’ve taken to suggesting a list of blogs I regularly read (using an RSS feed) and explaining that I include this reading in my ‘professional development time’. For me, regularly reading these sites have been more valuable then attending workshops with titles like “Strategies for a successful postdoc” or “How to publish your manuscript”.
So I’m sharing these resources with you here (in no particular order) and I’d love to hear about others you read*! These sites are a good mix of science, life as a scientist, and life as an academic.
While you’re at it, you might as well check the blogs of your funding agencies if they have them, e.g., BioBuzz, DEBrief, MCBBlog, and IOS in Focus from NSF and NIGMS Feedback Loop and Office of Extramural Research Blog from NIH. Happy Reading!
* I’m not including The Molecular Ecologist in this list because you’re already here, but one of the reasons I now contribute to this site is I’ve been reading it for years!
** These blogs aren’t writing new content anymore, but their backlogs are pretty amazing.
***Not about academia or science – However, we as scientists don’t generally receive training in how to manage people yet it becomes a huge part of our job if we mentor undergraduates or become a PI. Ask a Manager is an amazing resource for those questions.