As a part of our regular engagement with members, the ACS Insight Lab, an online panel for ACS members, hosted a discussion board to allow students to get advice from chemical professionals. The focus of the conversation was how to prepare for graduate school and what to expect.
After a lively and engaging discussion, we selected three questions and a few of their answers to share with you. Check out the advice below! (And, if you like what you read below, join the ACS Insight Lab to participate in future discussions.)
Which skills should I gain during graduate school to make me an attractive candidate for an industry position?
• Learn how to fit into any team and be able to adapt your role as the team changes. (Hint: You must know your strong points and embrace your weak points.)
• Become comfortable with getting in front of a group of people and speaking clearly and competently. Also try to master written communication and graphics tools (Photoshop, Illustrator, Word, Excel, PowerPoint, Lightroom, etc.). This will show that you are capable of articulating and presenting clear, concise ideas and findings to fellow scientists and non-scientists.
How should I select from graduate programs of varying prestige?
Try to get into the most prestigious school for the following reasons:
• Funding: The faculty there will in general have more grant money for funding your studies so you won't have to serve as a TA as much.
• Contacts and networking: Again, the faculty will have more contacts (former students, contacts via consulting, etc.) so that they hear about more potential openings and can recommend you for an interview.
• Recruiting: Companies have limited resources so they will usually pick a small group of schools that they will visit. The better the department, the increased odds of more companies coming in for interviews.
Which basic prerequisites should I have to start my PhD?
Your acceptance into a PhD program puts you in the top 5% of the general populace in terms of academic ability so don't ever forget that. Here are a few steps that can help:
• Be organized .Once you know what you're going to do, make a detailed plan of execution and modify as you go.
• Reach out to senior grad students; they are among the best resources you'll have. They know everything that could go wrong and by talking to them you can save yourself a lot of heartache and wasted time. If necessary, go out of your way to be friends with them.
• Set time aside for a little socialization and professional development. This will keep you motivated to complete the task at hand.
Aside from these helpful pieces of advice, here are a few ACS graduate school resources that were also shared during the discussion: