Survival Tips for Incoming MiNDS Students

Author: John Krzeczkowski & Lisa Dyce

Hey new graduate students!

Congratulations and welcome to MiNDS! We are all very excited to have you in the program and are looking forward to getting to know you in the year ahead. The jump to graduate school is an exciting one, but it can also be challenging, nerve-racking and overwhelming at times. As graduate students who were in your shoes just one year ago, here are a few tips we’d like to share to help you get off to a great start in MiNDS: 

1) Get to know your classmates, upper year students and MiNDS faculty. The students and faculty in the MiNDS program are very supportive and will help you with anything and everything, from providing tips for your scholarship applications to helping you navigate around campus. Come out to the lunches and gatherings before and after the colloquia to meet your peers, and don’t be afraid to learn about their research or tell them about yours.

2) Get involved. The MiNDS program has a number of extracurricular activities that you can become involved in. You can share your passion for neuroscience as a team member with our neuroscience education outreach program, Out of Our MiNDS, plan and attend social gatherings with the Students Of MiNDS Association, (you’ll hear it referred to as “SOMA”), or write an article to be published here in Brainwaves. You can even branch outside of MiNDS and join any of the interesting clubs and organizations within the graduate and McMaster communities.


3) Befriend an agenda. Between juggling your research, classes, TAships, volunteer commitments and your social life (yes, you can still have one… please see point 6!) it can be hard to keep track of important dates and deadlines. Have one place where you can keep track of your schedule and plan ahead. 

4) Start early! Scholarship applications, abstract submissions and conference registrations are inevitable and important parts of graduate school. Even if a deadline seems far away initially, it doesn’t take long for your schedule to fill up. Start completing your applications early so that you don’t have to rush. 

5) Block time for reading and writing. As you get started in your research, it is important to say on top of readings. However, we have found that reading articles and practicing scientific writing often get put on the backburner. To prevent this, block off a set amount of time each week to dedicate to reading and writing to aid in your success as a researcher.

6) Take breaks and pace yourself. Graduate student life can be overwhelming at times – there always seems to be more work to do or         articles to read! It’s important to take breaks from your work so that you can stay healthy and motivated.

7) Neuro700. This is much more than a graduate introductory neuroscience course! In addition to gaining a solid foundation in neuroscience, you will learn how to write grant proposals, critically analyze scientific articles and refine your presentation skills. It is important to stay on top of the readings, participate in class and embrace the opportunity to learn about material that some of you may be unfamiliar with. One of the most amazing things about the MiNDS program is the diverse background that our incoming students have. Whether you have an undergraduate degree in neuroscience or you have never taken a neuroscience course before, you’ll learn a lot in Neuro700! 

We really hope that you find these tips helpful! Although graduate school can be a tremendous challenge, it is important to remember that you’ve worked hard to get here and that you will have a successful and enjoyable graduate career. We’re all excited to see what you’ll accomplish in your time here in the MiNDS program. 

Good luck!