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BrainWaves: The Neuroscience Graduate Program Newsletter

Tips to a Successful First Year

Author: Fahed Abu-Hijleh

Dear first-year Neuroscience Graduate Students,

Welcome to the program, and congratulations on taking that leap of faith toward pursuing your dreams. You are closer to reaching your goals today than you were last January when you applied. Now that you are hopefully settled in, here are some tips aimed at helping you to make the most of your graduate experience.

  1. Make friends with your classmates in Neuro700: We’re all in this together. First-year can be overwhelming, and you may struggle a bit. However, you don’t need to go through that alone. More than likely, if you are feeling anxious about something (i.e., How to prep for your first committee meeting), someone else in your class probably is too! Making friends in the program will be very fulfilling since your classmates understand exactly what you are going through. And Neuro700 is your chance!
  2. Get involved with the different program initiatives:
    • Out of Our Minds – Neuroscience education outreach program; we introduce neuroscience to elementary and high school students
    • BrainWaves – Write articles in the monthly program newsletter. You don’t even have to commit to writing for every issue of the newsletter either!  
    • Student of MiNDS Association (SOMA) – Plan and attend social gatherings 
  3. Present a poster at a research conference: There are a bunch of neuroscience-related conferences out there. My advice is you present a poster at any conference that you can. As scientists, we must develop the skills to communicate effectively, and practice is the best way to do it. I would start looking at registering for conferences starting December/January. Here is a link to an article highlighting last year's conferences: BrainWaves: The Neuroscience Graduate Program Newsletter - Upcoming Neuroscience Conferences 2021 (Feb 2021)
  4. Write a manuscript: Remember, our goal as scientists is to communicate our findings to the scientific community effectively. Writing original articles, literature reviews, and/or commentaries is the way to do that. Publishing an article by next September can also drastically increase your chances of winning a scholarship! 
  5. Collaborate: McMaster must be one of the best universities when it comes to collaboration opportunities. If you have an idea that requires other experts to be involved, try setting up a meeting with the principal investigators to discuss.Enjoy yourself: Graduate school is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity. 
  6. Take (academic) risks and enjoy yourself. When things get too overwhelming, take the day off and collect yourself, you are not a machine! 

I hope these tips were helpful! Once again, welcome to the McMaster Graduate Neuroscience Program and good luck!