(Academic) New Year’s Resolutions Revisited

Last August, I made a post about my academic new year’s resolutions. Now that the actual new year has rolled around and a new semester has started, it’s time to revisit these goals. What did I accomplish, and what do I want to take on in this new calendar year?

1. Grad school work: science and lab work

  • Last semester, I aimed to complete key experiments that will make up the first figures of my first paper. Did I do this? Well, yes and no – I did complete the experiments I set out to do, but my advisory committee advised me to alter my protocol for a few of those experiments.
    • For this semester, I aim to finish those experiments ASAP. My calendar is out, my schedule is made, I just need to grow up the necessary cells/amplify the relevant plasmids/cast the gels I need and DO IT.
  • I also had the goal of reading papers and keeping up with the literature in my field. Which I did not do. I read a lot of PubMed email alerts, and I at least skim-read the papers that my supervisor sent me, but that’s about it.
    • This semester, I want to figure out how I can build the habit of reading papers. This might involve setting up some kind of spreadsheet or notebook to track how much time I spend reading – I will keep you all posted.
  • This wasn’t one of my goals but it did happen: following my advisory committee’s advice, I started my first draft of my first paper (!!) in December.
    • I have a preliminary deadline for the Materials and Methods, Figures + figure legends and Results sections. This deadline is also making me realize that writing Materials/Methods and making figures takes way more time and fiddling than I expected.

2. Career development

  • Last semester, I completed the skills and interest quiz over at myIDP, and I made myself a very preliminary five-year plan (which covers the rest of my PhD and my transition into whatever’s next).
    • This semester, I want to think more deeply about the non-academic careers that interest me, so that I can look up training programs and conferences that are relevant to those career paths (ex: if I’m interested in science journalism, what are the deadlines to apply to Canadian journalism schools?).
  • I also read a career development book: Next Gen PhD by Melanie V. Sinche. I found it to be a pretty useful reference.
    • There are currently a bunch of sticky notes poking out of that book. My immediate next step will be to take notes of what I found relevant from that book so that I can return it to the library.

3. Community involvement

  • Last semester, I did start writing blog posts for GradLife, and I aim to keep going. 🙂
  • I attended most of my graduate student association’s events. Fun times were had!
  • I also volunteered for a McGill Let’s Talk Science event. If you’re in science, technology, engineering or mathematics and are interested in doing some community outreach with students (the age range goes from early elementary school to CEGEP), I recommend that you check LTS out.

4. Health goals

  • I wanted to make good use of my health insurance and get some preventative health care appointments – which I did!
    • Now I just want/need to get new glasses.
  • As for exercise, I am pretty happy with how I did last semester. I went swimming about once a week, I semi-regularly attended a yoga class, and I participated in my grad student association’s intramural volleyball team.
    • For this semester, I decided to keep going to the pool once a week, but to sign up for the gym instead of a fitness class. I signed up for some races in May/June, and I want to get an early start on running season.
    • I also do want to try rock climbing at least once. I tried bouldering  many years ago, and I would like to try it again.

5. Having fun/the life part of a “work-life balance”

  • I aimed to play an instrument at least three times a week, and I ended up playing maybe once a week. I could do better.
  • Reading for fun was a smashing success: I ended up finishing over 20 books between September and December!
  • I had the knitting goal of making an ugly sweater, and I knit a shawl with a DNA double helix pattern instead. I’m happy with this outcome.
    • I aim to finish a tuque before winter is over.

How about you? If you set yourself some academic resolutions, how did it go? Are you making New Year’s Resolutions this year? Or do you think the new year is an arbitrary time to set these kinds of goals? Let me know in the comments!

Header picture by @christinekts for GradLife McGill

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