The five years in her PhD program included some of the best and hardest educational experiences of assistant professor Maureen Estevez Stabio’s life. She wants every student to have an equally transformative experience. Your PhD program is a time to learn and grow. To figure out what you love. Don’t let these goals get left behind in the dust of the urgent.
When students ask Dr. Stabio for advice on how to do well in graduate school, she usually offers these three pieces of advice.
- Follow your passions and talents
- Pick your advisor and lab wisely
- Learn to write well
Two effective forms of dissertation writing groups are those dedicated to quiet writing in the companionable presence of others and those that focus on support for the dissertation writing process. This post describes ways to make both types successful.
A third kind of group is structured to share writing and provide peer feedback. I wrote about them in Dissertation Writing Groups | Feedback and Motivation.
Dissertation writing can be an isolating experience. The magnitude of the project can overwhelm. Dissertation writing groups—comprised of fellow dissertators who provide feedback—are a lifeline.
There are three kinds of writing groups:
The dissertation feedback groups I participated in as a doctoral student were instrumental in my success. They certainly improved my work. My productivity increased. In this blog post, I reprise and update the advice I compiled shortly after I graduated. 
Perfectionist gridlock is being stuck in place for fear of not doing something at the highest level of excellence. It plagues many grad students, perhaps especially those in the humanities. It is bred by the culture of academia, which places a high value on achievement and critique.
Perfectionist gridlock is particularly debilitating in dissertation writing and career decision making.
Traffic gridlock resolves itself slowly, inch by inch. Likewise, students can come unstuck by moving forward in baby steps.
An immunologist and science policy analyst, Dr. Kenneth (Kenny) Gibbs offers three pieces of advice for graduate students. These are his views alone and do not represent official views of the NIH or National Institute of General Medical Sciences (NIGMS), where he is currently working as a Program Analyst in the Office of Program Planning, Analysis and Evaluation. His opinions were shaped in grad school and by his research on STEM Ph.D. and postdoc career decisions.
Kenny offers three pieces of advice.
- Remember that Ph.Ds. are beginnings not endings.
- Go to a school and work with an advisor where you can see yourself doing well as a person.
- Manuscripts (and theses) only get written when you write them.