Advice for Post-Grads

General Post Graduate Advice


Post Grad work can be terrifying, even (or should that be especially?) to those in the midst of it!

We have compiled a whole bunch of general information to help you get from a curious undergrad inquiring about Honours to a Post Doc in an exotic locale, and we will try and de-mystify all the steps along the way!


What is the BIG difference between undergrad and Post Grad?


This will probably be your first experience of independent research, which can come as a shock to many who aren’t prepared for it. What this means is that no-matter how often you see your supervisor, YOU ARE ON YOUR OWN. The work you do is yours and yours alone, and this is true for all Post Graduate work. You may be in a lab with 10 other people, or stuck on a computer in a broom closet, but either way the only person with a in-depth knowledge of what you are doing day-to-day is YOU. Even the most controlling supervisor will only be aware of the general idea of what you are doing, although they should be there for you to bounce ideas off and to ask questions when you have them.

This means that YOU are entirely responsible for your own work, and YOU will be the one that suffers if it is not up to scratch or left till the last minute. What does this mean for you? Well first you need to be self-motivated to do the research, so it helps to pick a project that you are interested in. Second, PLAN. Try and sketch out a rough timetable of your projects timeline and when you would like to have things completed so you know when to try and begin them. Your project will evolve however, so don’t be afraid to update and edit your plan as you go. Thirdly, the corollary to your being independent is that if you do well, YOU are the one who will benefit in the long term. So, the more effectively you work the better you should be able to do. Don’t confuse this with performing ‘successful’ experiments however – failed experiment are just as important as successful ones, so don’t stress if your research doesn’t seem to be progressing, just don’t let it stop you from trying! Finally, don’t let anyone else hold you back from your work. If you are stuck because you can never meet with your supervisor, or if they don’t turn up to meetings you have organised, don’t be afraid to ask other students and academics for support. Remember, it will be YOU that suffers if this negatively impacts your research, not them, so it’s up to you to fix it if there is a problem.

What are the different kinds of Post Graduate qualifications?


This answer can vary considerably depending on what country you ask this question in. Here is New Zealand however, we have 4 main Post Graduate qualifications, each with their own requirements and significance. These pages should explain why these qualifications exist, what skills and experience you will likely get out of them and where the qualification will leave you in terms on employment.


PhD Specific advice


Read this even if you’re only thinking about a PhD, there is important information (especially in the “Planning your PhD” section!) that you should be aware of As Soon As Possible.

Are we missing something the you want to know? Let us know and we will find you an answer!

There are lots of resources online for Post Grads – what we have outlined above is tailored for PhDs in Science relevant to the work done by the MacDiarmid Institute. The information was collected from various sources including the Graduate assistance programmes from Harvard and Oxford and Victoria Universities.

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