Survival Skills

In recent years, increasing attention has been paid to identifying the core skills needed in order to be a successful graduate student and scientist in the highly competitive environment that today’s research students and junior scientists face. The UCSD faculty are also involved in this process and at the time of writing, the Office of Graduate Studies and Research is compiling resource material for students and faculty.

Some important skills that have been identified include:

  • Study and work skills

  • General technical writing and presentation skills

  • How to write a scientific paper and respond to reviews

  • Making posters and slide presentations

  • Answering questions in public

  • Accurate data recording

  • The appropriate use of statistical analysis

  • Identifying an advisor and a research project

  • Searching the literature. Using the library effectively

  • Handling problems in the workplace

  • Relationships with faculty, students and staff

  • Writing grant applications. Getting financial support

  • Obtaining permission to use animal and human subjects

  • Creativity, management of time and stress

  • Teaching skills

  • Preparing for life after graduate school. Career management. Negotiation. Preparing a CV

  • Social responsibility of research

  • Communicating with the public

Of course this list is incomplete but it gives you an idea of the many new skills that you will need to develop as a successful graduate student. It is also easy to see that many of these matters include considerations of scientific and professional ethics which are discussed in the following section.

While most of these skills are acquired informally in the process of obtaining a graduate degree, there are many advocates, especially students themselves, of some optional formal training in these areas. At present UCSD does not have a program or course that covers all these areas, but some courses cover some of them. In particular, faculty from the Scripps Institution of Oceanography offer a course entitled "Scientific Communication" (SIO 292) in the Spring quarter. It is highly recommended by those students who have taken it. The Cognitive Science Department also includes discussion of these skills in their courses 204 A-B.