It gives me great pleasure to inform you that at last I have received my results. I have passed my Master's degree with a high distinction.I would like to thank each one of you for the help, support and patience over the past three years. This degree has been one of the most difficult things I have ever done. Partly because my supervisor was not involved (he now says he knew I would have been fine) and partly because my mother's health problems and her nearly dying. However, the three of you were a ray of light in my darkest days. Margie, your emails always hit my inbox at the times I needed distraction, focus and hope the most. Maria, your webinars and your calm way of conducted them grounded me and made me persevere. Alana, your optimism gave me hope and encouraged me.
By the time one enters graduate school they have already identified themselves as academically motivated and to have established study skills to help them master its greater workload and organizational demands as well as greater scholarly independence. Nevertheless, there are often unexpected differences in the academic terrain between one’s undergraduate and graduate experiences that result in challenges that students, like myself, can find difficult to navigate.
I have found DoctoralNet’s broad array of products and services has helped me to find my footing in this regard. The group work for instance has been instrumental in helping me combat intermittent bouts of imposter syndrome. The program’s focus on useful tools, such as webinars and toolkits on particular topics, has also helped shift my focus from the sometimes overwhelming task of dissertation writing into more discrete and manageable morsels. Thanks to my use of the various resources available from DoctoralNet, I now see the dissertation more as a transformative or evolutionary process than just a final distillation of an enormous research endeavor. Working with them has not only built my skills and confidence but has restored my enthusiasm in further pursuit of academic research.
Without Professora Maria's clear guidance and ability to work with me in a condensed time-frame, completing my dissertation would have been a much more stressful experience. Maria's assistance allowed for a balance of my time spent on writing original content while getting very useful editing suggestions in return. I felt as though I had a partner in Maria who I could count on to not only meet deadlines but was someone who really shared in the journey. Maria cared about my concerns, my pushback, and my questions. Her technical skills with style formatting, her ability to help convert complicated sentences into sharp and concise prose, and her always prompt feedback were a godsend. I am indebted to Maria for the support she provided.
My perspective comes from a 1st-year graduate student who has been using DoctoralNet for the last 4 months to help orient me for my Ph.D. Journey as a Biochemistry student. Additionally, I have been working in close contact with four faculty members over the past 2 years through start-up company-sponsored research; I have some perspective of hearing from graduate students and advisors. This feedback is given in good faith to promote good practice and not to slander the efforts of good and hardworking people trying to accomplish difficult tasks.In my experience, DoctoralNet so far has mainly served as a constellation for me in my voyage towards graduation. The process maps available on the website, although usually not geared towards Ph.D. candidates in the sciences, help address the 50,000ft view of the dissertation process. The web seminars allow for open discussion of best practice and soft skills, and the boxed sets do give some good 'logic' processes' to evaluate my research methodology and validity. Areas which I believe DoctoralNet could grow would be firstly in the teaching of their concepts/methods, as of now they are generally referred to or written about in articles whcih requires the commitment from the student to navigate how they may apply to their work. Additionally it would be good to see the expansion of tools which address the research question portions of the dissertations such as teaching the scientific method, how to ask a good research question, and how to do a good literature review in your field, etc.As a graduate student of a large research institution, in my very humble opinion having never been an administrator, I believe that the success of the educational goal of the university is mainly won and lost by the faculty who have far too much responsibility (undergraduate teaching, graduate teaching, undergraduate lab mentoring, graduate lab mentoring, outreach and research talks, compendiums, lab management, lab budgeting for major technical purchases, writing of papers, textbooks, and grants etc.) and far too little mentorship and support. DoctoralNet I believe is a tool that helps alleviate some of the graduate students need for mentorship and navigation from the PI and possibly provide a mechanism to educate the PI's in their mentorship of graduate students-- giving both parties a common ground to come to in their roadmap for graduation. I feel much more capable as 'the captain of my thesis' having some "constellations" that are designed from a third party (that is not making money from me or off of my work) that is devoted to empowering graduate students to complete their degrees, providing incentive for the promotion of good scientist and by default good science.