new year resolutions – in academia

Happy 2012 my lovely blog readers!

I hope the holiday season treated you well with relaxation, the surroundings of loved ones, and perhaps a pinch of productivity.  As is the tradition with the coming of a new year, I’ve made a list of resolutions to share with you today.  For the purposes of this blog, they are focused on academia.

1.  Make concrete goals & keep updating them.

Perhaps it seems ridiculous to start a list of goals with the actual task of doing so.  But it is at the top of my list, especially this year.  Graduate school is all about being self-motivated and completing small tasks that build to your major goal – your dissertation.  This is my first year with all my coursework completed and I need to focus on my research.  Without writing down small tasks that can be accomplished, days and weeks can slip by without much progress to show for it.  I’ve been writing daily goals since starting my PhD program.  Last semester I also broke down goals by the week and month.  I found that by doing so I was much more productive.  There is also something incredibly rewarding about crossing things off of a to-do list.

2.  Publish three scientific papers.

If you’re in academia, you know the phrase that resounds in the back of all our minds – ‘publish or perish’.  I have yet to publish on beetle systematics.  My goal for the year is three publications because it’s  a concrete, specific number and I think it’s doable.  I already have my master’s work on the verge of submission.  I have two other projects (Carabidae species descriptions and the Aderidae of New Zealand) that I believe can be finished by the end of the year.

3.  Finish a chapter of the dissertation.

This is perhaps the loftiest goal on the list.  By the end of this year, I’ll be in the fourth year of my PhD program.  I ultimately want to graduate at the end of my fifth year.  In order to make that happen, I need to start seeing the horizon of graduation now.

4.  Post more frequently to the blog.

One of my goals last year was to start a blog centered on my research interests.  With that accomplished, I want to expand this venue to include more frequent posts (at least 4 a month) and themed recurring columns.  Some ideas I’d like to explore are grad student life, beetle taxa and identification, late-breaking research in the world of beetles and evolution, photography (I have a new camera and I’ll tell you about it soon!), and the integration of art with science.

5.  Mentor an undergraduate.

When I was an undergraduate, I worked in a termite research lab that allowed me to get a glimpse into academia.  I want to give another student a similar opportunity.  There are several programs set up through Berkeley that make this a relatively easy process.  If I continue in academia, I will ultimately mentor students and I need to start working on my mentorship capabilities.

6.  Learn how to collaborate.

Several of the projects that I’m currently working on have at least one other individual with whom I’m working closely.  I haven’t previously collaborated on scientific publications and it’s a skill I need to hone.  I’m excited this year that there are many different projects with many different people working on them.  Having a breadth of personalities will aid me in the future to work with a broader array of colleagues.

7.  Focus on teaching improvement.

I love teaching.  I’ve discovered this in the past few years of graduate school.  Several people (past students) have told me that I’m good at it and it’s something that I ultimately want to do with my career.  There are currently several students in my department that sponsor and participate in a teaching improvement discussion.  This year I’m going to become involved and attempt to critically assess my ability as an educator.

8.  Don’t sell my research short.

I’ve noticed that I often sell my research short when I talk with people, especially other researchers.  I’m not sure why that is and I aim to change my personal mentality regarding how I present what I do to others.  Why is my research any less important than anyone else’s?  It’s not applied (e.g. my beetles will not lead to a cure for cancer), but that doesn’t mean it’s not important.  Why else would I devote all this time to it?

9.  Travel, travel, travel.

Part of the reason I love what I do is getting to travel and explore new places.  Be that around California or on the other side of the globe.  Last year I spent an awfully large amount of time in the lab, in the library reading, or at my desk writing.  All these activities need to continue, but I also need some outside time. Pronto.

10.  Make time for my personal life.

One of the greatest challenges of being a graduate student is balancing academia with your personal life.  Last year the scales were definitely tipped towards academia, which had a lot to do with my qualifying exam preparation.  I love my research.  I love my beetles.  But I need some ‘me’ time this year.

And there you have it!  Do you have any goals/resolutions for the new year?  I’d love to hear about them!


4 thoughts on “new year resolutions – in academia

  1. Hello Beetle Person (I haven’t spotted your name yet….). I’m from New Zealand and I noted that you’re working on NZ Aderidae. Do tell! Given the paucity of decent literature to ID NZ beetles, it’d be nice to think that you’ll be making a contribution. Any tips on when and where your work might be available?

    Many thanks, Philip Howe, Timaru, NZ. (South Canterbury Museum)

  2. Hi Philip! My first name is Traci 😉
    I am working with Richard Leschen on the New Zealand Aderidae and there will definitely be ID keys associated with that publication. It’s still in the initial stages, but will keep you updated when it’s available. Probably towards the end of this year. Haven’t thought of places to publish it, but if you have suggestions, I’d love to hear them. Thanks for stopping by and commenting!

  3. Hello Traci

    Many thanks for the reply. That’ll be something for those of us struggling away at the ID coalface to look forward to! Regarding publication, there’s the New Zealand Entomologist journal, Zootaxa or even the monographic Fauna of New Zealand series to consider. No doubt your well-published co-researcher will have a good idea (just don’t make it some obscure European journal that doesn’t do online publication, or such…..very frustrating for us keen amateurs).

    All the best,


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