Introducing the 2014 PhD Achievement Award winners: Samuel Hartzmark

Samuel Hartzmark
USC Marshall School of Business
Doctor of Philosophy, Finance & Business Economics (May 2014)
Faculty Advisor: Wayne E. Ferson

Samuel’s work brings an interdisciplinary approach to the study of finance. He explores empirical patterns suggested by  psychology and economics that are not incorporated into the field’s current theory. His research has published in the Journal of Financial Economics and the Quarterly Journal of Finance. In 2013, Samuel’s paper on investor trade assets was awarded the UBS Global Asset Management and the Michael J Barclay Young Scholar Award from the Financial Research Association. With offers from the University of Chicago Booth, the University of Pennsylvania Wharton, and Boston College, Samuel has accepted a position at the Booth School of Business at the University of Chicago.

Congratulations, Samuel!

25 Written Qualifying Exam Tips as explained by Cartoon Network’s “Adventure Time”

Running Title: 25 Written Qualifying Exam Tips as explained by Cartoon Network’s Adventure Time
by Brian Leung

To break the gravity of written quals, I’ve decided to write a fun blog post. (Clearly, I am spending way too much of my time goofing off.) Since I am starting the written qualifying exams in a few days, I wanted to share what the advice I’ve gathered from other grad students who have taken it or are taking it. (They are not in any specific order of importance.)

The advice here, may not apply to every Ph.D. program, but at least the majority of it should. Our written qualifying exams last for a month and we are given 4 review style questions that we have to answer. These questions are designed by our committee members and they may/may not be related to our thesis.

**All images are from Cartoon Network’s Adventure Time series**

1)    Download the papers you need and turn off the Internet.









2)    Read all the papers you just downloaded.









3)    Coffee shops without Internet or slow Internet are my favorite. (Forces you to read and work)









4)    Turn off social media.









5)    Have a study plan. Have a stretch break every hour or so. Don’t just charge right through it. It’s a marathon, not a sprint.








6)    Eat regularly. If you are in the zone, it’s worth skipping a meal. (albeit debatable).









7)    Bring snacks! It helps. Packing a 1-pound bag of M&M’s won’t help you.









8)    Reviews are excellent. I mean, someone has already helped you out. Take it.









9)    Have an outside activity other than studying.









10) Have some good tunes ready.









11) Accept the fact that you will have a caffeine IV.












12) Find ways to turn off your brain and night, otherwise you will have trouble sleeping.









13) Exercise in the morning to give the day a kick-start. A clear mind in the morning is a great time to write and proofread.









14) If you are not a morning exerciser, work out at night to ease the tension.









15) Be consistent with your sleep cycle.









16) Take 1 break day after a large milestone.









17) Set goals and treat yourself when you have completed them. One goal could be to read all the papers you downloaded within that one day.









18) Relating to question difficulty, knock out the easy questions first and work on the hard ones later. WTF-questions are inevitable.









19) Plan at least one proofreading day for each question.










20) When you read reviews, take notes.









21) When you read studies and experiments, write a little 1 sentence summary on a post it or on the front. State what were the key findings and how they are important.









22) Outlines are great. Just don’t go too overboard with them.









23) During the first draft, inhibit all urges to correct your run-ons, poor transitions, and embarrassing grammar mistakes. It’s more important to get those ideas down while they are fresh and then move the paragraphs around.









24) Good writing requires several drafts.









25) Tell a friend what your plan is for the week or for the day, that way he or she can hold you accountable!









Keep calm, write on, and Fight on!


“My Application of the Heisenberg’s Principle in Academia” by Brian Leung

Congratulations to Guest Blogger Brian Leung for receiving an NSF Graduate Research Fellowship Program award! Read on to glean insights from his approach to writing a successful application.

My Application of the Heisenberg’s Principle in Academia|
By Brian Leung

If you have suffered through quantum mechanics, then you may have developed an aversion to the Heisenberg’s principle or apathy towards this concept. Others, who have not heard of Heisenberg’s principle, can look at this YouTube describing this phenomenon. Briefly, Heisenberg’s principle is also known as the uncertainty principle, which roughly states that if you want to identify the exact location of a particle at a given place in space, you will never know the speed at which it is moving. Conversely, if you want to know the speed, you will not know the exact location of the particle. Take this Futurama clip that highlights the Heisenberg Principle, note what Professor Farnsworth is saying.

Here’s another example: picture a baseball in the air; as it is in mid-air, you know the exact location, but you have no idea how fast it’s going because it’s a still picture frame. Taken together, the more you know of one thing, the less you know of another.

Applying this principle metaphorically to academia (specifically geared towards graduate students), one can see a similar emergent relationship between grades and practical skills. The higher one’s GPA, the less experimental knowledge one obtains, and vice versa. Of course this is taken lightly, but there’s also a “sweet spot” when it comes to this balance between academic performance and experimental knowledge. There are always outliers who have stellar GPAs and have incredible experimental knowledge. (I am forever jealous of these talented students.) Another application of this in terms of grant/fellowship writing is the more you focus on your grant/fellowship, the less experiments you will be able to crank out. It’s that ability to strike a balance between writing and experiments. If there has been anything that I have learned since starting graduate school is the ability to balance coursework with experiments and writing with experiments.

So where am I going with this? My tip for writing grants that seems to work the best is doing a little bit each day. You can write during incubations, while your code is processing, or even when you wake up in the morning. Yes, making the effort is extremely difficult, but even getting a paragraph or an outline down is great. Just make sure you keep writing and don’t look back to edit until you finish everything. If you have non-sequitor paragraphs and poor word choice, keep it.  You will find a place for it later. Resist every temptation to edit until you’ve finished getting as much as you can on the page. Once this writing process becomes routine, you’ll become more efficient and soon, it will become a daily task. I’ve applied this strategy while working on the NSF GRFP, and it so far has worked for me! You too can apply for the NSF GRFP! Give this writing method a shot! After all, who wouldn’t want $32,000 for their stipend, plus $12,000 in education costs and additional international research opportunities? Even if there’s a lot of uncertainty, the more you write, the less you will worry. Just write on and Fight On!


Beyond the Ph.D., as seen by Guest Blogger Adam Feinman

Thank you to guest blogger Adam Feinman for synthesizing the wisdom presented at the 2014 Beyond the Ph.D. event last month.

From the Badges series…
Beyond the Ph.D.
By Adam Feinman

On Thursday, March 13, USC’s Postdoc Association held its annual event, “Beyond the Ph.D.”, designed to provide advice and perspective to Ph.D. students and postdoctoral fellows in all fields who all need to have a real job someday and may not be sure what to do. After all, graduate advisors tend to encourage remaining in academia, being that they love it. I live-tweeted as much as I could under the hashtag #BeyondThePhD. I went to panels for engineers, but I think the advice I heard was very generic.

I’ve been grappling for a long time with the question of what path to take when I graduate. I was hoping to find some clarity by attending this conference, and that was a total fail. Everybody selected to speak at events like this loves what they do and couldn’t imagine themselves being happy in a different area.

I’ll spend more time going into some of the advice and perspectives presented, but if there was one take-away from the conference I think everyone could benefit from, it was:

“Looking for jobs is like throwing a hand grenade; close is good enough!”

That’s right, folks. There is nothing wrong with pursuing your dreams, but there may come a point at which you will need to just get a job. But those who hold a Ph.D. have two things in common: intelligence, and a need to be creative. If your dream job is not available, you can rest assured that you can find a job in which you’ll be able to find happiness and satisfaction.

This was a piece of advice every panel echoed. The above statement came from the industry panel. The academic version of this advice was: “A Ph.D. is a license to think; it doesn’t lock you into a field.”

This tweet got a lot of attention, mostly positive. It seems to resonate. Of course, Twitter forces conciseness, so I got some misinterpretations too…

“Hi. I agree that a institutional grade it’s not a fence, but no one need a grade from anywhere to think.”

I’m willing to forgive here that this person didn’t speak English and that they didn’t have any context. The real point of the quote was the second half. A Ph.D. is merely a credential that shows you know how to initiate a research project, provide and analyze evidence, and draw conclusions. The field you end up working in will be a combination of your expertise, your research vision, and circumstance.

Other good advice:

“RT @USCCareerCenter: PhD transferable skills: probability & statistics, problem solving, & teaching –@EllenLevy at Beyond the PhD Conference”

@EllenLevy was the keynote speaker for the event, and she had a lot of great advice like this. We all learn these skills in graduate school, don’t take them for granted!!! Other things she said:
  • There are two aspects to research: fundamental understandings and applications. You can make a quadrant out of these, and knowing which you fall in can help you know where to go and sell yourself.

  • You’re only as sellable as your ability to communicate.

  • Having a Ph.D. and getting into business is easier than being a businessperson trying to develop an expertise, so we have an advantage.

  • Success is less dependent on your credentials and more dependent on understanding how your field works.

These statements are really true for all fields. In my own words, I tell people that a degree has no inherent value, it’s only as valuable as what you want to do with it. If you want to just be more educated because that makes you a thinking and/or well-rounded person, that’s fine. If you’re thinking about graduate degrees, it’s true that a graduate degree looks good on your resumé, but it doesn’t buy you a job. You have to tailor your education to your job interests and you still have to show you are hirable.

From the industry/consulting panel (one of whom was the science advisor for Battlestar Galactica! And he said “So say we all!” squeeee!)

  • Join meet-up groups, great way to network

  • Current professors joined academia when it was growing, but growth in the job market has plateaued.

  • Robust results are more important than p-values

  • Have to be a good people person

My favorite piece of advice from this panel (aside from the above one):

“If you and your SO have different fields… work in Los Angeles! We have everything here!”

In addition to perspectives on academia, the professors had good interview advice:

  • How many jobs allow you to do whatever you want for seven years as long as you can raise funding for it?

  • Your research statement is who you are. you can emphasize elements of it depending on what you’re applying for, but you shouldn’t be making dramatic changes to it.

  • Use the cover letter of your application explain how you fit into the department and what you can add that they are lacking.

  • Unlike a degree, postdoctoral (PD) fellowships have inherent value. Don’t use a PD as a placeholder. Do a PD and/or choose where to do them based on the skill set you want to develop. Also, be aware of your field’s standards on PDs. (For example, if you’re an engineer, don’t do more than one!)

  • PD is a time when you have a lot of freedom to create and expand your CV without the tenure clock ticking. It also allows you to learn the in-and-outs of academic lab management without the responsibility. Going straight from grad school to faculty could be a rude awakening.

  • Apply to anything that moves; you don’t want your first interview to be at the place you really want to be at.

  • A person who doesn’t doubt their ability to be an academic is probably delusional. The key is to overcome that doubt and prove yourself. Over and over.

  • Make sure job talks are really well rehearsed. Rehearse it in front of people who can nail you on the fine points, but also in front of people not conversant in your field so you can know which points need to be explained more fully as you tell your story.

In the government careers panel:

  • AAAS and the National Academy of Sciences all have policy fellowships. (The former president of the Postdoc Assn. spoke on this panel, she is now an AAAS Fellow in DC.) Many government agencies have their own fellowships.

  • Academic societies (e.g., Society for Neuroscience, The Endocrine Society, etc.) have two groups of employees: policy and education/outreach. Policy workers are the people who advise Congress on any decisions relevant to their field. Education employees research relevant topics and educate practitioners (e.g., neuroscientists, endocrinologists, etc).

  • The title of the job does not define the job, you have to do your homework. The same title in different offices is a totally different job.

  • These jobs are a good mesh between writing, research, and people skills.

Nobody really answered my question about what to do with my life after graduate school. If anything, my current plan has been corroborated: apply hard for academic jobs, but be prepared to look elsewhere sooner than later. I enjoy the flexibility that academia affords; if I’m going to look elsewhere, I’m likely going to need to create a career path that will not merely be creative, but also flexible.

USC Doctoral Student Fuses Physics and English to Publish a Book of Poetry

USC Doctoral Student Fuses Physics and English to Publish a Book of Poetry
By Lauren Evashenk

Many Ph.D. students find the dissertation writing process taxing enough to inspire a break after graduation, but Elizabeth Cantwell hasn’t broken her stride; she’s already on her way to turning hers into a book.

A USC Provost Fellow and Ph.D. candidate in the USC Dornsife English Literature & Creative Writing program, Cantwell will publish her first book of poetry, Nights I Let the Tiger Get You, with Black Lawrence Press in April 2014, just in time for Commencement.

Cantwell credits USC for helping to develop her talents and career. “This is a unique program. It’s not typical for a doctoral degree to combine the traditional study of literature with a creative component,” Cantwell said.

The unique style of scholarship that brought Cantwell to USC is also what sets her apart; the critical analysis portion of her coursework led her to find inspiration for her own writing in unexpected places.

“My dissertation focuses on Renaissance literature and the idea of ‘the infinite.’ The telescope and microscope were invented during the early modern period, and these groundbreaking developments enabled people to look both out and in, forcing them to actually deal with infinity’s implications.” Cantwell said.

Encouraged by the interdisciplinary links she found in Renaissance works, Cantwell began looking to the sciences for her own inspiration. She found the interdisciplinary work so compelling that the study of physics became a central piece of her dissertation; one of her dissertation committee members is even a faculty member in the USC Physics and Astronomy Department.

Though physics and poetry seem like an unlikely pair, Cantwell views poetry as a powerful tool for interdisciplinary learning. Inspired by her brother’s troubles in school, Cantwell taught high school after graduating from Yale University, and plans to return to teaching after completing her doctoral studies to inspire the next generation of thinkers and creators. She hopes that writing creatively about scientific topics will help students to better understand the subjects, enjoy learning, and feel accomplished for having completed a creative project.

Cantwell plans to continue her growing writing career after she returns to teaching. In addition to her forthcoming book, Cantwell recently won the Chapbook Contest with Grey Book Press, and the house will publish her short collection, Premonitions, this year. Cantwell was also a finalist for the 2012 Hudson Prize, and has published poems in a variety of journals, including PANK, The Los Angeles Review, Anti-, La Petite Zine, and the Indiana Review.

Read an excerpt of Nights I Let the Tiger Get You in Tinge Magazine.

Save the Date! Beyond the PhD Conference

Join us for the 3rd Annual USC Beyond the PhD: PhD and Postdoctoral Career Conference on Thursday, March 13, 2014. This event is open to USC PhD students and postdocs. If you are interested in attending and are faculty or staff, please contact The conference will be held at the University Park Campus, in the Ronald Tutor Campus Center.


Reserve your seat today.  This event will fill to capacity and is on a first come first serve basis.

For more information about the conference:

Funding Opportunities to Connect U.S. and Turkish Universities

Funding Opportunities to Connect U.S. and Turkish Universities

 Programs to Bring U.S. Student and Faculty Researchers to Turkey

  • TUBITAK Program 2216 – Research Fellowship Program for International Researchers: U.S. Master’s and PhD students are eligible to apply to receive partial travel costs and health insurance, up to $2,500 for research expenses, and $1250/month for up to 12 months.  More information can be found at
  • TUBITAK Program 2221 – Fellowships for Visiting Scientists and Scientists on Sabbatical Leave:  U.S. scientists with a PhD are eligible to apply to receive travel expenses, health insurance, and $3,500/month for up to 12 months.  More information can be found at
  • The Fulbright U.S. Scholar Program:  U.S. researchers and professors are eligible to apply to receive funding to carry out research, lecture, or consult with other scholars in Turkey.  More information can be found at
  • The Fulbright U.S. Student Program:  U.S. graduating seniors, graduate students, and young professionals are eligible to apply to receive funding to study, conduct research, and teach English in Turkey.  More information can be found at
  • Short Term Research Scholarships:  U.S. PhD students are eligible to apply to receive funding to study at a Turkish university.  More information can be found at
  • Marie Curie Actions – International Incoming Fellowships (IIF):  U.S. researchers going to EU Member States or Associated Countries, including Turkey, with a PhD or at least four years of full-time research experience are eligible to apply for an IIF.  IIF provides approximately 200,000 Euros of financial support for up to two years.  More information can be found at
  • Marie Curie Actions – Career Integration Grants (CIG):  Experienced U.S. researchers with a PhD or at least four years of full-time research experience are eligible to apply for a CIG.  CIG grants provide support up to 100,000 Euros for a maximum of four years.  More information can be found at

The Center for Applied Mathematical Science (CAMS) Graduate Student Prize

University of Southern California

for Excellence in Research with a Substantial Mathematical Component
The $1000 Prize Will Be Awarded Annually

ELIGIBILITY: Any graduate student at USC who is expected to receive a Ph.D. degree between May 2014 and August 2015 inclusive is eligible.

NOMINATION PROCEDURES: Nominations for the CAMS Prize should include a nominating letter from the student’s dissertation committee chair, the nominee’s C.V. and a statement of 3 pages or less by the nominee describing his or her research in a way that is accessible to non-experts.  Reprints, preprints and a further faculty letter of support are not required, but may be included in the supporting material.

SELECTION COMMITTEE: The prize winner will be selected by the Board of Directors of The Center for Applied Mathematical Sciences.
Susan Friedlander: Professor of Mathematics and Director of CAMS
Solomon Golomb: Professor of Electrical Engineering and Mathematics
Shanghua Teng: Professor of Computer Science
Michael Waterman: Professor of Computational Biology and Mathematics

DEADLINE: Nominations are due Friday, March 14, 2014 at 4:00 p.m.
Please direct nominations to the Director of CAMS and send material to:

Adriana Cisneros
Department of Mathematics
KAP 104B, MC 2532

The prize will be announced and awarded in April 2014
The names and departments of former Prize winners can be seen at

Apply Now for the 2014-2015 Haynes Lindley Doctoral Dissertation Fellowship

The Haynes Foundation recently announced the 2014 Haynes Lindley Doctoral Dissertation Fellowships. The Fellowships are designed to encourage research into the economic, social, policy or political issues that impact Los Angeles.

The Graduate School coordinates the submission of these fellowships on behalf of the University. The application guidelines are below. Applications are due to the Graduate School office in GFS 315 by 5:00pm on Wednesday, Feb 19, 2014.

In addition to the paper proposal, applicants are required to submit an on-line proposal information form ( Students should include the information below in the boxes set aside for the Organization Information.

Prefix Suffix:                Dr.
First Name:                  Meredith
Last Name:                  Drake Reitan
Present Position           Assistant Dean of Graduate Fellowships
Department                 Graduate School, Office of the Provost
Organization/School     University of Southern California
Mailing Address             3601 Watt Way, GFS-315
City                              Los Angeles
State                            CA
Zip Code                      90089-1695
Contact Telephone       (213) 821-5644
Contact Email     


2014-2015 Haynes Lindley Doctoral Dissertation Fellowship Guidelines 

THE HAYNES FOUNDATION, which supports social science research into policy issues that impact the Los Angeles region, invites proposals for its 2014-2015 Haynes Lindley Doctoral Dissertation Fellowships (due date is February 20, 2014). The Fellowships are designed to encourage well-conceived and imaginative research into the economic, social, policy or political issues that impact Los Angeles.  Graduate students enrolled at institutions and programs awarding the Ph.D. in the social sciences in the greater Los Angeles area (i.e., the California Institute of Technology, the Claremont Graduate University, the Pardee-RAND Graduate School, the University of California, Los Angeles, the University of California, Irvine, the University of California, Riverside, and the University of Southern California) are eligible for the awards.  Grants will be made to the institution on behalf of the student for subsequent disbursement and graduate schools will be asked to waive tuition and fees for Fellowship recipients.  More than one student may apply from each institution; some institutions may receive more than one award, some none.

Up to eight (8) awards of $20,000 each will be announced in April/May 2014 and available for one year of work toward completion of the dissertation (field work, research or writing may be covered).  Applicants must have had their dissertation proposals accepted and be working with their faculty advisors as of the date that the applications are due to be submitted to the Foundation.  The universities may add to these awards, but they should clearly be designated as “Haynes Lindley Doctoral Dissertation Fellowships.” The Fellowship awards are not renewable.  A 3-4 page report to the Foundation, outlining the recipient’s work during the period of the award as well as an analysis of the extent to which the completed work reflects the effort proposed in the original proposal is due at the Foundation office no later than August 1, 2015. The Foundation recognizes that, in many cases, the dissertation will not be completed by this due date.  Therefore, the Foundation requests that the recipient summarize the dissertation’s key findings in 1–2 pages and submit the summary by the due date, and follow up with a 3-4 page report when the dissertation is complete. Recipients are also invited to provide the Foundation with a link to an online version of the research.

We are seeking proposals that address economic, social, policy, or political problems that impact the Los Angeles region, defined as the five-county area of Los Angeles, Orange, San Bernardino, Riverside, and Ventura. A broader geographic scope will be considered if an important part of the research impacts the Los Angeles region.  We are open to a wide range of specific topic areas within that broad category.  Proposals can address either immediate policy concerns or can provide basic research that would underlie future policy efforts.  The criteria for selection are: 1) the relevance of the proposal to the mission of the Foundation, 2) the significance of the project for the scholarly field and its potential impact on public policy 3) the quality of the academic record of the applicant, 4) the applicant’s demonstrated ability to conduct research within set time frames, 5) the relevance of the project to the applicant’s future professional growth and success.  These attributes should be addressed in the description of the project and in the letter of recommendation.  The Foundation expects proposals to be clearly written, to the greatest extent possible without academic jargon.  Proposals should be written for the layperson, informed but not necessarily familiar with terms of art used only within fields and sub-fields of academia.

Five copies (formerly fifteen copies) and one PDF copy of the Dissertation Fellowship application must be received at the Foundation office no later than 3:00 p.m. on February 20, 2014.Each of the five application packets must include, in the following order:

  • A one-page cover sheet, setting out the title of the proposal, the PI/proposer’s name, mailing address, telephone, email, institution, and faculty advisor.
  • A six-page proposal, double-spaced in 12-point type face.  The proposal should state the research problem, the project goals and the methods to be used.
  • A one-page bibliography listing key sources of direct relevance to the dissertation topic.
  • A two-page condensed personal resume.
  • One letter of recommendation from the applicant’s faculty advisor, single-spaced in 12-point typeface.
    • The advisor should provide the advisor’s estimation of the dissertation completion date, and also serves as a written indication of institutional support. 
    • A copy of the letter of recommendation should be attached to each individual proposal. However, should the advisor choose to send it separately, the five hard copies of the letter of recommendation should then be placed in a single envelope and included in the application packet. The single envelope containing five copies of the letter may be sealed if that is the faculty advisor’s preference. The envelope may not be sent under separate cover.

Applicants should “bundle” these materials (including the letters of recommendation, as described above) in five separate packets with a cover page listing address, telephone number and email address where they can be reached.  Please do not staple or bind the materials in any way:  rather, separate the bundles with large paper clips.  In addition, a copy should also be sent electronically in both PDF and in Word formats.

Awards will be announced two to three months after the proposal due date. For general information, please refer to the list of FAQs (Frequently Asked Questions) on the Foundation’s website. You may call or write William J. Burke, Administrative Director, The John Randolph Haynes and Dora Haynes Foundation, 888 West Sixth Street, Suite 1150, Los Angeles, California 90017-2737, (213) 623-9151 or email at, with a copy to


First Guest Blog of the New Year! From Panthea Heydari

The Neuro-Person:
Story telling and Interviewing
 by Panthea Heydari

In. Getting in. Getting accepted. Getting the job. Proposing the deal. Inventing the thought. Telling the story.

My story.

It’s the beginning of spring semester at USC and slowly, but surely, students are getting into the flow of things. Campus eateries have re-opened from the holiday, the gym is as exciting as ever, and the parking lots (both on campus and at that aforementioned Expo metro rail) are becoming full. But along with the throngs of returning students this year, also come the hopefuls. Those vying for positions in sparkling labs, bright-eyed and bushy tailed, dreaming of making that Nobel Prize discovery…the hopeful prospective graduate student.

Welcome back, kids! It’s judging season. It’s application season. It’s interview season.

Recruitment weekends and interviews are starting to get planned for these prospective hopefuls and it feels odd to think that two years ago, I was here.  Reading and re-reading my resume, debating on what would make me seem more of a professional academic…do I go with the Hilary Clinton pant-suit? What about the spectacles? Or did I want to be the casual smart graduate student, rolling out of bed and nonchalantly teetering on an epic discovery? What do I even say at my interview? Do I only talk about my science exploits? Can I say I’m into running? What about animal versus human research? How much of that person do I involve alongside the neuro?

USC was not my first graduate school interview and by the time I stepped onto the HedCo Neuroscience Building, I had some idea of what I wanted my future colleagues to know about me. I wanted them to know my skills, my publication record, and my research capabilities but when I sat down to interview with my dream principle investigator (or, effectively, my boss), what I wanted, more than anything, was to have an actual conversation. Was to tell my story and see if I jived with this mentor.

Could I see myself popping into her office on a whim to discuss a thought? Would she be receptive to my inevitably, at first, naïve questions and, later, self-proclaimed novel associations? Those answers could only come from a genuine conversation, filled with my story and, at the same, listening to hers.

The interview is amazingly complicated and, yet, supremely simple. The concept of the neuro-person is emphasized most during this interview season and a conversation can go far. I encourage you prospective graduate students to allow your person-hood to come out during your interview…talk about what excites you! Get animated! Discuss your skills…and the things you could stand to improve on. Tell your story about how you got here but don’t forget that on the other end, there’s a story too. Ask about their story, what excites them, and see if you could imagine yourself getting enamored by the same things or enthralled enough to direct someone towards something new. That passion will serve you well in the marathon that is graduate school.

The story, your story, will continue to develop even after interview season, and to those of us going into our second, third, or sixth years, that story is still developing. The excitement of the story—the unwritten parts—well, that’s the cliffhanger that keeps you coming back for more. Ultimately, the interview to get into graduate school, the one that concludes your dissertation, that gets you to your post-doc, and maybe even the one that cinches for you the coveted tenure track position, it’s all a story about you. Your research, your interests, your personality, and your connection.

So, let’s hear it. Story time!

Send me your thoughts at