Listening to Your Advisor

Some grad students will unfortunately experience the following scenario:

I fear my PhD advisor thinks I will fail and wants me to quit. Should I change advisors? What if I’m already multiple years into my PhD program?

Before you take action to switch advisors, I strongly recommend you have a conversation with your current advisor. Below is some advice on how specifically you tackle that conversation.

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Replacing Your Main Water Line Cutoff Valve

TLDR: Concise Instructions


It all started with a leaky tub faucet. “Crap!” I said probably too loudly near my 3 year old son, who had just gotten out of the bath. This was early last fall (2019) I believe.

Fortunately I had faced this problem before: I knew it was likely a broken faucet cartridge, which I had replaced before (after paying a plumber WAY too much to do this simple operation for me shortly after we bought the house and I had far less house-fixing skills). This video is one of many on YouTube that explains this relatively easy task.

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Taking Class Notes with LaTeX

“Are you actually typing these notes?”

The professor looked at me in disbelief. I’m pretty confident I was the first person to ever try typing his lecture notes, especially given how equation-heavy this aerospace engineering graduate course was. I think standing on my head while singing the school fight song in the middle of class would have produced less surprise.

I had decided after several years of furiously scribbling class notes in grad school (and never capturing everything I wanted) to try something I later learned is called “Live-TeXing”. Yes, it is exactly as cool as it sounds. The idea is to type equations using the typesetting language LaTeX in real time as they are thrown up on the board. I had always assumed prior to that class that typing math-heavy notes was totally impractical. But as I became more comfortable with LaTeX, I realized it would probably not only be feasible, but also much better.

The good news is you don’t have to be a LaTeX master to do Live-TeXing. With a few pointers, I think anyone can employ this system, assuming you can type at a reasonable speed in general.

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Will an engineering PhD over-qualify me for jobs?

“If I get a PhD in engineering, will I have trouble finding a job after I graduate?”

This question dominates the minds of many prospective (and current!) PhD students in engineering.

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Book Announcement: “Engineering Your PhD”

I wrote a book! Titled “Engineering Your PhD: An Actionable Guide to Earning Your Graduate Degree in Engineering”, it is now available as an eBook on Amazon.

Feel free to reach out to me with any questions or comments via the comments section below or the contact page. If you are a book reviewer, feel free to contact me about getting a review copy.

Overview from the Amazon listing:

Getting a graduate degree in engineering is not a trivial task, especially if you are pursuing a PhD: from obtaining funding to taking graduate courses to passing one or more make-or-break qualifying exams to presenting at conferences to writing multiple (accepted!) peer-reviewed journal articles and finally writing and defending your dissertation, it is not for the faint of heart. Just reading that sentence is likely to release a flood of wonderful stress hormones.

So how do you tackle all that? First, breathe. Second, read this book: all those topics plus others are covered by someone that has successfully slogged through the entirety of a PhD program. Some of these other topics include: whether to go to grad school at all, and if you do, whether to pursue Master’s or PhD; finding and selecting the right graduate program; establishing good work habits; how to find good research topics; research tools and implementation tips; how to “manage up” your advisor and other faculty; and returning to school as an older student after working full-time (perhaps with kids at home).

Whether you are a prospective or current engineering graduate student pursuing a Master’s or PhD, you will find plenty of actionable content in Engineering Your PhD, as well as the kinds of questions you should be asking yourself and others both before and during your time as a graduate student in engineering.