Well my grad school experience has definitely been that – an experience. I have learned so much about myself, my goals, and how best to obtain them. This summer I have worked towards the completion of my first set of PhD milestones within the Clinical and Translational Science PhD. I had my preliminary evaluation, and just recently completed my comprehensive exam and finally my dissertation prospectus.
For the comprehensive exam, we were asked to independently write an R01 style grant. When I first stared at the blank word document in front of me, I was pretty intimidated. I had to go from nothing, to approximately 25 pages of a coherent story and grant proposal. I relied on the advice of a professor who told us: “Do not be afraid of shitty first drafts”. So, I simply started writing, and didn’t care about perfection – write until you have something down on paper. Move, edit, rewrite and keep writing. After a week or so of writing aimlessly, I was starting to see the outline of a grant form – and after a few weeks of polishing, I was able to submit.
While the comprehensive exam process was a lot of work, and I may not submit the grant for my career, it was an exercise that will seriously help me in the future. I no longer feel intimidated to write my first R01… but only for the study section review. Life in academia is a wild ride, and I’m excited to be one step closer to my goal. After the successful completion of my dissertation prospectus, the next two semesters I will be dedicating entirely to my thesis research. I look forward to digging into the data and new methods to complete my projects! It is such an exciting time. Also a big cheers to those heading back to medical school this year – seeing you all defend your original research has provided even more motivation and excited to keep me moving forward and enjoying the journey!