@Gradslack’s own AMA with @NewPI_Slack

Since beginning gradstudentslack, we have tried to engage members with week-long activities to increase involvement while the platform is in its infancy. We asked the members of gradstudentslack if they had questions or needed any advice. Using Twitter, we reached out to a fellow slack community (@NewPI_Slack) for the answers. As not only a benefit to the current @gradslack community but also to future members, we have compiled all the questions and answers from the last week’s Twitter Q & A with @NewPI_Slack. Thank you to all the members of @NewPI_Slack for your advice!!

Question 1

Hey @NewPI_Slack , @gradslack students need your help! We’ve gathered some questions, and throughout this week, we are hoping to get some advice. Our first question is what is the best way to stay up to date on literature within your field as well as large scientific discoveries?

I make liberal use of RSS feeds for key words, specific scientists/research groups, or journal table of contents.

@Prachee AC

In addition to logistics:
1) read the things your advisors are sending you
2) make a ritual for reading since it’s the first thing to get dropped when busy
3) discuss with others to reinforce what you read
4) keep a list of questions/ideas that come up

I’m a little old school and will print off the papers I intend to read. If the pile grows too big on my desk it annoys me and I have to sit and read so I can have my desk space back.

Lab journal club. Insist on having one of you don’t have one.

Scan the arXiv / relevant_preprint_server daily.

There are folks out there who tweet out papers they find interesting, and, invariably, I find some of them interesting, too. ‪@jcamthrash is a great follow for good papers.


Three things:

  1. Google scholar alert,
  2. Follow relevant twitter pages
  3. LinkedIn posts


  1. Setup pubmed alerts
  2. Setup ‪@biorxivpreprint alerts
  3. Have regular journal club meetings with people from your field, doesn’t need to be from your lab.
  4. Start a lab culture of sending relevant papers to lab members, they will do they same to you.
  5. Read the papers


  1.  Dedicate time slots for reading papers.  I do twice a day, morning and evening
  2. go to Twitter + screen preprints ArXiv or BioRxiv for the latest in your field
  3. Pubmed search using your favorite keywords
  4. Discuss the scientific discoveries with your advisors & colleagues

Dedicate specific time every week to read (that’s where ALL of us fail, even profs)! Ask your advisor for classics within your field – think 20, 30, 40 yrs ago. Example: Peter Nowell’s 1976 paper on clonal evolution in tumors for cancer biology studs.


Also set up keywords in the pubmed feed and any new abstracts will get delivered to your email every morning. Typically there are 0-4 new abstracts each day depending on the keywords.

Join a professional society ‪@ORSsociety get/read their newsletter. Follow researchers on Twitter and researchgate. Check suggestions on Google scholar.

Email alerts/RSS feeds from your favorite journals in the field; following people/projects on ResearchGate; Twitter; attend seminars/lectures from visiting researchers; attend conferences (or browse abstracts if unable to attend)

RSS feeds (you can even make them on pubmed) and twitter are my main resources for the literature.

Question 2

@NewPI_Slack here is question #2! What is the best way to learn and prepare for lab management skills, especially surrounding finances and lab personnel?

Applying for funding (fellowships) and dealing with as much of the adminsitrivia for this process as possible is very helpful. I learned a lot from the two predoctoral fellowship submissions.

100% agree re: predoctoral fellowships. Strong endorse.

IMHO, I would focus more on learning how to multitask and mentoring newer students in the lab (which also reinforces your knowledge). Both are key aspects of lab management.

Best way to get better at multitasking is to tackle a lot of things at once! Some balls will get dropped but over time you’ll get more efficient.

I use the house remodel equation. Estimate the time and money for a project… Then double it. If you don’t use all the supplies you have leftovers for the next project!

Question 3

Question #3 for @NewPI_Slack! If we are looking to eventually become a PI one day, what should we focus on finding in a post doc laboratory (size/stage of lab/etc.) that would allow for an easier transition to a PI position?

Postdoc is often a good time to switch subfields a bit and learn a new set of approaches, etc. You can always go back to the skills you learned in you PhD! Take the opportunity to add some new things to your toolkit!

Second this advice. The world already has an <insert your PI’s name here>, find some way to make yourself stand out.


Important q’s to find out:

  1.  Will the PI let you take your work with you?
  2. Will they provide the career dev opportunities you’ll need (send to conferences for networking, encourage grant writing)?
  3. Are current/past postdocs publishing CONSISTENTLY?

Can members of ‪@FuturePI_Slack also answer…? :)A supportive PI and supportive environment are absolutely crucial. IMO lab size/stage/project/etc… are not nearly as important.Find a PI (and lab members) you are comfortable communicating with, and who will be there for you.

Further echoing previous advice. Look for a PD mentor who challenges and supports you. You will benefit most if given the freedom to develop, work on, and take independent projects or work that you jointly conceive. Practice mentoring and grantwriting, and get feedback often.

I would add to this great convo that finding a mentor that also allows YOU to mentor and collaborate (graduates, undergrads, even high schoolers) within reason, will help build management, communication, and team-building skills essential to success as a PI

IMO, a mentor supportive of your ideas and development of your own scientific niche and a mentor who will help you develop a backwards game plan (i.e “we are going to submit your K99 here and we need to do XYZ to lead up to that”)

One of the simplest questions that often gets overlooked, ask current trainees in the lab that want to stay in academia “if you could do it again, would you still join this lab or go elsewhere?”

I agree with everything previously mentioned.  Supportive mentor and environment are key. Consistently publishing, grant plan of action and mentor with record of past-trainees as current PIs are all important!

A place where you have resources to publish lots of papers and take or develop projects to bring with.

Question 4

 Today we have our last question for @NewPI_Slack! What are some good ways to deal with imposter syndrome?

Actionable solution: Keep a happy folder of things that make you feel good and validation from your advisors/peers. Go back and look through it when things get rough. It’s hard to see things clearly from the inside. So best to get out of your own head when that happens and use objective evidence!

I second this! I keep emails like this in a folder called Perspective.

Make a Spotify playlist and listen to it when imposter syndrome hits you. Quite therapeutic!Also friends who are supportive when others have a imposter day, reminding as to how awesome they are.

Yes! This is my #1 imposter syndrome strategy. Even better if you do this with friends and share inspiration. Some of my favs from the @NewPI_Slack list: Wrote My Way Out Roar Unstoppable Remember the Name Try Everything Lose Yourself Who Says Hickory Drive It Like You Stole It

And my #2 strategy is find friends who are willing to be open about this. You’ll soon realize how many of the awesome folks you know are also worried they don’t belong, think that’s crazy because you know they’re amazing, and start to realize they feel the same about you.

Not at all a NewPI, but something that helped me a lot was when my boss told me “It’s my job to critique. If I stop critiquing your work, I’ve given up on you. And critiquing is the easy job. You’ve got the hard one of creating!” She said this after editing my 1st paper.

When I realized this- it helped me to realize that she’s not planting seeds of doubt. She’s watering sprigs of promise.

Develop close friendships, and then be open and honest with them. Imposter syndrome is so common, we all need to hear it normalized. Sharing with others helps them deal, and they can in turn help you. Peers can see strengths when you only see weaknesses.

I’ve found that imposter syndrome can often result from comparing oneself to others. Try to remember that different projects, experiments, PIs, etc. move at different paces. Everyone, despite how they may present themselves, was once inexperienced and has experienced failure!

Remember that everyone makes mistakes and that they are a necessary part of growth. Walk away when having those feelings and go exercise.

Remember that no one is perfect. Be kind to yourself and realize that you have gotten to where you are because of your accomplishments. Talk to your peers and mentors as they are likely experiencing the same feelings.

I found being open with your colleagues to be best. On @NewPI_Slack things are regularly met with a me too, or empathy, or a “this is what I did when I felt that way”. Give others a chance to support you.

Build a strong network of colleagues and realize we all have the same doubts.

Stop comparing laterally but only longitudinally to yourself. As long as you keep at it, today’s you are definitely not imposter of yesterday’s you.


We hope this helps everyone as much as it has helped us!

Brae, Roz, and Brittany