I have a problem. A fellow grad student copies my work by changing both the focus of her study and her course material to match mine, and then gets praised by the Chair for her hard work? The other faculty in our area are aware of the problem, but won’t bring it up with the Chair. What can I do? –Copycat Colleague Dear Copycat Colleague, This can be a truly difficult situation, especially if this fellow student is a friend. Your plan of action will depend primarily on your goals for the situation.

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I am working on adding to my Vita to make me more competitive for postdoc positions, and I was wondering if poster presentations would really be all that helpful. With the cost of conferences being so high in terms of registration, travel, lodging, etc., do the benefits of a poster really outweigh the costs? –Poster Presentation Hesitation Dear Poster Presentation Hesitation, My stalwart answer to this question is yes! There are numerous benefits to presenting posters at conferences that go beyond that of polishing your CV.

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I’ve had mental health issues for about ten years at this point, depression, anxiety, eating disorder, other self-destructive stuff, etc. I was doing somewhat okay until last year, but thought I could get it under control and was really excited about starting school, and now everything is back with a vengeance. I can’t concentrate on anything, I can’t read, I am completely unmotivated, and I’m taking awful care of myself. My main concern is that I really want to do this and do it well, it’s the only thing I want to do with my life, but I cannot get my head to work. I’ve been seeing a psychiatrist and am looking for a therapist, but on top of it I had to switch meds and had a really bad reaction and basically wasn’t functioning for a while. If this continues for too long I’m going to have to drop out because I can’t live like this. What can I do? –Depression and Anxiety Dear Depression and Anxiety,

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I am really struggling with a member on my dissertation committee. This person has been very difficult, combative with other members, unresponsive to e-mails, and extremely late with feedback (as an example, they did not send me any feedback until 11:00 pm the night before my 8:00 am proposal). I have talked it over with my chair, and we have decided that it would be in the best interest of my project (and my sanity) if I were to ask this person to step down from my committee. I don’t want to create any enemies or burn any bridges, but this person has got to go. Do you have any suggestions as to how to go about removing a faculty member from your committee in a civil way? –Hit the Road, Jack Dear Hit the Road, This type of situation must be handled delicately in order to maintain professional relationships with faculty members.

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I recently applied to graduate school and got a lot of rejections from my top choice schools. I did get accepted into one program; however, this particular program is so new that it has not yet been accredited. Would I be better off in the long run to hold off and re-apply to accredited programs next year, or should I go ahead and accept the offer from the non-accredited program this year? –Acceptable Accreditation Dear Acceptable Accreditation,

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My advisor has not been responding to my emails, and I do not want to be a bother. How should I balance between needing advice and not annoying my advisor? –Silent Treatment Dear Silent Treatment, Finding the perfect balance between asking for the attention you need on your projects and not annoying your advisor in the process is a fine line to walk. My primary advice is to be patient. If your e-mail was not sent more than one week ago, give your advisor the time they need to respond. Balancing a number of various responsibilities (e.g., running a lab, teaching classes, performing administrative duties) can be difficult for even the most seasoned advisor.

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I have gotten mixed feedback about whether I should go straight into grad school or work in the field for a few years before starting. When I think about my long term goals, I am more concerned about future employers and career opportunities, rather than the short term goals of having more money now. Do you think it would be best to push through and get my Master’s now, or would the experience in the field be helpful? –More School or Work Now? Dear More School or Work Now, This is a great question, and can often depend on the opportunities that are available to you after you graduate with a Bachelor’s degree. If you have an opportunity to start your career when you complete your undergraduate degree, it can be hard to pass on that type of offer.

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I am in my third year of a five year PhD program, and the further I get into my field of study, the more I realize that this is not the field/career choice for me. I have invested so much time, money, and effort on this degree so far, but I really do not see myself being happy if this is what I do the rest of my life. I am seriously considering dropping out of the program, but I don’t want the whole experience to be a waste. What do I do? –Changing Fields Dear Changing Fields, This may be the most commonly asked question of all graduate students. In fact, I don’t know a single student who has survived graduate school without asking this of themselves.

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I have noticed that the relationship that I have with my professors seems somewhat more personal than teachers in high school, especially when working on research teams and other projects when we spend more time working collaboratively outside of the class room. Is it appropriate to add my professor to my FaceBook, etc? –Walking the Line Dear Walking the Line, This is a personal decision that will depend on multiple factors. First, are other students “friends” with this professor on Facebook? It is often wise to take a cue from senior students, as they may have specific insights into this quandary.

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I’m sitting at a crossroads with my dissertation right now. I’m struggling to decide whether or not the best possible decision for me is to try and quickly finish my dissertation project or to stay here a 5th year. If I stay for the 5th year, one of my colleagues will be on the job market before me and I worry that may ruin my chances for an academic position. What is the best option? –Early Bird Gets the Job? Dear Early Bird, Although it is true that the search for an academic position can be competitive, I do not believe it would be a problem to have two similar candidates in the job market around the same time.

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