On April 2, 2020, the Gagliardi group met to discuss the question of how to select research projects. The following is a summary of that discussion.
It was agreed upon that first-year graduate students should spend their time getting to know what they are interested in and reading the literature. These students should be prepared for projects to not work out and worry less about what comes after their PhD; self-knowledge and learning how much time it takes to accomplish research goals is more important at this stage. In extreme cases, switching research groups may be the best option.
More experienced graduate students began to express an interest in the logistics of a project and its range of possible outcomes. “Who will I be working with? What will I be doing? How long will this project take? How will this project affect me if things don’t work out?”
Senior graduate students began to express interest in their careers after graduate school. “How can I align my research with what I would like to do after my PhD in terms of lifestyle and research interests? How does the project demonstrate to an employer that I am able to learn new skills?”
Postdocs began to express an interest in contributing to the scientific community at large. “How does this project help others? Will my project contribute to the field in a meaningful way?”
As advice to junior investigators, Professor Gagliardi put an emphasis on making yourself a unique expert in the field. “Is there a reason that you should be doing this project over anyone else? Will this project complement the skills you have in a unique and interesting way?”
In conclusion, there are a wide range of factors to consider when choosing a project, and which ones you value when choosing a project can and should vary heavily depending on the stage of your career.