Top 10 tips for a successful academic year

Andrew Watson, PhD

Greetings everyone,

I hope you have had a productive and energizing summer. I really enjoyed welcoming 216 new graduate students to Schulich Medicine & Dentistry’s graduate programs on September 8, and I am looking forward to welcoming our new postdoctoral scholars on September 21.

This newsletter is one of the most important communication tools we use to interact with all of our graduate students and postdoctoral scholars. I use this forum to pass on some useful thoughts and ideas on subjects pertaining to your academic life. I am always looking for feedback and thoughts on topics that may interest you, and I’m also interested in meeting and learning more about your research projects. Please send me an email at, or set up an appointment any time you wish.

To kick things off, I’ve compiled a top 10 list of tips to help you thrive during this academic year:

1) Make sure your research project has a clear hypothesis, main objective and purpose.

2) Get to know all of the members of your advisory/mentorship committee well, and keep them happy by submitting your reports at least one week ahead of your meetings.

3) Actually have advisory/mentorship committee meetings (I am not kidding).

4) Never take the last cup of coffee from your supervisor’s office coffee machine.

5) Bookmark the top five journals in your field of research. Review the new table of contents and consume two relevant papers from each journal on a monthly basis.

6) Join a club or take part in an extracurricular activity.

7) Approach your work and learning with great enthusiasm, dedication and interest.

8) Take great care of yourself — sleep, exercise, food and friends and family are all important.

9) Accept every opportunity that comes your way to present your work and ideas. Lab meetings, journal clubs, family reunions, and local, national and international meetings are all great ways to master your oral communication skills.

10) Spend some time in the Grad Club (but not most of your time in the Grad Club).

Most importantly, have a great year. Keep in touch and I will talk to you next month.

Andrew J. Watson, PhD
Associate Dean, Graduate Studies and Postdoctoral Affairs