Grad Student Experiences in Leadership

scrollThis will be a different type of blog post. This is actually a blog post from 14 graduate students who are about to graduate (or graduated) from the Rutgers Pre-Doctoral Leadership Development Institute (PLDI). This post is composed of short notes about their experiences and serves to thank the Faculty and Staff involved in PLDI.

What is PLDI?

Rutgers’ Pre-Doctoral Leadership Development Institute program (PLDI)  is designed to teach doctoral students aspiring to careers in academia how to navigate the challenges of academic leadership and thrive in the university environment. In this two-year certificate program, our professors shared a very precious gift with us – their experience. We created this blog in order to share our experience with them, with respect and appreciation for the gift they have so graciously given us. We hope that this will continue to serve as a reflective space for affiliates and future cohorts to share their perspectives.

-The PLDI Class of 2013

Tara Coleman: Program in Comparative Literature

When I first started the PLDI program and told my Dad about it, he looked at me strangely and asked why I needed leadership training if I was going to be a professor. He doesn’t know it, but I have already benefitted from my training a great deal, in ways as simple as being able to participate meaningfully in debates among my family and friends about Rutgers, the challenges facing higher education, and how I see my future in this field.

Continue reading “Grad Student Experiences in Leadership”

In and Around

While you are a student at Rutgers there is also an opportunity to get out and experience something new.

New Brunswick

Another venue to code/read.New Brunswick may be small but there are things going on all year. I would recommend looking out for community events happening in New Brunswick and Highland Park: 4th of July, Parades in Highland Park and New Years are just some of them. New Brunswick is the home of the State Theater of New Jersey (as well as other theaters in the Arts district). The State Theater hosts performances all year. Get to see at least one performance there. There is always a chance one of your favorite acts might perform there. A great program to look out for at the State Theater is “Scientists Exploring the Arts”, a free program where you get to see a performance as well as a pre-show talk with some of the performers. The program is open to students who are in specific science programs. Get Connected:


The great thing about being in New Brunswick is that one can easily get to a number of towns and cities using public transport.

Princeton is very easy to get too and is a great town to visit. Not just for the University but the town itself. Its a great afternoon excursion.

NYC is easily accessible via bus (cheapest) or train. There are tons of things to do. I would recommend the amazing museums and the many cultural experiences that are available. I wrote a guide for International Graduate Student about a year ago on getting to NYC and some options on things to do. You can see it here: Culture: Museums in NYC

Philadelphia is my favorite historical American city. You can take NJ Transit Train and then the Septa to get to Philadelphia. There are so many things to do in Philly that I keep on going back. Historic Philadelphia is a great experience. The art museum is great and the Rocky statue is just a bonus. There is a lot more than I have listed on here but once you start looking at either TravelAdvisor or WikiTravel you’ll have a lot to choose from.

Happy Exploring.

Research Tools: Storage, Physical Media Be Gone

Cloud Storage
Cloud Storage

For graduate students, especially those in the sciences who collect a large quantity of data, having a reliable backup source is very important. Furthermore, having access to the data from multiple places makes it easier to complete some tasks. As we conduct our research, apply our hypothesis, and run simulations, we tend to collect this data and may want to keep it for analysis later.

We have gone through multiple types of storage media (Floppy Disks, CDs/DVDs, USB Drives) in the last 2 decades. With each and every one of them there have been advantages and disadvantages. We also had to carry around the storage media and there was always a possibility of the data being corrupted and in some cases unrecoverable. In this post I want to go through 2 cloud storage options a graduate student could encounter and my thoughts on their use. I have found that some students don’t know how cloud storage can benefit them and once they start using it they find it an essential part of their workflow.

Standalone: Dropbox (2 GB free; 500MB per student referral; max 16 GB; paid options)

Dropbox has been a personal favorite of mine for the last 3 or so years. Dropbox is an easy to use cloud storage solution. You setup an account on their website, install their application on whichever platform you use and then you can drop files in the Dropbox Folder and it will sync. Syncing here means that all the places you have installed Dropbox will update their files as you save changes to them. So if you have Dropbox installed on 2 computers, your lab computer and your laptop, and you make and save a change on a file on your laptop, in a few seconds the change will be reflected on your lab computer.

You can also share your dropbox with your lab-mates, advisor, friends and family. This is great when collaborating on a project. Warning: collaborating on a single file together on Dropbox without managing who has access to it and when, can turn tragic: For example, if two people make changes on the the same old version of the same file, save it on Dropbox a few seconds apart, without the second person first opening the version person one has saved then all of person one’s work may be overridden.  Dropbox does have basic version control but one should always be careful with working on a single file with multiple people [link]. Dropbox has been expanding its offering with integration with services from other companies, for example, with Dropbox you can host a simple website with site44 [link]

Integrated Suites: Given the major challenge I pointed out with Dropbox, lets look at some integrated solutions. Integrated in the sense that they provide not just cloud storage but built in tools for editing and collaboration.The big one is Google Docs

Google Docs/Drive (5 GB Free, number of paid options)

Google Docs started as a document creation tool that is completely online. Through time it has evolved into an online storage, creation and collaboration tool. With Google Docs you can create documents, share them with others as well as collaborate on document creation itself too. You can create documents, spreadsheets, presentations, forms etc. You can also import documents you have created elsewhere into the Google format as well as download the documents in a format that you can open in applications on your computer. In April Google relaunched Docs as Google Drive. It now has the same capability as Dropbox, in that you can now sync local documents across computers and share them. Collaboration is the major differentiating feature. Personal tips about the services: When evaluating if the application will be something I use regularly I check if the application has multiple access options. For me having access to my files on a phone, tablet or web is great as I can then open important documents wherever I am. I also store notes that I sometimes create while in transit.

Other Products.  There are numerous other options for cloud storage and/or collaboration. A quick list (not exhaustive):

TEDxRutgers 2012

Vukosi Marivate

TEDxRutgers 2012 has come and gone (Website). I thought I should put my thoughts up about the event. I was one of the organizers of this and last year’s event. I take events like these as great opportunities to get to know and work with other students around the university. There are always so many things going on at Rutgers on any given day during the semester. Just check the GetInvolved website for the very long list.

Given this great number of things to do, students have a large variety of activities to choose from. My advice is to actually choose something and go with it instead of being overwhelmed by choice. The experience, outside my day to day research, is refreshing and rewarding. You get to meet new people who are not in your discipline, share ideas and potential collaborations in things you had never thought of before.

TEDxRutgers was, for me, one of those rewarding experiences. I started off in 2010 just as an attendee at the first one. The event was and still is run mostly but our great undergraduate students but I saw an opportunity to bring in some of my experience and joined the team as an organizer in 2012. The speakers in 2012 were from diverse backgrounds from in, around and outside the university. You can read more about the speakers here. We had students, faculty and performers.

My main responsibility was management of the website as well as all of the social media. I have a large interest in social media, especially as it pertains to mining data. Aside: Always be on the lookout for the opportunity to attend some of the Network Science/Social Media seminars/talks hosted at the Department of Computer Science or School of Communication. We had a great campaign for the event. Growing the Facebook page to 600 fans and having a reach (potential people who saw our posts on Facebook) of close to 15,000. Twitter was even better with a reach of close to 32,000 people. Below is a snapshot of the traffic generated on Twitter on the day of the event.

TEDxRutgers 2012 Twitter Reach
Uploaded with Skitch!

The only thing I think is heavily missing from the events is more participation of graduate students. Not only as organizers but also as attendees. It really is just a day out of the year but I believe we as grad students have so much to offer given our diverse experiences and the fields we work in.