Molecular Plant Sciences

Blog - 9 Top Tips for a Successful Academic Year

Aranza Díaz asked group leaders here at the Institute of Molecular Plant Sciences for their advice to help students to make this year the most successful yet.

(Author: Aranza Díaz)

Over the last few weeks we have welcomed lots of students to the University of Edinburgh, some are returning after working remotely for the past year, others are just embarking on their university journey.

The beginning of the academic year is exciting but can also be a daunting time for many. The start of term marks the change to a new routine, starting new projects, and meeting new people for everyone at the university.  To help make this transition smoother, and to maximise the success of the following academic year we asked the group leaders and lecturers here at IMPS for their top tips for students:

  1. Stay organised

You have entered a period where you will be constantly busy with new projects, experiments, classes, and lots of other things which can be difficult to keep track of. It helps to set up a calendar and write deadlines in to keep organized. If you are doing a lab-based project, having a database system will also help you keep track of everything.

  1. Ask questions

There really is no such thing as a stupid question, so never be worried to ask, we love being asked questions!

  1. Get prepared before one-on-one meetings

To get the most out of one-on-one meetings, write agendas beforehand to make sure you get to cover everything you want to, and always make notes – this way you will definitely remember all of the important information!

  1. Take ownership of your project 

If you are doing research, make your project your own as quickly as possible. You should be the one driving it forward while becoming an expert in it. If you are a PhD student especially, this is what it is all about. Don’t wait for anyone to tell you what to do next. Instead, formulate new ideas, and discuss them with your supervisor. If you are an undergraduate looking to do an honours project, come talk to us, most supervisors love tailoring projects to a student’s interests.

  1. See positives in negative results!

During research there are always big failures and amazing successes. More often than not we obtain negative results from our experiments. So learn to see something positive in the negative results. Can you learn anything new from them? Do you now know how to improve the experiment? Is there anything unexpected that might be telling you something new? Celebrate the victories and don’t let the failures get to you, you learn from all of them.

  1. Ask for advice

If you have a problem, ask the advice of many people.  People like to be asked! This can help you choose the way forward much more quickly than going it alone.

  1. Think outside the box

Although easier said than done, learning and training your mind to think differently, and analysing things from a different perspective will help you to find solutions in innovative ways and will build-up your creativity. This is what science is all about. Make connections between your different courses or areas of expertise, combined they give you a unique perspective on the subject. 

  1. Take time to look after your mental health

Having a good mental health is super important. All the little actions count! Eat well, sleep well, enjoy your hobbies, and connect with people. Your study should not take over all aspects of your life.

  1. It’s not a bad to take a break

Don't forget to rest!  Tiredness reduced everyone’s academic performance from undergraduate to professor level. Taking time to rest often means you get more done.

The time you spend as a student is a fantastic and exciting moment in your life; enjoy the science, ask questions no one has asked before, and have fun.

Thank you to all the IMPS group leaders that contributed to make this blog possible!