How I Came Top in my Neuroscience Honours Cohort
Updated: Jun 25, 2020
I was lucky enough to receive the top mark for my neuroscience honours cohort, winning a nice little prize to go on my CV. However, I had a few different tips and tricks that helped me get there that I thought I'd share here for you all!
1. I took my time and paced myself. This means I wasn't working 24/7. It means that when I felt like I needed a break, I took it, but other than that, it was slow progress. One foot in front of the other. Try not to leave things to the last minute if possible!
2. I put optimisations and failed experiments at the back of my thesis in an appendix. I had a lot of stuff go wrong throughout my honours, and lots of immuno runs didn't work for me. Even though appendices aren't technically marked, it showed my examiners how much work I did.
3. Try and take sections of your lit review and put them into a short review article. This is how I got my first review paper, and I also put that in as an appendix at the end. I even got a comment from one of my markers to congratulate me on the paper, so they definitely noticed it!
4. When you get feedback from your supervisor and your markers, INCORPORATE IT. You're writing this thesis to be graded, and these people know what they're talking about. Don't get offended over comments, relish in the fact that it's going to make your writing even better!
5. Actually prepare for your viva if you have one. I know a lot of people who just winged their vivas, but I studied up on my work even more, and researched ways to improve upon and build on my study in the future. But be honest too! If they asked me questions I didn't know the answer to, I was just honest and said I didn't know rather than make up an answer off the top of my head!
6. Try and integrate your findings in your discussion. I looked at a lot of different parameters, including a few different cell types, different markers of oxidative stress and different measures of changes to myelin, but in my discussion I really tried to make a story. I addressed everything in relation to one another and then related it back to my hypothesis. The more you make your discussion into a cohesive story, the easier it is to read and understand!
7. Invest in the people in your lab, hopefully they'll become your family over this year. You can assist each other, edit each others writing, and give each other ideas for your work. You can learn from the more senior lab members, and just absorb their wisdom. The more you put in to these relationships, the more you should get out!
8. Set up google scholar alerts for research in your field, read as much as you can and read often, and constantly be updating your literature review. Read and write, read and write, read and write!
9. If you can, put a summary table of all the things you found at the end of your results section. My markers absolutely loved this, because it made it really easy to see what I found in one convenient place.
10. BELIEVE IN YOURSELF! Honours is a baptism of fire, but you honestly need to believe you can do it! Though everyone can be plagued with self-doubt sometimes, it's important that for the most part, you back your own corner.