Thursday, May 28, 2015

I am Jeff Weidner and This is How I Work

Today, I am interviewing Jeff Weidner for the "This is How I Work" series. Jeff is a structural engineer originally from Maryland, though he has lived in Pennsylvania for 15 years. He is married to an amazing woman who is finishing up her residency and they have a ten month old son, and a very jealous dog. He is happy in industry for now. He comments that he is getting great experience and exposure, but eventually wants to move to academia.

Current Job: Practice Lead for Research at Intelligent Infrastructure Systems (
Current Location: Philadelphia, PA
Current mobile device: iPhone 5S
Current computer: Lenovo Yoga 11”

Can you briefly explain your current situation and research to us?
I work for a small company that addresses challenging infrastructure problems where traditional methods have generally failed. We are primarily focused on bridges in the United States, though we do some international work. We design and install structural health monitoring systems, do structural testing, advanced finite element modeling, asset management and applied research.
I work primarily on research contracts in the public sector, but have recently gotten involved in expanding to other markets. Of particular interest to me is the interaction between infrastructure and the rising domestic energy markets, as well as the psychological and societal side of infrastructure systems in the U.S.

What tools, apps and software are essential to your workflow?
The most ubiquitous software/app in my day to day workflow is Evernote. For work, I use Evernote primarily as a database of whatever I come across that I find relevant. The most important notebook I maintain is my references, where I keep a copy of any journal paper I read and find valuable. Evernote makes the PDFs searchable, allowing me to construct searches first through my database before going to an online database. There is also a robust web clipper function and it seems that almost all applications can share to Evernote. To manage Twitter content, I set up a recipe in IFTTT to grab any tweets I favorite or retweet and save the content in Evernote. I also use Evernote in my personal life to pretty much keep track of everything. I am not quite paperless, but not far off.

What does your workspace setup look like?
My workspaces at home and the office are kept fairly clean and austere. I read once that how you maintain your office says a lot about you to your peers on a subconscious level, so I keep it clean. I have a few family pictures, a poster explaining common logical fallacies, and a Dwight Schrute bobblehead at work, but that is it. I use two monitors there, but just use my laptop at home, on an old sewing table. I have attached a picture of my home workspace, inclusive of my baby monitor.

Home office
Office setup

What is your best advice for productive academic work?
I guess it depends on how you define productive work. For me, everything revolves around the publications. When I started my PhD I assumed the papers would come in time. I thought pulling papers out of my dissertation would be easy when I finished. What I realize now is that writing a dissertation around several journal papers would have been a lot easier. Basically all that stuff you want in the paper, but have to cut for length just goes in the dissertation. To clarify, I am not talking about quantity of papers, though sadly that is important too. I am talking about the importance of graduating with a bare minimum of 2-3 quality papers that have been submitted to solid journals. Very few will read your dissertation, but hopefully many will read the papers.

How do you keep an overview of projects and tasks?
For personal and work task management I use Wunderlist on all my devices. It’s a nice service that syncs well and looks pretty. There are a million comparable options out there, and I have tried many. The tricky part is sticking with one. I have used iOS reminders, Astrid, Producteev, Evernote reminders, Remember the Milk Pocket Informant. The list goes on and on. Now it’s Wunderlist. I am just hoping I can keep it up. For projects, I use the standard Microsoft Project, combined with an old fashioned whiteboard.

Besides phone and computer, do you use other technological tools in work and daily life?
I swear Evernote is not paying me, but I love my Fujitsu ScanSnap scanner – Evernote themed of course. That is how I get rid of most of my paper. I love my iPad but I could get along without it as well.

Which skill makes you stand out as an academic?
I think I have a knack for placing ideas and problems in context, and maintaining an applied research mindset when looking for solutions. I work in a pretty specialized area with bridge instrumentation and structural health monitoring, so I actively try to keep my interests a little more broad. Lately, since it has been all over the news, I have been closely following the political circus that is infrastructure funding. This feeds into my research interests because if you can understand the root cause for a behavior, be it structural performance, political posturing, or societal upheaval, then you can begin to recognize real solutions.

What do you listen to when you work?

Most anything without words. Our office is incredibly loud, so generally I have either movie scores, or classical piano playing through giant headphones. I like Ludovico Einaudi a lot, and Helen Jane Long.

What are you currently reading?
I read during my commute, but right now I am using that time to take a class through Coursera on Teaching at the University level. Reading books for pleasure is a dangerous game for me. I will just use every second of free time to read. When I finish, at like 4am, then I just feel stupid for not sleeping or getting anything else done.

Are you more of an introvert or extrovert? How does this influence your working habits?
I am most definitely an extrovert. Day to day I do not think this makes much difference to me, but when it comes to interacting with clients, giving presentations, or big meetings, it definitely helps. Even so, cold call networking at conferences and events is always a struggle.

What's your sleep routine like?
I have a ten month old son, so while it is not as bad as it was when he was a newborn, I find that I am sleeping a lot less than I used to pre-baby. Five to seven hours a night is typical. Sometimes I lean back in my chair at work and take a little ten minute nap too.

What's your work routine like?
I try to break the day up into four chunks. First thing, I do exactly what you are not supposed to do and catch up on emails, as well as make sure the rest of my day is planned out. Then I try to dedicate each ensuing chunk of 2-3 hours to a single project. Working on project all day often kind of sucks, depending on the project, so I avoid that when I can. I use Toggl to track my activities and hours.

What's the best advice you ever received?
Years ago my Master’s advisor pulled me aside one day about halfway through my work with him. I was missing deadlines, struggling in his class, and generally slipping across the board. We had the following conversation.
Advisor: “You think you are working as hard as you can, correct?”
Me: “Yes.”
Advisor: “Well you’re not.”
Me: “….”
This struck a chord, and has stuck with me, primarily because he was right. Once I recognized that the problem was me, and not the work, it became much easier to control my bad habits. Later, when I relayed my anecdote to my PhD advisor, he articulated it better. The best thing you can do for yourself is to learn to see yourself objectively, as others do.

Tuesday, May 26, 2015

Q&A: When your sensitivity undermines your work

Another long since overdue post in the category of Questions and Answers!

Some time ago, a PhD student sent me the following question:

Good afternoon. I'm PhD student. Thanks for the nice articles in this blog. Would like to share with you Eva. I'm very sensitive person. Whenever people use harsh words to me, It makes me feel very sad and upset most of the time. During this time, i'm not able to focus in my studies which affects my studies so much. What i should do?

Here are a few tips I can give you:

1. Understand your sensitivity

First and foremost: there is nothing wrong with being sensitive. You can gain a lot of benefit from knowing yourself though. Figure out if you are very sensitive for words, or if you would classify as a highly sensitive person (I am, and understanding that I am has been tremendously beneficial). Here's a test you can take to see if you are a highly sensitive person. Here's a book that I recommend you read:

By all means, try to deeply understand the nature of your sensitivity, and understand all the benefits and beauty of it. Don't ever let anybody tell you that you are "weak" because you are sensitive.

2. Meditate and let go

If you feel particularly shaken by an event, if somebody has mistreated you, then don't force yourself to delve back into your work. Look for a quiet place, try a short relaxation exercise, and try to let the dark cloud float out of the sky. If you need to lock yourself down in the bathroom for 15 minutes to recover - do it. It's not because society thinks that is wrong, that it really is wrong. Regroup your soldiers and prepare for your next step.

3. Get out for a walk

Another option would be to go out and enjoy some fresh air, sun and nature. If you are close to a forest or park, spending 15 minutes in a quiet place while walking might be just what you need - even more so if you are a sensitive person.

4. Do something you enjoy

Another trick to lift the dark mood that has settled upon you, is to go and do something you enjoy. As a sensitive person, you might like to listen to some beautiful music, go visit a museum, talk to a friend, or anything that makes you feel good. Realize that as bad as you feel when you experience something negative, you also feel deeply touched and happy when you have a positive experience. Try to swing the pendulum back into the positive spectrum.

5. Let others know your limits

People should not mistreat you and use harsh words on you - whether you are sensitive to their behavior or not. If people mistreat you a number of times, you should tell them that they have crossed the line. No swearing, no aggressive biting back at them - but just be clear and concise that you do not appreciate their behavior and would them rather not to repeat treating you like that in the future.

Thursday, May 21, 2015

I am Sebastian Zimmer and This is How I Work

Today, I am interviewing Sebastian Zimmer for the This is How I Work series. Sebastian holds a Master's in European Studies and is currently a Economics PhD Candidate in the "Emerging Attraction" project at European University of Flensburg. His work is concerned with approaching the influence of territorial borders on cross-border cluster formation through a communication lens. He remains in search for filters to scientific knowledge.

Current Job: PhD Student (Scholarship) & Lecturer
Current Location: Flensburg, Germany and S√łnderborg, Denmark
Current mobile device: iPhone 6
Current computer: MacBook Pro (late 2007, and she has to last another two years)

Can you briefly explain your current situation and research to us?
Currently doing my PhD in a cross-border research group brought to life by Interreg first and now is very much kept active by the six of us. At the same time, I work as a lecturer for the Methods department at the university to keep in touch with students, the basics of research methods and close the income gap the scholarship creates in contrast to a fully paid position. My research focuses on how much influence a territorial border has on cross-border cooperation especially in the setting of an economic agglomeration (cluster). Combining the fields of Economics, Sociology, Communication Science, Informatics and Physics with a mixed method approach makes it very challenging.

What tools, apps and software are essential to your workflow?
iCal, Evernote, Dropbox, Google Drive, texstudio, Safari, Spotify, GitHub, eMail-Software, WhatsApp in a random order. Occasional fun with R excluded.

What does your workspace setup look like?
The main workspace is actually my private laptop, which is used for my Danish office once a week, and on travels (which meant 40 hours/week on a train for almost a year but that has calmed down now). My home office consists of said laptop and a large screen and lots of desk space.... and so do the other two offices where the laptop is supported by the provided PCs - clouds be thanked for a system-overarching workflow. So, yeah.. all five "locations" with the laptop.


What is your best advice for productive academic work?
Find a place where you can actually focus and if you don't have one, create one. You may only be able to pull that off for three hours a day but if you make those count, your life will be better.

How do you keep an overview of projects and tasks?
iCal, Evernote, reminders on the phone, eMails as mind hooks and lots of sticky notes (virtually and physically). Everything has a system but only in my personal perception.

Besides phone and computer, do you use other technological tools in work and daily life?
Coffee machine. Electronic toothbrush. Oh, and various PlayStation devices. And fancy headphones to just space out.

Which skill makes you stand out as an academic?
Interdisciplinary thinking and a craftsman's eye for methods.

What do you listen to when you work?
Randomly changing music, depending on my work speed. Classic, Rock, HipHop, Soundtracks, Random playlists.

What are you currently reading?
Reading time is forced into my schedule by simply reserving twenty minutes between going to bed and sleeping. Sci-Fi classics by Philipp K. Dick and others but as summer approaches, it will probably be replaced by non-fictional literature because of my knowledge thirst.

Are you more of an introvert or extrovert? How does this influence your working habits?
Stronger on the introvert side, thus I do like to have discussions my colleagues in the office, but I do prefer my headphone zone and get my work done in the majority of time.

What's your sleep routine like?
Rou... what? Biologically, my body would love 3am to 11am, but reality makes it that sleep definitely happens between 4am and 7am with varying start and ending points. Bumpy?

What's your work routine like?
Equally bumpy at the moment. Working in three different physical offices makes it a challenge to develop routines. But usually, I start to work intensively two hours after waking up for a couple hours and then in the evenings again. Night owl!

What's the best advice you ever received?
"People assume that time is a strict progression of cause to effect, but *actually* from a non-linear, non-subjective viewpoint - it's more like a big ball of wibbly wobbly... time-y wimey... stuff." - Doctor Who (2007, Blink).

Tuesday, May 19, 2015

PhD Talk and Grammarly Giveaway

Exciting news today! The first giveaway on PhD Talk!

Grammarly, an advanced grammar and spelling checker to help you improve your writing, is offering a 3-month premium account to the winning reader.

Here's how to enter:
1. Follow me @evalantsoght on Twitter
2. Like PhD Talk on Facebook
3. Write a comment to this blog post, stating the Twitter account with which you follow me, and the name under which you liked the Facebook page of PhD Talk. Explain how using an improved grammar checker would help your writing.
4. Spread the word.

Please submit your comment before June 15th! A winner will be chosen among the comments and announced on June 16th.

Here's an excellent infographic from Grammarly about why writing skills are so important:

Writing Skills and improved professional careers, more pay infographic

Thursday, May 14, 2015

I am Matthew Hanchard, and This is How I Work

Today, I am interviewing Matthew Hanchard in the "How I Work" series.  Matthew is a part-time, self-funded PhD candidate in Sociological Studies at the University of Sheffield. His research focuses on digital map practices in everyday life, combining digital sociology with cartographic theory, both grounded in qualitative primary research. Alongside his role as PhD, he works 37.5 hours a week on compressed hours (over 4 days) for the UK's leading drug and alcohol misuse charity as a software developer, maintaining overall responsibility for the intranet and project managing software implementations (full cycle). He also has a 20 month old daughter called Penelope. He attributes juggling the three aspects of his life to good time-management, a great sense of humor, and trying to getting the work/life balance right.

Current Job: IT Software Develop/SharePoint Administrator for the UK’s leading drug and alcohol misuse charity – 37.5 hours per week over 4 days + PhD (self-funded) Part-time (2 days a week)
Current Location: Derby, Derbyshire
Current mobile device: Samsung S3 and a Samsung Galaxy Tab3
Current computer: Acer Aspire 6930 (Laptop)

Can you briefly explain your current situation and research to us?
Parent to a 19 month old, work full-time, and I do my PhD on one weekday and one weekend day. My research covers digital maps as practised media entangled within social relations. I focus on how digital maps are used, and how that fits in with other social practices – to see if they anchor/order social life in any way e.g., does using Google Maps and Zoopla shape which homes you view when looking to buy a house.

What tools, apps and software are essential to your workflow?
At Work – SharePoint, Excel and InfoPath. On my PhD, Nvivo, Word, Google Drive and Twitter.

In the last couple of weeks I have also started using IFTTT and Pocket. I think it's important to keep up to date with new technologies than can optimise time management, but I like to sit back and see how others' in my social network find them first. I tried those two because Mark Carrigan had some good reviews of both. So I tried them. He is in my Twitter social network, and holds similar academic interests to me, but I have never met him in person. I guess some tools shift on a daily basis e.g. my University provides a Google account, so I use Google Drive where I used Dropbox before, and others are fixed in place (stabilised) through a social network - for me that's LinkedIn (professional profile), Facebook (friends, family and more intimately known people), Twitter (public forum to share ideas and enter debate).        

What does your workspace setup look like?
At work I have a desk. On my PhD I have an office room with desk, where my laptop sits in a permanent space.

PhD workspace
Day job workspace

What is your best advice for productive academic work?
Get some real-life work experience before entering academia. That way, you soon notice that it’s actually pretty easy to manage. Only those with little or no experience moan about how hard it is. Outside academia, workloads are far heavier – this may change when you’re a paid member of faculty.

How do you keep an overview of projects and tasks?
A1 size wall-planner which I update regularly (I have no means to combine my work and home calendars in digital format)

Besides phone and computer, do you use other technological tools in work and daily life?
I don’t use a phone for my research. That is a little presumptuous. I use books, map and SatNav.

Which skill makes you stand out as an academic?
Almost 10 years of project management. Having worked in teams that commission academic research as a day job. Awesome at networking

What do you listen to when you work?
If I am transcribing, I listen to the interview/focus group video. Otherwise I like soft music, without too many high or low notes which could distract me. Madeleine Peyroux is good.

What are you currently reading?
I read academic books in bed, because I have no other time. At the minute it is Castells ‘Internet Galaxy’, but I’m about to re-read Shove, Panzar and Watson’s Social Dynamics of Practice’.

Are you more of an introvert or extrovert?
Probably more introvert. It helps me deal with the isolation and solitude of a PhD. At work I often say things quietly and get over-spoken. Then my idea gets claimed by another.

What's your sleep routine like?
Bad. My toddler has glue ear. I go to bed about 10.30pm and read for an hour. My alarm goes off at 6.00am. I have not had an uninterrupted night of sleep for almost 4 months.

What's your work routine like?
I work best between about 10pm and 3am. No idea why. My lifestyle does not allow this, so Mon, Tue, Wed I go to work from 8am to 6pm. Friday I work from 8am to 5.30pm. Thurs and Sat I have a lie in until 8am and then work on my PhD from about 10am to 8pm, with a longer break at lunch.

What's the best advice you ever received?
It’s a PhD, not a nobel prize; Good enough is good enough; it’s all or nothing; Sharing best practices just least to a lot of mediocre; Enjoy life while you can, nobody ever thinks they are just about to die!

Tuesday, May 12, 2015

Self-care in Academia: How to keep sane and healthy while travelling and shifting countries

Today, I'm inviting Silvia Tavares to share her thoughts on self-care in academia. Silvia is a Brazilian researcher living in New Zealand. She submitted her PhD in Urban Landscape at Lincoln University last July, and just after that she headed to Germany for a six-month experience as a Visiting Researcher. Silvia’s research interests include urban comfort and design, microclimate, wellbeing, health and climate change. You can find her tweeting as @silgtavares and blogging at

Last year was a big one. In six months (July to December), I submitted my PhD thesis, spent six months in Europe as a visiting researcher, and coronated it all getting married in Brazil early this year. It was amazing, but also challenging.

My PhD was handed in 3rd of July and I naively believed the hard bit was behind me. During the doctorate I developed consistent habits of writing every day, using the Pomodoro Technique to improve focus and make sure I achieve at leat my minimum daily goal. Exercising has also always been a priority, I used Sleep Cycle to assess the quality and amount of sleep, and had a good work space both at the university and at home. With all that in place I managed to submit the thesis in three years.

One week after the submission I was on my way to Europe. Living in New Zealand almost anything becomes ‘on the way’ to Europe, and then I stopped in Brazil for a week to see my family, friends and make some wedding decisions.

By the 22nd July I was in Europe about to start work. I allowed one week between arriving and starting work. I wanted to have time to open a bank account, and find my way around the city. But the differences in time zone (15 hours between Brazil and New Zealand, and four between Germany and Brazil), language (I don’t speak German), food and climate had its toll.

In the midst of the excitement, I didn’t realise the impact it all was having on me. I failed to fully assess my state of tiredness. I had intentions of joining the gym and having a routine, but before I knew I ended up at a physician’s clinic. I felt strange, with chest pressure and a fainty feeling. The diagnosis was ‘stress’, and recommendation was to ‘relax’ and exercise. Easy. Well… Sort of.

It was all very exciting and that first month was just the outcome of a lot of things I had had dreamed about and worked for, and all the accumulated anxiety and passion seemed to have found a way out of my system through a ‘crisis’. I did slow down, but never had a ‘normal routine’ in those six months, much less one that fitted a gym hour a few times a week. When I thought all was back on track other symptoms related to stress of immunity started to show up. The reality is that I never managed to live life to the fullest during those six months.

From now on life is probably not going to change much as the changes will be constant, and this is one of the many aspects I like about academia. I do want to keep improving my research skills and hope to have more oportunities to have academic overseas experience. But after this episode I’ve learned a few lessons about how to keep healthy in the midst of changes:

Planning, planning, planning

It is particularly difficult to achieve a ‘normal’ routine when you have a lot of work to do and only a few months in a new place, which is generally the situation for visiting researcher experiences. Commiting to a daily life that includes all your normal activities might mean you won’t have time to make the most of the new environment. How do you envisage your new routine? What are the things you want to fit into your day? Are you travelling in the weekends? Put it on paper and work on it, even if it changes later. Make sure you allow enough time – and a little more – for yourself to get used to the new environment, and to put your life and stuff in order before starting the formal work. When you are more settled, revise the plan, find a way of practicing your favourite physical activities, get enough rest, and find something that helps you to relax.

Never accept ‘being tired’ as a norm
No matter what the situation is, if you have been travelling or working long hours in the same place, and even if you consider blaming the jetlag, being exhausted is not an option. Make sure you have enough hours of sleep, and if after sleeping you still feel tired, it might be time to find some extra relaxing activities such as meditating, yoga, exercising, or anything else that works for you.

Add physical activities to all budgets
Especially to the time and financial budgets. In my experience, exercising helps me keep the levels of motivation up. In my case this means having a gym membership, as I don’t like exercising in the rain or cold weather, and these are always excuses to avoid it. If the weather is good, that can always be a plan B for variation. But I always make sure in all conditions I will get it done.

Take the PhD as a learning process for life
Yes you will be an expert in your area of research, but more than that it is a great opportunity to learn about yourself. Take the chance to learn what times of the day you work better, how many hours of sleep your body needs, what types of time management and planning techniques work for you, and to find physical activities that you love. Life after the PhD is more dynamic but not necessarily easier. You will still have a lot of publications to manage, co-authors to report to, papers to review, classes to teach, and so forth. So take the chance now to make the PhD the best preparation for what lies ahead.

Thursday, May 7, 2015

PhD Talk for Academic Transfer: How to start up a new laboratory

This post is part of the series PhD Talk for AcademicTransfer: posts written for the Dutch academic career network AcademicTransfer, your go-to resource for all research positions in the Netherlands.

These posts are sponsored by AcademicTransfer, and tailored to those of you interested in pursuing a research position in the Netherlands.

If these posts raise your interest in working as a researcher in the Netherlands, even better - and feel free to fire away any questions you might have on this topic!

When I started to work at Universidad San Francisco de Quito, one of the tasks I started to work on in the very beginning was the development of a structural concrete laboratory.

While the finalization of the laboratory is not quite there yet, it has been a very interesting journey. Often new professors on the tenure track are required to set up at least some lab space for their research. In my case, the laboratory is (not yet) for my research as well as for a number of teaching activities.

And, there was nothing to start from. The students simply had to go to another university for their laboratory class until recently.

While at times I wish everything would be just done and I could walk into a finished, spacious laboratory and keep working on my experimental research, I trust that with some patience the moment will be there when that will be possible.

Even though I'm currently in step 2 of a 6-stage process, I have learned a number of lessons from the experience of the last 1,5 years of building up a laboratory that I would like to share with you.

Here's a list of a number of things to keep in mind when you develop your lab space:

1. Get to know the local providers of lab equipment

If you need to import test equipment from abroad, it can be helpful to get to know the brands that have a local representative. This representative can help you with the installation of the equipment, regular maintenance and calibration, and trouble-shooting of any issues you could have with the equipment. A good technical representative can help you with all that, and even more. Unfortunately, some companies seem to have salespeople rather than technical people in their rather distant locations.

2. It's OK to start small...

Unless you managed to secure a large budget for the development of your laboratory, chances are that you'll have to start small and take time to develop the entire space. I'm currently housed in a space that is not even 10% of the floor space that I need, without much of the equipment or facilities that I need for my research, and only with the ability to teach a class in the space and allow for some research on concrete mix design (not my research topic). But it is something, and we're using the space and equipment we have to their maximum abilities.

3.... but make sure you get results with a small lab to notify the authorities of the importance of your lab

As long as there's no big lab floor, I can't continue the experimental research I want to do - but that doesn't mean I'm going to sit in a corner and wait until I finally have the space I need. The space our department has now, is what I've been using for teaching a class (now taught by a junior colleague), for giving space to the students who competed in the national and international concrete competition, and for thesis projects. With our small space, we've had excellent results - our students won the national competition and ended up second in the international competition. And these results have not gone unnoticed by the authorities of the university. I'm hoping that these successes will give more priority to the further development of our lab.

4. Get help

Hire a lab assistant and/or a technician. If you're on the tenure track and need to publish, teach, carry out research and more, then you simply don't have the time to run to the story whenever you run out of something in the lab. Shortly before opening of the lab, our department hired a junior colleague, freshly graduated, who is now in charge of the day-to-day management of the laboratory and teaching the mix design class. It's been a tremendous help, and one of the driving factors in the success of our students in the competitions.

5. Plan stages

You could walk into the office of the authorities of your university and ask for a million dollars, but chances are small they will open their pockets and give you all you need. I was asked to subdivide the development of the laboratory into stages, and focus on the most urgent needs first. We're long since behind on the original plan, but at least we have something that is producing results, and I keep pushing to realize the next stages.

6. Involve your students

The more people you involve, the more enthusiasm for your laboratory. By now, the small space we have is almost always bubbling with activity, and I have the impression that our students like hanging out in and around the lab (except for the afternoons, when our lack of air conditioning makes the inside temperature pretty much unbearable).

7. Get professional affiliations

See if you can get a tie to a professional organization in your laboratory, set up a student chapter of a professional organization, or organize certification exams in your new lab. You'll be able to reach out from the ivory tower and involve more local practitioners into your laboratory, and build a stronger reputation by doing so.

8. Ask for donations

Ask producers for donations of material and maybe even donations of used laboratory equipment. Whatever you get for free, helps, of course, and you'd be surprised how often companies are willing to give a small donation to universities for educational purposes. A plant that produces material by the truckload typically will not make a problem out of a donation of just a few bags of material. Even more so, it might be difficult for you to buy small quantities of material that is typically sold by the truckload.

9. Dream big

Last but not least: pour your heart and soul into the development of your laboratory, and dream big. The civil engineering laboratory of USFQ officially opened in November, and we've organized the national concrete competition, won it, got second place in the international competition, are doing some interesting undergraduate research projects, have started a student chapter of the American Concrete Institute - all of that in an abandoned greenhouse on campus. These successes not only make us proud of our accomplishments, but also motivate us to keep working towards a better and bigger laboratory.