Steve Stearns’ and Ray Huey’s classic “Some modest advice to graduate students” came out in the ESA Bulletin in 1987.* As related in the piece, it’s based on an informal joint talk Stearns and Huey gave back in 1976, titled “Cynical advice to graduate students”. “Nobody Cares About You” is the immortal title of the first subsection.**
I was just rereading it last week, deciding whether to have my new graduate students read it for our first lab meeting. It’s impressive how well it holds up! Yes, there are bits that are most relevant to students who want to go on to tenure-track jobs at research universities. There’s certainly no direct advice on how to prepare for any non-academic career.*** But honestly, I think it sells the piece short to read it as a recipe for how to become an ecology prof at Yale or Washington (Stearns’ and Huey’s respective employers). To me, it mostly just reads like really good advice on how to get the most out of graduate school in science.
But what do you think? Do you still agree with Stearns and Huey’s advice–if you ever did? What other “modest” advice would you give to a new graduate student in ecology? Are there other similar pieces you’d recommend to new graduate students? Looking forward to your comments!
*Search on “stearns huey modest advice”, without the quotes, if that link ever breaks.
**It’s not actually cynical advice. Just very honest and forthright. Stearns and Huey don’t advise doing anything that could be construed as gaming the system. For instance, the piece advises students not to publish too much, for reasons familiar to anyone who’s been reading this blog recently.
***Though you might be surprised to learn that non-academic careers do come up in the piece, and not in a negative way.