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Definitely Don't Forget the Coffee

First things first, it's your first day of graduate school, so get yourself a set of keys to the lab and a new lab coat, writes Norma Browne at Bitesize Bio. Then, she says, check out where the Wi-Fi hotspots are, claim a coffee mug, and introduce yourself around the lab.

She also advises locating your office and settling in. "[I]t will become your sanctuary over the next number of years," Browne says. "Set aside some wall space for your GANTT chart and a Hang in There Kitty poster."

Browne also notes that it's not unexpected to feel like you have no idea what's going on once you start in the lab and have no clue how what you're doing relates to your project. Don't worry, she writes, the pieces will come together. And don't forget to keep your advisor aware of what's going on.

Most of all, Browne notes that your experience may vary from hers as well as from those of other people you encounter. "The biggest lesson I have learned is there are no set rules in research and there is no fixed path. Each project and associated tasks are unique to you," she says. "There is no umbrella under which all the reaction conditions fall. Instead, you will discover which methodologies and techniques are suited for your own individual project."