Listening to talks as a newbie - (Dec/07/2012 )
So I'm a newbie in my first 3 months of PhD graduate school. I have about 3 years tech experience under my belt and a masters degree from a top 5 school with a 4.0 GPA. But I will be the first to tell you, "I don't get this". My method is unique. If I study something, I"m going to study it ad nauseam so that I know everything about it. Point is, my experimental approach and design, I think, are in good shape. The problem is when I listen to talks I have absolutely no idea what is going on. I follow up to a point, but then they throw a few molecular interaction diagrams up and I'm lost. The wierd thing is that everyone else in my class seems to be following. I try to keep a general mindset and not think too much about what's going on, yet I still become easily lost. Is my mindset formed so that I can only comprehend what I've studied for hours or am I just looking too much into talks?
You are not alone. I often have the problem especially when I am not very interested in the topic. Of course, speakers are also responsible for not grabbing their audience tight enough.
Well are you really a newbie then with tech experience and a master's degree?
Anyway if the presentations are about topics that belong closely to your field of work, then you should work on theory and background and try to broaden your knowledge or try to catch up the stuff with a textbook.
If it's something different (belonging to different fields, nothing or not much to do with your work) then I think it's quite normal not to understand everything and even to have a quite relaxed view on this....detailed knowledge about this won't help you and you'll forget it anyway fast and biological sciences are extremely broad and you never can know all.
Best is perhaps to get a broader knowledge base and not to become an "expert idiot" with extremely restricted knowledge and view. And you might can try to learn more about basic principles and "laws" that often help to understand at least what they talk about, even if you don't get all tiny details.
And I guess in such classes most just pretend to understand everything and show the expert attitude...if you'd ask them to explain it, they'd be in difficulties
Maybe it would be beneficial if you tell us what was your masters' field (and tech experience) and what is your PhD about. If molecular biology is a completely different field or not.
I was never too good at math, not that I have something against it, but my attention span usually caused several mistakes during calculation so was generaly not a very big fan, also same for physics, maybe even more, because in math the equation is stated clearly and you just have to find a way how to solve it, in physics you need to adapt the equation to a real situation and that is a problem for me. On the other hand I always loved physical principles, HOW things work, those parts of physics without actual need of calculating anything were great.
So when I'm now watching the course on action potential, everything is fine, neurons, axons, membranes, ion gradients, voltage-channels, but now they stick some nasty equation and reformulate it to fit some prerequisities and I got lost.
Probably if you can't get over this problem by studying the topic in question (like, my physics knowledge is a way old now..) you should at least find a way how to understand it in your way (I actually understand the action potential and what it depends on, but phew, leave out the equations ).
And yes, I also think it is important to always keep the big picture, you are on the beginning of PhD, so there is much you can do to prevent becoming expert idiot. If you can't do it the ordinary way, find some other that suits you better.