ELEC_ENG/COMP_ENG 495: PhD Life Skills Building



INSTRUCTOR: Nivedita Arora

OFFICE HOURS: Wednesday 5-6pm, Tech L477

CLASS DESCRIPTION AND GOALS: Your Ph.D. journey is about creating your research identity as much as it is about your personal life growth.  With this in mind, this class aims to teach some foundational concepts and skills through interactive discussions, panels, and anecdotes that will help you sail through this ~5 years of research with higher ease and resilience. Below are some of the topics we will cover in this class, ranging from useful and fun to even outrageous (full course schedule)! We have 4 main class goals: 

Goal 1 - Professional Development: How to read scientific papers, research ethics, career paths after Ph.D., internships, awards and fellowship application process, service work, writing a research proposal, writing paper reviews, managing literature review.

Goal 2 - Research communication: Creating web presence, how to network effectively, giving an elevator pitch, writing a blog, making aesthetically nice paper diagrams, creating paper talk videos, resources for improving writing and public speaking, giving a good poster presentation, ethically using generative AI. 

Goal 3 - Empathetically connecting with your cohort, lab mates, and collaborators: Creating supportive bonds within the ECE grad cohort, conflict resolution, developing trust, being a good team player, connecting with empathy, effectively communicating with your advisor and managing expectations, conflict resolution, helping build a healthy lab culture, having boundaries in toxic situations, how to support your team/lab mate when they are having a hard time. 

Goal 4 - Building resilience and self-care habits: Normalizing struggle, embracing failure, building confidence, getting out of inertia, building a self-care skill arsenal, understanding healthy forms of motivation mechanisms, thinking long-term, asking for help is a sign of courage, understanding campus resources for self-care and self-growth.



Any ECE Ph.D. student can enroll in the class. This class is highly recommended for incoming ECE 1st year and 2nd years Ph.D. students. For senior Ph.D. students (3rd year and beyond), we would love to have you too! Even if you are not able to attend the class for credits, you are welcome to drop in on any relevant topic of your interest and also request to be added to the canvas website as a non-course credit student.



Speak up your mind, heart, and soul | class participation - 25% Please consider the class as a safe space to ask any question, talk about things that you find hard, share strategies that work for you, or just share moments of joy. I understand the online lectures/classes/meetings in the past few years have stunted the feeling of raising a hand and asking a question or answering them, but please speak up and make the class interactive. 

Assignments - 48% (each 6%) + 2 mental health/travel days | Homework submitted one day late will receive a 40% off, 2 days late 60% off, and beyond that will receive a zero. These thoughtfully designed goal-oriented assignments are meant to lay down a foundation for a successful Ph.D. career and life. The grading is meant to inspire fearless and enjoyable work. You will get full marks as long as you attempt each part of the assignment ‘sincerely’ (e.g., please don't turn it half a page proposal when the guidelines say 3 pages). All assignments are due Monday night.  

Poster presentation - 10% 

Elevator pitch delivery - 10% 

Reflections about the class and quarter - 7% 

Bonus points (will be revealed soon) - 5%