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1. Do not wait for your last semester of the Master's degree to talk to your supervisor about your plans for your thesis!!! In fact, start the thesis in your 1st semester!

2. YOU MUST GET A C14 (FDNY Certificate of Fitness) Certificate from FDNY. To do so, you must request a letter from Francis Sheehan <> (cc the chair of the department and your mentor on the email). You will then make an appointment with the FDNY for an exam (see here as well). Material for the exam cab be found on the FDNY website.

THERE IS A CORTHALS LAB MANUAL AND CHEMICAL HYGIENE PLAN which you must read. You will have to sign a statement that certifies you read and understood all parts of the documents. The Corthals Lab Manual is available on the Corthals Lab Drive (you must request access to it - only people with access can open the link).

A must read before you join the lab: Stearns Lab Modest Advice to Graduate Students and Reply To Stearns: Some Acynical Advice For Graduate Students


(Adapted from Franklin University)

"Getting a Master’s degree requires a lot of hard work. It’s not easy. And not everyone who attempts a Master’s program will actually complete their degree. Below are some of the most common hurdles to success we’ve seen."

1. Expecting Too Much Hand-Holding

Graduate work is designed to be independent in nature.

“Earning a degree involves massive blocks of work that you must plan for on your own. Although professors are there to coach, prod, and advise, they will generally assume you’re doing your work on a schedule that works for you.” George Pomeroy, Graduate Admissions Advisor at Franklin University

Unlike undergraduate programs, professors are not likely to plan “check-ins” or “first draft reviews” for their Master’s students. You’ll be held to a much higher standard of independence.

Masters degrees are the precursors of your PhD and are preparing you for the professional world, where you will be tasked to work on your own, either as a principal investigator or as part of a professional team."


2. Falling Behind on Their Coursework

"Procrastinators will quickly find that the constant, high volume of reading, writing, and research means that falling behind is not an option.

"From day one, you need to think about time management. Make sure in your first classes that you set your time management expectations: learn how often you need to study, for how long, and on what days. Over the long course of your continued studies, the time management habits you develop early on can either make or break you." George Pomeroy, Graduate Admissions Advisor at Franklin University

Typically, “pulling an all-nighter”—as some do when they get behind in undergraduate studies—won’t be enough to get you caught up."

3. Struggling to Write at a Graduate Level

"The style of writing is different at that graduate level. That catches some students off guard. If you’re unable to articulate your research or your unique point of view, it’s hard for a professor to see how well you are achieving in your classwork

Also, remember that you'll need to be reading, reviewing, consulting, and footnoting multiple references and sources. Your writing must reflect your critical thinking, showing both theory and applied knowledge."

John Jay has an excellent Writing Center. You MUST use it, no matter how excellent you think you are (there is always room for improvement):

3 Big Reasons People Fail to Complete Their Master’s



3 Big Reasons People Fail their Master's


What you're expected to do on your own (OYO)


HOW TO (Quick Guide)


Research Students Links


- Get a Certificate of Fitness (See above and below in "How to")

- Develop your research project. Do not come to your mentor asking for a project (unless your mentor has advertised a very specific project) or with an unrealistically wide or difficult/expensive project ("I'd like to do research in Forensic Anthropology" ... Okaaaaay... which parts??? or "I'd like to do proteomics of Neanderthals" - that's just not going to happen - takes too long, and too expensive).

To show up to your mentor's lab with no real good idea of what you'd like to focus your research on is not a strong move. It shows very little dedication or even care for the research you will have to do. It may result in you not getting a mentor willing to do a thesis with you.

-  Develop a research plan. Though your mentor will help you with it, you cannot come with a blank sheet and expect your mentor to write the plan for you.

- SHOW UP AT LAB MEETING. You must show up and come prepared at the Corthals Lab meetings (usually on Wednesdays during community hours, usually in the lab. More info here). Lab meeting is an opportunity to work out problems or gloat about your results (!). You must come prepapre and have a slide of your progress entered in the Corthals Lab Google Slide show.

- Fund or Find funding for your research. This is the most important and is often to spelled out to students who expect their research will be funded by the lab OR by their mentor. NO!

You will have to fund your own lab research and/or apply for funding.

John Jay has a very modest fund ($500) for graduate students which covers consummable costs. TO APPLY, you must get a quote from a consummable vendor and submit it to the Graduate Program director, Dr. Mechthild Prinz.

- Go to training for John Jay laboratory safety. You can find a schedule here.

- Order and manage your consummables: never forget that THIS IS YOUR OWN RESEARCH. You must therefore own it, every part of it, including be responsible for ordering and organizing your own supplies for your project. This is NOT the responsibility of your mentor. And it does prepare you to enter the professional world, where this will be expected of you. (see below *how to order*)

- Maintain the laboratory: the laboratory is shared space, and you are responsible for maintaining the lab clean and organized after using it. This includes reporting any broken piece of equipment, any missing supplies as well as supplies that are either expired or running low.

You must also follow protocols when added or discarding any chemicals according to John Jay's chemical disposal and Hazardous Waste Management procedures.

- Go to the writing center for your first drafts:  

HOW TO (the quick guide):

For a more complete guide, see the CORTHALS LAB MANUAL AND CHEMICAL HYGIENE PLAN on the Corthals Lab Drive

1. Get the FNDY C14 Certificate of Fitness:

- You must request a letter from Francis Sheehan <> (cc the chair of the department and your mentor on the email).

- You will then make an appointment with the FDNY for an exam (see here as well).

- Material for the exam cab be found on the FDNY website.

2. Order your own supplies:

- You are free to choose any supplier you prefer for supplies (google your supplies and shop around for the best price)

- The Corthals Lab usually uses Thermo Fisher. The representative for NYC is Jennifer Baklarz and can be emailed at

- You must have a clear idea of what you need and how much of it (you can discuss your protocols with your mentor).

- You must have a spreadsheet of your supplies with each items' Product or Catalog # (eg, Absolute Ethanol, 200 proof, Molecular Biology Grade on Thermo Fisher is catalog # is T038181000CS).

- GET A QUOTE BEFORE YOU BUY!!! You will either need a quote for your $500 to send to Dr. Prinz (see above in FUND or FIND FUNDING) or to get a discount. To get a quote, you will need to send your spreadsheet to the representative of your supply company responsible for New York City (you can find that out on Google or the company's website).

- Once supplies are in, you must fill the CORTHALS LAB CHEMICALS AND SUPPLIES inventory Google Spreadsheet.

3. Get into the Corthals lab after hours/when your mentor is not present

- Access to the lab is limited, as you need a key to enter.

- Find a member of faculty or CLT to open the lab for you.

Advice to Graduate Students