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Faculty & Staff Focus, Research

LSU Professor Pens “A Guide to Academia”

06/19/2012 01:56 PM

BATON ROUGE - Attending graduate school and pursuing a career in academia are life-altering decisions that require a great deal of planning and preparation, but many students considering these paths often wonder where to begin and what to expect.

Prosanta Chakrabarty, LSU assistant professor of biological sciences and curator of ichthyology at LSU’s Museum of Natural Science, was in those students’ shoes not long ago, and now Chakrabarty is sharing his experiences and insights through his new book, “A Guide to Academia: Getting into and Surviving Grad School, Postdocs, and a Research Job.”

“This book is intended to be a primer on the academic research life,” Chakrabarty said. “It’s a compilation of mine and others’ experiences and wisdoms discovered throughout my own starts – and false-starts – in the process.”

Chakrabarty was inspired to write the book during his first semester teaching at LSU in 2008, after several of his graduate students had sought his advice on topics such as writing a curriculum vitae, or CV, and preparing for the many interviews required for graduate school and beyond. At the time, Chakrabarty also found himself continually discovering new aspects and responsibilities of an assistant professorship.

“I thought, ‘Let me write down all these things I’ve learned in my experiences while I still remember, and let me see if I can help other people,’” Chakrabarty said. “The book is unique because it’s brief, yet it also touches on every stage of the academic profession.”

Chakrabarty recommends students read his book as an introductory guide to the post-graduate process, then seek out mentors who can offer more in-depth advice and a clearer view of their respective research fields. He also suggests online resources such as a blog called “The Thesis Whisperer” and Twitter, where members of academia converse using the “#phdchat” hashtag.

“My book is really for people who want to be in science, and those wanting to be professors who also do research,” Chakrabarty said. The guide is also useful for anyone considering graduate school in general, and he’s already received several emails from people around the country at different points in their careers thanking him for writing the book.

“I’m really proud that at least a few people have found it helpful so far,” Chakrabarty said. “But I’m hoping it’ll reach more people pursuing a career in academia, and if it also inspires others to consider this as a profession, that’s even better.”

Chakrabarty said he considers himself lucky because he knew from a very young age that he wanted to study zoology, and his work at LSU gives him the opportunity to live out his dream and pursue his passions.

“I love being in academia. I don’t have a boss looking over my shoulder, I have my own lab and I’m never bored – I’m always discovering new things,” Chakrabarty said. “I get to travel around the world studying what interests me, then come back and teach it to really wonderful students. LSU has a great culture and an environment supportive of research.”

Chakrabarty and a team of colleagues recently discovered a new species called the Louisiana pancake batfish, which was named one of the Top 10 New Species in 2011 by the International Institute for Species Exploration. To learn more about the discovery, visit For more information about Chakrabarty and his research, follow @LSU_Fish on Twitter and visit

To learn more about research at LSU, follow @LSUResearchNews on Twitter.



LSU Research Communications