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The Nordic PhD

Surviving and Succeeding

Edited By Christopher McMaster, Caterina Murphy and Jakob Rosenkrantz de Lasson

The Nordic PhD: Surviving and Succeeding is an edited book written for prospective and current doctoral students by a mix of doctoral students and those who have recently completed their doctorates. The premise is simple: if you could go back in time and talk with yourself when you began your studies, what advice would you give? Isn’t hindsight a bonus? If only I knew then what I know now!

The Nordic PhD: Surviving and Succeeding follows editions focused on study in Aotearoa New Zealand, Australia, the U.K., U.S., and South Africa. What sets The Nordic PhD: Surviving and Succeeding apart from many others on the market is its down-to-earth and practical approach. Furthermore, its originality also lies in the fact that it is grounded in the context of doctoral studies in the Nordic countries.

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Chapter Four: Failures and Setbacks: Contaminated Cell Cultures, Missing Data and Rejected Manuscripts (Roope A. Kallionpää)


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Failures and Setbacks

Contaminated Cell Cultures, Missing Data and Rejected Manuscripts



Failures and setbacks are an integral and inevitable part of research. Failures and setbacks are the various disappointing surprises, problems and obstacles that you may face during doctoral studies. Some of them are related to your decisions and actions, while others happen irrespective of your choices. If you work in a laboratory, you will have surely experienced the variety of ways things can go wrong: cell culture contamination, experiments yielding inconsistent results or machines breaking down. Those involved in clinical or social research may encounter difficulties in patient recruiting, unmotivated participants and drop-outs of the research study altogether. Surveys and registers may suffer from missing or biased data, and statistical models may fail to converge. Printers get stuck, files are corrupted and important papers are lost, typically at the worst possible moment. Even the peer review system and unsuccessful funding applications can steadily produce disappointments. Is any of this starting to sound familiar to you?

When I started my PhD project in cancer research three years ago, I spent the first month trying to extract DNA with reagents (a substance or mixture for use in chemical analysis or other reactions) expired long ago, and I now know to avoid this kind of mistake. Although increasing experience will help foreseeing and avoiding many of the potential pitfalls,...

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