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Old 06-02-2009, 10:22 PM   #101
Black Peter
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Re: Official Ph.D question/advice thread

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Originally Posted by poincaraux View Post
Wow.

So, I'm in Biophysics instead of Psych, but still ... I'll be applying for faculty jobs sometime in the next year or so. Any tips about applying/negotiating? Any tips for the first few years, or after that? After talking to a lot of people, I'd pretty much decided not to apply to large research universities, but it sounds like you think I should reconsider. FWIW, I do computational/theoretical work, not wet-lab work.
I am no expert in Biophysics, so you'd be best off talking with your advisor or other Biophysics faculty about this.

However, i can offer some general advice for new faculty that tends to be relevant in any field.

1) Find out what gets you tenure. Most people do all the wrong things because they don't know better. If getting tenure depends on pubs, then by all means, focus on that. Let your classes slide if necessary. On any given day, if you have to choose between research and teaching a class, this should be an easy choice as long as you don't get complaints from the students. Don't get caught up in a bunch of committees and service work. Focus on what gets you tenure.

2) Make friends with the full professors and work with them if possible. They can help you more than you know. Find a mentor right out the gate. This is crucial. Pick one that publishes a lot (if pubs are what gets you tenure).

3) Don't waste your entire first year "getting your lab set up". Get it done immediately. It doesn't take that long to set up a lab and start collecting data. The sooner you are publishing the better.

4) When the job offers start coming in, talk to people who have been there about how to negotiate. There are so many things you can get from schools if you just know about them.
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Old 06-02-2009, 10:34 PM   #102
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Re: Official Ph.D question/advice thread

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Originally Posted by poincaraux View Post
Wow.

So, I'm in Biophysics instead of Psych, but still ... I'll be applying for faculty jobs sometime in the next year or so. Any tips about applying/negotiating? Any tips for the first few years, or after that? After talking to a lot of people, I'd pretty much decided not to apply to large research universities, but it sounds like you think I should reconsider. FWIW, I do computational/theoretical work, not wet-lab work.
I think it's a trade-off. I've known a number of folks who were rock stars in grad school and took 2nd-tier (more teaching-focused) faculty positions, and became frustrated at the amount of total time was required to attain tenure (between teaching, research, and service). I've also know some very good researchers who got frustrated in similar more teaching-focused positions when they wanted to focus on their research.

A reasonable approach might be to think about what is important to you: teaching or research. If the latter, a soft-money research-faculty appointment might be better than a tenure-track slot at a more teaching-focused school.

This thread is officially almost derailed.

Edit: And, given your focus, there should be plenty of government/TIGR/biotech jobs out there. The right company can often be much better than an academic job, monetarily and personally (life-work balance stuff).
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Old 06-02-2009, 10:51 PM   #103
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Re: Official Ph.D question/advice thread

Soft-money positions have their benefits, but stability is not one of them. Every year, you are responsible for getting more money. One bad year like this year and you can be gone... poof! A great example is the mass bloodshed at ASU when their budget suddenly shrunk by 25%.
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Old 06-02-2009, 11:28 PM   #104
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Re: Official Ph.D question/advice thread

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I am no expert in Biophysics, so you'd be best off talking with your advisor or other Biophysics faculty about this.

However, i can offer some general advice for new faculty that tends to be relevant in any field.

1) Find out what gets you tenure. Most people do all the wrong things because they don't know better. If getting tenure depends on pubs, then by all means, focus on that. Let your classes slide if necessary. On any given day, if you have to choose between research and teaching a class, this should be an easy choice as long as you don't get complaints from the students. Don't get caught up in a bunch of committees and service work. Focus on what gets you tenure.

2) Make friends with the full professors and work with them if possible. They can help you more than you know. Find a mentor right out the gate. This is crucial. Pick one that publishes a lot (if pubs are what gets you tenure).

3) Don't waste your entire first year "getting your lab set up". Get it done immediately. It doesn't take that long to set up a lab and start collecting data. The sooner you are publishing the better.

4) When the job offers start coming in, talk to people who have been there about how to negotiate. There are so many things you can get from schools if you just know about them.
I will continute the derailing of this thread from PhD advice into faculty career advice.

I am not sure the above post is good advice.

1) Teaching - try to teach graduate level classes when possible and do a good job. The advantage is getting exposure with potential grad students to join your group (so do a good job to attract them) and seeing first hand who is good and who is not (you want to avoid as many duds especially when you are just getting started). Secondly, I recommend getting notes off other faculty for teaching lower level courses, many will be very grateful to give them to you. Spend most of your time preparing to give lectures because slacking on teaching will lead to complaints. You can slack on things like reusing other people's quizzes and exams, things nobody will notice or complaim much about. Overall though, you are right that pubs, but moreso getting funding is more important than publications.

2) The key is collaboration here more than mentoring. You want to be involved in your department with a few other faculty member's research. There is a lot of give and take here, mostly giving at first, but you have to play politics very carefully. You want to make absolutely certain you establish a cutting edge research program, so keep your collaborations on the fringe of your overall research goals. The game doesn't end after tenure either because there are still promotions to be had so be prepared to keep collaborating throughout your career, probably with a whole bunch of ass clowns, with personalities you may hate.

3) You should get a post doc and grad students to begin setting up the lab. Your first year will be spent writing grant proposals, largely based on the proposals you wrote that got you the job (and you have to think about this even before you get a faculty job).

4) Negotiations for faculy jobs are mostly focused on your start-up package. If you are going to do research, you need seed money to get started. You will want to negotiate the best you can to get money for the equipment you need. So you need to do your homework and make a budget for the projects you propose to do and start making these wishlsits as you are applying. I don't think you will want to spend anytime negotiating salary, its just not worth it. Assistant professor salaries are not particularly high and you will need to get tenure before seeing any significant raises. You can negotiate how much you can pay yourself out of start up for summer salary, but there really is not too much to argue about here (it does not look good to pay yourself ugo amounts of money out of funds the school gives you to start up your lab).

You missed the most important factor tenure decisions are based upon:

5) Reputation. You will give seminars, you will present at national meetings, and you will have an external advisory committee. Your faculty will take their opinions heavily into consideration when its time to decide your fate. The key for these folks is whether or not you are a world class researcher in your field and if you are on track to continueing this cutting-edge research. The main idea is this group can see through several weak publications in a scattered set of fields. They want to see high level publications in a specific field that is cutting edge and is heading towards something even bigger. I think making friends in your own department is over-rated, but making friends with your colleagues at other institutions is much more important. These advisory committees follow you as you try to make the bump from associate to full professor and can play a role in obtaining named professorships.
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Old 06-02-2009, 11:35 PM   #105
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Re: Official Ph.D question/advice thread

there has been a lot of talk about how many people have to compete for a given facult spot, what is the ratio of applicants to spots in a given top 10 PhD program, preferably one in engineering/sciences for my interest
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Old 06-02-2009, 11:53 PM   #106
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Re: Official Ph.D question/advice thread

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there has been a lot of talk about how many people have to compete for a given facult spot, what is the ratio of applicants to spots in a given top 10 PhD program, preferably one in engineering/sciences for my interest
I don't have specific numbers but I do know chemistry departments get about 100-200 applicants for every open position, but about half of these are easily tossed out for a variety of reasons. So maybe 40-80 real applicants resulting in about 8-12 interviews. Keep in mind these 100-200 applicants largely apply at most open positions, so its not like if you have 20 schools with an open search resulting 2000 unique applicants. Basically its the same 100-200 applicants of which at least half are not very strong.
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Old 06-03-2009, 12:46 AM   #107
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Re: Official Ph.D question/advice thread

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I don't have specific numbers but I do know chemistry departments get about 100-200 applicants for every open position, but about half of these are easily tossed out for a variety of reasons. So maybe 40-80 real applicants resulting in about 8-12 interviews. Keep in mind these 100-200 applicants largely apply at most open positions, so its not like if you have 20 schools with an open search resulting 2000 unique applicants. Basically its the same 100-200 applicants of which at least half are not very strong.
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For chemistry, here's an article on getting tenure at a top 10 institution.

http://pubs.acs.org/cen/education/81...ducation1.html
Although the numbers can be a little misleading, it's safe to say that it's just very competitive. Essentially, only the top people of their PhD class have a decent shot at tenureship at a top 10 institution.

I expect that Physics/Math professorship is more difficult to obtain. I've also seen some Chemistry PhDs become ChemE/EE/Physics faculty, which changes up the data a little bit, as well.
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Old 06-03-2009, 12:55 AM   #108
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Re: Official Ph.D question/advice thread

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My attitude toward academic work, industry, finance, and government changes based on what day it is.

I don't think that there's anything beautiful about the work a quant does, and it is high-stress the first time you write an algorithm and the company's like "ok, let's use it." ::GULP!:: And it's high-stress every subsequent time. But, you get paid an awful lot, and you get to live in some of my favorite places in the US, so it's definitely getting consideration. Plus I am very interested in algorithms and computation, so I'd actually be doing something somewhat interesting (note that this differs from "beautiful").

And as a poker player, I'm less averse to the idea of gambling for a living. Some will argue that that's all that hedge funds do, and I see their point (and don't really care).

It just depends on the lifestyle you want (day-to-day) and the amount of money you need to live comfortably.
Have you read this book: http://www.amazon.com/My-Life-Quant-.../dp/0471394203 ?

It has been a while since I've read it, but the book introduced to me the idea of how difficult it is to get into academia. I think he dreamed of becoming the next Feynman, but he eventually became a quant because he felt he wouldn't strike it big in academia.

Quote:
Originally Posted by Max Raker View Post
To add to what Wyman said, basically everybody in grad school should think about what their options are if they leave academia. Certainly go for it if your dream is to get tenure at a major university but understand that this is incredibly challenging and may not fit in with other goals in your life.
This seems like great advice.
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Old 06-03-2009, 01:01 AM   #109
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Re: Official Ph.D question/advice thread

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Originally Posted by smk67 View Post
I will continute the derailing of this thread from PhD advice into faculty career advice.

I am not sure the above post is good advice.
You may have missed this:

"Find out what gets you tenure. Most people do all the wrong things because they don't know better. If getting tenure depends on pubs, then by all means, focus on that."

Quote:
You missed the most important factor tenure decisions are based upon:
Obviously, every field has it's own criteria.

Wouldn't you say that if you publish a lot, you'll get the reputation you need to get tenure? That seems to be what this paragraph is saying.

Quote:
5) Reputation. You will give seminars, you will present at national meetings, and you will have an external advisory committee. Your faculty will take their opinions heavily into consideration when its time to decide your fate. The key for these folks is whether or not you are a world class researcher in your field and if you are on track to continueing this cutting-edge research. The main idea is this group can see through several weak publications in a scattered set of fields. They want to see high level publications in a specific field that is cutting edge and is heading towards something even bigger. I think making friends in your own department is over-rated, but making friends with your colleagues at other institutions is much more important. These advisory committees follow you as you try to make the bump from associate to full professor and can play a role in obtaining named professorships.
I don't think we disagree on anything.
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Old 06-03-2009, 01:16 AM   #110
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Re: Official Ph.D question/advice thread

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Originally Posted by smk67 View Post
I don't have specific numbers but I do know chemistry departments get about 100-200 applicants for every open position, but about half of these are easily tossed out for a variety of reasons. So maybe 40-80 real applicants resulting in about 8-12 interviews. Keep in mind these 100-200 applicants largely apply at most open positions, so its not like if you have 20 schools with an open search resulting 2000 unique applicants. Basically its the same 100-200 applicants of which at least half are not very strong.
i think i might have worded my question poorly, or maybe you are talking about what i asked. i was asking specifically about applications to enter the grad program, not for faculty positions.
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Old 06-03-2009, 01:44 AM   #111
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Re: Official Ph.D question/advice thread

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i think i might have worded my question poorly, or maybe you are talking about what i asked. i was asking specifically about applications to enter the grad program, not for faculty positions.
As far as I can tell, most departments do not publish their admission data. Earlier in this thread, I showed you Berkeley's EECS statistics because it's one of the few that I found for EE (I didn't look very hard, though). Duke also publishes their graduate admissions statistics.

Each Department: http://gradschool.duke.edu/about/stats.php

ECE Department: http://gradschool.duke.edu/about/sta...s/admitece.htm

I've heard of people simply e-mailing the graduate admissions secretary to get the statistics for a particular department. If you're very curious, you can always try that.

Hope that helps!

Last edited by ayfu; 06-03-2009 at 01:53 AM.
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Old 06-03-2009, 06:53 AM   #112
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Re: Official Ph.D question/advice thread

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i think i might have worded my question poorly, or maybe you are talking about what i asked. i was asking specifically about applications to enter the grad program, not for faculty positions.
You really shouldn't worry about this at your stage. If you're good, you'll get in, most likely to the place you want to go. The good applicants I've seen (n=150 or so) apply to ~10 departments, and get accepted into 2-3 at least. But this is a pretty small sample size from a limited subset of schools. Individual schools will prob give you a good idea of what their numbers will be, in a given year (tends to vary depending on funding and space in labs).
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Old 06-03-2009, 09:18 AM   #113
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Re: Official Ph.D question/advice thread

Current faculty folk: thanks for the great advice!

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I've heard of people simply e-mailing the graduate admissions secretary to get the statistics for a particular department. If you're very curious, you can always try that.
Important tip: do your best to make friends with the secretary ASAP. They can do all sorts of things to help you, including things you just wouldn't guess. Make nice with them as an applicant and as a student.

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You really shouldn't worry about this at your stage. If you're good, you'll get in, most likely to the place you want to go. The good applicants I've seen (n=150 or so) apply to ~10 departments, and get accepted into 2-3 at least. But this is a pretty small sample size from a limited subset of schools. Individual schools will prob give you a good idea of what their numbers will be, in a given year (tends to vary depending on funding and space in labs).
I think it's highly variable based on those things. As an example on the other end of things, I applied to 11 top-tier and 2nd-tier schools (LOL 2body problem) and got into 9 (rejected by one top-tier and my "safety" oddly enough).
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Old 06-04-2009, 10:38 PM   #114
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Re: Official Ph.D question/advice thread

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I've heard of people simply e-mailing the graduate admissions secretary to get the statistics for a particular department. If you're very curious, you can always try that.

Hope that helps!
And, by the way, do NOT think of the admissions "secretary" as inferior in any way. Graduate admissions coordinators I have known: 1 PhD in cultural anthro with a very active research program, another biding time until law school, a third working toward EdD . Treat them with respect, esp since they have THE POWER.
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Old 06-06-2009, 01:29 AM   #115
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Re: Official Ph.D question/advice thread

been watching a few lectures online on artificial intelligence inspired by some SMP chatter, i've been interested in this for a while but seem to see it primarily in CS, is there much research in EE in this field? not sure if anyone here knows much about this but figured i'd ask
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Old 06-06-2009, 04:29 PM   #116
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Re: Official Ph.D question/advice thread

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Have you read this book: http://www.amazon.com/My-Life-Quant-.../dp/0471394203 ?

It has been a while since I've read it, but the book introduced to me the idea of how difficult it is to get into academia. I think he dreamed of becoming the next Feynman, but he eventually became a quant because he felt he wouldn't strike it big in academia.
Sorry I've been away for a few days.

Yes I've read the book. It all depends on your goals. The lifestyle I want involves some freedom (e.g. not having a "9-5") and some money -- enough that I'm never worried about it. I don't have the magic answer, but everyone's gotta go their own route.
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Old 06-07-2009, 03:17 AM   #117
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Re: Official Ph.D question/advice thread

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anyone have one in physics fwiw?
physics GRE, physics GRE (yes i know i typed it twice), core GPA, research experience.

and make sure to Ace the math portion of the GRE, everyone does 1400s are middling on the General GRE

if your at least a year or two out start studying ~6 months in advance for the subject GRE. 60%s are ~70th percentile, you stand out with a high score. seriously a gpa of 3.2-3.5 is fine w/ a physics gre ~800+ youll get into anywhere but ivy league.

also id consider making sure you really love physics, i lost interest while trying to apply to grad school and am now going to graduate school for economics. as a side note, and related, if your dont love physics but enjoy physics id consider grad school in engineering. grad schools fight w/ private industry and pay grad students to attend their school. there may be some deal involved w/ how long you have to stay, but my physics tutors boyfriend was getting paid 120k a year to ATTEND UW for gradschool in mech engineering. patents are so valuable, and since anyone can make a patent places will pay for the rights to own you. the vast majority of physicist stay in academia which means theres no competition for them (something like 95%+). private research for companies such as ibm/ge/tomotherapy are becoming more common, often cases they work in concert with engineers bouncing theory and application off each other. my neighbor is an engineer leading a team of physicists who designed a machine to zap tumors on a moving lung w/ a margin of error ~1mm, bout 1/10th of other methods.

also engineers make more money

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Old 07-27-2010, 01:23 AM   #118
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Re: Official Ph.D question/advice thread

It's late so I'm grunching for now, but I am going to be applying for graduate school soon (starting my senior year of undergrad civil engineering this fall).

I'm considering applying for fellowships to try and get funding for my masters and potential PhD. The main ones for engineering seem to be the NSF GRFP, NDSEG, and the Hertz. It looks like the Hertz is extremely competitive but I figure if I apply for the other 2 I might as well try for the Hertz because it likely isn't much more effort and I can at least mention I applied for it on my resume.

My overall GPA is 3.76, My major GPA is 3.91, and I go to Rose-Hulman (a top ranked undergraduate engineering school). I also have gotten undergraduate research experience this summer and will likely get a publication/conference proceeding out of my report in due time.

Can anyone who has applied for any of these fellowships share some tips? Do I have a good chance at getting one? Should I take the GRE so I can provide GRE scores to them? Any information would be great and much appreciated.
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Old 07-27-2010, 02:02 AM   #119
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Re: Official Ph.D question/advice thread

I literally just had a former chair of the NSF GRFP committee talk about applying. The real game of applying for and winning the NSF is writing up your research proposal and then telling a narrative in your personal statement that falls in with your interest. Also clearly and explicitly state the research question. To the point where your RS starts:

Research Question: .....

You want to be able to communicate well how your research question needs to be asked.

I would type up a more detailed response but I'm feeling super tired. If you have some specific questions I can try to answer. nsfgrfp.org has example applicants.
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Old 07-27-2010, 09:38 AM   #120
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Re: Official Ph.D question/advice thread

im actually at a research program this summer and we had someone from the DoD and three grad students who got NDSEG talk about applying.

1) write specifically. "I love science" essays probably won't get you anywhere so write about a specific project or projects you plan on working on and why they are important.
2) you can apply after you get in. Yes getting those fellowships makes you stand out for admissions but if you don't get them your first try a lot of people only actually get them after you start grad school. the people who talked to us all applied 1-3 times, no one got it first try.
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Old 07-27-2010, 10:46 AM   #121
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Re: Official Ph.D question/advice thread

What they said, with a comment on ^^^ #2. Several of my labmates in grad school were awarded nsf pre-docs prior to admission. Getting one will essentially guarantee that you'll be accepted into the school of your choice (provided there is space and you're not a total moron). This is because you won't be a drain on the department's resources; you're a freeroll for them. Also, if you have research experience and have published it, that shows that you already know how to do research, and they won't have to spend their time/resources teaching you the basics. If you're applying to grad school after having been exposed to the research process, it shows commitment. (I've seen a number of wannabe field biologists run screaming to law/med school after spending 12+hours/day field seasons grinding through field sampling in unpleasant conditions.)

As to the application itself: it's basically a mini-mini grant proposal. What the review panel will look for is: 1) whether you can ask a good/interesting research question and 2) are you able to articulate in a creative and feasible way that you can answer that question.
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Old 07-27-2010, 11:11 AM   #122
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Re: Official Ph.D question/advice thread

Alright, i started this thread over a year ago so i figure i'll give a status update and see if anyone has suggestions. I'm going into my junior year next semester. my sophomore year was good for me and my GPA went up a lot.

for those that don't want to scroll through the beginning of the thread: I'm going into my junior year majoring in EE and minoring in math. I've been doing research since second semester freshman year with a really awesome professor in math/communication theory stuff. in addition i've started doing some work towards the end of last semester with another more theoretical group in math. for the record i'm not doing this just for the sake of more research, i legitimately like both groups and am interested in the research.

I'm starting to get a better idea of what i want to do for research but what i'm finding is that it is a relatively spread out field. I'm getting interested in studying complexity and luck-boxed into a really selective REU program for this summer studying swarm intelligence in robotics. Some schools have it filed as math, others physics, some in CS (my department this summer is in CS).

I figure i'll try to keep getting good grades the next two semester and continue with my two research groups when i get back to LA for the school year. with this summer REU and those two groups i will hopefully have 3 solid letters of rec.

I guess my question is what should i do next? i have about a year before i start applying, i'm sort of wondering how you go about finding the departments that do what you are interested in. I'm hoping i can at least get past the first round of applicants for top programs in theoretical CS/applied math, but looking at students who get into schools like MIT for EECS it seems like it is hard to tell what makes one applicant get in and another barely not make it.

Basically now i know the really huge schools for the kind of stuff i am interested in (MIT, CMU, cornell, etc.) but it is hard to get a more realistic picture of what is interesting in the field without just scouring randoms schools' websites in hopes of finding an interesting group. I guess my question to those in grad school is how did you come up with the list of school you applied to and then how did you decide where to go?
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Old 07-27-2010, 11:35 AM   #123
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Re: Official Ph.D question/advice thread

I'm not an EE/comp/math guy by any means, but I'll offer this up (it's true in evolutionary biology). Look for the person more than anything. Assuming you're familiar with the literature, start contacting faculty who run labs that you think you might want to work in. Goal: see if your personalities mesh, get one (or more) advocates for your application. (If you have even one person on the admissions committee who says "yes, I'll take him in my lab if no one else will," it helps tremendously.) In my experience, decisions are made at the department level given their space availability. So departments (and specific labs) that are top-heavy (more senior students) give you a better chance.

This assumes you're not a nut case and will be competitive under typical circumstances.
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Old 07-27-2010, 11:42 AM   #124
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Re: Official Ph.D question/advice thread

Oh and wrt GRE I have been told reporting that score truly is optional and you should not do it if you feel it may slant the committee's view on you. Personally (applying for Econ) I have an 800q 570v and likely won't report my scores because of the verbal.

Also I noticed a sentence I glossed over before in your post. If you can't definitely certainly 100% convince the committee you will go on to a PhD after your Master's you very likely won't win an NSF.
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Old 07-27-2010, 11:55 AM   #125
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Re: Official Ph.D question/advice thread

Fury (and others looking into the grad school experience): here are some links that should be helpful. Most are more natural-science-leaning, but most are general. The second link is about the academic job search, but the themes are relevant. Thanks to Spencer Hall at IU for keeping a great web site and being the most over-the-top driven grad student to ever have existed.

Also, grad school admissions are notoriously random. Sometimes, some rockstar applicant will get into a Harvard but not a Michigan State or other tier 2 school.

http://www.cs.unc.edu/~azuma/hitch4.html

http://www.indiana.edu/~halllab/Grad...Hall&Moyle.pdf

http://www.indiana.edu/~halllab/Grad...destAdvice.pdf

http://www.indiana.edu/~halllab/

http://www-personal.umich.edu/~danhorn/graduate.html
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