Posts Tagged ‘Graduate Studies’

Letter from the trenches

February 20, 2012

I have received a letter from a student who obtained their doctoral degree with me a few years ago, and after one postdoctoral appointment decided that their heart was really into teaching.
They wrote me to let me know how things are going, and gave me permission of posting their letter here (I am withholding the person’s name). It may be of interest for those who might be considering switching from research to a teaching career. Currently, only a tiny fraction of doctoral degree holders take that path.

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The boss is out to lunch

November 18, 2011

The two basic criteria to establish whether someone is your boss are:
— Can they fire you ?
— Can they give you a raise ?
Unless the answer to both questions is yes, then they are not your boss.

(can’t recall who said that to me… my dad, maybe ? Nah, it’s impossible, that would make him right…)

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Graduate application fees

February 24, 2011

I routinely receive inquiries from potential graduate students, who send me their Curriculum Vitae, asking me whether I am planning to take new graduate students under my supervision. They state to me their interest for the research that I conduct, and inquire as to whether I would consider them as members of my research group. My response to them, in these cases, is usually “boiler plate”, almost.

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Gimme this, gimme that…

January 6, 2011

The following fictitious dialogue summarizes some actual conversations that I have recently had with senior undergraduate physics students, who sought advice from me regarding their choice of a suitable graduate program.

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Gimme some (money)

September 27, 2010

In the latest post, DrugMonkey challenges graduate students who lament their meagre pay and long work hours, allegedly often comparing unfavourably even with those of unskilled workers, to name or describe any low wage job that they have held before graduate school, presumably to substantiate the underlying claim of exploitation and harsh treatment of graduate students, at the hand of supervisors and universities.

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On jobs and papers

June 7, 2010

A few commenters took issue with a contention that I made in my latest post, namely that publications matter very little, when it comes to the fortunes of science doctoral degree holders seeking employment in industry. It is the opinion of some that, in fact, many a potential industrial employer will raise eyebrows over the lack of publications on the CV of an applicant with a PhD in a scientific discipline — alternatively, having published the type of peer-reviewed research articles that constitute the backbone of one’s scholarly portfolio, may also significantly enhance that person’s marketability for industrial positions, most of which feature no substantial research component and/or do not specifically target PhDs in the applicant’s field (or in any of the Science and Engineering disciplines, for that matter).
One of the arguments seems to be that, since there is an expectation of publication of doctoral graduates in the sciences, lack thereof is often perceived as a sign of overall applicant mediocrity.

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The “three-paper” rule

May 30, 2010

It is customary these days, for students pursuing a doctoral degree in a scientific discipline, to co-author a number of articles published in peer-reviewed, international scientific journals, during the course of their studies. In many disciplines, the widespread expectation is that by the time doctoral candidates are ready to take the final exam, their curriculum vitae will sport a number of publications, most of which with them as leading authors and/or in high-impact journals in their field of study.

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Tell me what you want (what you really really want)

March 14, 2010

.. if you are gonna be my student… OK, let’s leave it at that…

Establishing a good professional and personal relationship with one’s supervising faculty is inarguably one of the key aspects of a smooth, successful completion of a doctoral degree. It could be argued that such a relationship is one of the most important in the lives of both, as it normally extends beyond the student’s graduation, sometimes lasting a lifetime. Conversely, it is precisely when the dialogue between the two deteriorates, when impatience, frustration, mistrust or resentment build on either side, that things become difficult, mostly for the student. I would be surprised if the vast majority of cases of graduate students abandoning their doctoral studies after completing their course requirements, were not directly or indirectly attributable to a falling out with their major professors.

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Graduate admission dilemma

February 13, 2010

I was going over this post by Incoherent Ponderer (IP) on the subject of graduate admissions, as well as some others to which he links. I agree with all of the very sensible remarks that IP makes, but I wish to address here one specific issue a bit more concretely. It is a dilemma that graduate admission committees (GACs) often face, when trying to decide to which applicants to extend an offer.

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Yes, you can

December 1, 2009

Postdocs and graduate students working with me often act surprised when they ask me if “it would be OK” if they, um, were to, “be absent for a short time”, like, er, uh, maybe “two weeks at the very, very most”, and my answer to them is “sure, no problem, do you need to take more time ? Feel free to take three weeks, if you need to.”
What is wrong with me ? Do I not care if they work or not ? Would I just let them slack off indefinitely ?

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