Archive for the ‘Graduate Studies’ Category

What would I do differently ?

April 7, 2010

If I had to go back to being a postdoc, knowing what I know now as a PI, would I do anything differently ? Would it change my work, my attitude towards my PI, my understanding of all the crap that annoyed me while I was a postdoc?


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.


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.


Copyright and graduate textbooks

September 8, 2009

A problem with graduate textbooks, especially in the sciences, is their cost. It is quite common for a graduate student to shell out several hundred dollars to purchase required textbooks for graduate courses. In fact, because graduate courses are typically taken early on, when a student is fresh in graduate school and may not have yet acquired the necessary cash management skills, this expense can deal a serious blow to a student’s finances.


Two-tier university system ? No, thanks

August 27, 2009

I was going to post my thoughts on this subject, but then I read this editorial by Carleton University President Roseann O’Reilly Runte, and I feel that I really have nothing else to add to what she says. I completely agree with her, even though, as a faculty at one of the institutions that would stand to benefit from the creation of a two-tier university system in Canada (background here), the proposed change would probably serve me well.



August 9, 2009

It is difficult these days to go through calls for research proposals from government agencies, and not see at least some emphasis on “interdisciplinary research” (IR), i.e., research centered on a project or theme involving a collaboration among scientists of different backgrounds. IR is the focus of a growing number of scientific journals (see, here, for instance), including some with a clearly stated intellectual affiliation to one specific discipline (see, for instance, this one).
Interdisciplinarity is also the darling of university administrations, eager to establish new curricula of studies, aimed at imparting broad (if perhaps less in-depth) knowledge of science, spread across several of the traditional fields as opposed to focused on one of them.


Is science just another job ?

May 24, 2009

Don’t do it for money if you would not do it for free
A wise man (obviously not me), circa 1994

Mad Hatter‘s latest post has elicited a spirited debate broadly centered on the following subject: to what extent science, notably in academia, should be regarded as a vocation, something that people should undertake only if motivated by uncommon interest and passion, in some respects almost reminiscent of those of an artist, or even a clergyman ?
Should one look instead at academic science as “just another career”, one that requires no special motivation, coming with perquisites that most others lack (e.g., flexible time, job security, no retirement age, usually outstanding benefit packages etc.), but otherwise subjected to the same dynamics, giving the same reward and causing the same stress and frustration as any other employment ?


Short Courses

March 13, 2009

In a recent post I expounded my views on the need of eliminating, or greatly reducing the amount of required course work for science graduate students. Fundamentally, the idea is that students are going to learn mostly by doing research, and that course work largely gets in the way.
That is not to say that there is no room for courses in graduate school, though. However, the style and format of courses that I support offering at the graduate level should be markedly different than that of regular undergraduate courses. I like to refer to them as short courses.


The end of graduate course requirements

January 18, 2009

What is exactly the purpose of graduate course work ?
Post-graduate education, in just about every university system, places most of its emphasis on research over course work, for very good reasons. Much like knowing the recipe by heart does not make one able to cook a sophisticated dish, re-hashing for years textbook material and solving countless exercises of ungodly difficulty (physics graduate students reading this will immediately think of our nemesis) does not enable one to do science. The one and only way to learn how to do research, is doing research.

Musing on schmoozing

January 16, 2009

In my previous entry I expounded my own view on the wisdom of sending graduate students to conferences, Summer schools, as well as to other institutions and/or laboratories to carry out work under the supervision of someone other than their advisor.
To me, one of the main reasons to promote this kind of activity is to increase a student’s visibility within his/her community, as well as create opportunities for students to have some “face time” with prospective future employers.
OK, now, what do I really mean by that ?