Upgrade to Pro — share decks privately, control downloads, hide ads and more …

ELRA 2021: Advice on grad school applications

ELRA 2021: Advice on grad school applications

Advice on applying for graduate school in astronomy and physics, an invited virtual presentation for La Escuela Latinoamericana de Relatividad y Astrofísica 2021: https://lacar.webflow.io/

More about Dr. Abbie Stevens: https://abigailstevens.com/

D57a02ba9a9ecb65d11370e3abf4dddc?s=128

Dr. Abbie Stevens

November 28, 2021
Tweet

More Decks by Dr. Abbie Stevens

Other Decks in Education

Transcript

  1. ADVICE ON GRAD APPLICATIONS Dr. Abbie Stevens Michigan State Univ.

    & Univ. of Michigan La Escuela Latinoamericana de Relatividad y Astrofísica 2021
  2. OUTLINE • Who am I? Abbie’s educational trajectory • Differences

    between the US, Canada, and Europe • Application strategies • Writing applications • Letters of recommendation • Once you’re accepted • General advice • More resources (mostly links for later) A. Stevens, ELRA 2021
  3. EDUCATIONAL TRAJECTORY • Middle school and high school: math, physics,

    computer programming A. Stevens, ELRA 2021
  4. EDUCATIONAL TRAJECTORY • Middle school and high school: math, physics,

    computer programming • College: small liberal arts college • BA, physics major, math minor A. Stevens, ELRA 2021
  5. EDUCATIONAL TRAJECTORY • Middle school and high school: math, physics,

    computer programming • College: small liberal arts college • BA, physics major, math minor • Graduate school: large research universities • MSc in physics, in astrophysics group A. Stevens, ELRA 2021
  6. EDUCATIONAL TRAJECTORY • Middle school and high school: math, physics,

    computer programming • College: small liberal arts college • BA, physics major, math minor • Graduate school: large research universities • MSc in physics, in astrophysics group • PhD in astronomy, in large astronomy research institute A. Stevens, ELRA 2021
  7. EDUCATIONAL TRAJECTORY • Middle school and high school: math, physics,

    computer programming • College: small liberal arts college • BA, physics major, math minor • Graduate school: large research universities • MSc in physics, in astrophysics group • PhD in astronomy, in large astronomy research institute • Postdoc: large research universities • US National Science Foundation fellowship, shared between 2 universities A. Stevens, ELRA 2021
  8. USA • Masters and PhD are combined, always apply for

    the PhD program • Once in program, can switch supervisors fairly easily • Strong emphasis on coursework, some (many?) programs have candidacy exams • Funded: teaching assistant while taking courses, research assistant after • Not all programs offer healthcare, usually decent vacation, no retirement contributions • Flexible timeline Canada Europe • Masters and PhD are separate • If you have a Bachelors, must apply for Masters • Once in a Masters, might fast-track to PhD in same program without separate application • Funded, though not well: teaching assistant, occasionally research assistant • Must pay tuition, though it is usually affordable on your stipend • Good healthcare, decent vacation, not sure about retirement • Timeline strictness depends on funding • Masters and PhD are separate • If you have a Bachelors, must apply for Masters • Masters is mostly coursework; PhD is mostly or only research • For PhD, applying to work with a specific professor on a specific research project (not possible to change) • Masters is not funded, PhD is (sometimes very well, like in the Netherlands!) • PhD has good benefits (healthcare, retirement, vacation) • Strict timeline Never do a PhD if it is not fully funded! Some Masters are, some aren’t, depending on country’s educational system. A. Stevens, ELRA 2021
  9. APPLICATION STRATEGIES • Talk with your academic advisor (and research

    advisor, if they’re different people), listen to their advice. Where do they know people? Where do they recommend? Where do they not recommend? • Ask where recent graduates of your school went to get their PhD A. Stevens, ELRA 2021
  10. APPLICATION STRATEGIES • Talk with your academic advisor (and research

    advisor, if they’re different people), listen to their advice. Where do they know people? Where do they recommend? Where do they not recommend? • Ask where recent graduates of your school went to get their PhD • Chat with grad students, postdocs, and profs who work in areas you’re interested in (like at LACAR, SACNAS, regional astronomy and physics conferences), and ask them what classes are most helpful for studying that field A. Stevens, ELRA 2021
  11. APPLICATION STRATEGIES • Talk with your academic advisor (and research

    advisor, if they’re different people), listen to their advice. Where do they know people? Where do they recommend? Where do they not recommend? • Ask where recent graduates of your school went to get their PhD • Chat with grad students, postdocs, and profs who work in areas you’re interested in (like at LACAR, SACNAS, regional astronomy and physics conferences), and ask them what classes are most helpful for studying that field • Email profs before applying! Apply to places where you are excited about at least two or three professors’ research • Prepare in advance!! Most deadlines are November-December, so you should start looking and working on this in September! A. Stevens, ELRA 2021
  12. WRITING APPLICATIONS • Often writing two things, a personal essay

    and an academic essay Source: https://astro.natsci.msu.edu/graduate/how-to-apply/ A. Stevens, ELRA 2021
  13. WRITING APPLICATIONS • Often writing two things, a personal essay

    and an academic essay • Personal essay: ØDescribe extracurricular activities in which you've been engaged; in particular, give examples of activities you've led or new initiatives you have started. ØGive an example of a time you hit a serious professional or educational obstacle or failure, and how you overcame it. ØWhat professional or educational accomplishment are you most proud of, and why? ØGive an appraisal of your strengths and weaknesses, as related to graduate study. Source: https://astro.natsci.msu.edu/graduate/how-to-apply/ A. Stevens, ELRA 2021
  14. WRITING APPLICATIONS • Academic essay: Source: https://astro.natsci.msu.edu/graduate/how-to-apply/ A. Stevens, ELRA

    2021
  15. WRITING APPLICATIONS • Academic essay: ØDescribe research you have done

    to date ØDescribe your research interests: what are you interested in studying at that university? It’s OK to be interested in more than one topic or faculty member. ØDescribe your long-term career goals, and explain how a graduate degree in astronomy & astrophysics fits into those plans ØDescribe your experience with computation Source: https://astro.natsci.msu.edu/graduate/how-to-apply/ A. Stevens, ELRA 2021
  16. WRITING APPLICATIONS • Academic essay: ØDescribe research you have done

    to date ØDescribe your research interests: what are you interested in studying at that university? It’s OK to be interested in more than one topic or faculty member. ØDescribe your long-term career goals, and explain how a graduate degree in astronomy & astrophysics fits into those plans ØDescribe your experience with computation • This is general advice, so be sure you cover whatever the specific university program asks you to address! Source: https://astro.natsci.msu.edu/graduate/how-to-apply/ A. Stevens, ELRA 2021
  17. WRITING APPLICATIONS • Iterate with your advisor (and perhaps a

    writing tutor) on grad school application materials • GRE and Physics GRE (Graduate Requisite Exam): for US PhD programs. More places are not requiring them! 1,2 • Application fees: universities in the US and Canada often charge you to apply to their program (around $50-$100 USD each).3 Some have fee waivers. Note that this money goes to the university, not the physics or astronomy program. • TOEFL: Required for most US programs if your degree is not from an English- language university. Canadian programs may require TOEFL or IELTS. 1: https://www.aps.org/publications/apsnews/202008/gre.cfm 2: https://docs.google.com/spreadsheets/d/19UhYToXOPZkZ3CM469ru3Uwk4584CmzZyAVVwQJJcyc/edit#gid=0 3: https://docs.google.com/spreadsheets/d/19UhYToXOPZkZ3CM469ru3Uwk4584CmzZyAVVwQJJcyc/edit#gid=755045195 A. Stevens, ELRA 2021
  18. LETTERS OF RECOMMENDATION • Usually need 2 or 3 for

    each application • Pick professors who you have done research with, or a final project in their class, and/or your advisor • When asking: “Do you think that you could write me a very strong letter of recommendation for a PhD application?” • Give them 4 weeks notice that you would like letters A. Stevens, ELRA 2021
  19. LETTERS OF RECOMMENDATION • Usually need 2 or 3 for

    each application • Pick professors who you have done research with, or a final project in their class, and/or your advisor • When asking: “Do you think that you could write me a very strong letter of recommendation for a PhD application?” • Give them 4 weeks notice that you would like letters • You can ask a letter writer to include specific pieces of information to explain any discrepancy in your transcript, like if you had health problems and that’s why your grades dropped one semester A. Stevens, ELRA 2021
  20. ONCE YOU’RE ACCEPTED • Talk with the professors you want

    to work with! • Talk with other grad students to see how happy they are and how much they’d recommend the program • Get a feel for the location and whether you could realistically live there for 4-6 years A. Stevens, ELRA 2021
  21. ONCE YOU’RE ACCEPTED • Talk with the professors you want

    to work with! • Talk with other grad students to see how happy they are and how much they’d recommend the program • Get a feel for the location and whether you could realistically live there for 4-6 years • If you’re part of an underrepresented demographic and you don’t see anyone else from that demographic at that school, ask questions of mentors and current grad students (there and elsewhere) ØFigure out whether there’s a problem there, or just don’t happen to be any students of that demographic there at that time A. Stevens, ELRA 2021
  22. GENERAL ADVICE • There’s a mental health crisis among graduate

    students,1 and graduate school is hard (both mentally and emotionally) • Advisor fit is a predictor of mental wellbeing among graduate students, ØYour advisor makes or breaks your grad school experience! 1: https://abigailstevens.com/mental-wellbeing-academia/ A. Stevens, ELRA 2021
  23. GENERAL ADVICE • There’s a mental health crisis among graduate

    students,1 and graduate school is hard (both mentally and emotionally) • Advisor fit is a predictor of mental wellbeing among graduate students, ØYour advisor makes or breaks your grad school experience! ØA great advisor can help you find a niche that plays to your strengths in whatever sub-field you find interesting ØA negligent advisor can amplify feelings of loneliness and isolation, which can cause you to dislike a research topic that you might otherwise think you love 1: https://abigailstevens.com/mental-wellbeing-academia/ A. Stevens, ELRA 2021
  24. GENERAL ADVICE • There’s a mental health crisis among graduate

    students,1 and graduate school is hard (both mentally and emotionally) • Advisor fit is a predictor of mental wellbeing among graduate students, ØYour advisor makes or breaks your grad school experience! ØA great advisor can help you find a niche that plays to your strengths in whatever sub-field you find interesting ØA negligent advisor can amplify feelings of loneliness and isolation, which can cause you to dislike a research topic that you might otherwise think you love ØTricky to judge the quality of a working relationship from short interactions, but chatting with grad students (both in their group and not) can help fill in the picture 1: https://abigailstevens.com/mental-wellbeing-academia/ A. Stevens, ELRA 2021
  25. GENERAL ADVICE • International experience is often necessary (and fun!)

    • There is a lot of rejection, but it often isn’t personal. After you’re done feeling sad (which is normal and healthy), see what lessons you can learn for next time. • Celebrate the successes when you have them! A. Stevens, ELRA 2021
  26. MORE RESOURCES • Prof. Sera Markoff’s “How 2 Apply 4

    Stuff” talk: https://www.seramarkoff.com/teaching/ ØShe is a prestigious research professor in Amsterdam, so if you want that type of job, look through her slides on landing a permanent position! • The AstroBetter blog and wiki: https://www.astrobetter.com/ ØI wrote a post about going to a Canadian MSc program with a bachelors from the US in 2018: https://www.astrobetter.com/blog/2018/12/17/an-american-perspective-of-astro- graduate-school-outside-the-us-ii-phd/ • This twitter thread from Dra. Nicole Cabrera Salazar: https://twitter.com/jazztronomy/status/961763183345225728 • AAS Job Register: https://jobregister.aas.org/ • EAS Job Directory: https://eas.unige.ch//jobs.jsp A. Stevens, ELRA 2021