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TakeruK

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TakeruK last won the day on July 22

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About TakeruK

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    Western Canada
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    Planetary Sciences

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  1. I am sorry to hear about your troubles! Definitely talk to your dept and the funders ASAP. Has your original travel date passed yet? Time is of the essence because the earlier you cancel your tickets, the more options you have. Even "non-refundable" tickets does not mean the money is lost forever, they usually mean that you cannot get your money back, but your money spent can be used towards flight credit after subtracting some cancellation fee (usually $250 or so). Furthermore, if you inform them soon enough, it may also be possible to pay another fee to transfer the credits to another name (usually credits only valid for the original ticketed passenger). It's important to speak to the funders (the grad school?) right away because they might want to transfer your ticket to another student they have awarded a grant to. Of course, this all depends on what ticket price you're talking about...is it a domestic flight where the fees will eat up all of the value or an international flight that costs over $2000? In addition, I recommend calling all of the bookings you have made. If it's before the travel date still, you might be surprised about the flexibility some companies have, despite online barriers or policies listed. For example, for a personal trip, I had to cancel my Priceline hotel and car bookings because of a death in the family. Priceline.com requires you to pay upfront and has a strict no-changes, no-cancellation policy. However, when I called them and explained the situation, they immediately refunded my purchase. Also, do you have any travel insurance with these purchases? Check all the sources for insurance: if you booked through your school, your school might have something; if you used a credit card, check that card's policies. In the end, I think if you have shown you have done everything you can to mitigate losses, and that your crisis was unexpected, you can hope for the best case scenario where you repay the travel funds but the school will cover all of your cancellation fees (or whatever costs you are unable to recoup). However, this is not a guarantee, you should be prepared for (and also to fight against) the worst case scenario where the school expects you to pay for these costs out of pocket. Schools "shouldn't" do this, but I have no idea what your school might choose to do. In any case, taking the steps above will help you either get a good decision from them or fight against their complete-repayment policies if that happens. Good luck!
  2. I don't see why an academic would be "put off" with a student that had troubles at home in the past. It's not your fault and it has nothing to do with your ability to pursue your program. That said, I can't speak for every person and there could be bad people out there that would unfairly hold this against you. But I don't think you should worry about it. At the same time, details aren't necessary in a SOP. I would probably recommend writing one or two sentences about this and describe it as "family medical issues" that were affecting your academic performance in your first few semesters but have now since been resolved. It would also be nice if you have a LOR writer that knew you well enough to say something about how they do not think your early grades represent your current academic abilities. I think this balance would hopefully provide enough details so that the committee knows that the first few semesters were abnormal for you, but not provide too many details to make the statement too personal (after all, a SOP is a professional document) and also avoids details that might cause someone to be biased or prejudiced against you. I think you don't have much to worry about because you repeated those courses with As and have mostly As and Bs. I think that speaks more strongly than anything you can write in a SOP anyways, so just 1-2 sentences is enough.
  3. Definitely ask for your specific school. At my school, there is a high school tutoring program. Grads and undergrads are matched with 2 high school students and meet weekly for the school year. Grad students could potentially be paid (but they usually do not); most are volunteering. The set-up at my school was not employment if you were volunteering. This particular program was run by a non-profit that is related to my school, but it was not my school. The location was on campus. However, for international student status purposes, it was not on-campus employment because the employer was not the school. International students could not work for pay with this service unless they were going to use their OPT or AT periods. Since you will have to get approval for this work thru your international student office no matter what (even if it's on-campus because then you have to ensure you don't exceed 20 hours per week and your TA- or RA-ships also take up hours), it makes more sense to wait until you hear back from the international student office so that you get the answer specific to your situation.
  4. It depends on the size of the program. During my Masters degree in Canada (the standard route is BSc -> funded MSc -> funded PhD here), I was the only student in my (specific) area out of 12 or so students for the entire 2 years I was there. But I still got a lot out of the program because I was working with one of the best people in my area in Canada! My supervisor was the only professor in this area (out of 7 or so in astronomy). There are certainly downsides to being the only student in your specific area. For one, the classes that would have been great for me were only offered once every 4 years, so I never took any relevant courses in my 2 year program. Colloquium and seminar speakers that visit would generally be about different areas of astronomy, not my research interest. Maybe 1 or 2 speakers per year in my field. Similarly, at paper discussion groups, journal clubs etc. people would be presenting about the other areas, not mine. My area of research is pretty small though. At the time of my MSc, the area that I was working in probably had something like 20 students in the whole country. And the department itself was small, about 7 faculty with about 12 students in total. So it wasn't a "red flag" to me to be the only one. However, I was very happy to move to my PhD department, in the US, where the field is a lot bigger (field basically invented by the USA) and I was in a department of about 24 students all in my area. In your case, I would consider the overall opportunities for people in your area before determining if it's a red flag or not. If the number of admitted students is small or the total number of students is small, then it might just be happenstance that there's no one in your area. If you have good research fit with a professor, then that might be worth the downsides I listed above that I experienced. For the application stage, my advice would be to not worry about being the only student in your area for now. If you think you would work really well with the professor, I think it's worth applying. If you get accepted, then visiting and/or talking with other grad students would be a good way to find out what it would be like to be the only student in your area at that particular school. If you really want to search for it now, try looking up what courses have been offered in the last few years, what the seminar schedules are like (who's speaking, on what topics etc.). Otherwise, you can also ask for these things once you get an offer from them.
  5. I think you should do some sort of option 2. I don't know the history you have or why it would make you seem inflexible. However, it sounds like whatever the past was (no need to explain here), it has been documented somewhere and you should be able to work with someone else.
  6. Just in case I wasn't clear, make sure you ask the people responsible for graduate student degree requirements in your biology department too. The chem prof may not be in the biology dept and may not be familiar with biology department policies. In addition, even if he has had biology students in the past, there may be new rules starting this fall. So be sure to clear it with whoever it is in the biology dept that will eventually sign off on your degree milestones.
  7. In addition, I think the usage of some of these terms here has evolved beyond what typically people say. So treat them mostly like GradCafe jargon rather than standard academic vocabulary. For example, I don't think I have seen POI in short or long form ever outside of the grad cafe. Almost everyone I know would say something like "potential advisor" or "a person I would like to work with". No one says, "Prof. X is a person of interest" etc. And saying that to Prof X would be super awkward! (imagine writing to a prof and telling them that they are a "person of interest" to you). Another example is PI. Here, PI is almost synonymous with "the professor who is in charge of your research group". Maybe this is common usage in some fields, but in my field, PI has a similar but specific/distinct meaning. We don't generally say the prof in charge of a research group is the PI, we just say it's "Prof X's group" or "Prof X's lab". PI is a title that is used to refer to the science lead on a big project/mission, an instrument, a grant, a proposal etc. Usually PIs are professors, sometimes postdocs and very rarely graduate students. For example, there is one telescope at my grad school where students can propose for telescope time and take the lead on the proposal, i.e. they would be listed as the PI. But most other telescopes that we have access to require either a postdoc or faculty member to be the PI. And since the term PI has a scope / is a title in a specific context, we generally include the context when using the term, e.g. "Dr. Stern is the PI of the New Horizons mission" since Dr. Stern might be a co-I on other missions too. SOP and LOR are more common abbreviations and you'll see them on many graduate websites. But as with most professional emails, probably better to spell these out. Finally, there are certainly some abbreviations that you could (and should) use. These are the terms that you would never hear the long form spoken out. e.g. "CV" is a fine abbreviation. In my field, it would be quite silly to spell out things like NASA, NSF, PhD, GPA, GRE etc.
  8. I hope that student is being paid for this (or those hours count towards some kind of assistantship!)
  9. I agree with @Eigen: talk to the school for each specific case. It might be more likely if the PI is cross-appointed in both departments. Also, if the PI already has biology students in the lab, then they might know some of the rules, but I would certainly seek permission from my own department, just in case. So, talk to your own dept grad coordinator to find out the rules of your program. At my PhD school, biology and chemistry people work in the other department all the time. There, technically the Biochemistry program was housed in the Chemistry department, so people who wanted to "Biochemistry" on their degree applied to the chemistry program, however, many of them would work with biology faculty members. The reverse also happened: those who were in biology could also work in biochem labs with Chemistry faculty. And of course, many of them are cross-appointed. However, I don't know if my PhD school was the norm or not, since one of the major selling points of the PhD programs there was that the "borders" between departments in terms of research are very thin and multi-disciplinary approaches are highly encouraged. Many research groups have students from 2 or more departments and you can generally take classes in any department on campus (as long as you meet the requirements of your own program of course). So, it's worth checking, since every place can be different.
  10. I agree with fuzzy and I would definitely advise that you try to talk to the course professor as soon as possible, and certainly before you talk to the students again or make any changes. Find out what the professor expects of you and assess to what extent they will "have your back". As fuzzy pointed out, you have the least power in the situation (compared to your prof and the dept head), so I would want to first find out expectations. My other advice is to try to not take it personally or try to figure out why these students might act the way they did. I know this is easier said than done, but ultimately, it doesn't really matter what these students think of you. They cannot "command" you to attend the classes or to change their grades! In the end, your main role is to do the grading as the instructor provide and attend classes/do work as the instructor requests. So in that sense, I would try to put more barriers between you and the students when it comes to these "inappropriate" requests. Some strategies I have employed have been things like agreeing ahead of time that all grade changes / policy exemptions etc. have professor approval only and so when I get these emails, I forward them to the professor and copy the student. In most of my TA jobs, there is a limit to how many hours I'm supposed to put towards that TA position. Attending class takes a lot of time so I generally sit down with the professor ahead of time and we talk about how they want me to spend these limited working hours. Generally, we decide that it's a better use of my time to grade homework or provide feedback on projects and plan/teach review sessions (especially prior to an exam) than it is for me to attend class. Often, if students comment on things like whether I have enough office hours, etc. I tell them to the effect of that I have a set number of hours and the professor and I have agreed on a work schedule that will hopefully best meet everyone's needs, however, I welcome their feedback. I only say the last part if they worded the question/request/comment in a polite manner. And I do pass on their feedback to the professor, but it's clear that students do not dictate how I spend my work hours as a TA!
  11. I agree with the others that this is not really about having enough hours in a day/week but really about prioritization and time management. You need to decide what is important in your life and schedule your time accordingly! Whether this will be easy or hard will depend on the norms of your department, your potential research/lab group and your rapport with your advisor/PI. I think it's really important for graduate students to learn how and when to say no, especially to authority figures like advisors and other faculty members. This is much easier said than done, but it can be more manageable if students can find advisors that match their style. I think this is why "advisor fit" is the most important part of happiness in grad school: it is very difficult for a student to change how their advisors view work-life balance. If you are just starting out this fall, I would recommend finding a way to discuss expectations early on with your advisor (e.g. during the first semester). If you have some time to decide on which group/lab to end up in, definitely talk to current students to find out what it is like to work for each person. The other thing to keep in mind is that although our primary goal in grad school is to work hard at research, your own personal goals are also legitimate and important! I used to always feel guilt if I took time off for a personal thing, but then I learned that I work a lot better when I am happy and feel fulfilled as a human. Now I strongly believe that I do much better work when I remember that students and researchers are people, not academic automatons.
  12. If you are able to get the visa on time, you should stick to your plan to start this fall. It is very common for students in North America to only settle on housing a month before the lease begins and/or just after they arrive. (Some places have different timelines though). If your program begins at the end of August, you could also look for Sept 1 start dates for a lease and just stay in a motel or hotel between your arrival and Sept 1. I know many students who don't have any housing set up at all when they first arrive, and spend a week or two living in a motel to sort that out. Not ideal, but certainly doable.
  13. That sounds like a good reaction, to me, not just "neutral"! I think we just need to take what our advisors say at face value and stop trying to overinterpret their reactions. Everyone makes mistakes and I think everything is fine. If it makes you feel better, someone in my group once booked a flight to the wrong city for a work trip once! There was a small cost to change the reservation (few hundred dollars) but that was small compared to the total cost of the trip/work. And I have booked a flight home on the wrong day once (it was a red-eye and I misread the leaving/arriving dates). I wanted to leave late on the final day of the conference but I accidentally booked it for a late flight on the day following the final day! Everyone overlooked it because no one expects you to leave hours after the last talk ended, it's more standard to leave the next morning/afternoon instead. So, the change fee for the flight was an extra charge, but on the bright side, that fee was smaller than the cost of an extra night stay so the grant paid for it. Sounds good---just wanted to say though that if you are not sure if the samples you have now are pure enough, it might be a good idea to discuss this with your advisor to figure out if the work you're about to do on these impure samples will yield satisfactory results. Generally, it might be worth a few checks so that you don't sink more time/effort/money into a sample that won't be good enough.
  14. I am not in your field nor your lab so I can't say for sure, but you might also be overthinking this. Science costs money and your PI is prepared to spend that money. You should not blame yourself for spending your PI's money. And you should definitely not feel bad that you are costing your PI the amount of your stipend! You did the work and accomplished challenges. You deserve to be paid for your work, whether or not it results in a payoff. Your work has value on its own right. From your post, it's not clear if your pricing mistake is something that your PI was actually upset with you or if you are imposing this stress onto yourself. If you have not had a discussion with your PI about this incident, you should definitely do so. Apologize for your mistake, explain that you have learned the cause of that error and don't be afraid to ask more questions in the future about ordering materials. If your PI is too busy to help you on this directly, ask if they can point you to a resource to ensure you understand how ordering materials work (e.g. a senior grad student, a postdoc, a lab manager, admin assistant etc.) From this conversation, you can probably figure out if this was a big deal or if it was nothing. A lot of terms are subjective, e.g. do you know the actual dollar amount the the other prof had in mind when they said it was "super inexpensive"? For some research groups, this could mean tens of dollars, while for others, super inexpensive could mean thousands of dollars. Finally, for your current sample, you should talk to your PI about the quality. Before you come into this conversation, it could be helpful to figure out how much better the results would be if you had the purer sample, and then let the PI decide whether they want to spend the money for the increased in data quality. If you don't know how to do this, then come to the conversation by presenting the facts and asking your PI for input on how you could determine how much impact the impurity has on your intended results. It could help if you had come up with some ideas yourself (even if you are not sure they would work).
  15. @fuzzylogician's advice is great! I would also recommend that you research the policies of your school in regards to dissertation timelines and minimum requirements. It would be helpful to do this before the interview so that you can make a reliable estimate of completion date. You don't necessarily have to reveal this at the interview, but knowing for yourself can help you get a sense of timelines. For example, I've heard of some schools with very protracted timelines and you wouldn't want to be surprised about a mandatory 30 day delay between an internal and external defense (some schools have this!). If your advisor would be an ally for you, then talking to them would be really helpful. They can give you advice on how much you need to get done before you can graduate and their support will be crucial if the committee has doubts. Also, depending on the job, you can set a start date as part of the negotiation process and/or stretch out the process so that you have time to finish. I have a friend that interviewed for a position in February, the company told them they wanted to hire them a few weeks later, then spent the next 6 weeks negotiating a good package (it was a startup, so they were finding the right balance of options and pay, I believe). Once they agreed on all the terms, they were to start in 2 weeks. So this friend basically finished everything up within 8 weeks (they were in the same position as you.....knew that they would finish sometime that year but not sure of exact date). At my PhD school, the longest timeline is that you need to give 1 month's notice of your defense date and have a draft for your committee 2 weeks before the defense. We have no external examiners, so there's very little red tape---it's just a matter of getting your committee to commit to a time for you to meet. Another friend in the same program did something similar, but only took 4 weeks between interview and starting work. This friend was about halfway through the degree and the plan was that they would just quit the PhD program in favour of this job. So that extra time to settle job details was used to wrap up projects and arrange for smooth transition to the next student. My department is fairly supportive of students pursuing non-academic paths and I've noticed that most people mention the support their advisors provided when they were thinking about these options (they all told their advisors well in advance). Not all profs are as understanding though, but if you can get your advisor as an ally, they can be very helpful.