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Crucial BBQ

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Crucial BBQ last won the day on October 9 2014

Crucial BBQ had the most liked content!

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About Crucial BBQ

  • Rank
    Latte Macchiato
  • Birthday March 10

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  • Interests
    Biological oceanography, ecology, reading non-fiction, homebrewing (beer), hiking, cycling, cooking, and drinking way too much coffee.
  • Application Season
    Already Attending
  • Program
    MSc, Bioinformatics.

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  1. Crucial BBQ

    Buying a house as a PhD student

    I have been a home owner for the last eight years. Although I am not in. Ph.D. program here are somethings to consider: 1. If you are a first-time homebuyer, don't have 20% to put down (or don't want to), and receive an FHA backed/insured loan you will be required to pay for mortgage insurance each month until the equity in your home reaches a value that would equal the amount of what would have been the amount of the original 20% downpayment. Aside from being charged a premium for the privilege of obtaining an FHA loan, the monthly insurance payments were an extra $275 or so for me on top of the mortgage payments. As such, I couldn't go with a 20 year loan or less, meaning that it was taking a long time to pay down to that 20% mark. However, I got lucky in a way; last year I had my home accessed and it is now worth $40K more than what I had originally paid. The luck was that because of the new home value in combination with the equity I had already built, I had more than satisfied that 20%. I had also recently refinanced for the value of the original loan and one with a shorter life-span. I was able to use the difference between the total amount and what I had already paid off to pay off the loans I had for new roof, new windows, and new floor. I was also able to pay off one credit card and then roughly half of another card. I am also no longer paying that extra $275/month. 2. Instead of looking for a financial institution to work with look instead for someone who does mortgages. Of course you'll end up going through the financial institution they work for but people tend to be more empathetic when you meet with them face-to-face outside of their work and even more so if you have been referred to them. Everyone who owns a home has someone who is managing their mortgage. If you don't know any homeowners in your area at the very least start asking faculty, staff, students, and so on at your school. This is how I had ended up with my mortgage person, but not through school.
  2. Crucial BBQ

    Gender Discrimination

    So you feel that you got burned, which is the crux of your frustration. That is to say that you are upset that the woman with the lesser application got into the same caliber of program as you while the woman with the same application as you got into the better program. If you examine yourself and not the situation you'll likely find that you are suffering from a case of entitlement; for what-ever reason you feel you deserve a better program. Ask yourself this: instead of comparing yourself to those two women what if they were men instead? Now, is the situation you present justifiable? I dunno. What I do know is that all three of you are obviously otherwise qualified. You do not know what exactly qualified the woman into the better program. Perhaps she has interest in area of mathematics and/or prospected an area of research that is not only different from yours but also one that just happened to line up with what her program was looking for. Perhaps she better sold herself in her SOP or had stronger LORs. Maybe she was found to be interesting during the interview or maybe the person who brought her on board was a woman, too? And if so, good for them.
  3. Crucial BBQ

    How did you find TheGradCafe?

    For me it was definitely from Internet searches into various topics relating to the graduate school application process. I no longer remember what that initial first search was, and I had landed on GradCafe numerous times over the course of six months or so before signing up. I do know that I did join so I could respond to a particular thread, though.
  4. Your PI is correct; she did invest both money and time on you which could have been invested into another student. I am not being critical, but it is something to think about. Was there any discussion about research prior to joining her lab? Students leave labs, change PIs, change programs, drop out, and so on on a regular basis. It's not uncommon. I know of plenty of professors who change their research up from time to time. One, who was also a former PI of mine, was going in a different direction from what he did as a post-doc which was different from what he did as a Ph.D. student. Granted, there is an over-arching umbrella over all of his interests. Your job ultimately as a Ph.D. student is to conduct research that will be of benefit to the lab/PI. In exchange, you get to learn how to conduct research, perhaps some academic conditioning along the way, and then are awarded with the creational of Ph.D. Now granted some students do get to work on projects of their own interests and for others there is little or no choice. Which way, I would imagine would've been made clear. Is it really that big of a deal to work on a project that will take you into a different direction? You are still contributing something. You still get that Ph.D. You still get to spend the rest of your life pursuing the research that you really want to pursue.
  5. Crucial BBQ

    Grad. School Supplies?

    I apologize; I meant Magic Trackpad, not "Touch Pad". I have the first gen., so no Force Touch for me. The Magic Trackpad 2 does have Force Touch.
  6. Crucial BBQ

    Grad. School Supplies?

    I have an external Touch Pad. It's way better than that Magic Mouse 1 or 2. I use the Touch Pad with a 2012 Mac Pro, though. I also have a 2013 MacBook Pro (13") . Once you get your MacBook Pro you'll understand the attractiveness of the touch pad and the power of all of the gestures. You might never want to use a mouse again (or a PC trackpad for that matter). I do have an external mouse to use with my laptop for tasks involving the Internet, eBook reading, and others that require little to no typing because keeping my hands off to the side seems a more natural position for them to be in. For these, however, the external Touch Pad is still superior to the Magic Mouse 2.
  7. Crucial BBQ

    How much would you charge?

    Who cares what the people around you think. Okay, you do, but you get my point. To answer your question: what to charge? You can ask the organizers what they pay. Ultimately, it will be a negation between you and those putting on the events and no one else. So the next time someone asks if you are available to speak reply with, "will I be compensated? From here you either accept what they offer or you don't.
  8. Crucial BBQ

    Tax Change Impact - Tuition Waivers Taxed!

    Well, looks like I'm eating crow. In playing around with an online tax-filing service to estimate what my return might be it recommended to me I take the LLC, stating the LLC would offer the largest refund or liability reduction. I then looked over last year's return (different platform) and although I was itemizing my educational expenses as deductions the tax software I used for last year's return is showing that I was given the LLC instead of the deduction. In looking over the entire return it does show that the LLC did credit the taxes I had paid through withholdings back to $0 and then did return those previously withheld taxes back to me as a refund. So, you are correct. The IRS states that the LLC is non-refundable and only credits taxes owed. I didn't think that "owed" would mean "already paid for through withholdings". In 2015 I also itemized educational deductions and distinctly remember that it was the better option that year than taking credits. So I was only going by what I know and have previously experienced. Live and learn, I suppose, but you could've mentioned your relatedness to a tax attorney earlier on. I myself am only related to the blue-collar and can read a car repair manual with ease yet these tax codes look like gibberish to me. I stand by other topics I have posted.
  9. Crucial BBQ

    Tax Change Impact - Tuition Waivers Taxed!

    Do you not think it's odd that one group is different? Perhaps there are reasonings behind it I am not aware of, however to me it certainly seems strange that the group that works is also the group that is tax exempt. The other group may still receive a non-service stipend, which is treated as financial aid and not taxed outright yet taxes are still owed. If the working group's stipend is through payroll and taxed, then would it not be more fair to simply tax the non-exempt group on their stipends only? You know, I have no idea why the House brought this to the table. My original assessment was that it was nothing more than a bargaining chip meant to be cut and left on the floor yet at least one Representative thought of it and thought its inclusion into the Bill important. But what was that? I personally don't think this topic is dead and time will tell. The LLC only applies to the first $10K of educational expenses, so it maxes out at $2K even if educational expenses are, say, $150K. For a parent who is paying tuition for three college goers the $2K max still applies even with all three tuitions combined. The LLC can only be used to pay taxes that you owe and only up to your liability reaching $0. So if you are eligible for a $2K LLC and you owe $1K in taxes your tax liability goes to $0 and you do not receive a refund. If adequate amounts of taxes are removed by payroll from your stipend and you are going to receive a refund then the LLC does not apply as you cannot use it to get a refund on top of your refund. Yes, it's a credit but here you can see how itemizing educational expenses may be more beneficial. For grad students that means it's a credit to help those who do not receive tax-exempt tuition waivers and who receive stipends as financial aid. It's for those who receive other forms of taxable financial aid. It's for parents who are contract workers and pay their taxes at the end when they are owed. It's for those who adjust their exemptions in such a way to specifically avoid over-paying and thus usually owe in the end, too. And so on. Bottom line is that you cannot use LLC to get a refund. About your last comment, I listen to NPR. My comment came from a recent guest on one of the programs I listen to who happened to be the former Head of the IRS, Koskinen, and who recently had retired from this position. What I wrote is what he said happens: that members of the IRS will sit in on those Congressional meetings and offer their suggestions only. According to Koskinen, this is largely just the IRS alerting Congress to what is feasible or not in terms of numbers of IRS employees and [lack of] budget to do so. He was quick to point out that the IRS does not give input into what Bills should pass or not and I didn't write that Congress consulted with the IRS, only that the IRS likely voiced concerns to Congress. What led up to the final passing of the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act goes back to at least June of 2017 with Senator Hatch putting out the call for proposals on tax reform. But yes, since at least November 2017 it was a very shady ordeal. About my Ivy slant: you are welcomed to contest what I wrote but consider this: what do you think public opinion of the Ivies may be in general? Favorable? The Ivy League did not give us preppy culture, New England WASPs did. Most Americans still associate the Ivies with that Old Money and it's hard to gain the public's sympathy from that. To be frank, I don't know the extent of this coverage. From my perspective as someone who lives near Washington it certainly not only seams the case around here but also the angle that is most plausible to influence Washington opinion. About State universities in Red States: which do you think gets more public support (and sympathy)? Graduate studies at these universities or college football at these universities?
  10. Crucial BBQ

    Tax Change Impact - Tuition Waivers Taxed!

    Under IRS tax law, it's a reduction if you currently work as a TA, RA, or something similar. Otherwise, your tuition waiver is taxable. This is nothing new. I've never had a fee reduction or tuition waiver, so I dunno what Box 1 of the 1098-T looks like for those who receive tuition waivers. If there is a dollar amount in Box 1 then I imagine you could take the LLC on that amount but unless you owe the IRS money I don't know why you would want to do so as the LLC is not a refund. Itemizing may make more sense however sometimes it won't change what you owe or the amount of your refund if you are to get one. I am not a tax expert, so please don't take my advice as is. I imagine you are also getting a stipend. How are withholdings handled? If not enough taxes are withheld from your stipend and the IRS says that you still owe $X.XX in taxes, then yes in the case taking the LLC would make sense. When a grad student receives a tuition fee waiver and they do not work as a TA or RA they are legally required to pay tax on that tuition as it is treated as a recurring gift. Or something like that. Yet, if the grad student does work as TA or RA they are exempt. More or less this scenario is treated like your employer is paying for you because that is what is happening for the most part. But, what exactly is the status of the student? Meaning, is the student an employee or not? And if employee, who's the employer? The PI/lab? The Department? The university? The State If at a State university? Are grad students sub-contractors? Temp employees? If a grad student is an employee of the Department, why should the PI/lab fund them? My point is that with Congressional Republicans the idea is to change the status of stipend from 'covered by employer' to being compensation received from work done making the waiver a part of your pay. Personally, I think the issue got dropped because of upcoming mid-term elections. I don't think that it is a coincidence that reporters focused on grad students at Ivy League schools as these schools likely have higher than average Conservative/Republican grad students. I also have a feeling that the IRS voiced concerns over the difficulty of writing the policy here because as mentioned above they would have to redefine the status of grad student. Congress only pass the Bills, the IRS and others are then tasked with actually creating the policy. Look into the monumental task that the IRS is now faced with.
  11. Crucial BBQ

    First-generation student (or not)?

    When I had sent my mother the invitation to attend my graduation ceremony (undergrad), she responded with something along the line of, "What!? I thought that you were only taking classes!" Meaning, she thought that I was only taking courses for personal enrichment, or something. I was never expected to go to college in the first place. I was expected to join the Army and then to live the rest of my life as a proud blue collar/working class adult, preferably in some crud-hole coal mining town with the rest of the Polacks. As a quick aside: I am aware the term "Polack" is meant to be an ethnic slur yet I don't know of any Polish-American, like myself, who is offended by it. I feel as though the above quoted post could have been written about me. In particular, the line that I had put into bold. I believe, the idea of taking what may be a paid position and offering to do it free might be something that only those from a true working class upbringing would understand. It stems from the working class belief that one's worth is tied directly to the work they do, not what they produce, and what better to prove your work ethic than a willingness to work for free? Of course, the desire to prove oneself worthy of reward is also a large part of it, and entitlement does plague working class communities like the rest, however you will find fewer working class individuals who are willing to accept something "just because" without first putting in the work. My grandfather on my mother's side did not attend college until he was 40. He earned his A.S. in accounting then eventually earned his B.S. in accounting. Turned out, he loved college and from there he continued to take one course per semester at a local community college. He was taking a course in Spanish when he passed. He had insisted that my mother (not his biological daughter, by the way, yet every bit my own grandfather as far as I am concerned) enroll in "dental school", which she thought was ludicrous. After much pushing she finally decided to earn an A.S. in Dental Tech, which she now certainly regrets. She earned her A.S. in her late 20s. My father did attend university to wind up dropping out during his senior year. He was out of the Army, 30 or so, and had other plans for his life, I suppose. I have an older cousin who is currently doing an online MS. She did undergrad during her 30s. I have a niece who is going to attend college start after high school, which as far as I know will be the first in my family to do so that/this early. I have another cousin who entered undergrad at 23 or so and is now doing an MS. For myself, I did not step foot onto a college campus for the first time until aged 23 and I certainly did not graduate within four years. Before I had graduated from a university I had attended three separate community colleges in three separate States followed by two universities in two different States. Try to explain that in an SOP. Growing up, I had learned to not ask for help from anyone but my peers. Well, guidance counselors were the only exception. From professors? Heck no! By the time I had landed at my third community college I had already knew that I wanted graduate school. But I knew my grades alone could not cut. I mean, I spent high school preparing for the Military, not college. So I thought to do the only thing I knew how to do: prove my work ethic. This idea was reinforced by some friends of my then current girlfriend who told me that experience trumps grades. Go big or go home, right? I did this by joining student government as a representative then onto being elected vice-president for the entire undergrad student body. I sat on a student welfare and retention committee as a student liaison. I wrote for student newspapers for four years, becoming Editor-in-Chief during my Senior year. I sat on a committee that recognized outstanding student achievement. I was also nominated for Student of the Year during my Junior year. I had also founded a robotics club and took our team to an international competition; the first year we placed 17th which came with the distinction of having beat out MITs team, but the second year we had placed last. As far as I know, not one person on the team new a thing about robotics prior to this. As another aside, the guy on the team who did all of our programming ended up transferring to an Institute (of technology--not MIT) and now works in AI/robotics. Another guy from the team now operates an ROV from an R/V off the coast of Antarctica and has the lucky distinction of being one of the few human beings to step foot onto Antarctica numerous times. Also as an undergrad I had worked with coastal drifters, mostly with building them for a NOAA employee stationed at Woods Hole and then for another East Coast university. These things are equipped with GPS and used to map currents/patterns. I deployed a few myself and had used the data collected to create a poster, which I presented at a GIS conference as part of a student exposition type of thing. I did not present at the actual conference, so there is no confusion, nor do I allude to having done so on my CV. My poster did take 4th place, though. I had also worked a year doing chemistry research as a biology student. I took pride in that, in having beat out the chemistry students for the position. Then I had learned later that the reason for this was that the project was so new to the PI that I was essentially tasked with getting it up and running, trouble-shooting, and the like. I did rewrite the protocol as what the PI had me doing was not working with the available equipment. My new protocol was not entirely a novel idea, I got the idea from researching literature. However, the PI presented "my idea" at a conference a few years later. I was asked to continue with this project for another year, at which point a chemistry student would take over my position. I declined to spend two years doing research in the Biology Department. I also have about five years worth of volunteer work relating to coastal ecology and processes. And then of course, I had worked full time during all of this. I had applied to Ph.D. programs three years in a row and it turns out that experience does not trump grades. My total uGPA is 2.97. I possibly could've scored a little higher had I not participated in so much EC and it does pain me to see some GradCafe users claim to have been accepted into Ph.D. programs with just-over 3.0 GPAs and not even half of my experience, research or otherwise. Then again, I have read stories of undergrads who did more than me and still managed to graduate with high 3.X GPAs, so I dunno. It's hard not feel that it is all a game. Play by the rules, and you win. Maybe. I got grades back from my first semester as an MS student: two semester courses, and two As. I had also taking two five week crash courses in computer programming, sort of computer programming for non-CS majors, earlier in the semester. Both were Pass/Fail and I had passed both with scores of 99% and 93%. I knew from those grad students mentioned above and from their friends as well as a few others that graduate school "worked" with my brain, with my way style of learning, and with way of showing how I had learned what was taught (through doing, projects, presentations, essays/papers) and not through rote memorization/multiple choice. But how do you explain all this in an SOP? I want to cry. I apologize if this is jumbled; I wrote this post throughout the course of the day.
  12. Crucial BBQ

    Official /grimesposting/ thread

    No, Grimes is not the artist of the decade yet for some she may very well be. To 4Chan; well, 4Chan has been the armpit of the Internet since 2003.
  13. Crucial BBQ

    Tax Change Impact - Tuition Waivers Taxed!

    The Lifetime Learning Credit only applies to tax you owe to the IRS, up to $2,000, and of itself is not a deduction. What is a deduction is to itemize tuition paid and which may increase your refund amount. You can only either take the LLC credit or the itemized tuition deduction, not both. I've always chosen to itemize. So what's really baffling is that it was in the Bill to remove the LLC and then to tax tuition waivers. Honestly, I can see the topic of taxing tuition fee waivers make a comeback shortly after the 2018 mid-term elections with Congressional Republicans.
  14. Crucial BBQ

    Bioinformatics- Which grad school should I choose?

    The program at JHU has an option to be taken 100% online if you are interested. The majority of the brick-and-morter courses are offered at their Montgomery County campus, which is nearish to NIH and Walter Reed. Either way, it is an expensive school. Between Northeastern and BU, I'd go with Northeastern for the sole reason that I would not have to ride B train on the Green Line. I did undergrad in Boston, lived in Brighton on the border with Allston. Honestly, I would walk the distance to the C train even during winter so I would not have to ride the special hell that is the B train. In all seriousness if you want to do biotech in Boston you should go to a school in Boston, in my opinion. With 80 colleges and universities in the Boston metro and 400K college students competition for jobs is intense enough as it is, you'll only make it harder by not being there in person. *edit to add: What I meant by "...the majority of..." is that the entire course load including electives can be taken at the MoCo campus while only a handful of courses can be taken at the Homewood campus.

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