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  1. As PsyDuck90 said, there's probably differences between fields, but in my case, I also needed to form my committee in my first year, and I had to schedule my first committee meeting three months after I entered the program. At that point, I didn't even know which faculty I should approach, I didn't know what I was doing, etc. I ended up talking to two professors whose classes I took in my first semester, and they didn't even care what I would be doing. Well, they cared a bit maybe, but I just honestly told them that I've just gotten into the program and taking courses, and that I only have a general sense of which direction I want my project to move on at this point, and they were totally fine with it. Now that I've been in the program for a while, I learned that the faculty is prepared to talk to first-years who have no idea what they're doing (mostly because we're supposed to form our committees so fast), and that the first committee meeting isn't even really about research, but about how I'm getting adjusted to the graduate program. So in my experience, it has been totally okay to tell them that you have these general ideas, but you don't have specific plans yet, and that that's why you want them to be on your committee (because they're experts on those fields and can guide you to the right direction). Honestly, I think a concrete plan wouldn't come up until you're doing quals, and even after then the plan keeps on changing. And the faculty would know that this happens all the time.
  2. I'm curious if people had any experience with having too many post-docs in a lab. I'm a 3rd year grad student, and I'm also my PI's first student. Until last summer, there was just me, another grad student and a post-doc. During last summer, my PI decided to bring in 4 more post-docs. Now, this summer, he's bringing in two more post-docs. Three of the post-docs have fellowships but the other four will be relying on his grants for now. I'm a bit confused about why he's accepting so many post-docs, and I guess he's not obliged to tell us or any of the lab members about it, but I don't know how I feel about the lab growing so fast. I know the size of the lab varies a lot between fields, but those numbers are pretty high in our field. With 7 post-docs and 2 grad students, our lab is literally the largest lab in our department. It'd be great to have lots of people with a wide variety of experiences and skills, but I'm also feeling a bit overwhelmed with the number of people that would be sharing the same lab space/instruments (especially during this time with COVID when we're not even allowed to operate at full capacity). I'm also wondering how he's going to keep up with everyone's work, and whether the "quality" of his current mentoring is going to go down or not. Maybe I'm just worrying over nothing, but I'm curious if anyone had been in a lab with LOTS of post-docs.
  3. Thanks for your post @fuzzylogician. My big problem is that I can't tell whether academia actually isn't for me or I'm feeling that way because I don't like my program. I came to grad school right after undergrad because I enjoyed research so much. I was basically doing my own work, getting advice, writing abstracts/proposals like a grad student for > 2 years, and it felt great. Now it's not THAT fun. Could be because I'm working on a different topic, I don't like my current advisor's style as much as I did with my undergrad advisor, lacking good friends, whatever. Or maybe I liked my research experience but I can't do it through my whole life. My current project is moving much slower than my former project due to the different techniques we apply, so maybe I'm just worn out with the slowness, but maybe if I can't handle that stress I shouldn't be continuing. I've considered switching advisors, but what if I switch to something that sounds interesting and end up not liking that either, like I did between undergrad-1st year of grad school? I feel so uncertain about everything...
  4. Hi all, I've started in a PhD program last year, and since then I've been constantly wondering if I made the wrong choice of coming to grad school. There are lots of things happening together that make me feel this way -- lack of interest in current research topic, feeling isolated among cohorts/other students, disliking the city, department's "hostility" toward any other interest(e.g. teaching, policy-making) other than research, etc. Now I'm regretting that I didn't explore other industry options before deciding to come to grad school right after undergrad, and I really want to see if there are any other options out there. Of course, as an international student, visa is always an issue... and I don't even know how to start a job search at this point. I see students here dropping out from their PhD program and pursuing other career, even in quite unrelated fields, but I don't have a citizenship/green card and there aren't really that many places that sponsor H1B visa, especially in my field. At this point I almost feel "stuck" -- I want to stay in the US and work in this field because in my home country geosciences is very underappreciated/underdeveloped, but then there's almost no visa-sponsoring jobs available, especially just with a BA or MS. Most visa sponsors in this field are universities and research institutions, so I'd probably end up doing a Post Doc and going to academia, which I'm not sure I'd like to. Sure, I can tweak my interest a bit and go for bio/chem industries, and if I somehow get a job and it suits me, that's great, but if it doesn't, I'll be "stuck" again for several years until I get a green card. Frustratingly there's no other international students in my department except me, so usually the advice I get from them is either 1) suck it up since PhD experience includes being depressed anyway or 2) at least try out working in industries and explore other things (but then I doubt anyone really understands how difficult visa situations can get). My US friends/acquaintances are very nice and understanding, but I don't think they actually sympathize with how "scared" I am with finding/switching jobs as they do while keeping my immigration status legal, not blaming them for anything, but it feels just very different... I guess I just really wanted to hear something from an international student's point of view. I'd really appreciate any comment or insight.
  5. Thank you Butterfly_effect and serenade! I just realized it's been about a month since I posted first. I still feel behind my friend, but I definitely think less about that, particularly since I've started to get more things done in the lab myself. I also think now that he "clicks" better with the advisor since he's more outgoing and sociable (I'm pretty quite) but whatever... unless I feel like my advisor actually treats me and him differently, I think I'm fine with this for now. I also decided that while this project I'm on is not the most exciting thing I've ever done, I want to give it some more time to figure out ways to develop it in the direction of my interest - or at least I'll get to master the techniques used in our lab, whatever project I work on. It's funny how I came to not care so much about this problem since last month. It could be partly due to the fact that I'm starting to not like my new friend... I've realized that we'll never become more than work friends unfortunately. I've really tried my best to be friendly with him, and it would have been pretty obvious that I was trying... but maybe he didn't realize how hard I was trying, or he just doesn't do well with shy people. It makes it easier for me anyway because I'm feeling more detached from him and comparing myself less with him. Maybe this makes me sound like a terrible person, but at least I'm less stressed out now, and I'm happy with that.
  6. Hi All, So I've started out as a PhD student this fall, and I like the school, people and the city (which is great!). But since I started out school I can't help comparing myself to my new friend - he is also a first year, and we have the same advisor. The thing is that he started working in the lab in the summer, and a few weeks of experience already made him sound like an expert. During our lab group meeting, while everyone else (including him) shares their results and ideas, I end up feeling stupid as I try to understand whatever they are discussing. When I meet with my advisor, he treats me really 'carefully', asking me how my classes are going, how I'm adjusting to school and the lab etc., while my friend gets to discuss about his research. It just feels like I'm being treated as a kid just because he had been involved in the lab just a few weeks before me... and I'm not sure if I'm overreacting here. Another thing that concerns me deeply is my own project. When I talked with my advisor during the interview (before I accepted the offer) he talked about projects A and B going on in his lab. He talked about A for a really long time, then suggested that B was another possible project I can work on. I told him both sounds like a good fit but A sounded more interesting. When the PhD program started, he told me that I could start working with project B, which I was fine with... until I found out that my friend was working on project A. Right now, I'm fine with project B, but this is definitely a more short-term project, and the direction B is going sounds less intriguing than A. Now I'm thinking, so did he get to choose project A first because he was here earlier than me, or maybe he was super clear on his interview that he wanted to work on A? But then I know that he was admitted before I was, and my advisor wouldn't have explained about A so extensively if he really wanted project A.... Okay, even if I end up really liking project B after working more on it, I'll have to compete with my friend for 5 years, trying to get grants and scholarships for similar-themed projects. We'll be getting letters from the same advisor (and others - his advisory committee is identical with mine). I am so overwhelmed with the prospect of being compared to him by my advisor/lab group/other profs as I go on through the program. I really like my new friend for being super nice and funny, and I don't want to end up hating him, but I don't want to compete with him all the time. Maybe I'm being paranoid here. Maybe not. Since the program started out I am stressed out comparing myself with him every single day and I can't do this for 5 years or more...
  7. I heard back from this one school in mid-March, and at that point they only sent me an admission offer by email, saying that they "ensure support in form of RA that pays a minimum of XX per month, waive tuition and most fees and provide health coverage". While this was a lot more ambiguous than offers from other school I assumed that was because this was an admission offer, not like a 'financial offer' letter or something... And I finally got the financial offer letter now (which I found ridiculous, considering that they asked me to reply until April 15th to accept my offer - I did anyway, because although other offers paid me better, I thought XX would be enough to cover my living expenses). That letter still sounds very ambiguous to me though.... it says that my stipend will be "no less than XX a month" and that I am "responsible for paying approximately XX each quarter" for a number of service fees. Now I realize that I have been too naive... or stupid... to accept this offer without 100% confirming the support the university is providing, and while the service fees are not THAT much, they're not THAT little so I'm getting really annoyed with my own fault... I was wondering if this kind of wording was common/normal in other schools, since the other offers I've gotten all clearly mentioned the amount of $ that I was going to be paid. Should I email the grad school coordinator for clarification?
  8. I'm trying to decide between two programs, either one would be a great choice in terms of research/program/funding/living environment etc. The main difference in two schools are the PIs' personalities and advising styles, and although I've met and talked to both PIs and their students I can't really see how either choice is going to turn out, primarily because my impression and what other faculty/students tell me were opposite. PI A: big name, reputation among students/faculty to be very clever and nice/caring. However, during school visit, I felt like the conversation kept on breaking off and it got awkward quite often (at least for me, I don't know how he thought of me). PI B: renowned but less than PI A, students told me that while they have overall positive experience, he can occasionally have a temper and be impatient/fastidious. I thought I got along with him really well during campus visit, but I guess no professors would be short-tempered during visit weeks... Since both have good funding and the lab atmosphere was nice in both, I'm not worried that much on those aspects. I'm just confused, how do people even know about personality only based on a few email/face-to-face conversation? I mean, I know that I'm not very socially 'astute' (I'm pretty bad at assessing people's character in a short span of time), but still, it's confusing that my first impressions happen to be the opposite of what people who already know the PIs say...
  9. I've heard UW Oceanography open house was on either the first or second week of March. I got an invitation for visit after open house week and just heard back a few days ago. They told me that some programs (biological and physical or chemical oceanography? I don't remember exactly) accept students before they invite them for visits and others don't admit people until they send out invitations.
  10. Thanks to both of you for the tips! @TakeruK That sounds like a really important point too. The 'interesting' thing is that almost every faculty that I talked to (from schools other than A and B themselves) agreed that school A has a really competitive atmosphere (e.g. labs competing against each other) compared to other schools... except that I didn't really get that vibe during campus visit. I'm wondering whether I just didn't realize that atmosphere during the visit, or whether school A moved toward a more collaborative atmosphere since the faculties who I were talking to have been there...
  11. I've been trying to decide between two PhD programs, and I've been trying to put research fit as the most important factor in my decision, since I really don't have a geographic preference and the PIs in both schools were really nice and great people. My problem is that, I'm just finishing up my final semester in my undergrad institution, and I've been just working on a very specific topic (which I'll just call topic X from now on...). I definitely want to explore more outside of X, and at this point I can't tell if I'd end up doing a PhD on something other than X. But anyway, I applied for projects that had at least some degree of overlap with topic X. I was also aware that my current undergrad institution was one of the best school for X, but since I wanted a change of environment, I hadn't applied to my undergrad institution. So I'm expecting a much less vibrant atmosphere - at least on X - in both of my options (a risk I was willing to take to study at a different place) Now my options are... School A is basically the top school in the general field of my interest. Based on my current interest in X, however, I'd say the research fit is about 50%. Considering the size of school A, only a very small proportion of faculties there work on X. During the school visit I figured out that there's one other person who does something 90% related to X, but since he was on a field trip I wasn't able to contact him for a while, and I don't even know when he'd return... School B is a good school, although definitely not on the same tier as school A. The people I've talked to basically all agreed that there are people who does really good science in School B (and, of course, others who don't do as 'well'), and that the PI who's taking me in is one of the best people who does X. Since it's smaller than school A, the absolute number of faculty who does X is about the same with school A, but in terms of proportions B has a larger emphasis on X than A. Currently the research fit would be about 80%. However, apart from X, this school doesn't have as much resources as school A in the general field, and there may be more limits if I actually want to switch from studying X in school B than in school A. So (this might be a reiteration, but) making a decision is really hard because I don't know how much I'm dedicated to X, or exploring things other than X, especially since I haven't really done any research outside X. School A would definitely be better if I want to explore things, but if I'm going back to X I'd kinda still regret not choosing B - but I'm pretty sure that going to school B would make me stick to X for my PhD. Maybe I should have had a better idea of what I wanted to do and applied for a masters first... I really don't know at this point... I was hoping if anybody had a similar experience or had some words of advice?
  12. I did an interview at a school about three weeks ago. The interview went pretty well, I talked to a bunch of faculties including two PIs who were quite interested in taking me, and I definitely got the impression that both PIs were pretty positive about the interview. And well, this sounds like a lousy excuse, but I've been travelling most of the time since the interview for a number of different things and somehow I ended up not sending any thank you notes after the interview (wasn't the smartest thing to do...) And since the interview, I haven't heard anything from the school. They did note that the school was "pretty slow in sending out decisions", but I've seen one result posted in the results from gradcafe (even before my interview date) and I'm not really sure if I should contact the PIs or the graduate director of the school. At this point I'm wondering if it'd be very 'awkward' to send a thank-you note to the PIs (since it's been like 3 weeks...) Should I just wait longer, or just carefully write them an email asking about the decisions?
  13. Is there anyone who heard anything about OSU CEOAS or UW Oceanography?
  14. Well I'm traveling by bus so the expense would be about ~$70, I just assumed that that amount of money wasn't 'significant' enough for people to consider reimbursing. I didn't ask him directly whether he was going to pay me back, but when I asked about transportation/housing he only told me that he would talk to students who could let me stay. The factor that I care more about is traveling time, since 11 hours of bus ride is a lot... I guess I'm more 'worried' here, because when we were trying to set up a time for a visit, I suggested him two dates, and he replied to me that the latter date would be better because "it would give him more time to prepare/set things up". I honestly have no idea how much arrangement he made here, since he hadn't been in contact with me since we decided on the day...
  15. So I got an interview offer about 2 weeks ago from school A, and that was the first school I've ever heard from. The POI was pretty insistent that I visit the school in person since I contacted him before application, and I'd already had a quick phone pseudo-interview. The total traveling time is like 10-11 hours, but I was getting pretty nervous about not hearing anything from other schools, so I just told him that I'd go. It wasn't a formal interview request from the graduate office, so the travel costs were on me, and I was going to be housed on a student's house (although the POI only told me that he'd ask the student for a confirmation and never replied back). Now, I've received admissions from two schools since then (which were my higher choices than school A), and at this point honestly I don't even think that I'd be attending school A even if I got an offer. I only realized now that I was being really thoughtless about scheduling this on-campus interview. But I'm really not sure if I should ask the POI in school A to cancel the interview - it feels so immature to ask him for that. And since my field of study is not very large, I'm pretty sure that I would eventually interact with him at some time in my future (conferences, seminars etc). I'm torn between just going for an interview and 'pretending' that I'm really interested in school A's program, or telling the POI honestly that I got offers and I'm not interested in school A anymore. Has anyone been in a similar situation like this?
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