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About glabkl

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  • Location
    Cambridge, MA
  • Program
    PhD chemistry, MIT
  1. Comparative Politics--Harvard/Stanford

    I didn't apply to Harvard, but I'm currently a grad student at MIT, and I had the option of going to Stanford. I love Cambridge and east coast cities in general. So much to do and see that's within walking distance or easily accessed by subway! At Stanford, on the other hand, everything is ridiculously spread out; bikes are needed just to get around campus. If you like warm, dry, sunny weather, Stanford has an advantage, but having grown up in MN, I find Cambridge winters to be relatively forgiving. Yes, we get a lot of snow here, but it usually melts in a week or two, unlike MN, where you can expect any snow that falls in December to stay around until March. I can't comment on the comparative politics programs at either school; I can only agree with Canadianpolsci that choice of adviser is key.
  2. Which should I choose?

    Fiddler_Crab - I'd discourage you from weighting the generalized USNews national universities rankings too heavily. Field-specific rankings are more useful, since as a graduate student, you graduate from a department rather than from the entire university. Your adviser and your labmates will be the people you interact with most as a graduate student, and upon graduation, your (former) adviser will be the one to support you in finding jobs. The connections of well-respected, experienced advisers are very valuable as you start your career. If you're sure you'd be happy working for the adviser at school A, I'd go with said school. On the other hand, I know I prefer large research groups over small groups. More people to interact with = more people to learn from and more ideas to share = less frustration and better progress in research. Young, up and coming professors can be very good to work with, too, for the simple reason that they are very motivated and their enthusiasm is easily spread to their graduate students. It is also good to be in a department with several potential advisers if you're not 100% sure who you want to work for. Location was important to me because I need to be in a place where my fiance will be able to find a job. Keep an open mind when you visit the schools, and ask lots of questions: how much time do current grad students spend in lab? How often do grad students at school B take advantage of their 'fun' location? How much will location affect your quality of life? Oh - and don't worry about being nervous around the adviser at school A. It takes very little time for grad students to begin to take their advisers for granted. Good luck!
  3. The Admissions Process: How it Works

    Myheartsapounding - If you are confident that your application will be competitive in the applicant pool of the 4 schools you applied to, you'll be fine. Schools know the percentage of admitted students that matriculates, and they admit the number of applicants that will bring in the class size they want for the next year. If your application is borderline, it may be advantageous to apply to more schools. However, I applied to 6 of the 8 'best' chemistry PhD programs last year, and after getting admitted to all of them, I wondered why I had applied to so many schools. After all, there weren't enough weekends in March to visit them all. At the March visit weekends, I kept meeting up with the same students: most competitive applicants applied and were admitted to all the 'top 5' schools and perhaps one or two 'second-tier' schools. As a result, the 'top 5' schools all admit about 5 times the number of applicants they want to see matriculate (with the possible exception of Berkley, which has a much larger chemistry program than the other 4). Please note that this is true only for American applicants; I don't know as much about admissions from the foreign applicant pool. Some people apply to more schools because they think they have a 'borderline' application; other people apply to more schools because they honestly don't know what their top three or four choices are; for others, applying to a bunch of schools is simply a nervous tick. I realize that the waiting period is still going to be painful. My top choice school was the last to respond, and I spent about a month biting my nails before I finally received my 'e-mail of admission' from the department head. Good luck!

    I'm currently a graduate student in MIT's chemistry department. Your GRE scores look fine. I can't comment on your grades or class rankings, but I can assert that strong letters of recommendation from past research advisers are (arguably) the most important element of your application to a top chemistry program. Publications and presentations at scientific meetings put feathers in your hat, but they are by no means required. The main point is that you need to demonstrate a strong commitment to research in your applications.
  5. Trying for any chemistry graduate program?

    See for statistics on chemistry graduate programs.
  6. I'm a chemist, not a computer scientist, but I vote for UMN TC because 1) I attended UMN for a year and am slightly biased 2) UMN has the highest job placement rate at graduation (83 %) 3) It has the largest tuition remission rate (86 % receive over 2/3 tuition remission) 4) It and GATech have the highest perceived educational effectiveness 5) The Twin Cities is really a great place to be a graduate student (lots of culture and recreation, despite the cold winters) My statistics are based on NRC's 1995 report (see, so they're pretty dated. Trying to be less biased, I think GaTech would be a great place to go to school, too, and US News ranks its program higher. Good luck choosing!
  7. NDSEG 2007

    Yes, I know you can postpone acceptance of the NSF funding for two years if you receive another fellowship. I only meant to imply that I no longer have to worry about this complication now that I know that I didn't receive an NDSEG Fellowship.
  8. NDSEG 2007

    Well, I'm relieved to find out that ASEE cannot fund me. No more waiting and anticipation. This semester has been far too exciting. Now I have nothing left to do except accept my NSF Fellowship and graduate.
  9. NDSEG 2007

    To those of you who were initially designated as alternates, please post here when you receive the final e-mail fom ASEE. Hopefully, this will happen soon. Good luck, and congrats to those who already won!
  10. It's that time - Where are you going?

    MIT chemistry PhD
  11. NDSEG 2007

    I imagine the only people who don't accept are those who have decided to defer enrollment in graduate school. The NDSEG cannot be deferred.
  12. NDSEG 2007

    "You have been selected as an alternate in the 2007 National Defense Science and Engineering Graduate (NDSEG) Fellowship competition. We have requested that initial selectees respond to our offer by next Monday, April 9, 2007. On Tuesday, April 10, you will receive an email notification as to whether you have been selected to receive one of the 2007 NDSEG Fellowships. We thank you for your interest in the NDSEG Fellowship Program, and will be in touch soon!" I guess that means another week of waiting ...
  13. NDSEG 2007

    Did you find out via e-mail?
  14. NDSEG 2007

    I must confess that I'm very excited by the prospect of receiving an e-mail from ASEE tomorrow. The NDSEG is the last fellowship I'm waiting to hear from, and then I'll be able to construct a clear picture of my graduate career. It'd be nice if they would post all the winners on their website at once, the way NSF does. I just hope I won't have to spend another two weeks waiting for an e-mail.
  15. Help me decide, please?

    To be candid, I don't think that there's a big difference in the prestige of JHU versus Northwestern. Northwestern is more well-known for inorganic chemistry; JHU is more well-known for biochemistry. Bioinorganic chemistry, of course, bridges these two fields. Although the name of the school you choose will stick with you throughout your career, the connections and 'prestige' of the advisor you choose will be more important for securing a postdoc position and a job after graduation. Nor do I give a lot of weight to the argument that 'graduate students seem happier' at one school versus another. There are happy and unhappy people at every school. You have to think specifically about what makes YOU happiest. As long as you know what you want and you know what you’re getting yourself into, things usually work out for the best. I'll use myself as an example. I visited Caltech at the beginning of March. Grad sudents there all seemed happy to me, and several admitted that they chose to attend Caltech rather than east coast schools because Caltech students 'seemed happier'. I visited Stanford and Berkeley the next weekend. Grad students at Berkeley did not seem any happier than Caltech students (they, in fact, seemed less satisfied with living arrangements and TAing), but my grad student host told me that he chose Berkeley over Caltech because students 'seemed happier' there. I went to MIT last weekend fearing that I’d meet a bunch of disgruntled graduate students because, deep down, I knew I wanted to go to MIT for the following reasons: (1) Despite California's great weather, I'd rather live in Boston than Pasadena; (2) the research at MIT better complements my interests; and (3) Boston will be a great place for my boyfriend to get a job after he has finished his postdoc. Now, after visiting MIT, I've come to the conclusion that it's the place for me. Yes, I will admit that MIT has a more ‘intense’ atmosphere than that of the west coast schools. But I couldn’t tell you if the difference is in the people or the lack of flowers on MIT’s campus. I found it more important to analyze the dynamics of the particular research groups that I'm interested in than the school’s overall ‘atmosphere’, which is a rather abstract trait. I know that I like large (~20 person) groups that work hard, but without micro-management by the advisor. I want an advisor who will give me ideas and inspiration when my project's not going well, not one who's counting the number of hours I'm in lab or looking over my shoulder every day. There are professors at MIT who demand a lot from their students, and many students thrive in this group dynamic. But there are also very hands-off professors who expect their students to be creative and choose which directions to take their research projects. Most schools have a variety of advisors so that students with different needs can all be happy. I'm happy with my decision to go to MIT because (1) the institution is full of research that excites me; (2) the research groups I'm most interested in working with have work ethics that suit my needs; and (3) I don't care as much for California sunshine as I do for Boston culture and subways. Obviously, you have different choices and different criteria, but I hope that the reasoning which led me to my decision will help you with your own decision. One last piece of advice from Justin DuBois (Stanford): Describe the schools you’ve visited to someone you trust and let that person tell you which you’d rather attend. Often, other people can read you better than you can read yourself. I would add that you shouldn’t say the names of the schools – listeners usually have personal biases. Good luck! p.s. I’m a Minnesotan, too!