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Xanthan last won the day on May 2 2011

Xanthan had the most liked content!

About Xanthan

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    Espresso Shot

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  • Location
    the South
  • Application Season
    Already Attending
  • Program
    Biomedical (PhD)

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  1. I think there are some good replies on this thread already. I want to add that, to me, choosing the right advisor is probably more important than choosing the right school--assuming the school meets basic criteria. Stipend levels do matter, especially as they relate to local cost of living. Administrative support is key: a program with 40-50 students should have a full time admin (and I don't mean the department secretary, who has other duties). Classes should not be too excessive. Qualifying should be to encourage student learning, not as a hazing ritual. But if those things are there, and they are for a lot of schools, I think your happiness in grad school is most determined by your advisor. I feel I'm proof of this: like in a lot of programs, mine has lab rotations (I did 4). One was a big group with a PI that had too little time for me, and was not a good fit. Another was a lab I was really unhappy in--if it had been my only option, I'm sure I would have dropped out of grad school by now. Another had a nice PI, but wasn't working on questions I had any passion for. The one I joined had both I PI that I get along great with as a person, and is doing research I love.
  2. http://www.phdcompletion.org/index.asp "The Ph.D. Completion Project is a seven-year, grant-funded project that addresses the issues surrounding Ph.D. completion and attrition. The Council of Graduate Schools (CGS), with generous support from Pfizer Inc and the Ford Foundation, has provided funding to 29 major U.S. and Canadian research universities to create intervention strategies and pilot projects, and to evaluate the impact of these projects on doctoral completion rates and attrition patterns. An additional 25 partner universities are currently participating in various aspects of this project. The Ph.D. Completion Project aims to produce the most comprehensive and useful data on attrition from doctoral study and completion of Ph.D. programs yet available." (from their "Overview" page) The following is from their attrition data, table 6: 10 Year Cumulative Attrition, Completion, and Continuing Rates by Broad Field. (I can't get the image to work in the post preview, so here is a link: http://postimage.org/image/dlwt847it/) Thus, after 10 years, in the life sciences (my area), 26.2% will have dropped out, 62.9% will have graduated, and 10.9% will still be continuing. I think that last number is the scary part. Getting a funded PhD is a good deal, but the longer it takes, the less good of a deal it becomes.
  3. Hold on, let's back this train up a little. Trips to Europe and imported olive oil don't mean that those students come from the 1%. HOWEVER... I've noticed a great majority of PhD students I've met (both in my field and others) have one or two parents that got education beyond the bachelor's. My family was certainly never rich, but my father is a professor, and I'd be insincere to suggest his advice didn't help me navigate the admissions process. I also taught high school in an inner city district... I suspect that a big part of the achievement gap is due to poor students not making good choices, often because they don't get the advice more affluent kids get. Let's face it: most of us here ARE from privileged backgrounds, on at least some level.
  4. I disagree. Sure, learning is well and good, but there are lots of things you could learn, and don't, not because they're not valuable, but because you don't have time. (Latin, tap dancing, astrophysics.) And this assumes that a "harder" course will cause you to learn more, which I'm not sure is a reasonable assumption. The PChem I class may cover similar concepts as the Intro to PChem, but with more mathematical and experimental rigor. As a non-chemist, you may learn more by not having to focus on the math. Frankly, the adcoms for PhD programs will look at your transcript, and they won't know the difference between "Intro to Physical Chemistry" and "Physical Chemistry I." They will know the difference between an A and a B: you will be judged on your GPA. And they will be looking at your letters of rec, and if you put in extra effort in your current lab, your letter will be (should be) better. You want to learn time management? Get a part time job, or juggle several hobbies with school, or get a dog (that's not a joke--dogs force you into having a set schedule). There are several skills that become of great importance in grad school that undergrads often lack. It's OK to have a life and relax a bit--science isn't going anywhere. And you need to embrace the limits to your own knowledge... you can't know everything, and you need to know where to marshal your effort to best effect.
  5. Xanthan

    Slate Article

    "It [grad school] makes worries about grown-up responsibilities like money and promotions and rent melt away" Whew! I am so relieved! I mean, I have so few responsibilities as a grad student now. Just this week, I've had a final, a poster session, a paper presentation, a meeting with my program director, multiple administrative issues, 10 hours of class, lab work, training on a million dollar scientific instrument, and preparing for a meeting with my future advisor hashing out what I'm going to be working on for the next several years. Gee, it really is nice to have no responsibilities! PS: Grad students don't worry about rent? I suspect my landlord would be shocked to hear that.
  6. I have a 15" Asus K53T laptop. I got it in September, and it's been great. AMD A6 processor, and discreet graphics. I'm a big fan of AMD processors: I find they usually give great performance for the price. (I got mine for $400 on sale at Best Buy.) I also have a desktop for home (core i5), a Lenovo Ideapad (tablet), an Android smartphone, and an Xbox360. I have enough computing power to run the space shuttle.
  7. Xanthan

    Ok, I've Had It.

    I actually have the opposite complaint. In the grand scheme of things, pipettes are pretty cheap. Maybe because I'm doing a lot of bacterial work, but I'm very serious about contamination (biological and chemical). I die a little inside when I see someone pull from a bottle of media, set the pipette down on the bench, and then PULL AGAIN. (It's like they said on Seinfeld: "You don't double dip. You take one dip, and end it.") My biggest pet peeve is people who don't know how to clean properly. They spray the hood down with ethanol. Good. Then they wipe it with a non sterile paper towel. Congratulations, it's not sterile anymore!
  8. A Country of Vast Designs: James K. Polk, the Mexican War, and the Conquest of the American Continent. I'll probably read American Lion (a biography of Andrew Jackson) next. Out of order I know, but still the same general time period.
  9. And for that matter, why does the PI see undergrads as jailbait?
  10. First of all, congratulations! It will make your life less stressful knowing you already have an admit in hand. Really, this isn't that unusual a situation to be in; I was in the same place last year. The first school I interviewed at made me an offer just days after the interview. I had already booked other interviews. My advice (and what I did): don't commit just yet. Tell the school that you are very excited about their offer, but you can't decide as you have some other visits coming up. They want you because they think you're a top applicant, so they won't be shocked that you're in demand. At the other interviews, keep an open mind. Maybe you'll like another school better. If you don't, you can take the first offer with a clear mind. All of the above assumes these schools go by the "industry standard" April 15th decision deadline. (As a courtesy, I think it's good form to accept before then if you're sure.)
  11. For the lulz, I'm here's an actual answer given by *me* on a test recently handed back: Q: Name three types of extragenic codon specific supressors. A: Chocolate, vanilla, and strawberry (honestly, I have no clue) Prof's comment: No, but those are good flavors!
  12. There are some good replies on this thread already. I'd add that depending on your exact interests, you might even consider programs other than micro or immuno. For example, I'm interested in bacterial genetics. I knew that going in, and I'm now in a genetics program. It helps that at my school, I can pick pretty much any lab from any department.
  13. One point I would add to this thread is that there is no "pass" or "fail" for the GRE... in fact there's not really even such a thing as good or bad scores. I took the GRE for only one reason: I had to take it to get into grad school. Going in, I knew there were certain grad schools that would give me the education to pursue my dreams, and i wanted to get into one of those schools. And I did! Mission accomplished! The test, as and end to itself, had no meaning for me; I studied some (about 20 hrs total), but why should i want to study beyond the minimum? I suspect a lot of people do it out of fear. "What if I don't get into my dream school just because my GRE wasn't quite high enough?" A big problem with that thinking is that it never stops. What if I lose out on a post-doc? Faculty position? Promotion? It's funny... I was just reading the threads in the already grads section about grades in PhD courses. I'd bet that the same people who are neurotically over studying for the GRE are the same ones who run themselves ragged trying to make sure they get the highest course grades.
  14. I use Libre Office Impress (an open source version of Powerpoint). Some people say they've had trouble converting between it and Powerpoint, but I suspect they were using older versions of Impress. (And note that it default saves as .odf, so you have to save as .ppt.) More importantly, I just bring my laptop with me. Many (most?) projectors have HDMI in, so I just bring an HDMI cable. Saves any worry about format issues--projects my machine, WYSISYG.
  15. I wouldn't retake the GRE. At anything other than the most competitive schools, your scores are fine. I'd put the time into your SOP, emphasizing why the school is a good fit for you. Lots of people have similar numbers, so a well crafted SOP can be the thing that gets you in over someone else. As for UVa, I'd say you have a shot, and if that's a school you'd really like to go to, go for it. Even if your numbers aren't knock-your-socks-off, with a good SOP, I think you're a plausible admit.
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