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Usmivka last won the day on August 8 2016

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About Usmivka

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  1. I'm pretty late to the party here, but I encourage you to game this out. Others have pointed out that your age is not an obstacle for getting into a graduate program, but that isn't quite what you asked. You want a career in academia, which means looking further ahead. Say you are blindingly fast at every stage: it takes you 2 years to finish your bachelors, 5 to do the PhD (no intermediate MS), and 1.5 more years of postdoc. You are now nearly 45. You are also very productive writing lots of papers in high impact journals. Lucky you, you are offered a tenure track position right away, so start the tenure track of 5 years. You are now 50, and finally tenured and for the first time have some job security, and are maybe making $70k-90k a year. Maybe more if you are at the top of your field. Here are questions for you to consider, given that everything went perfectly in the above scenario: Will you get enough work output in your remaining 10-20 year career to feel fulfilled? Can you save enough to ever retire? What could you have done in the intervening time, and would that have made you any more or less happy? If things don't go perfectly (chances are they won't) and you never have job security or don't approach a permanent position until you are nearly 60 (more likely), does that change any of the above? I can't make those decisions for you, but I think you will face a much harder time getting early-career faculty positions at that age than you will getting a PhD. Compared to even 10 years ago, departments have less funding, and are less likely to retain the positions they do have when someone retires. That means hiring an older person for an early career position is inherently riskier from an institutional perspective--you have a shorter shelf life, and they may lose the position forever when you leave. I'm not saying this alone will prevent you from being hired (age discrimination is against the law), but when comparing otherwise qualified applicants this will be a concern and factor--and at the level where you stand a chance for such jobs, everyone is essentially equally, highly qualified, so this could well torpedo many opportunities. My goal is not to discourage you, but I do want you to steel yourself against the likelihood that this career path will likely turn out to be a dud, as it is for plenty of PhDs who start at any age. So thinking about a backup, and gaining skills valuable to industry and consulting groups while in school (do some data science and machine learning techniques in your research...) could help you prepare for more likely outcomes than a professorship.
  2. Not that it is my field, but since you are lacking other responses here I direct you to my response in the duplicate post you inadvertently posted in the Earth Sciences thread (here).
  3. I suggest you post this over in a life sciences subforum, we're mostly earth scientists. That said, are you sure the EIS requires a medical degree (literally, an "MD")? My partner was pretty gung ho on them several years ago, and it seemed like a life sciences/biomedical PhD was a valid starting place--indeed, she had no intention of ever getting an MD but was definitely aiming for the EIS before a change of heart (being based out of Atlanta probably had something to do with that). My (uninformed) thinking is that an MPH would be more applicable than a MSN to the EIS mission with regards to emerging infectious diseases--my understanding is that they aren't generally going into hot zones to treat individuals but instead to identify diseases and disease vectors and develop countermeasures. You can look at the resumes of current EIS employees, generally speaking I think they are from the combined MD-PhD mold. All else equal do you have a compelling reason to do a MSN or MPH (that you have to pay for) versus a PhD (where you are paid a stipend) if both get you to your end goal (jumping out of a helicopter in a teflon suite with a bag of syringes and bat nets, amiright)? Give me a shout in the private messages if you have any specific questions about these programs. I can speak to chemical oceanography at UW, WHOI, and Princeton, and to a lesser extent Scripps.
  4. I've been thinking about long term jobs a lot lately as well. I'm confident in my ability to compete for permanent positions as they become available. But I'm geographically constrained, and the available full time academic jobs post- post-doc (including tenure track) don't pay enough to live comfortably close to work (which I define as no more than 3 hrs a day of commuting). A couple of my fellow postdocs are re-branding themselves as data scientists, which pays 2-5 times our potential academic salary. That seems like an increasingly good idea to me. It turns out that stable housing and the ability to one day retire are more important to me than "saving the planet," at least compared to when I was in my 20s.
  5. Well you won't be considered at all if you don't apply. My work (funded by NDSEG) had little direct application to anything military (one might argue for indirect connections), and I don't think I made any great effort to "sell" it as being essential to national defense in my application. You know your proposed work better than anyone reading your post, so only you can say whether it might fit into a general umbrella of interest to the DoD. I haven't read up on this in a while, but I think military importance is broadly defined, and your proposal is evaluated by reviewers solicited by ASEE, not military program managers.
  6. I suggest that if you are learning a new language from scratch, start with freeware. Matlab requires an annual subscription that may not always be covered by your university. Maple costs money and I don't know anyone who uses it, so I can't say what it might offer that is worth the cost. I use Matlab extensively, and appreciate a lot of things about it, but it can be convoluted sometimes, and I wish that I had more freeware in my toolkit. R is a freeware equivalent to Matlab that would be a smart choice to work with if you are focused on statistical analysis, but doesn't seem to me to work as smoothly for machine learning. R also is widely used by biologists and ecologists, which brings up the point that if there is a standard in your field, you should probably use it in order to be able to take advantage of the models and toolkits that others make available for that software. Python seems powerful and relatively simple to use (I have a friend that swears by it, and he is a much better coder than I am), I personally have not tried to learn it yet, but it's on my to do list. A major benefit of python is that it can produce lovely images and figures for publication--making Matlab and R figures aesthetically pleasing can be time consuming without third party software like Illustrator or Gimp.
  7. I can tell you that invites for the open houses are already out at UW and Scripps, and at MIT/WHOI plans are in the works for the visiting weekend which implies to me that the list has been selected at least in part (though I have no definitive info on that and historically the invite list is not finalized until late February). Invites and acceptances can be a prolonged process. I encourage you to write (succinctly) to potential advisors you've been in contact with to inquire about whether you're still in the running to work with them--it can't hurt and could help if they decide to weigh into the selection process on your behalf.
  8. In short, academia is always risky. I would not recommend pursuing the course you suggested if you are looking for job security, but you are the only one who can decide what level of risk and reward are worthwhile given your background and financial needs. I suggest that to either teach or do self-directed research, you are more likely looking at a PhD than a MS. I applaud you for looking ahead at these issues before jumping into applications.
  9. Which states? Most of what I've see in the news points to systematic down-scaling of public education employment at the grade school level in dozens of states (eg. Alaska, Washington, Oregon, Illinois, Texas, Louisiana, New York, the list goes on). And again, assuming one get one of these gigs, what is the likelihood that someone using it as a fallback lasts more than a year or two is such a high stress, high workload, low pay job unless they are good at it and want to be at it?
  10. I'm not sure what you mean by recover. Yes, there will be oil jobs throughout our lifetime, and there is always noise (positive and negative) but we are on the tail end of the bell curve predicted since the 50s (do read that article). From here on out you are always fighting for a slice of an ever shrinking pie, and there will be an ever larger backlog of more qualified, more experienced workers getting laid off and fighting for the same jobs. I just gave you an example of someone exceedingly better qualified than most of his competition who still won't get one of these jobs. As for your fallbacks, there are people who are genuinely excited to teach and take advantage of certificate and training programs teach throughout their degrees. These are the people who get hired for teaching jobs (which are also in limited supply) by faculty that care about teaching skill and commitment--not folks who think of teaching as a fallback. Even adjunct positions at community colleges can be fiercely contested, and they don't pay enough to live on in most places. And what exactly is the "environmental industry"? It isn't monolithic, and most of the jobs I know about are focused on ecological restoration, civil engineering, or policy and management. Again, not something that one training for oil and gas exploration naturally fits into compared to the many, many candidates with niche training in precisely those fields, or a wide-ranging PhD with great successes. Frankly, in those fields there can be not a little suspicion and bias against those who chose to train in the extraction of unsustainable resources. Yes. And I'm not sure unique (or maybe more accurately limited supply) skills are enough, these have to be in demand too. I see current huge growth of data science jobs slowing down in the not distant future--the first graduates of dedicated data science programs have begun to reach the job market just in the last year or so. There will of course be other new fields with rapacious demand for workers, but good luck predicting what those will be far enough ahead of time to perfectly position your skill set.
  11. So I don't want to be unduly discouraging, but say you get the degree you want, from the place you want. What are your employment prospects given the state of the oil and gas industry in this country? I've got a peer who interned with a major energy company during his PhD and did great work and got along famously. Yet they are so tight on hiring right now he didn't think it likely he'd get a job with them or any energy company when we last spoke. His PhD is from MIT, and he has a first author paper published in Science. I know that personal and institutional connections are important (I think we should adopt gaunxi, that word makes so much sense in relation to the oil and gas industry) and someplace like Texas A&M might have a leg up over MIT in that regard, but it seems to me that no oil and gas job is a guaranteed thing. And not to say "I told you so" to anyone here on the forum, but there has been a lot of obviously too positive talk about oil and gas employment when the writing was on the wall for the current downturn for years (http://www.nature.com/articles/481433a). I spoke with one of the authors of the above 2012 paper in Spring of 2015 and he called the mass shuttering of fracking outfits a couple months before the bankruptcies started and the O&G folks started talking honestly about it, based on their terrible financial filings. Things seem even worse now ( http://fortune.com/2016/03/25/fracking-bankruptcies/). So long story short--is this degree actually going to help you get a job in the industry you want, and are you going to want to work in that industry given that it no longer means financial security?
  12. That last on my part came off as too pessimistic--there are plenty of non-academic jobs in the world and a PhD is not a dead end if you don't become a professor somewhere (I'd even go so far as to say good job prospects) . I just mean that many people assume that they are going to become just that going into grad school, and at least some would be better served if they thought ahead a bit about what they might like to do alternatively. It is really too early to say what will happen with my current peer group, as many are starting postdocs but that can be something of a holding pattern. In terms of recent grads, most are in postdocs too. A handful are getting into policy and management through government internships in DC (most pursued policy certificates or masters while doing their doctoral research). Another small number have joined environmental consulting firms or work on industrial research semi-related to their theses (eg glass manufacturing, laboratory instrument development). Others have taken teaching/lecturing positions at small colleges with, and some are professors at liberal arts colleges. A few more in research staff positions (which I would argue you don't necessarily need a PhD for if that is your goal), and similar numbers are no longer in the science-ish work force. A good number actually are on a professor track at major research institutions or working for government labs (more than the average for oceanography graduates, the MIT/WHOI pedigree seems to offer some cachet), though in some cases that has involved emigration to countries with special financial support for early career scientists (or as a matter of returning back home for some international students). I don't know if you are spending the summer in Woods Hole as a summer or guest student, but there are a number of resources available to visiting students to learn more (through WHOI, MBL, USGS, or NOAA). If you will be around on the 24th-28th of this month, message me and I can maybe make some introductions.
  13. In a world where humans have been the largest driver of environmental change since the last ice age, isn't this distinction meaningless? Is there such a thing as "natural" extinction in the anthropocene? And most importantly, does this mean we should be trying to bring back the Woolly Mammoth!?
  14. I know someone doing an atmospheric science PhD who had an intermediate policy masters (both at MIT). I don't think the time away from science is a problem at this stage in your career. I'm not sure that policy/management research will necessarily be viewed favorably by an admissions committee for the PhD, I imagine it would depend on the specific focus and work. The GPA seems like more of a roadblock than the above.
  15. I didn't cover this above, but think carefully about whether you want or need a PhD prior to devoting much time to the application process. Only 5-10% of natural science PhDs end up in tenured academic positions (see the many recent editorials on this subject in Science). More specific to chemical oceanography, I estimate there are <2000 faculty/scientists in academic or government positions in North America, and that number is if anything shrinking. There are something like 300 new PhDs in this or closely related fields every year, and based on the job postings I see, there are maybe 10 new postings a year for ~permanent positions (I'm ignoring the intermediate postdoc). Many of those are open to multiple fields like PO, atmospheric science, climate, etc., so lets say that generously CO PhDs take half of those openings. Then in any given year, you'd expect ~1.5% of the applicants to land a job. In reality the situation is worse for someone graduating in 5 years, because you are still competing with other PhDs who didn't get a job the first time around and are in a postdoc holding pattern, and most of the retirement ready CO scientists are out or on there way out of the system right now, so I'd expect the annual job openings when you graduate to look more like the 2-3 a year I saw in the late 2000s. Or, put another way, how many PhD students does the average professor in your subfield graduate before s/he retires? Is the answer more than 1-2? The great majority of my graduating class is not interested in continuing in academia, even though all but one of us started saying we wanted to be professors. The reasons vary, but are in no small part due to the harsh funding realities and heavy competition (too many newly minted PhDs, not enough moulah). Those of us graduating now are still competing for postdocs and faculty positions with scientists who graduated beginning in 2008 because of the limited number of positions. At some point you have to ask yourself how many productive years of work you'll have left by the time you (perhaps) get to tenure and whether that will allow you to earn enough that retirement is ever an option. If you won't end up in academia (and the likelihood is you will not) where will you be? Please plan ahead and think carefully about your career trajectory and what degrees and skills are actually needed. A PhD should not be the default choice just because it is the next rung on the academic ladder--I'd argue you should have a steel-hulled ego and preternaturally good long term planning to even contemplate taking this step.
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