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zabius

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  1. Upvote
    zabius got a reaction from rococo_realism in Minneapolis, MN   
    My roommate and I just signed a lease for an apartment in Northeast. We're also both out-of-state and car-less, and were worried about finding a place without having a chance to look at it first. But, we managed to work it all out and I think you can too! This is what we did:
    We picked a weekend when we could visit Minneapolis to look at apartments (I couldn't go myself, but my roommate was able to drive out there to check out places on our behalf). Once we had a date in mind, we put together a list of our 5-6 favorite apartments from craigslist and then contacted the landlords to ask if we could arrange a showing during that weekend. Some of them never got back to us, but eventually we had scheduled a solid 4 showings on that Saturday. Then he went out there and took a look at each place (asking questions, sending me pictures, etc.) and told each landlord that we'd get back to him/her in a few days. Once he was back home, we had a long phone chat in which we weighed all of our options, then we picked our favorite and signed the lease a few days later.
    It was a bit of a hassle, but it all worked out in the end. And keep in mind that we were actually very picky about apartments. We had a huge list of restrictive criteria (it had to be dog friendly, it had to be by a bus stop, we wanted it to have a yard, etc.), but we were still able to score a nice, spacious place in our favorite neighborhood (we love NE). If we could get an apartment from afar despite being so selective, I have confidence that you could get one too… no matter what your own selection criteria are.
    Most of the places on craigslist right now seem to be for May 1st or June 1st move-in dates. My roommate actually needs to be in MN by June 1st, which is why we've already signed a lease. If you want an August apartment, you'll probably want to look around June or so… it seems like apartments aren't really listed until ~60 days before the move-in date. There are some August/September apartments floating around now, but most of those look like undergrad-heavy complexes near Dinkytown. Keep checking, of course, but I'd guess that you'll need to wait a little while before good August apartments start to appear.
    One other thing to keep in mind is that apartments seems to go really fast. There were many times during our search when we called a landlord about a craigslist ad that was posted several days earlier only to hear, "Sorry… we've already found a tenant." It can get frustrating, but don't get discouraged. Since everything goes so fast, my advice for you would be to not get really serious about your apartment search until ~1-2 weeks or so before your weekend visit. If you start earlier, there's a good chance that the properties you find will have been rented already by the time you get out there to see them. Some landlords might "hold" the place for you, but in my experience most won't.
    If you can't/don't want to visit MN to look at apartments, I'd suggest trying to find a roommate who lives in or near Minneapolis who could visit apartments and send pictures/impressions to you. Of course, I highly suggest making the trip yourself. Some landlords don't feel comfortable renting to tenants whom they haven't met in person; my new landlord is like that. And, of course, it's always risky for you as a tenant to rent an apartment that you haven't had a chance to inspect for yourself. If neither you nor your roommate(s) can visit (or if you don't want a roommate at all), perhaps you could have someone else check it out for you? My roommate and I planned on asking one of the current students in the program to visit apartments on our behalf in the event that neither of us could make it out there (we'd have invited him/her over for beer/pizza to say "thank you" in the fall). That's not an ideal scenario, but it's better than nothing. If none of these things are options and you must rent site unseen, I'd suggest limiting your search to rental companies that have positive reviews online. That would at least lower the chance of you being scammed. All of this said, I actually don't know how common such scams are. I rented a unit without seeing it first back when I was about to start my master's in NC, and that worked out fine enough. Still, one can't be too careful!
    As for rent… my impression (from looking around craigslist and talking to current students in my program) is that Uptown is a little on the pricy side while NE is slightly more affordable. But $900/month sounds very doable anywhere. I think that if you live with a roommate or two, the prices will also go down by a lot. The rent on our place in NE is $1200/month ($600/person) with all utilities except electricity included. I don't think that I would have been able to find a good 1 bedroom apartment for $600/month (at least not one as nice/spacious as our current place), but it looks like a 2 bedroom apartment for $1200/month is not uncommon at all. In fact, we saw a bunch of options that were cheaper than that. Before I settled on rooming with someone, I was checking out 1 bedroom apartments, and many of those fell into the $750-800/month range.
    I hope this was helpful! Good luck with your search. And keep in mind that this is all based on my own experience as an incoming student. People who currently live in Minneapolis might have a better idea of some of these things than I do.
  2. Downvote
    zabius got a reaction from wcuslp2be in Cullowhee/Asheville, NC   
    I did my master's at WCU. I'm probably not the best person to ask because I didn't explore the area much (no car in a rural area = bad idea), but I can say that you probably don't want to live in Cullowhee. There's not much of anything in Cullowhee at all except for student apartments (mostly geared towards undergrads) and the university itself. Even if you found a suitable place to live there, you'd probably be get bored really quickly... I know I did. Sylva may have something that you'd like, but honestly I'd recommend Asheville. You'll have much better access to stores and restaurants and there's a lot more going on there. It's only about an hour away from the WCU campus. Most of the grad students in my program actually lived in Asheville and commuted in for classes and labwork everyday; those that didn't usually went to Asheville on the weekends to hang out because Cullowhee and Sylva are kind of boring. Sure, an hour-long commute isn't the most ideal situation in the world and the cost of gas can add up pretty quickly, but it's definitely a more enjoyable and livable location, at least in my opinion. I don't know much about Waynesville at all, but all of these places are relatively small towns except for Asheville, which is a small city.
     
    I know that you didn't get a chance to visit WCU, but have you been to the general region before (I see that you are currently in NC)? It's very sparse and rural until you get to Asheville, which is something to consider. As someone who grew up in a large city and generally prefers urban environments, I found the whole experience of living there to be quite a culture shock and never could bring myself to like it. I also didn't visit beforehand, and ended up going there anyway because it was the only program that accepted me; I'm not sure if I would have attended if I had the chance to visit first. But again, that's just me. If you like rural areas, though, you'd probably love Western Carolina! The mountains definitely are naturally beautiful, and most of the other people in my cohort loved it.
  3. Upvote
    zabius got a reaction from poweredbycoldfusion in The abusive, prestigious advisor - or the one who's relatively nice but nobody shits their pants over their research?   
    "Abusive" is not a quality that you want in a mentor, no matter how good this person's research is. If nearly everyone associated with that lab is telling you not to work with this person, then there must be a good reason why. If it were just one person telling you this, I'd suspect that it's just an underlying personality mismatch between that student and the professor, but a large consensus makes me think that there is some truth to these complaints. Never, ever work with a professor that you would describe as "abusive." An intense professor is okay if you work well in that kind of situation, but "abusive" is never good no matter what. S/he may be doing really good science on a topic that is currently "hot," but if s/he really is abusive and hard to worth with, then your own work will suffer, as will your mental/emotional health most likely.
     
    Go with the second advisor. It sounds like the lab is well respected, and a Top 15 institution is still very prestigious. You're also genuinely interested in the research being done there. Remember that your research will inevitably be somewhat different than your advisor's-- the whole point of a PhD project is do something original. So, perhaps you can come up with a project of your own and make it have that "badass factor" that is missing in your advisor's work. Perhaps you can spin it a certain way or approach the question from a new angle or incorporate techniques from another field. Your project can be as amazing as you make it be. And it will definitely be easier to make it amazing with the help of a supportive PI.
     
    I feel like it's a clear choice here... you really don't want to spend the next 5+ years in an abusive relationship. The stress and depression just won't be worth it. And if you're stressed and depressed, then there's a good chance that the work you do will not be your best anyway.
  4. Upvote
    zabius got a reaction from elijahbaley in The abusive, prestigious advisor - or the one who's relatively nice but nobody shits their pants over their research?   
    "Abusive" is not a quality that you want in a mentor, no matter how good this person's research is. If nearly everyone associated with that lab is telling you not to work with this person, then there must be a good reason why. If it were just one person telling you this, I'd suspect that it's just an underlying personality mismatch between that student and the professor, but a large consensus makes me think that there is some truth to these complaints. Never, ever work with a professor that you would describe as "abusive." An intense professor is okay if you work well in that kind of situation, but "abusive" is never good no matter what. S/he may be doing really good science on a topic that is currently "hot," but if s/he really is abusive and hard to worth with, then your own work will suffer, as will your mental/emotional health most likely.
     
    Go with the second advisor. It sounds like the lab is well respected, and a Top 15 institution is still very prestigious. You're also genuinely interested in the research being done there. Remember that your research will inevitably be somewhat different than your advisor's-- the whole point of a PhD project is do something original. So, perhaps you can come up with a project of your own and make it have that "badass factor" that is missing in your advisor's work. Perhaps you can spin it a certain way or approach the question from a new angle or incorporate techniques from another field. Your project can be as amazing as you make it be. And it will definitely be easier to make it amazing with the help of a supportive PI.
     
    I feel like it's a clear choice here... you really don't want to spend the next 5+ years in an abusive relationship. The stress and depression just won't be worth it. And if you're stressed and depressed, then there's a good chance that the work you do will not be your best anyway.
  5. Upvote
    zabius got a reaction from thescientist in The abusive, prestigious advisor - or the one who's relatively nice but nobody shits their pants over their research?   
    "Abusive" is not a quality that you want in a mentor, no matter how good this person's research is. If nearly everyone associated with that lab is telling you not to work with this person, then there must be a good reason why. If it were just one person telling you this, I'd suspect that it's just an underlying personality mismatch between that student and the professor, but a large consensus makes me think that there is some truth to these complaints. Never, ever work with a professor that you would describe as "abusive." An intense professor is okay if you work well in that kind of situation, but "abusive" is never good no matter what. S/he may be doing really good science on a topic that is currently "hot," but if s/he really is abusive and hard to worth with, then your own work will suffer, as will your mental/emotional health most likely.
     
    Go with the second advisor. It sounds like the lab is well respected, and a Top 15 institution is still very prestigious. You're also genuinely interested in the research being done there. Remember that your research will inevitably be somewhat different than your advisor's-- the whole point of a PhD project is do something original. So, perhaps you can come up with a project of your own and make it have that "badass factor" that is missing in your advisor's work. Perhaps you can spin it a certain way or approach the question from a new angle or incorporate techniques from another field. Your project can be as amazing as you make it be. And it will definitely be easier to make it amazing with the help of a supportive PI.
     
    I feel like it's a clear choice here... you really don't want to spend the next 5+ years in an abusive relationship. The stress and depression just won't be worth it. And if you're stressed and depressed, then there's a good chance that the work you do will not be your best anyway.
  6. Upvote
    zabius got a reaction from Ritwik in What surprised you the most going through this whole process?   
    I'm most surprised that my friends didn't strangle me, as grad school applications are all I've talked about since December.
     
    Also, the school that I thought was most likely to accept me rejected me, and the school that I thought was most likely to reject me accepted me. The latter ended up becoming my top choice and is the school that I'm going to be attending in the fall. This whole process was full of surprises!
  7. Upvote
    zabius got a reaction from BuddingScholar in How do your students address you?   
    As a master's student, I taught several genetics labs on my own (i.e. the supervising professor wasn't normally around). I told my students to just call me by my first name, because anything else would be weird. Most complied, but one student kept calling me "Professor [Firstname]." When I explainer to her that I wasn't actually a professor, she just called me "Mr. [Firstname]." I said that "Mr." was still too formal, so she moved on to "Sir." I get that she was trying to be polite, and had probably been raised to address people in this manner... but it was weird for me. Especially since I was raised in a part of the country where the most common way to address a stranger is, "Hey, you!"
     
    Eventually, we compromised... I let her call me "Captain [Firstname]." We both thought it was funny. A couple other students even joined in. I love it when a group of students has a nice sense of humor (now if only their work ethic had been just as good...).
  8. Upvote
    zabius got a reaction from dstock in How do your students address you?   
    As a master's student, I taught several genetics labs on my own (i.e. the supervising professor wasn't normally around). I told my students to just call me by my first name, because anything else would be weird. Most complied, but one student kept calling me "Professor [Firstname]." When I explainer to her that I wasn't actually a professor, she just called me "Mr. [Firstname]." I said that "Mr." was still too formal, so she moved on to "Sir." I get that she was trying to be polite, and had probably been raised to address people in this manner... but it was weird for me. Especially since I was raised in a part of the country where the most common way to address a stranger is, "Hey, you!"
     
    Eventually, we compromised... I let her call me "Captain [Firstname]." We both thought it was funny. A couple other students even joined in. I love it when a group of students has a nice sense of humor (now if only their work ethic had been just as good...).
  9. Upvote
    zabius got a reaction from QASP in What surprised you the most going through this whole process?   
    I'm most surprised that my friends didn't strangle me, as grad school applications are all I've talked about since December.
     
    Also, the school that I thought was most likely to accept me rejected me, and the school that I thought was most likely to reject me accepted me. The latter ended up becoming my top choice and is the school that I'm going to be attending in the fall. This whole process was full of surprises!
  10. Upvote
    zabius got a reaction from PhDerp in The Pet Thread   
    I have two dogs... an older beagle named Circe and a younger terrier mix named Gunnar. Circe is a stray dog that I found when I first moved to North Carolina for my masters in 2010. She's incredibly sweet and affectionate... I tried finding her previous owner (via physical fliers, craigslist, ads in the paper, etc.) but no one claimed her, so now she lives with me. I don't know how old she was when I found her, but the vet estimated that she was probably around 9, which would mean that she's ~11-12 now.
     

     
    Gunnar is a shelter dog that I adopted from someone else who couldn't keep him, as he kept fighting with her other dog. He can be a bully at times, but he gets along with Circe surprisingly well. He's tons of fun... very playful and energetic. He just turned 2 last November.
     

     
    I also collect scorpions as a hobby. I've kept over two dozen species over the last few years, though lately my collection has dwindled a bit. I plan to rebuild it once I get myself settled in grad school... there's no sense in buying a bunch of scorpions now just to transport them 1,000 miles away in a couple of months! I have far too many to post pictures of all of them, but here's a picture of a few favorites:
     
    A giant desert hairy, Hadrurus arizonensis) stinging a cockroach.

     
    A male-female pair of death stalkers (Leiurus quinquestriatus) disagreeing about mating:

     
    A Florida bark scorpion (Centruroides gracilis) fluorescing under a blacklight:

  11. Upvote
    zabius got a reaction from Marycontrary in Complicated Decision (2 Schools or Job?)   
    Based on the info you provided, this is how I would rank your options:
     
    1. School B
    2. The job
    3. School A
     
    School A sounds like a poor choice. If the research fit is only "meh," would you really be happy there for a 5-year+ PhD program? Research is a harsh and demanding mistress, and if you're not excited about your research then you may quickly find yourself trapped in a very unhappy and stressful situation. It sounds like the funding package is the only thing that School A really has going for it, but even that's not certain. In fact, there's up to a 60% chance that you might not get any funding at all, and those aren't exactly favorable odds! So, I'd say that A is probably the least attractive of the three options.
     
    School B, on the other hand, sounds like a good fit for you and probably the best option. The funding package may not be stellar, but if it's enough to make ends meet then it is sufficient. I would call (not email) School B immediately and ask about the status of your application. It's perfectly acceptable to do this, as you need to make a decision soon and they were supposed to have gotten back to you by now. Be sure to explain your situation and the timeline for deciding on other offers to them. If school B accepts you with funding, I would say that you should choose B. But if school B rejects you or has you on a waitlist, I would choose the job.
     
    The reasoning behind that is that there's no guarantee that you'd get off of a waitlist at school B, and if you pass on the job and don't get off the waitlist, then your only option is A (which, as noted earlier, is probably the worst of the three options). Or, you might not have any other options at all if the deadline for A's offer has passed by then! The job has a lot of things going for it... a decent salary, a chance to move up, and it's similar to your long-term career goals anyway. If B doesn't work out, I'd think that the job would be a much better choice than School A. I also don't think you should base your decision on which option would give you more vacation time; chances are that grad school would keep you busy and poor enough to make more than 2 weeks of vacation time impossible anyway. :-)
     
    So, that's what I would do. If B accepts you, choose B. If B rejects or waitlists you, choose the job. Then decline A's offer so that someone else can get off of the waitlist.
     
    There's also the possibility that you could take the job, stay there for a few years, and reapply to school B and/or other programs several years from now (perhaps once the state of academic funding in this country improves?). Just because you accept the job now doesn't mean that you are locked into it for the rest of your life. This option might be really attractive if B doesn't accept you but you're worried that you'd miss doing research.
     
    Good luck with your decision!
  12. Upvote
    zabius got a reaction from GraceEun00 in The Pet Thread   
    I had two dogs throughout my master's program, during which time I was also single and lived on my own. It's very doable, but you may need to adjust your schedule to make time for the dogs. I was often on campus from ~9-5 every weekday, but I also used my lunch break to go back home and walk the dogs. I lived close to campus, so this was pretty feasible. I also worked a nice, long morning walk into my routine. Then, of course, the first thing I did when I got home was play with them (they were always so happy to see me) and give them their dinner.  One semester I had to teach an evening class (that lasted from 6-9pm, ugh), and on those days I usually made a second trip home to walk and feed them at about 5pm. They didn't like that I was gone for so long then, but they managed... the class only met once per week.
     
    If you have a partner or a roommate, it's a lot easier. If you're stuck late on campus, for instance, you can call that person up and ask him/her to feed or walk the dogs. And if you're really busy with homework and can't be disturbed, the dogs will have someone else to play with when they're bored. But, I didn't have anyone that I could count on like that, and I managed just fine. :-) One thing that probably helped, though, was the fact that I had two dogs... which meant that they could play with each other when I wasn't home.
     
    My advice is to wait until you're settled in your new program before you consider adopting a dog. Get a sense of your initial course schedule as well as how much time you'll be spending on campus for research. After the first semester, you'll have a good sense of this. Then, if you think you'll have the time, go for it... dogs are great fun, and for me they were the only thing that made my time at my [awful] master's program enjoyable. You'll need to factor in time to feed them, time to walk them throughout the day, and of course time to play with and pet them, but you can do it if you have good time management skills.
     
    If you do get a dog, I'd advise getting one that is not a puppy... puppies require a lot more time because you'll need to train and supervise them in addition to feeding, walking, and playing. I don't think that I would have been able to handle that on my own while still doing everything I needed to do for my program, but perhaps you might be different. With a partner, it would probably also be much more manageable... provided that your partner likes dogs, that is. :-) Puppies also need a lot more attention and playtime, and will make sure that you know it.
     
    One other thing to consider, though... if you have dogs, you can't just go out of town on a whim. Make sure that you have someone who can take care of the dogs if you need to go to a conference or something like that! You also can't go out on the town with your cohorts straight from work, without first stopping at home to feed and walk the dogs. If you think that you'll be spending more time on campus or going out and relatively little time at home, then a dog probably isn't the best thing for you right now.
  13. Downvote
    zabius got a reaction from siwenna in Need help with Ecology/Evolutionary Bio programs   
    There is generally no writing sample required for biology programs; writing samples are usually only asked for in the humanities or social sciences. For all of the programs that I applied to, I just needed a statement of purpose (in which I described my prior research experiences and plans for the future, including what I intended to work on and why I chose that school specifically). Some schools will also ask for shorter supplemental essays, but these are generally ~1 page in length and are aimed mostly at assessing whether or not you're a good fit for the program. Many programs also allow you to upload copies of any scientific publications you may have, as well as your CV, but in most cases these things are optional. Then of course there are the standard things-- LORs, GRE scores, transcripts, etc. Some programs may recommend the biology subject GRE, but I generally find that exam to be a worthless endeavor; I'd only recommend it if the school requires it (or "strongly recommends" it), or if your SO doesn't have a strong biology background.
     
    The SOP is what your SO should really focus on the most. That's where he'll be able to sell himself as a focused student, by describing his commitment to research and presenting ideas for possible PhD projects. The more details he can provide, the better (though of course he shouldn't come across as *so* focused on one project that he seems inflexible... there is a balance to be had here).
     
    As for which schools are good... it really depends on your SO's interests. A school that may be really strong in, say, social animal behavior or chemical ecology might be really weak in something like restoration ecology or systematics or macroevolutionary theory. EEB is a really large field (actually, it's three fields-- ecology, evolution, and behavior), and so it's really hard to generalize. There are rankings available (http://chronicle.com/article/NRC-Rankings-Overview-Ecology/124723/), but since the field is so broad I don't know if I'd really trust the rankings all that much. Your SO should do a search for labs that work on his system(s) of interest and then go from there-- the professor's publication record and his/her record of placing students in good careers will give you a much better sense of the lab's quality than the rankings will.
     
    On a related note, it's worth mentioning that, in my experience at least, many EEB programs either require or strongly suggest that you contact individual faculty members whose research interests you before you submit the application. In some cases, you cannot be accepted into the program without a faculty member to sponsor your application (this is especially true if the funding comes from your advisor's grant money). I know that in other fields you simply apply to the program and then choose an advisor after you're admitted, but EEB generally doesn't work like that. Rotations, which are common in other biological sciences, aren't very common in eco/evo/behavior labs. So, your SO really should put together a list of individual labs that interest him instead of a list of schools, and then email those professors to ask if they are taking new students next year. Of course, this doesn't mean that program/school quality isn't important, because it is-- the departmental atmosphere can really make all the difference in your graduate school experience. But I think that's something to assess and worry about a little later on, perhaps during interviews/visitation weekends. When it comes to choosing where to apply, I'd say choose based on your fit within the lab itself.
     
    Also, depending on your SO's interests, he may want to look not just at faculty in EEB departments, but also at people in other, related departments. For example, professors who do cool ecological/evolutionary/behavioral work on insects may be found in entomology departments. There are also zoology departments, plant science departments, etc. that contain faculty who do EEB work. Conversely, at smaller schools there may only be a single general biology department, which includes all of the EEB faculty as well as the celluar and molecular biologists. These are just things to keep in mind when looking for labs.
     
    I hope this helps! Good luck to your SO with the applications!
  14. Upvote
    zabius got a reaction from gellert in Have any of you received a negative recommendation?   
    My masters advisor wrote me a letter during last year's application cycle that I later learned was the direct cause of my PhD app rejections (one of my ex-POIs later told me that an "unsupportive letter" ruined my chances with the admission committee, despite his own endorsement of my application). So, it *can* happen. I obviously haven't seen the letter, but I'm led to believe that it was neither bad nor good. Basically, my advisor said that I'm smart but easily distracted, lack motivation, et cetera... basically, a lot of things that no grad school really wants to hear (and things, as it turns out, that aren't really true). :-/ The worst thing about this was the fact that my advisor never once gave me any sign that he disapproved of my work... he was always friendly to me, and sounded supportive when I asked him for a letter. Even now, he's still friendly to me in our email conversations (I can't really tell him that I know about his letter).
     
    So, not a bad rec, but not really good or even lukewarm either. However, my understanding is that this type of thing usually doesn't happen. If a professor cannot write you a good letter, s/he will probably tell you that, decline your request altogether, or at least give you subtle signs that you should look for someone else. Still, my advice is to choose carefully. In my case, I think that the "bad" letter stemmed from the fact that my advisor was never in the lab, and interpreted a problem with my experiment (all of the specimens were infected by a parasite and died, halting the entire thing... long story, but not something that anyone could have foreseen or prevented) as me just "slacking off." Still, his outward friendliness and the fact that he never talked to me about this are very strange.
  15. Upvote
    zabius got a reaction from pears in Which school or admissions habit got you your nerves?   
    Dealing with my letter writers. Most of them were excellent-- I had asked them for letters well in advance and, when the time came, they submitted their letters to all of the schools before the deadlines. One, however, was the exception. He submitted his letter to all of the schools that I applied to except for one (which is strange, given that the deadlines were so close together and he was presumably using the same letter for each school). I contacted him several times as the deadline approached, but got no response. Then the deadline passed and I tried again, but still nothing. At the time, that school was also my top choice, so I really started to panic. It got to the point that the department head emailed me several weeks after my interview and basically said, "Look... we like your application, but we can't make a final decision on it unless you get your third recommendation in." At that point, I made one last effort to contact him, but it didn't go anywhere so I frantically called up another professor and he [thankfully] sent in a quick LOR for me. To this day, though, the original letter writer has yet to get back to me... not even an apology for ignoring me or a few sentences to let me know what happened.
     
    Last year, this same professor wrote a bad recommendation for me which, according to my POI at the time, directly caused my application to be rejected before interviews were even set up. I didn't find this out until after he had submitted letters to some of my schools this year; fortunately, either his letters were better this year or they were simply overshadowed by my other letters (which I know were strong). But still... it was a pain to deal with him during the application process. It was also surprising considering that we worked closely together during my master's program and he never even once made any hint that he was upset with me.
     
    So, yeah... deadbeat LOR writers are at the top of my list. But there are a couple of other little things that I didn't like:
     
    -- Admissions websites that don't let you check your status and websites that don't email you when your status changes
     
    -- Ordering transcripts. My master's school required me to mail a form by snail-mail to request them, and took over a month to process my request.
     
    -- Interviewing with professors who obviously didn't want to interview me. At one school, I had to meet with six professors aside from my POI. One of those professors started the interview by saying, "I'm not taking any students this year and we don't have any research overlap, so I'm not sure why we're meeting. Tell me about yourself."
     
    EDIT: Wow, I sound like negative Nancy. For the most part, I didn't think the process was *that* bad... mostly just tedious because of all of the waiting. The only thing that I'd say truly annoyed me was that one letter writer.
  16. Upvote
    zabius got a reaction from Quigley in How do your students address you?   
    As a master's student, I taught several genetics labs on my own (i.e. the supervising professor wasn't normally around). I told my students to just call me by my first name, because anything else would be weird. Most complied, but one student kept calling me "Professor [Firstname]." When I explainer to her that I wasn't actually a professor, she just called me "Mr. [Firstname]." I said that "Mr." was still too formal, so she moved on to "Sir." I get that she was trying to be polite, and had probably been raised to address people in this manner... but it was weird for me. Especially since I was raised in a part of the country where the most common way to address a stranger is, "Hey, you!"
     
    Eventually, we compromised... I let her call me "Captain [Firstname]." We both thought it was funny. A couple other students even joined in. I love it when a group of students has a nice sense of humor (now if only their work ethic had been just as good...).
  17. Upvote
    zabius got a reaction from jren76 in Which school or admissions habit got you your nerves?   
    Dealing with my letter writers. Most of them were excellent-- I had asked them for letters well in advance and, when the time came, they submitted their letters to all of the schools before the deadlines. One, however, was the exception. He submitted his letter to all of the schools that I applied to except for one (which is strange, given that the deadlines were so close together and he was presumably using the same letter for each school). I contacted him several times as the deadline approached, but got no response. Then the deadline passed and I tried again, but still nothing. At the time, that school was also my top choice, so I really started to panic. It got to the point that the department head emailed me several weeks after my interview and basically said, "Look... we like your application, but we can't make a final decision on it unless you get your third recommendation in." At that point, I made one last effort to contact him, but it didn't go anywhere so I frantically called up another professor and he [thankfully] sent in a quick LOR for me. To this day, though, the original letter writer has yet to get back to me... not even an apology for ignoring me or a few sentences to let me know what happened.
     
    Last year, this same professor wrote a bad recommendation for me which, according to my POI at the time, directly caused my application to be rejected before interviews were even set up. I didn't find this out until after he had submitted letters to some of my schools this year; fortunately, either his letters were better this year or they were simply overshadowed by my other letters (which I know were strong). But still... it was a pain to deal with him during the application process. It was also surprising considering that we worked closely together during my master's program and he never even once made any hint that he was upset with me.
     
    So, yeah... deadbeat LOR writers are at the top of my list. But there are a couple of other little things that I didn't like:
     
    -- Admissions websites that don't let you check your status and websites that don't email you when your status changes
     
    -- Ordering transcripts. My master's school required me to mail a form by snail-mail to request them, and took over a month to process my request.
     
    -- Interviewing with professors who obviously didn't want to interview me. At one school, I had to meet with six professors aside from my POI. One of those professors started the interview by saying, "I'm not taking any students this year and we don't have any research overlap, so I'm not sure why we're meeting. Tell me about yourself."
     
    EDIT: Wow, I sound like negative Nancy. For the most part, I didn't think the process was *that* bad... mostly just tedious because of all of the waiting. The only thing that I'd say truly annoyed me was that one letter writer.
  18. Upvote
    zabius got a reaction from alemarc21 in Reputable Professor vs Very Great LoR Content   
    It's hard to say. If the reputable professor had direct ties to the university that I was applying to (for example, he did his own PhD there or is good friends/a collaborator with other professors there), then I would choose his letter without hesitation. Connections can really open doors for you!
     
    But, if the reputed professor had no ties to the university in question, I'd probably choose the associate professor's letter instead. A generic letter won't really impress anyone unless the people on the admissions committee recognize the name of its writer, and even then it might not make as much of an impact on them as the really stellar letter from the associate professor would.
     
    Most programs ask for three letters of recommendation, though. Why not choose both of these, plus an additional letter from someone else who also knows you well?
  19. Upvote
    zabius got a reaction from Monochrome Spring in Need help with Ecology/Evolutionary Bio programs   
    There is generally no writing sample required for biology programs; writing samples are usually only asked for in the humanities or social sciences. For all of the programs that I applied to, I just needed a statement of purpose (in which I described my prior research experiences and plans for the future, including what I intended to work on and why I chose that school specifically). Some schools will also ask for shorter supplemental essays, but these are generally ~1 page in length and are aimed mostly at assessing whether or not you're a good fit for the program. Many programs also allow you to upload copies of any scientific publications you may have, as well as your CV, but in most cases these things are optional. Then of course there are the standard things-- LORs, GRE scores, transcripts, etc. Some programs may recommend the biology subject GRE, but I generally find that exam to be a worthless endeavor; I'd only recommend it if the school requires it (or "strongly recommends" it), or if your SO doesn't have a strong biology background.
     
    The SOP is what your SO should really focus on the most. That's where he'll be able to sell himself as a focused student, by describing his commitment to research and presenting ideas for possible PhD projects. The more details he can provide, the better (though of course he shouldn't come across as *so* focused on one project that he seems inflexible... there is a balance to be had here).
     
    As for which schools are good... it really depends on your SO's interests. A school that may be really strong in, say, social animal behavior or chemical ecology might be really weak in something like restoration ecology or systematics or macroevolutionary theory. EEB is a really large field (actually, it's three fields-- ecology, evolution, and behavior), and so it's really hard to generalize. There are rankings available (http://chronicle.com/article/NRC-Rankings-Overview-Ecology/124723/), but since the field is so broad I don't know if I'd really trust the rankings all that much. Your SO should do a search for labs that work on his system(s) of interest and then go from there-- the professor's publication record and his/her record of placing students in good careers will give you a much better sense of the lab's quality than the rankings will.
     
    On a related note, it's worth mentioning that, in my experience at least, many EEB programs either require or strongly suggest that you contact individual faculty members whose research interests you before you submit the application. In some cases, you cannot be accepted into the program without a faculty member to sponsor your application (this is especially true if the funding comes from your advisor's grant money). I know that in other fields you simply apply to the program and then choose an advisor after you're admitted, but EEB generally doesn't work like that. Rotations, which are common in other biological sciences, aren't very common in eco/evo/behavior labs. So, your SO really should put together a list of individual labs that interest him instead of a list of schools, and then email those professors to ask if they are taking new students next year. Of course, this doesn't mean that program/school quality isn't important, because it is-- the departmental atmosphere can really make all the difference in your graduate school experience. But I think that's something to assess and worry about a little later on, perhaps during interviews/visitation weekends. When it comes to choosing where to apply, I'd say choose based on your fit within the lab itself.
     
    Also, depending on your SO's interests, he may want to look not just at faculty in EEB departments, but also at people in other, related departments. For example, professors who do cool ecological/evolutionary/behavioral work on insects may be found in entomology departments. There are also zoology departments, plant science departments, etc. that contain faculty who do EEB work. Conversely, at smaller schools there may only be a single general biology department, which includes all of the EEB faculty as well as the celluar and molecular biologists. These are just things to keep in mind when looking for labs.
     
    I hope this helps! Good luck to your SO with the applications!
  20. Upvote
    zabius got a reaction from wreckofthehope in When to tell PhD advisor I'm transferring?   
    Personally, I would have told him a while ago... like, during the application process (something along the lines of "I don't think this is the right place for me, so I'm thinking of applying elsewhere").
     
    I don't think there's any real value in waiting until later to tell him... he and the rest of the department are going to find out eventually anyway, so might as well just tell them now. They shouldn't hold it against you; if they get upset about anything, it might be because you waited until now to tell them (they may interpret the fact that you've been applying to another school "behind their backs" as something that's a little underhanded). I'm not saying that this was your intention, but there is the risk of it coming across this way. What you definitely don't want to just leave without telling your advisor and committee at all! I'd let them know your plans right away, especially if you think that your advisor will need time to find another assistant for his fieldwork. Also, why take the qualifying exams if you're not going to stick around at School A? It seems like a waste of time (for you and the people administering it).
     
    If you explain it in terms of doing what's best for your career, they should be understanding about the whole situation. I doubt that they would let this influence how they grade your work in the class that you are taking. Good luck!
  21. Upvote
    zabius got a reaction from Andean Pat in Which school or admissions habit got you your nerves?   
    Dealing with my letter writers. Most of them were excellent-- I had asked them for letters well in advance and, when the time came, they submitted their letters to all of the schools before the deadlines. One, however, was the exception. He submitted his letter to all of the schools that I applied to except for one (which is strange, given that the deadlines were so close together and he was presumably using the same letter for each school). I contacted him several times as the deadline approached, but got no response. Then the deadline passed and I tried again, but still nothing. At the time, that school was also my top choice, so I really started to panic. It got to the point that the department head emailed me several weeks after my interview and basically said, "Look... we like your application, but we can't make a final decision on it unless you get your third recommendation in." At that point, I made one last effort to contact him, but it didn't go anywhere so I frantically called up another professor and he [thankfully] sent in a quick LOR for me. To this day, though, the original letter writer has yet to get back to me... not even an apology for ignoring me or a few sentences to let me know what happened.
     
    Last year, this same professor wrote a bad recommendation for me which, according to my POI at the time, directly caused my application to be rejected before interviews were even set up. I didn't find this out until after he had submitted letters to some of my schools this year; fortunately, either his letters were better this year or they were simply overshadowed by my other letters (which I know were strong). But still... it was a pain to deal with him during the application process. It was also surprising considering that we worked closely together during my master's program and he never even once made any hint that he was upset with me.
     
    So, yeah... deadbeat LOR writers are at the top of my list. But there are a couple of other little things that I didn't like:
     
    -- Admissions websites that don't let you check your status and websites that don't email you when your status changes
     
    -- Ordering transcripts. My master's school required me to mail a form by snail-mail to request them, and took over a month to process my request.
     
    -- Interviewing with professors who obviously didn't want to interview me. At one school, I had to meet with six professors aside from my POI. One of those professors started the interview by saying, "I'm not taking any students this year and we don't have any research overlap, so I'm not sure why we're meeting. Tell me about yourself."
     
    EDIT: Wow, I sound like negative Nancy. For the most part, I didn't think the process was *that* bad... mostly just tedious because of all of the waiting. The only thing that I'd say truly annoyed me was that one letter writer.
  22. Upvote
    zabius got a reaction from Cookie in When to tell PhD advisor I'm transferring?   
    Personally, I would have told him a while ago... like, during the application process (something along the lines of "I don't think this is the right place for me, so I'm thinking of applying elsewhere").
     
    I don't think there's any real value in waiting until later to tell him... he and the rest of the department are going to find out eventually anyway, so might as well just tell them now. They shouldn't hold it against you; if they get upset about anything, it might be because you waited until now to tell them (they may interpret the fact that you've been applying to another school "behind their backs" as something that's a little underhanded). I'm not saying that this was your intention, but there is the risk of it coming across this way. What you definitely don't want to just leave without telling your advisor and committee at all! I'd let them know your plans right away, especially if you think that your advisor will need time to find another assistant for his fieldwork. Also, why take the qualifying exams if you're not going to stick around at School A? It seems like a waste of time (for you and the people administering it).
     
    If you explain it in terms of doing what's best for your career, they should be understanding about the whole situation. I doubt that they would let this influence how they grade your work in the class that you are taking. Good luck!
  23. Upvote
    zabius got a reaction from rustledjimmies in What surprised you the most going through this whole process?   
    I'm most surprised that my friends didn't strangle me, as grad school applications are all I've talked about since December.
     
    Also, the school that I thought was most likely to accept me rejected me, and the school that I thought was most likely to reject me accepted me. The latter ended up becoming my top choice and is the school that I'm going to be attending in the fall. This whole process was full of surprises!
  24. Upvote
    zabius got a reaction from davidoshski in Minneapolis, MN   
    My roommate and I just signed a lease for an apartment in Northeast. We're also both out-of-state and car-less, and were worried about finding a place without having a chance to look at it first. But, we managed to work it all out and I think you can too! This is what we did:
    We picked a weekend when we could visit Minneapolis to look at apartments (I couldn't go myself, but my roommate was able to drive out there to check out places on our behalf). Once we had a date in mind, we put together a list of our 5-6 favorite apartments from craigslist and then contacted the landlords to ask if we could arrange a showing during that weekend. Some of them never got back to us, but eventually we had scheduled a solid 4 showings on that Saturday. Then he went out there and took a look at each place (asking questions, sending me pictures, etc.) and told each landlord that we'd get back to him/her in a few days. Once he was back home, we had a long phone chat in which we weighed all of our options, then we picked our favorite and signed the lease a few days later.
    It was a bit of a hassle, but it all worked out in the end. And keep in mind that we were actually very picky about apartments. We had a huge list of restrictive criteria (it had to be dog friendly, it had to be by a bus stop, we wanted it to have a yard, etc.), but we were still able to score a nice, spacious place in our favorite neighborhood (we love NE). If we could get an apartment from afar despite being so selective, I have confidence that you could get one too… no matter what your own selection criteria are.
    Most of the places on craigslist right now seem to be for May 1st or June 1st move-in dates. My roommate actually needs to be in MN by June 1st, which is why we've already signed a lease. If you want an August apartment, you'll probably want to look around June or so… it seems like apartments aren't really listed until ~60 days before the move-in date. There are some August/September apartments floating around now, but most of those look like undergrad-heavy complexes near Dinkytown. Keep checking, of course, but I'd guess that you'll need to wait a little while before good August apartments start to appear.
    One other thing to keep in mind is that apartments seems to go really fast. There were many times during our search when we called a landlord about a craigslist ad that was posted several days earlier only to hear, "Sorry… we've already found a tenant." It can get frustrating, but don't get discouraged. Since everything goes so fast, my advice for you would be to not get really serious about your apartment search until ~1-2 weeks or so before your weekend visit. If you start earlier, there's a good chance that the properties you find will have been rented already by the time you get out there to see them. Some landlords might "hold" the place for you, but in my experience most won't.
    If you can't/don't want to visit MN to look at apartments, I'd suggest trying to find a roommate who lives in or near Minneapolis who could visit apartments and send pictures/impressions to you. Of course, I highly suggest making the trip yourself. Some landlords don't feel comfortable renting to tenants whom they haven't met in person; my new landlord is like that. And, of course, it's always risky for you as a tenant to rent an apartment that you haven't had a chance to inspect for yourself. If neither you nor your roommate(s) can visit (or if you don't want a roommate at all), perhaps you could have someone else check it out for you? My roommate and I planned on asking one of the current students in the program to visit apartments on our behalf in the event that neither of us could make it out there (we'd have invited him/her over for beer/pizza to say "thank you" in the fall). That's not an ideal scenario, but it's better than nothing. If none of these things are options and you must rent site unseen, I'd suggest limiting your search to rental companies that have positive reviews online. That would at least lower the chance of you being scammed. All of this said, I actually don't know how common such scams are. I rented a unit without seeing it first back when I was about to start my master's in NC, and that worked out fine enough. Still, one can't be too careful!
    As for rent… my impression (from looking around craigslist and talking to current students in my program) is that Uptown is a little on the pricy side while NE is slightly more affordable. But $900/month sounds very doable anywhere. I think that if you live with a roommate or two, the prices will also go down by a lot. The rent on our place in NE is $1200/month ($600/person) with all utilities except electricity included. I don't think that I would have been able to find a good 1 bedroom apartment for $600/month (at least not one as nice/spacious as our current place), but it looks like a 2 bedroom apartment for $1200/month is not uncommon at all. In fact, we saw a bunch of options that were cheaper than that. Before I settled on rooming with someone, I was checking out 1 bedroom apartments, and many of those fell into the $750-800/month range.
    I hope this was helpful! Good luck with your search. And keep in mind that this is all based on my own experience as an incoming student. People who currently live in Minneapolis might have a better idea of some of these things than I do.
  25. Upvote
    zabius got a reaction from lypiphera in Register at two institutions?   
    You've been asking all of us for advice, but have you asked the relevant people at both schools what they think? You say that you have talked to one professor at the EU school, but really, you do need to talk to people at both schools-- don't pick and choose which people you consult based on who you think will tell you what you want to hear. You need to talk to everyone involved. Seriously, just tell your POI at the UK school and your POI at the European school what your plan is. Don't leave out any details-- tell them exactly where you plan to work, which funding you plan to use, and that you intend to withdraw from one school several years down the road. Then see what they think. I'm willing to bet that they'll agree with most of the opinions that you've heard in this thread.
     
    Everyone in this thread has given you very good advice. It sounds like the ethics argument is not really resonating with you, though, which is a little worrisome. I'm not sure how you can't see this as an unethical decision. But it is... this isn't a matter of cultural differences, but rather something that would almost certainly be seen as universally immoral by everyone in academia.  If you're not buying that, then ask the people at both schools (not just one person at one school) and let them explain it to you. They might succeed in convincing you where we have failed, as I'm almost positive that this isn't something that they would agree to. That one professor at the EU school may be okay with it (which honestly just makes me question his integrity as a professor), but I'll bet that the professors at the UK school might not be so happy with this plan.
     
    Also, if you still don't see this as a moral dilemma and you're the type who responds better to "personal benefit" arguments, then consider the terrible, detrimental effect that this can have on your career. The risk can't possibly be worth it, right? The damage to your reputation within your field wouldn't be trivial... it would be a blemish that would follow you around forever. There are people whose whole careers have been shattered by academic dishonesty! And that's what this is-- academic dishonesty. It's not plagiarism, but there's more to academic dishonesty than just plagiarism.
     
    Again, the only way to do this properly is to tell everyone involved at both schools what your plan is (every relevant detail) and get everyone's approval before even attempting it. It sounds like you know that your plan to study at both institutions probably won't work out, and that you're looking for just one person to assure you that it will. But even if you find that reassurance, it isn't going to help you when you're several years into your PhD and have angered a bunch of people by being dishonest, perhaps to the point that they suspend you from the PhD program(s).
     
    At the end of the day, the choice is yours. No one can stop you from enacting this plan, as immoral and potentially illegal as it may be. But I really, honestly do think that if you try to do what you have planned and keep your true intentions in the dark, then several years from now we'll be hearing about you on some academic mailing list (not in a good way, of course) and be spreading your story around as a cautionary tale to future applicants. Do you really want to be that guy?
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