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Everything posted by TakeruK

  1. What do author Contributions mean in papers

    The other tip that I got from my undergrad mentor when choosing a school or PI after being accepted was to look at the papers that the students of that PI wrote, not just the papers that the PI wrote. This will give you a sense of what level of work/independence/achievement that you as a student could expect to have if you worked with that PI. Of course, you have to be careful and choose a fair sample of students---if you just pick their best students then you cannot expect the same outcome for yourself. However, it will tell you how often the student publishes as first author vs. another author position. If you notice that all the papers coming from a lab/group have the PI as first author and not the student, then that would tell you something. It sounds like this is more common in your field, but it wouldn't be a good sign in my field if the PI was always the first author. In my field, the PI would be first author if it's a giant project that they are leading and the student was recruited to contribute something to the project. But that shouldn't be the student's entire PhD---they should have some first author work of their own too. So, by looking at how often students are first author and how often the PI are first author, it shows you how often the PI lets students take leadership on a new project (in my field). In addition, you can compare the writing across all the papers published by the group. If you notice very similar language in all papers, even those by other students, then you might infer that the PI takes a big role in writing the papers. This is both good and bad---good because it shows the PI actually cares about their students' papers. But if it too prominent, then it might show that the PI takes over the paper writing process and doesn't allow the student to actually contribute to the field. The way I think about the above is that as a grad student you don't want to just be a cog in your group/PI's research machine. You want to become an independent researcher on your own by the time you graduate. But just to stress again---this is best done **after** you have received offers and are now choosing which school and potentially PIs to work with. If your school has rotations, then you will likely learn most of this information during your rotation and talking to other students (in my field, it's a little more important to choose at least one person to work with when you also accept your offer).
  2. Transcripts

    Probably depends on the committee and maybe each member of the committee. Could also depend on what each program is looking for each year. And because applicants are generally evaluated holistically, they might scrutinize each transcript differently depending on the rest of your application. For example, a committee may not examine a transcript very carefully if the applicant has an excellent research record and they already have enough information to make a decision. Or, when they are down to the wire between two applicants and they need to accept one and wait-list the other, they might go back and compare minor details side-by-side. Some things the committee may look for: - Overall GPA - GPA in your major - GPA in upper level courses - Trend in GPA over time - What courses did you take (i.e. do you have the right pre-reqs?) - Did you make choices in your coursework that is consistent with what you say your interests are? The last two depends on your school as well. For example, if you are at a SLAC for undergrad that didn't offer a large number of courses in X, the committee isn't going to ding you for having fewer X courses than other applicants. Maybe the 4 upper level courses in X on your transcript are the only 4 upper level X courses offered across the whole school! On the other hand, if you went to an undergrad school with a well known expertise in X, and you say you want to go to grad school to study X, but your transcript shows that you didn't show any interest in courses on X, then that would be a little weird, right?
  3. What do author Contributions mean in papers

    I think you need to also take these contribution statements with a grain of salt. As you might imagine from the 3 word sentences, there isn't a lot of detail given. In your specific example, I would not be surprised if G didn't actually directly contribute to the scientific work at all. Maybe G was another prof that was added to the paper because G was one of the other authors' advisors. Or maybe the other authors used some analysis or equipment designed by G. On the other hand, it's entirely possible that G supervised the entire thing, along with whoever the last author was. Note that "wrote the paper" could mean something like "proof read a draft" or "wrote one paragraph" or "wrote the entire thing". Also how often do these statements appear in journals from your field? In my field, we only encounter these statements in Nature (or was it Science? Or both?). Anyways, since we rarely use them in our field, you might see astro papers with statements like "All authors contributed equally to the work" since we never really thought about how to divide it up. Or, maybe <advisors> designed experiment, <students> conducted analysis, and all authors contributing to writing the manuscript. My point is that these statements are super generic and they do not really do a good job of specifying the "intensity". Like the writing example above, "analyzed data" could mean someone actually developing protocols/code to analyze data, or maybe they just gave a copy of their code to someone else's student to run. If you want to know what the lab does, look at their lab page. If you want to know what kind of papers the lab produces, look at the work of the lab's students. Students generally work in their advisor's lab the majority of the time. In my field, if the student led the work, the student is the first author and advisor is 2nd author. I know in lab fields, it can be different. One suggestion is to look at the PhD dissertations of recently graduated students from the lab. The papers in there or the techniques described are likely the ones the lab works on.
  4. Hi! In 2011, I took the Physics GRE on a Saturday morning at McMaster. Note that ALL the paper subject tests happen together, so it's not just Psychology (although Psychology students were the largest group by far). You should call ETS to get the building name because Saturday morning means very few people will be around. I second the suggestion to go early. I was there by 7am. When I got to whatever building it was in, the door was locked. Half an hour later, someone came and put up a piece of paper that said the test is now in <other building>. Had to figure out where that was and run over. Luckily there were a couple of other GRE test takers there (a psychology student) and we figured it out together. I also had to travel 2+ hours the night before to get to Hamilton for the test, so that wasn't a fun start to the test. Luckily (?) we actually started almost an hour late so I had lots of time to collect myself.
  5. This depends on a lot of things. Here are two data points. During my 2 year MSc in Canada, I presented at three conferences. The first was May of the first year. The second was the beginning of my 2nd year. The last was in May of my second year (I did two full years for the MSc, defended in August of 2nd year). During my 5 year PhD at a US school, number of presentations which I travelled for: First year: 1 conference presentation Second year: 2 conference presentations Third year: 3 conference presentations, plus a couple at small meetings/conferences hosted at my school Fourth year: 3 conference presentations, plus a couple at small meetings/conferences hosted at my school Fifth year: 2 conferences where I travelled, 1 conference that was in the same city, and 9 presentations at different schools** **It's common in my field for finishing grad students to set up talk tours where they visit places they might want to do postdocs. This is partly because many students apply for national fellowships in postdocs where you apply to a general fund for money (e.g. as you might apply to SSHRC for grad studies) so it's helpful to visit or get "invited" to these places and write up research proposals. I say "invited" because it's very easy to get an official invite if your advisor is paying for you to travel there (usually this means the school just has to cover local costs for you). But there were a couple in there that were actual unsolicited invitations. The conferences I attended were usually the annual meeting for one of the national society for my field each year and then one or two focus conferences that are smaller (60-300 people) specifically focussed on the topic. My advisor and I talked at the beginning of each year on what conferences I should try to go to. Typically, my advisor had money for me to go to 1 overseas conference per year and 2 North American meetings. I also had external funding from Canada (NSERC) for my first 3 years and a NASA fellowship in my last 2 years that also provided $3000/year of research funds in addition to reducing my advisor's cost to pay my stipend, so it was easier to find money for me to travel. Finally, I was at a department that encouraged their students to travel and present research and represent our program. Starting in our 3rd year, we also present at the weekly department seminars once per year and there are many student presentation opportunities on campus to develop and hone our skills. We also often present in group meetings etc, so we get a ton of practice talking about our research. I also volunteer a lot of time to give presentations to local schools or other non-profits in the area.
  6. This comment made me think of something. I wonder how much of the quals process at your department depends on your "performance" at the oral exam stage vs. taking a holistic view of your work throughout the entire grad career thus far. This was something that was very confusing in my own dept as well, until we (the older students) finally convinced the faculty to release more information to the first years about the quals evaluation process (they weren't against releasing it, they just thought everyone already knew). For us, the decision to pass or not pass you is made right after the oral exam stage, however, we learned that the decision is not solely based on the oral exam itself. I think this is good, because some people are better at one-on-one discussions than standing in front of the board talking to a committee than others. Yes, both are important in your academic career, so some minimal level of comfort/confidence in the group setting is necessary. But this means that no one has to feel that everything rides on that 3 hour time slot and nothing you have done leading up to the exam matters.
  7. Lost data - who is resposible?

    Indeed, I thought the OP wrote that their advisor is requiring them to pay the costs. Usually grants are in the name of the advisor, so that's why I said (in the ideal-world answer) that the advisor should not be going after the student for the costs---unless the student knowingly broke protocol, the advisor needs to be responsible for actions of their team. In addition, since students generally do not have this type of money lying around, I don't think it is the right thing for the advisor to go after the student, even if the advisor has the right to do so. This is definitely just my subjective opinion because I feel that advisors should be responsible for their students beyond simply being their boss. But that's why I also said (in the practical real-world answer) that seeking further help from others at the school/department is a really good idea. However, if I misunderstood and this was all between the OP and an external agency that granted the money to your school/dept for data collection and the advisor is not involved then that's a different story. If you were a student at my PhD school, my advice would be to seek legal help from your school (probably through the people in charge of grad students). First find out if your school will protect you because you were doing work in your role as a student while on this grant. The other agency should be going after the school, not you directly. But if I still misunderstood and this was due to a grant directly awarded to the OP from the external agency and no money went through the school, then I think it would come down to what the agreement was when you signed and accepted the grant. I think you'd be acting as an individual here and would not have any protections. But you can still seek advice from other at your school on how to best proceed. Sorry for any confusion, didn't realise I made a big assumption reading one of the sentences until Eigen pointed this out.
  8. Lost data - who is resposible?

    Oh no, I'm sorry to hear this! It's definitely on the top list of nightmare scenarios To be clear, was the data lost while you were still away, or after you got back? And, were there special requirements to back up this data / store it in a certain way (e.g. were you prevented from using conventional backup methods for some reason or another [policy, confidentiality etc.]) In terms of your question about ethics, that is pretty subjective and hard to answer. So, I'll separate my answer into two parts: what "should" happen and what is practical. First, "ideal world". I would say that as long as you followed all instructions, you should not be financially responsible for any loss or damage in any way. Your advisor should not be able to force you to pay to restore the data. Instead, if the advisor wants to have the data, they need to pay for it to be restored, or they might choose to abandon that data. This might have other ramifications for you, for example, you might need that data to complete your dissertation. However, I would still say it's your advisor's responsibility to either get that data back or assign you to a different dissertation project / change the focus of your research. The analogy is what if a grad student through regular use and following all protocols, had an accident in the lab or broke a piece of machinery. It would not be right for the school or advisor to go after the student for damages. In cases where I do know of accidents happening, the cost has always been absorbed by the advisor or by the department through funds set aside for unforeseen circumstances like this. But a lot of this does depend on whether you were within policy when the data loss happened. Did you and your advisor have expectations laid out in terms of data collection and storage and backup? Were you able to use cloud storage (e.g. Dropbox) as backup devices or did it require special hard drives that you were not given access to? If you were not provided such training or if you did everything you could to have backups but were not able to, then that's a different story! Or, if it was the advisor's responsibility to purchase insurance for the data along with funding your trip, then I would say it is not your fault. On the other hand, I think that if you were trained on how to keep data backed up but failed to do so, then unfortunately, I think it's not the same as the above scenarios where the students followed protocol and something unforeseen happened. Still, unless there is something weird in the funding agreement, typically, it would still be very wrong for the school to make you pay the money to retrieve the data because they paid for your plane ticket. The worst they should be able to do to you (if you are fully responsible for the loss) is to fail you because you were not able to make satisfactory progress on your thesis. Okay, now for more practical, less-idealized advice. I think you should immediately seek help from someone you trust at your school. You should also consider student advocacy groups on campus or something like an ombudsperson. At my PhD school, the Graduate Dean's Office is exactly the right place for this as they would help you navigate the discussion with your advisor on the next steps and/or provide emergency loans/bursaries to help cover costs if you end up choosing to repay. Unfortunately, in the less idealized world, even if you are in the right and/or even if the advisor is acting unethically, there is not too much you can do about it. Ultimately, I think most students end up valuing their ability to finish their program more than this type of expense/cost (even though it is quite steep) and the advisors likely know this. There is also the consideration of what will happen to your relationship with your advisor if you fight them and even if you win, there is still other harm to you and your career. So, I think it is important for you to reach out to people you trust and/or people whose job it is to help students in your situation. See if there is some compromise or solution that can be worked out through discussions. Find out whether or not you would be considered financially responsible for recovering the data. And determine what are valuable to you and what you can afford to lose (e.g. money, progress towards your degree, your status in the degree program, your relationship with your advisor). Something like this probably happened at your school before and it's important to get advice before deciding. Sorry to hear about this, again. Hope you are able to find a way to get it to work out.
  9. How to email a lab you want to join

    Okay, then if you still want to send an email, consider rephrasing the email to something more like: - Introduction with the adjustments - Say that you are specifically interested in their lab because of their work in XYZ - Mention that you read their grant at ABC and hope to be able to ask a few questions (or other wording that switches your tone to one that demands the prof's attention to one that politely requests their time) - Ask good questions that are relevant to your stated interests above and make it clear why you are asking the question (i.e. you would like to be working on XYZ and want to know if there are any opportunities in the lab for XYZ work). That said, this level of questions/information really should be for the accepted student phase (e.g. when you are visiting the school or if you have set up a skype call or something after acceptance). Going into this level of detail to get information and asking for this much of their time is risky, in my opinion. You have very little to gain (there's nothing you need to learn now that you can't wait for afterwards, the SOP would not have so much detail that you need to "interview" a prof before writing it). As others said, there is only a tiny slim chance that this prof is even able to advocate for you (and if you offend them with the questions, then this will backfire). But there is a lot more that could go wrong from asking these questions. I also think that you might be digging too deep for your "fit" section of your SOP. I know you haven't wrote it yet, but you need to also be careful to not give off the impression that you are rigid and only want to do this one exact thing. Unless you know the school is specifically looking for this level of focus, it could hurt you / paint you as closed minded instead of showing that you know your stuff. Personally, I think you should either not send this email. Or, scale it back to really only ask if the lab will continue working in XYZ **if** (and only if) your decision to apply to this school completely depends on this one person's answer. Otherwise, it's better to apply first and ask these questions later. Note that your example of the lab that has changed directions is something you could have found out at the visit stage with no harm to you (and no harm to your SOP either....those shouldn't have that level of detail unless the program specifically wants applicants to set up projects with PIs before applying).
  10. Quitting a TA position for a Research postion

    I think it really depends on the situation / environment of your department. So, I would seek advice from someone familiar with how things go in the department, especially if you have a mentor or advisor you can go to. If you are seeking the advice from someone more junior (e.g. another grad student) be sure to try to sit down with at least one professor and get several opinions. Sigaba's path is the best one if you have already signed a contract that locks you into this position for the entire school year (however, some places still sign term-by-term contracts even for year-long courses; an underperforming TA might not be renewed in January, for example). This path is probably also better if all assistantships were treated the same. However, in some departments, research positions are always considered more valuable than teaching positions, especially if the student is not interested in teaching. So, the norm/expectation is that the department would prefer to have everyone in a research position, but since that's not possible due to a lack of availabilities, the students who don't get research positions get slotted into teaching positions instead. Ideally, everyone would at least have a teaching position, though, but not always. If this is the case, I think everyone you talk to, including the prof you're TAing for, would be happy for you that you found a research position and encourage you to join that lab next semester. They will be able to replace TAs easily, either from the student pool or hiring externally if they are in a rare situation where they have funding for more TA spots than students. I have a feeling that you might not be in this type of situation since you said that you specifically competed for this position. However, I guess it's not clear whether there are a limited number of TA spots you competed for, or that everyone would be a TA, and you're just competing for that specific assignment. And given that 10 people wanted one of the 5 spots, it sounds like it would not be too hard for the prof to replace you. The prof that wants to hire you as a TA can also help convince the other prof to "release" you from your TA commitment (i.e. faculty members often trade favours, so the TA prof may be okay with this). But all of this really depends on the culture and how your department runs. Ask around, with discretion, for advice. Normally, I would say if a prof is suggesting that you drop your TAship, it could mean that it's generally okay but you said this is someone new to the department who might also not know about the norms. If there's a culture that encourages/accepts students to move on to new opportunities as they arise then you should be okay to switch over from TA to RA. One may say that doing so might give the impression that you flake on commitments, but if such a "move on" culture exists, then by sticking to a commitment you don't benefit from, it would give the impression that you aren't serious about pursuing research opportunities as they come up. So, it's worth taking a bit of time to seek guidance from faculty in your department.
  11. How to email a lab you want to join

    A small point: In your first sentence you say "I was interested in applying to UNC". Using the past tense makes it sound like you were interested in the past, but not anymore. Just say "I am interested in applying..." or "I will be applying to..." Next, your third sentence says, "I did some work in X so I know a little bit about Y". I would recommend to demonstrate you know Y (instead of just stating that you know Y) via your experience with X. For example, "I worked on X using method Y with Dr. Z at School A" will cover it concisely. Maybe it's just me, but your second paragraph starts a little awkwardly. Maybe this is more normal in your field. But if I was receiving an email like that from a student, I would feel that the student is getting ahead of themselves. There is a gamble though, one could interpret your actions as being very resourceful / enthusiastic etc. But like I said, unless you know how they would react, it's a gamble. I would also provide a word of caution. A prof may have a grant for something but that doesn't mean they are necessarily looking for new students for that project. Maybe it's to fund existing student projects. It might be a little presumptuous to assume that because this grant exists, if you were accepted there that you would be able to work on it. That said, whether you choose to ask about the grant or something else, I think you should rethink the questions you are asking. The one that strikes me as odd is the one where you ask the prof to do a mini lit-review for you and tell you why their work is different from the others. That's something you ask another academic when you have a good reason, such as being their reviewer or if they had made a presentation or pitch to you. It's not the type of question you just ask them out of the blue. It's your own job to read the other papers and figure out why they are different. But more generally, from my point of view, I don't understand the purpose of your questions. If I was a faculty member looking for students and I got this email unsolicited, I might be a little annoyed at the questions that don't seem to lead to anywhere. You might just get a simple reply back with a message encouraging you to apply and to discuss potential research plans with you once you are accepted / started the program. This goes back to what @Eigen said earlier about not really needing to email profs at this stage to see if they are taking students. These detailed questions seem premature. But maybe you have some other reason to ask these questions, in which case, it might be a good idea to actually say this before asking the questions.
  12. Congrats on making it to this stage! I agree with @Sigaba. I would add: 1. Do not retake the written exam when there is no reason to do so. (Yeah this is not anything new to what was said above but I think it's worth repeating). 2. Normally, I would say this is something worth discussing with your advisor. From your most recent post, it sounds like your main advocate is in fact your department head and not your advisor. Perhaps this is something that is different in different fields, or maybe this is something different about your situation. I normally would advise students to discuss the possibility of not passing with their advisor. Usually, the advisor is 100% on their side (or no retake would even be allowed) and in almost all cases, the advisor will hire the student as an assistant for a few months to help transition them out. If something like this is not possible, for whatever reason, then perhaps talking to the dept head could be a good idea, especially given that they seem to be your advocate. Maybe the dept head can have the dept hire you as a TA so that you have some minimal income while you figure out the next steps. If nothing like this is possible, I would say although nothing is guaranteed, I'd advise you to "play to your outs" so to speak. It sounds like your main goal is to stay in this program and finish so I think it makes the most sense to focus on that goal. Applying for jobs takes a lot of time and energy and it's better to succeed at one task than be mediocre at two tasks. You said that you have the means to support yourself for a little while so use that if you need to. That said, I think your dept head has a good point to suggest a January exam date. If you decide that you want to try this route, speak to the dept head again (and check the Grad School policies on exam timings). If the dept head and the policy handbook confirms that you can reschedule to January, then perhaps that is the best route. I would only do this if your committee members have not already been notified of an exam date and if you can ask the dept head to take the lead in this rescheduling (i.e. the decision on the date would be coming from the dept head instead of you). I feel like sure, the Grad School might think you are gaming the system, but this type of scheduling is fairly common in my experience (e.g. some students will prefer to defend in January 2018 instead December 2017 so that their dissertation date is defended in 2018, making them eligible for fellowships that require a PhD within X years last longer instead of being cut short one year.....and alternatively, other students will defend December 2017 instead of January 2018 because they have time limits where they needed to finish in X years!). Since the dept head suggested this first, if they are willing to follow through on it, I'd consider it. Sigaba's point of whether or not you want this looming over you during the holidays is a good one though. Personally, I don't celebrate and I don't travel home during this time (I go in November or January instead, where things are less crowded and flights cheaper) so the holidays has generally been a time for work for me. 3. Don't take it personally that the committee members decided to not meet with you prior to the exam. This might be some policy or agreement they came to while debating whether you should retake. You can also flip it and think about it from another perspective: this way, you will (and the committee will) know that you performed well on your retake exam because you improved as a scholar, not because you got coaching from one of the members. For my quals, we all had two advisors on the committee. There were no rules about communicating with committee members, but one of my advisors said they would not want to discuss the quals exam at all prior to the exam while the other reviewed my presentation with me, asked me some sample questions that they thought I would get etc. This was the case for all the other students with these two advisors---it's not you.
  13. You should do what you feel is best and based on advice from your respective fields. I'll just offer some of my thoughts too. What is missing, to me, from this plan is the part where you discuss your past experience and how it will lead you to succeed in this graduate program. I'd say this would fall under the "fit" category of the FFF model, and a common SOP structure is Fit (your experience), Focus, Fit (their facilities & people), Future. Another common one is Focus, Fit (experience to show why you're a good fit for the focus, then blend to fit in terms of facilities and people) then Future. There's no single magic formula, just illustrating a point. In addition, from the way you framed this SOP, your essay right now sounds like it will be very one-sided. In other words, it sounds like you are offering tons of reasons why you want to be at their program and why it will benefit you, but you should also ensure that you write this SOP to show how you would be a good addition to their department (Note: emphasis on "show"). Now, since you have not started writing yet, you probably would have planned to say this anyways, but sometimes initial mindset can subtly change the way you phrase things. In your outline here, you've only emphasize why you would benefit from the grad program and but that is only one side of the "fit" aspect. The other side is also important: you want to demonstrate that you will succeed in their program and be a PhD student they would be proud to graduate (for adcom members not related to your work) and/or would want to work with (for the members who are related to your application). One last note: like @GreenEyedTrombonist, I had a Masters going into PhD applications, so I spent a fair bit of time/space in my SOP about my past. Probably more than most guidelines, I'd say 2/3 of my SOP was about my history (however, in the spirit of the "fit" criteria). I see that lots of SOP guides now suggest 20% to 40% past and more on the future. I think these are probably better guidelines, but I maintain that there is no magic formula and SOPs are meant to be a little free form. If you can make a compelling argument, then focus on that first instead of trying to twist your essay into a predetermined/generic structure.
  14. I also agree that 12 point font is the standard in academia and you should stick to that. Profs are used to reading this font size too, because it's often the standard requirement for things like grants or other proposals they must read and write. Typically, in the sciences, single space is the new standard. Your specific field may be different, but I have not heard this about biology. Double spacing manuscripts is intended to make editing and corrections easier, i.e. it's for drafts, not finished products like your SOP. In modern times, with PDF annotation and other electronic means for making edits, I rarely see any requests for double-spacing, except from people who really like to make notes on paper the old fashioned way. It's okay to increase the line spacing a little bit for readability. 1.15x spacing sounds nice. I also agree that you can go up to 1.5x spacing without making it look too spaced out. Whatever you can do to make the reader's life easier is better. However, be sure to follow instructions exactly. If there is an expected format from the instructions, after reading dozens of essays, the ones that aren't correctly formatted stick out like a sore thumb, and you probably don't want to be exceptional in that sense. There is no standard way to define the length of an academic document (i.e. word count vs. page length). The general conversion rate is 250 words per double-spaced page, or 500 words per single-space page. I would say that for my field, a typical length is 1.5-2 pages of single space (or slightly larger than single space), which translates to 750-1000 words. I feel that in the sciences, we typically ask for page count limits, not word limits because no one wants to count words, much easier to count pages. Since your schools have no explicit instructions, you can interpret this as fairly flexible. No need to aim for a specific length, so don't stress if it's only 600 words or something, as long as you make the important points. I think you'll be safe if you aim for something that fills one entire page and then at least half of the second page. Finally, I would advise against writing the SOP in only 3 paragraphs. Those paragraphs will be way too long and while the "3 F" approach you are following sounds like it will be a good guideline to keep in mind for the document, that doesn't mean one paragraph for each of the Fs. Usually, the defining feature of a paragraph is that it is used to communicate one idea. The sentences in each paragraph present the idea and provide support for that idea. But if someone were to summarize your SOP, they should end up with one bullet point per paragraph, give or take. Unless you truly only want to convey one single point for "fit", for example, I would advise you to split up the main points into more paragraphs. This last part could be personal preference though. I personally like shorter paragraphs, 3-5 sentences each. Some people feel like 3 sentences is too short for a paragraph but I don't like combining too many thoughts into one paragraph. For something like a SOP, where a reader will likely skim through dozens of them in a single sitting, I would argue that whatever your usual preference may be, shorter paragraphs might be better. Imagine if someone was only going to read the first sentence of each paragraph (which they might, for a SOP initial review). What would be the key points you want to convey?
  15. What about asking the people supervising the research projects that you are currently working on? Your sidebar info says SLP and I know professional programs are very different than what I'm used to / knowledgeable about, but usually research advisor letters are much stronger than letters from profs that only taught you (and that you don't have some other relationship with, such as an academic advisor or something). So, since you already have one letter writer that will discuss your coursework, what if your 3rd letter came from one of your research advisors? (Unless your research advisor isn't from your minor's department, then I guess you might consider replacing the major prof's letter with a research letter?) Note: Picking a letter writer who will always say wonderful things about everyone isn't always a good idea. Programs do calibrate the letters they read especially if they keep getting glowing letters all the time from a specific person. However, since it sounds like this prof is in a different dept than the one you're applying to, the prof might not be known to the dept you're applying to as someone who always does this.
  16. School "Advertisements" Via Mail/Email

    Here is the ETS page that describes their "Service" (which I feel is just advertisements): https://www.ets.org/gre/revised_general/about/tools/search_service/?WT.ac=grehome_gresearchservice_150213 No human at any program individually views each ETS test taker profile and decides "yes" or "no" on sending them the information about the school. Instead, according to ETS, they just allow programs to set filters based on the criteria listed on that page. For example, Cornell may choose to send invites to everyone with a declared interest in biochemistry. Despite what ETS says about this service, this whole thing feels very much like a marketing campaign rather than a service that accurately matches up students and programs that would be great for them. It's a way for schools to advertise their programs but also a way for ETS to advertise itself. The first time I took an ETS test, I signed up for it and got tons of spam mail, e.g. ads for MBA programs (nothing wrong with those, just that I specifically put physics/related fields in my profile). Most programs are not going to employ stringent cutoffs at the recruitment/advertisement stage. I would guess that programs will only use the GPA and score-band filters set to the minimum acceptable for admission to the school based on school policies, or not use those cutoffs at all. Most top programs I know of will very rarely have published minimum scores/GPAs because admission is a holistic process and exceptions can be made. However, this doesn't mean that everyone has an equal chance no matter what their scores are. Therefore, it is not a good idea to read much into a generic informational email from a source like this. If you are especially interested in this program and have concerns over whether they would even consider your application, first check out their website. For any school where you were planning to not apply but then see something that sparks your interest, I would say it's okay to email the people in the dept that are in charge of processing admissions if you can't find the info on their website. You can say that you are interested in their program but have limited resources to submit applications. Then you can ask whether or not there are any formal cutoffs in GPAs or scores. Most likely, they will say that there are no formal cutoffs but that their programs are competitive, which doesn't give you more info but you haven't lost anything either. But if they give you a cutoff and it's not favourable to you, then at least you know not to apply there and focus elsewhere. (This is also not a necessary thing to do, just emphasizing that you should only make decisions based on actual direct communication with the program rather than through these ad mailings). So, if you don't mind the extra email, I'd use the service as a way to be alerted to programs you might not have heard about before. Although doing your homework and seeking out programs should already alert you to any program you really might like, even the most astute researchers can overlook something by mistake. However, if you just unsubscribe from these mailings, it is also unlikely you will miss out on anything either.
  17. Sorry to hear about your program A second MS might not be so bad, it would at least show that you got something in this time. But many places will only grant a MS if it's a different field than a previous MS. Are there other types of leave available to you other than medical leave? If you quit the program, you would also lose your insurance and your grad income but no option to change your mind in the future. At my PhD school, students could take up to 2 years off to pursue other things before coming back. It requires getting approval from your advisor and your department, but usually this is okay if there is a good reason, and if the student is okay with the fact that they might not be able to pick up exactly where they left off (i.e. some projects can't go on hold for 2 years, so you will likely lose your project and would need to start something new. Or, if your school allows you to work during a medical leave, then you could take a medical leave and do whatever you would be doing if you were going to quit. Nominally, the school has no control over what you actually do on leave, but of course, there might be conditions that your activities during the leave matches the intention of the leave before they let you return. You mentioned medical leave first instead of other types of leave, so if there was a medical reason, then perhaps if you could argue/show that you need some time away from grad school for your health but that doesn't stop you from doing other work, then you might be able to get a leave that allows you to do other things and decide in a year or two years if you want to return to grad school.
  18. Why haven't I found a job yet?

    Sorry to break it to you, but this is basically the reality for pretty much all jobs, even in academia. I also don't know if you have started applying to PhD programs yet, but some of this happens at the PhD application stage too (ask for doc upload and then require you to fill in online form with same info etc.) And haven't you already been doing the "google the company yourself and try to connect the dots" type investigation when finding out which schools to apply for, who does what research there etc. I and many other people I know have gone through multiple interview stages only to find out that the company/organization intended to make an internal hire the entire time but for HR reasons, they still have to carry out a full search with interviews etc. in order to do due diligence. And it's pretty hard to compete with someone who already has like 10 years in the organization so it's pretty much a sure thing for that candidate, but everyone still has to go through the process. This is just life. Good that you're experiencing it now though since it would be helpful in your future
  19. How to email a lab you want to join

    Well, it's not necessarily a waste of $100. It just means the prof is not promising they will pick you because very few people will do this. It just means you have to compete for the position just like everyone else?
  20. I'd agree with @Concordia I think if you are asking this as "I want to go, but I don't know if it makes sense to do so", then sure, you should go because there is little cost to you other than time. But if you are thinking "Do I have to go to this, or doom myself?" then don't go, since I don't think there is that much to gain either. You have been to this fair before so you know how it works the best. All of the grad school fairs I've been to for my field** have been very generic except for one. They are great for meeting current students and learning about what it's like to be a student there, or good for talking to professors to clarify department policies etc. However, they are mostly people that are not going to be the ones making or even influencing the admission decisions, and a lot of this information you could get on your own. Also, you get like a few minutes to talk to each person since there is a ton of other people, not like you can really make major decisions based on that. The one exception was a grad school fair hosted as part of an undergraduate research conference for my field in Canada. At that fair, often profs specifically looking for students will be there and/or there will be special material prepared for conference attendees listing which profs are looking for students to do which research projects. Still, I would not advise anyone to pay money to attend the conference just for the grad school fair---in almost every case, it's a matter of "go if you're already there anyways". **I went to a couple of non-field specific grad school fairs because my MSc school was hosting them and it was a big waste of time since every program is different.
  21. To badger or not?

    I don't know when the school year began for you (at some places, it started weeks ago but at others, this is the first week of school, and at still others, school has not yet begun). I think you should not email again until 2 full school weeks have begun, given that you already emailed him twice! (If school started weeks ago, try again on monday morning). Also, you need to give much more notice to schedule meetings!! It sounds like you just asked for one single meeting time a couple of days in advance. If this is the first week of classes, it can be a very busy time. The next time you email the prof, here is what I suggest: - Say that you are hoping to meet with him before submitting LOR requests so that you can discuss goals and show him documentation etc. - Usually a good idea to specify how much time you need (e.g. "Up to 30 minutes") - Suggest a meeting in the next week, not just one potential day. If your schedule is fairly open, then I would make a general statement about your availability, identify one preferred time and ask him to pick a time. For example, something like, "I am free to meet with you between 10am and 2pm on any day this week, but if it's all the same to you, could we meet on Friday at 11am?". This will allow the prof to simply say yes or suggest a different time knowing your availability (instead of having a back-and-forth email where he suggests a time, then you suggest another etc.). Just give them your availability up front. Also, if you do choose to suggest a "preferred" time, make sure it's far enough away that if the prof doesn't see the email for a couple of days, they can still respond. If your schedule is tight and/or complicated, then maybe pick 3 to 5 chunks of time (e.g. Thursday 1pm-3pm, Friday 10am-noon) to suggest. Don't list every single timeslot available though. And try to have a range of timeslots (i.e. don't make all three of them 9am-10am Wed, Thurs, and Fri). Finally, I'd suggest that the first time slot is at least 2 or 3 days away from the date of the email (e.g. if sending on Monday, suggest times starting on Thursday...Wed at the earliest if sending Monday morning).
  22. This is a great point. Maybe it won't happen but it would really suck if you were caught off guard by this!
  23. Apply even if a document is still missing

    If you really want this position and have the time to submit an application, then yes, you should apply and ask if you can submit the certificate later. In the worst case, they say no and reject you. However, this is the same outcome if you don't apply at all, so you have nothing to lose.
  24. I wish you the best of luck! I think you have prepared well for your conversation with #3 through what you've described here and what you've discussed with #1 and #2. I think taking responsibility for what happened with #3, not making excuses, and demonstrating that you have a plan to get back on track will be the most helpful. Sorry I don't have more advice than that! For your question #2, I would say you should not bring this up to your advisor until everything is over. If you retake and pass, maybe this is a good discussion to have after you've graduated (i.e. general feedback that perhaps the dept should make it clearer that a retake is not a sure thing). If you don't get to retake or if you fail the retake, it could be a helpful thing to say to your advisor if you are able to find a way to do so gracefully. Maybe the faculty really didn't know that students thought they always get more than one chance. For question #3, I have never seen this. If the school thinks the student needs some time away to regroup and would be able to come back successfully, they will often suggest a leave of absence or something similar. Or, you can "finish" the program with a Masters and then apply to a PhD program in the future. But I don't think I have ever heard of a graduate student failing out of a program and being allowed to apply for the same program again in the future.