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Found 5 results

  1. Hello! I wanted to hear opinions on what is most important when selecting labs / mentors to apply to since it is such a huge decision in the application process. Is it most important that you match the mentors topics of interest or the methods they use to do their research? Of course having both are ideal! Sometimes, however, there just aren't a lot of people doing exactly what you want to do. So is it more important to connect with a mentor that can teach you the skills you want to learn even if their topic isn't a perfect match or is it more important to find a mentor within the topic you are interested in to build the broader knowledge / foundation and look for other opportunities to build knowledge in the specific skills you want to use to research that topic? Should my applications be a mix of both? Or am I completely off and there is no reason I shouldn't be able to find 10+ potential mentors in the topic and skills I'm looking for that are all accepting students the specific year I intend to apply?
  2. I'm new here, and I'm hoping I can find help to this question. I recently burned a critical bridge with a research mentor (spent 4 years in that person's lab as a post-bacc), and it was the only mentor whom I had published with (as a post-bacc for my undergraduate honor's thesis). I have a prior mentor (spent only 1 year in that person's lab, but without a publishable paper) in a different but related field, and that person is retired and willing to write me a strong LOR (and I continue to have a great relationship with that person). However, I won't be able to get an LOR from the mentor I burned bridges with (which is the only mentor I published with). I plan to change sub-majors slightly, but it is still within a similar branch of a larger PhD system. I won't mention specifics here, since the fields are relatively small in the PhD world. I plan on applying for PhD programs in the next few years, so I have some time to form new relationships with new mentors, but I do not have much time as I am a non-traditional student (older aged). I'm not a graduate student yet; I'm merely a post-bacc, as mentioned above, so I'm just barely starting out on this long road that has already lasted 3 years and counting. I felt I wasted at least 2 of the 4 years in the lab with the mentor whom I had burned bridges with, and now I feel as though I'm in a rush to make up for that. How would I find new mentors? How would I explain a lack of an LOR in an interview or in a personal statement? Finally, I was wondering if it is possible to still work as a research assistant for at least one (if not two) mentors, and ask to work toward publication as a post-bacc, so as to increase competitiveness in the application process, and so as to "make up" for burning a bridge in the past. I won't go into much detail about how I burned that bridge, but I will say that it is related to my mental illness. I am currently seeking treatment for that mental illness, but I do not think it would be appropriate for me to mention that mental illness as an "excuse" for burning a bridge; in actuality, my burning a bridge was highly relational, not based on my work, as I produced good work. I feel just awful about burning a bridge, but I also felt it necessary to burn that bridge because my mental illness was highlighted more than my actual work. I did find a new mentor for professional development only, but I am not sure where it would head (as it is a brand new arrangement solely online and long-distance), or if I could use that person as a reference. I'm open to any and all feedback, as well as questions where I lack clarity. Thank you for your time in advance.
  3. Some people say that your mentor is EVERYTHING in grad school. How important is it to stick with a big, influential name who knows and wants me, in a really bad department/school, when he seems to have some control issues that could impact our working relationship over the next 4 years? Here is the TL;DR version for those who get frustrated by the tons of text that follow : Program A: Great metro area; low program ranking; my advisor is the big kahuna in the department and field but he has some troubling personality quirks; he's the only faculty member to work with in my dept.; I'm already set up/would not have to move; I'm already well known and respected in the department; students tend to leave with very publications; my mentor has put his name on the line for me here and would take it personally if I leave. Program B: Excellent reputation and curriculum; very high ranking; many faculty to work with an opportunity for collaboration; no one-perfect-faculty-member-fit for me; strong methods training; would have to move and create new relationships with faculty and prove my reliability; somewhat geographically isolated but 3-hour drive to major cities; strong department culture of cohesiveness; attending would burn bridges with my current mentor. *** I'm in my last semester of a master's program in a field at a poorly-ranked program, but with an advisor who is an influential name and who knows everybody, everywhere. (Why is such an important person at a crappy school? We're in DC, and he likes living here so that he can skip down to Capitol Hill to testify or to sit with the policymakers and come up with solutions - when they actually do that stuff.) I came to this school specifically so I could work with him, even though he doesn't normally work with masters students. I emailed him relentlessly before and after I was admitted, and then campaigned to be let into one of his theory-based PhD-level courses in order to prove myself to him. It worked; we are now co-authors on a forthcoming paper, and he is the one who told me to apply for a PhD. He was so adamant that I do so that he put himself on our admissions committee to "ensure" that I was accepted to our doctoral program. He is my biggest advocate. This person comes with a very particular set of difficult personal characteristics, however. As a family man, he seems unable to avoid giving into his paternal instinct with his mentees (all of whom are female). He gives unsolicited advice on our personal lives and situations, gets angry with us when we do not take his advice, and then does not seem to understand why we get upset with him. As someone with a brilliant mind and ivy pedigree, I also think he is just accustomed to being the smartest person in a room, and he really does think he know what's in our best interest better than we do. Although I believe it comes from a good place, the end result is a peculiar kind of toxicity: I admire him, but I am 'afraid' of him in that I know better than to cross him, and I am reluctant to pitch my research ideas because so few are 'good enough' for him to support. I got into my home institution, of course, but I have another offer that is at an objectively better institution (he didn't want to write me a LoR, but eventually did. Whole other story). If I take my current advisor out of the equation, I pick the other school in a heart-beat. But given this person's reputation, prestige within our field, nearly identical interests to mine, and the fact that he has personally invested so much in me so far - I'm reluctant to leave him. This week I told him I was leaning toward leaving, and we spent an hour arguing, as he was certain I would be "making a huge mistake" if I leave. He said he would take me off all of our current projects if I do go, and he said, "I feel like I'm giving you the keys to a Ferrari, and you just want to go drive a Mercedes ." Funding is basically the same at both schools, but there is a big difference in the cost of living in DC vs. NY state. Here is some information about these two programs. Program A: At my current school, in DC. It has a fairly low ranking (21/32). My mentor's pros/cons I detailed above. The department is poorly organized, no one in it likes each other, and only 2-3 people actively publish (there are a TON of coasters). The doctoral students report no sense of community within cohorts or within the department, and several have complained of a kind of boys club mentality (no tenured women faculty, the rare male student is empowered and the female students are discouraged from doing innovative work). There are 3 academic tracks, and mine is the smallest and most devalued. In fact, my mentor is the only professor that teaches in it. That means that he is the only person with whom I could collaborate, and the only one to have on my comp and dissertation committees. The department doesn't permit us to invite people from outside institutions, or even from other departments within the school. When I have requested they hire more faculty for my track, they say it might be possible in 2-3 years. We have notoriously poor methods training. We are located in DC, however, so that opens up certain professional opportunities, and means that we can meet many of the fancy speakers who come to the school. Doctoral students generally graduate with only 1-2 publications, usually co-authored with faculty or another student, and they have been described to me as "solo missions" without much/any support from the department. Graduates who work with MY advisor are generally well-placed into academic positions; however, the other grads tend to go into government, non-profits, or else I have no idea where. Program B: Located in upstate NY; no national name recognition (school itself is considered middling overall, but my program is their star jewel.) It has a high ranking (consistently 2/32). Out of the faculty of 16, there are 10 who share overlapping interests with me. No one person is a perfect "fit", but, the department is very big on the whole "it takes a department to raise a PhD student." You don't work on your advisor's work so much as that person guides you to figure out the logisitics of projects YOU want to lead, and then gives you advice on how to accomplish it. It's a highly collaborative department - everyone works with one another: faculty-faculty, faculty-student, student-student. There is a strong culture of inclusiveness, very high productivity, and teamwork. Everyone publishes constantly, and the school houses two of the top journals in our field. The faculty is 1/3 women, most of whom are tenured. Students tend to graduate with anywhere from 4-10 publications, depending on how hard they push themselves. Graduates are generally well-placed. There are also unsubstantiated whisperings that there were sexual harrassment issues in the past. When I have asked their current female students directly, though, they claim to know nothing about it. It could be just a rumor, or it could be something that happened years ago and was dealt with. My main reason for wanting to go there - aside from the strong sense of community they create - is their incredible methods program. They are very strong in quant, and invest in making sure that their grads are, too. They also offer other types of research methodology training. I believe I would emerge from their program a much stronger researcher, overall. As my current mentor points out, though, I would be starting from zero there and would have to "prove myself" to the faculty all over again. It's also upstate NY, which means lots of cold and snow, but also, the Adirondacks, and proximity to other lovely places like Vermont, Boston, NYC, Montreal, etc. There is the issue of the frigid cold and snow, but I'm originally from Chicago, and I could tough it out again. Cost of living is very decent there, though, and I could comfortably live alone on the stipend - whereas in DC, I would likely continue living in a group house situation (which I am loathe to do). Most significantly, for me, going to Program B would likely mean that my mentor would cut off any possibilities of future collaboration between us, and I'd be severed from our current projects. It would feel like a great personal blow to lose him. For all of his faults (and everyone has some), I like him personally, and I wouldn't have come this far without his encouragement and mentorship. I don't want him to feel that he invested all of this in me for no personal ROI. *** I'm trying to talk to him again this week to see if he would walk back this whole 'punishment' thing (my word, based on how it feels). He did send me a note of apology after our uncomfortable talk, so I think we may be on the verge of negotiating a detente. However, there is only one week left to decide, so... figuring this out needs to happen ASAP! Thanks for any feedback/ideas!
  4. Dear all, I've been offered admission by two universities (UCSD and UVa). I am currently weighing these two wonderful options, and I’m considering a lot of factors including prospective advisors and mentors, academic culture, university resources, graduate placement, funding, and location. I know that the most important of these is my future supervisor. Now, if all other things were equal, I'd be left with what seems to be a Manichaean dilemma. My recruiter/prospective supervisor at UCSD has been simply great. Besides the fact that my research seems to be perfectly aligned with their* work, the current students at UCSD with whom I've had the chance to talk have had nothing but superlative praise for this particular professor. My prospective supervisor already has plans for me--for example, they're already including me in a panel session that they're preparing for the AAAs in San Jose this year. That being said, the said professor is young and is a very new hire in the department. I believe this is their first job post-PhD, and I also think I might be the first PhD student they will supervise. I can't help but worry about the possibility that my prospective supervisor might eventually want to move to another university before I finish my PhD there. The work of the other professors in the department isn't as aligned with my research interests, although I'm sure one of them would be able to supervise me if I were to stay there. My prospective supervisor and I are going to have another Skype session soon. What should I ask? My situation at UVa is quite different. While I'm not aware of any specific professor at UVa who really wants to get me in the program, I think there are more members in the faculty (than at UCSD) who can supervise me. One of them is a very famous scholar in the subfield of anthropology that I identify with, and I would definitely love to work with them. Current students there have told me that this professor seems like a likely supervisor for me. However, I know that because they are older and more popular, they are definitely busier and in greater demand. I am afraid that I might not get as much attention and support from them because of this and that this would somehow hurt not only my PhD but also my professional career. What do you think? Both universities and both professors are really, really great, and I am having such a difficult time deciding. I would greatly appreciate your thoughts! If anyone is interested in specific details, I would be happy to provide them in a PM. If you know anything specific about these two departments, please PM me, too! Looking forward to hearing from you! * I'm using the gender-neutral singular pronouns they and them.
  5. So I got an interview invitation. The purpose of the interview is to secure funding with potential professors. One professor in the program has the research that I am very interested in but he is titled as "Emeritus." I know that becoming emeritus means you are officially retired but may still be involved in research. How should I politely ask him whether he will have projects available? Can I just ask him "I am interested in some of your research projects but I see that your title is emeritus so was wondering if you still have projects available?"
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