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2020 PhD Profile Evaluation Request


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I'm an international student from China who did all my post secondary degrees in Canada. I'm planning on applying for my statistics PhD this Fall for 2020 entry. I'm hoping I could get a evaluation so I can get a understanding where I stand and what my chances are. 

Undergraduate Institution: QS ranking 150-200 in statistics (not Waterloo or U of T) 

Undergraduate Degree: Financial Mathematics

GPA: 4.0

Courses taken: (we use number grade) Calculus I (100), Calculus II (100), Numerical Analysis (95), ODE (99), PDE (100), Intermediate Probability (98), Mathematical Statistics (98), Real Analysis I (95), Real Analysis II (90), Statistical Programming (94), Advanced Data Analysis (90)

Master's Degree Institution: Same as undergradraduate 

Courses taken: Advanced Probability Theory (90), Spatial Statistics (95), Advanced Statistical Programming (95), Statistical Inference (95), Survival Analysis (98)

Research Experience: I did an undergraduate research project with a prof in Financial Econometrics related to option pricing. Not going to be published. 

Currently working on my thesis regarding spatial point process with application in astronomy and very likely to be submitted for publish in astrophysics journals. Hoping to be submitted around the time of application. 

Recommendation Letters: One from my main supervisor in statistics and another from secondary supervisor from astronomy. Both will be strong. Last one will be from the prof I did the undergrad project with. 

Programming Skills: R, C++, Python

GRE:

Quantitative: 166

Verbal: 155

Writing:4.5

Target Schools:

I'm planning on applying for schools with faculties doing spatial statistics as well as statistical computing related to MCMC stuff with application to astronomy and environmental science/ecology.

US: Penn State (Hoping to work with Murali Haran) 

UMN

OSU

CSU

UC Davis 

FU

FSU

Canada:

U of T

UBC

Waterloo

Simon Fraser

My current school

 

Are the schools on my list realistic? Also, I'm really hoping to get into PSU because I really like what Murali Haran is doing and PSU has a center for Astrostatstics which is a huge interest for me in terms of applications. What are my chances of getting into PSU? Thanks a lot for any kind of input! 

 

Edited by davidolohowski
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IMO, your list of schools matches really well with your research interests. I would highly recommend you to apply to UConn and Purdue, too. They have some good faculty members in your chosen areas. For example, Purdue has Bruce Craig and Tonglin Zhang.

I think that your GPA is great, and the fact that your undergrad institution is in Canada will probably help, as most US professors are familiar with the Canadian grading system. The weakest point in your application is probably your lack of advanced maths courses. I see that you have done Real Analysis, but you need to have Linear / Abstract Algebra on your transcript too, as most applicants in top schools do. Your GRE score is on the lower side, so you can try to improve it if you have time. As an international student myself, I can feel that the competition among us is very, very fierce. For these reasons, I think that schools at the caliber of PSU, UMN and Purdue are reaches for you, but you can certainly try a few of those. Schools like OSU, UConn and UF are realistic. 

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4 hours ago, hnn12 said:

I think that your GPA is great, and the fact that your undergrad institution is in Canada will probably help, as most US professors are familiar with the Canadian grading system. The weakest point in your application is probably your lack of advanced maths courses. I see that you have done Real Analysis, but you need to have Linear / Abstract Algebra on your transcript too, as most applicants in top schools do. Your GRE score is on the lower side, so you can try to improve it if you have time. As an international student myself, I can feel that the competition among us is very, very fierce. For these reasons, I think that schools at the caliber of PSU, UMN and Purdue are reaches for you, but you can certainly try a few of those. Schools like OSU, UConn and UF are realistic. 

Thanks a lot for the reply. I forgot to add linear algebra in the list. My bad. My linear algebra I was 100 and second year linear algebra was 97. But I didn't take proof based linear algebra, does that make a difference? What are my chances then after this additional info? 

Also, I want to know a bit of info about UC Davis because they have Ethan Anderes doing spatial stats in cosmic microwave background which I'm also very interested in (second to Murali Haran of course).

The last bit I want to know is how does the schools in the list look like for Canada? If you are not familiar with them, that's OK. Thanks a again! 

Edited by davidolohowski
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1 hour ago, davidolohowski said:

Thanks a lot for the reply. I forgot to add linear algebra in the list. My bad. My linear algebra I was 100 and second year linear algebra was 97. But I didn't take proof based linear algebra, does that make a difference? What are my chances then after this additional info? 

Also, I want to know a bit of info about UC Davis because they have Ethan Anderes doing spatial stats in cosmic microwave background which I'm also very interested in (second to Murali Haran of course).

The last bit I want to know is how does the schools in the list look like for Canada? If you are not familiar with them, that's OK. Thanks a again! 

Yes, your chance is significantly better with Linear Algebra on your transcript.

The adcoms at top schools will much prefer proof-based courses in Linear Algebra. Some schools like Berkeley and Wisconsin explicitly ask you to submit a separate document that lists all the maths courses you have done, including the textbooks you use, so they can certainly check if your courses are proof-based or not. For most schools, they do not ask you to submit this document. Unfortunately, this is why the prestige of undergrad institution is so important for top schools. It is difficult to judge the quality of a course just from its title on the transcript. They also don't know about the grading scale at your university (is 90% high or not???). If you come from a prestigious school, the adcoms are familiar with the rigor of the maths courses at your school (as well as the grading system) and they are much more likely to admit you. In your case, if your school is not well-known in the US, you can mitigate this problem by making sure that your recommenders emphasize your maths skills in their letters and, if possible, state your position relative to other students in the cohort. That will help you a lot for top-20 schools like PSU and UMN. The lower you go down the US News ranking, the less important it is to have proof-based courses. You will be fine at schools like OSU and UF. 

I am an applicant this year myself and I have been admitted to UC Davis, so I can give you some information on their programs. They have very strong programs in Agriculture / Environment / Ecology, so it is a good place if you want to study the application of Statistics to these areas. In fact, I think it is a top-3 school in Agriculture globally. I asked the program coordinator about the placements of PhD graduates from UC Davis. 80-90% of the PhDs go into industry, just like what the professor told me in the interview. I recognize that many of them become data scientists for tech companies / startups, probably due to the university's proximity to tech hubs in California. If you want to work with Ethan Anderes, you should make sure that he actually takes part in supervising PhD students. Keep in mind that PhD Statistics is very different from some other disciplines (e.g. PhD Comp Sci) in that you are admitted to the department, not the professor's lab. So, there is no guarantee that you can work with a particular professor once you get there. 

Unfortunately, I am not familiar with Canadian programs, so I can't help you with that. 

Edited by hnn12
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18 minutes ago, hnn12 said:

Yes, your chance is significantly better with Linear Algebra on your transcript.

The adcoms at top schools will much prefer proof-based courses in Linear Algebra. Some schools like Berkeley and Wisconsin explicitly ask you to submit a separate document that lists all the maths courses you have done, including the textbooks you use, so they can certainly check if your courses are proof-based or not. For most schools, they do not ask you to submit this document. Unfortunately, this is why the prestige of undergrad institution is so important for top schools. It is difficult to judge the quality of a course just from its title on the transcript. They also don't know about the grading scale at your university (is 90% high or not???). If you come from a prestigious school, the adcoms are familiar with the rigor of the maths courses at your school (as well as the grading system) and they are much more likely to admit you. In your case, if your school is not well-known in the US, you can mitigate this problem by making sure that your recommenders emphasize your maths skills in their letters and, if possible, state your position relative an  to other students in the cohort. That will help you a lot for top-20 schools like PSU and UMN. The lower you go down the US News ranking, the less important it is to have proof-based courses. You will be fine at schools like OSU and UF. 

I am an applicant this year myself and I have been admitted to UC Davis, so I can give you some information on their programs. They have very strong programs in Agriculture / Environment / Ecology, so it is a good place if you want to study the application of Statistics to these areas. In fact, I think it is a top-3 school in Agriculture globally. I asked the program coordinator about the placements of PhD graduates from UC Davis. 80-90% of the PhDs go into industry, just like what the professor told me in the interview. I recognize that many of them become data scientists for tech companies / startups, probably due to the university's proximity to tech hubs in California. If you want to work with Ethan Anderes, you should make sure that he actually takes part in supervising PhD students. Keep in mind that PhD Statistics is very different from some other disciplines (e.g. PhD Comp Sci) in that you are admitted to the department, not the professor's lab. So, there is no guarantee that you can work with a particular professor once you get there. 

Unfortunately, I am not familiar with Canadian programs, so I can't help you with that. 

Thanks for the very detailed reply. Now I'm much more certain about what to expect and how should prepare. In terms of math ability, I was the Gold Medlaist (top of my class) for my undergrad program, but I don't know if that helps stating that in my SOI because my undergrad program is really applied, so I'm not sure if that adds much weight. I'm pretty sure I can get my profs to attest my math ability tho. Thanks very much! 

Edited by davidolohowski
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