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A couple of questions for undergrad


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I am planning on applying for a statistics/biostatistics PhD and I am definitely not going to get a good grade in one of my classes (mathematical finance) and probably will utilize P/F instead of a letter grade -- how bad does this look?

Also I see that a lot of people have a ton of research, how exactly do you go about finding it? Just emailing professors? I go to a large public school but I haven't had that much success finding research actually related to statistics

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Hi! I am an undergrad currently doing research part-time. I’d like to share my experience regarding your second question. I applied for research related positions at my school and other research institutes via email, which includes,

1.      A single-page CV,  

2.      A copy of my official transcript, and

3.      A statement of purpose, stating my background, why I would like to conduct research, and my future plan.

I recommend submitting to professors/researchers whose research interests intrigue you. Many of them have their interest posted on either the faculty page or their personal websites. It might also be a good idea to skim through the titles of their publications to know what they are doing.

 

After that, if lucky enough, some may respond and ask you over for an interview. From what I have experienced, the interview would be less technical and something like:

What kind of research topic would you like to do?

How long would you be able to stay in the research group?

What would you like to do in the future? etc….

 

They normally don’t expect you to know too much of what they are doing.

 

15 hours ago, tokingphd said:

I am planning on applying for a statistics/biostatistics PhD and I am definitely not going to get a good grade in one of my classes (mathematical finance) and probably will utilize P/F instead of a letter grade -- how bad does this look?

About your first question. I believe if you have done well in the upper division math courses, the P/F would be fine. Though this should probably be answered by someone more experienced.

 

Good luck!

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On 12/8/2020 at 12:29 PM, tokingphd said:

Also I see that a lot of people have a ton of research, how exactly do you go about finding it? Just emailing professors? I go to a large public school but I haven't had that much success finding research actually related to statistics

At the beginning of the year, I wanted to start doing research but didn't really know how to go about finding a professor who I could work with. I ended up just talking to all of my professors a lot during office hours about research projects and other things related to statistics. Whenever I asked them how I could get involved in research, I generally got the same answer: "Do really well in class, go to office hours, show you're interested, and you'll have opportunities". That's basically what I did, and by the end of that semester I had a professor who offered to bring me on to a project he was working on. So, I've been working with him for the past 6-7 months or so.

At least at my department, there are always professors that have funding for students who are interested in doing research. It's mostly a matter of talking to them, making a connection, and showing you're interested and capable, even if you don't have a lot of experience or coursework related to the specific projects they're working on. If a professor you make a connection with doesn't have any funding or room for you on current projects, I'm sure many of them would gladly recommend you to other professors in the department who you could possibly work on different projects with.

This is all from my limited experience, but I would imagine that it applies to most departments.

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  • 1 month later...
On 12/9/2020 at 11:31 AM, bayessays said:

I don't think anyone is going to to care about a pass fail grade in a non-essential course, especially this year. 

I'm going to agree with bayessays on this one. I can't speak directly to Statistics, but as someone from the "pure math" side, I think it's only really a red flag if you do poorly in a core course, in our case Algebra or Real Analysis. Even then, I know of professors in areas like Knot Theory that made it through with "C" grades in Real Analysis, so it's not an "all or nothing" situation for most schools. You can also provide an explination for any underperformance in your Statement of Purpose (SoP) when the time comes. TL;DR Don't sweat the P/F grade on this too much.

On 12/9/2020 at 3:44 PM, BL4CKxP3NGU1N said:

At the beginning of the year, I wanted to start doing research but didn't really know how to go about finding a professor who I could work with. I ended up just talking to all of my professors a lot during office hours about research projects and other things related to statistics. Whenever I asked them how I could get involved in research, I generally got the same answer: "Do really well in class, go to office hours, show you're interested, and you'll have opportunities". That's basically what I did, and by the end of that semester I had a professor who offered to bring me on to a project he was working on. So, I've been working with him for the past 6-7 months or so.

At least at my department, there are always professors that have funding for students who are interested in doing research. It's mostly a matter of talking to them, making a connection, and showing you're interested and capable, even if you don't have a lot of experience or coursework related to the specific projects they're working on. If a professor you make a connection with doesn't have any funding or room for you on current projects, I'm sure many of them would gladly recommend you to other professors in the department who you could possibly work on different projects with.

This is all from my limited experience, but I would imagine that it applies to most departments.

So, I came from a much smaller university, and I started on research just by walking up to my favorite prof and asking if I could work with her. In a larger university, I can see how making those connections might be harder. My personal opinion (and others differ, which is okay) is that it's better to work on *something*, even if it's not directly related to your main area of interest. With that in mind, I would recommend talking to whichever professors you have the strongest relationship with, ie. those you've taken a lot of class with, or know on a more personal level. Those people, who know more about you too, will probably be more eager to bring you onboard to a project.

Another approach is to simply pick a problem you find interesting, and start working on that, seeking out guidance along the way. In Pure Math, this is pretty hard because open problems that are identifiable at an undergraduate level are not plentyful, but as a Stats major, you have a lot more opportunity to do something like this.

Finally, I don't know how far along you are in your degree, but if you have at least one more summer before graduation, I would 100% look into applying for a Research Experience for Undergraduates (REU) program. Basically, it's a program that sends you to another university to do research with their graduate faculty. You get paid for your time, and it usually results in some sort of publication, or a poster defense at the very least. There's a pretty comprehensive list of programs on the web. What's even cooler about this is that if you do an REU with a university, and apply to their PhD program, very often it puts you at the top of their list. It also gives you a chance to secure another Letter of Recommendation (LoR), and you generally need 3 of those for any app, bare minimum.

I hope this helps. Feel free to ping me if you'd like to talk more.

-UD

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