It was like a scene out of The Matrix…if Neo was close to running late to class and needing to find a printer. It was my turn to lead the class discussion and the rule of thumb was to print discussion questions so our classmates could take notes. Continue reading
Life as a graduate student is full of challenges, especially those of the financial nature.
Of course, none of us enter graduate school thinking that we are going to get rich (LOL). Continue reading
AMPATH is one of the main reasons that I chose a doctoral program in Epidemiology at IU. AMPATH, the Academic Model Providing Access to Healthcare, was established in 2001 as a partnership between Indiana University School of Medicine, Moi University School of Medicine, and the Moi Teaching and Referral Hospital (MTRH). Continue reading
Always reach out with open arms! It is important in academia that you do not get stuck within your bubble. The world does not work that way, so why should we? Interdisciplinary studies and research is critical now more than ever as our world becomes more globalized and disciplines overlap to help solve society’s challenges.
As an academic, your success will be determined on how well you can be creative and innovative with your resources as higher education funding becomes more difficult to come by. As a result, more collaboration and cooperation across departments and disciplines will not only enhance your own overall knowledge of your subject area but also show your ability work with others.
Here’s an example: my research concentration is in higher education policy, specifically in governance, funding, ethics, and diversity. Although I am an education policy studies student, I collaborate with higher education and student affairs (HESA), informatics, and public health masters and doctorate students. This kind of collaboration allows me to learn about other areas of academic interest that touches my area of research.
I encourage you to begin working outside of the box and collaborate with others. Not only will it be helpful in your academic career but also your professional work. It’s always good to be open, helpful, and embracing of others!
Hey friends… the new year is off and running. And I have some advice for you. By now you should’ve submitted your application to graduate school (hopefully Indiana University made the cut), now you have all of this free time. You’re probably asking yourself “Self… what am I going to do with all of this free time?” Well that is a good question to ask yourself. I probably wouldn’t do it out loud in public. That is a good way to make people think you’re a little crazy.
The FTOD for you folks in admissions limbo is to stay busy, and stay in contact with the institutions you are interested. Next month we will talk about college visits so I won’t go into detail here. But one simple thing you can do is begin planning visits to your top choices. Something else you can do is continue to research the institution, and the surrounding town. Visit the city’s visitor bureau website, generally these websites can give you an idea of what city life is about. Finally I’d recommend that you keep talking to people at the institution you learn so much just by asking the same question to a lot of people (i.e. what is this institution like, etc). So go forth and be busy.
So holiday break brought some good news … an article I worked with a professor on will be published in the Education Law Reporter. An important aspect of academia is to research, write, and publish. Some tips to accomplish these goals are:
1. Find good mentors who know the system well and can guide you through them
2. Collaborate with faculty members and other graduate students. Find where your strengths can compliment theirs.
3. Work together and keep each other accountable. Working with others help you keep yourself accountable and on track to achieve a goal.
4. Research and write on topics that interest you. This is a long process and if you are not interested in the work you are doing, it will become a task not a pleasure!
5. And last but not least … have fun! Write about interesting and current topics, but also collaborate with fun colleagues! You can learn so much from each other but also have so much fun!
Good luck! Research … and write!
As an emissary for IU, I’ve had the chance to talk to a lot of students who are going through the application process for graduate school. One question which almost always comes up is, “How much do grades and GRE scores matter?” This can be a tricky question – it often depends on the individual student and the program they are applying to. I’ll share my perspective, but if you are worried about your numbers you should also talk to people at the institutions you are applying to.
Graduate programs care about grades and test scores, but they also care about recruiting students who are dedicated, determined, and who have well-defined research interests. In my opinion, not many programs will take on a student who doesn’t know what they want to do in grad school, no matter how good that person’s grades are. On the other hand, they might be willing to take on a student whose grades and test scores are somewhat low, provided that they have the personal drive and direction that are needed to get through grad school.
A friend of mine was accepted to IU (with funding) in spite of her low GPA, because she was able to prove her worth in other ways. After completing her undergraduate degree, she strengthened her resume through work and research experience. She didn’t apply to graduate school right away, but she used her time wisely. Eventually, she developed a rapport with professors within the department she would later apply to. When she did apply, she had contacts within the university to vouch for her, as well as important experiences which made her application strong.
While some departments might prove stubborn about their minimum test score and GPA numbers, I think you will find that many departments are flexible, especially if your application shows your ability in other ways. So if your scores are not quite what you wish they were, don’t lose hope! You may have to work a little harder to prove yourself, but it certainly can be done.
For the past four years, I’ve had a unique and worthwhile opportunity attending and helping the United States Particle Accelerator School (USPAS) which provides graduate-level educational programs in the physics of particle beams and relevant accelerator technologies. The goal is to provide training for future scientist, researchers, and engineers by current leaders and prominent researchers in the field.
USPAS is governed and funded by an 11-member consortium comprised of seven national laboratories of the Office of Science of the Department of Energy, two national laboratories of the National Nuclear Security Agency of DOE, and two National Science Foundation university laboratories. The member institutions are as follows:
- Argonne National Laboratory
- Brookhaven National Laboratory
- Cornell’s Laboratory for Nuclear Studies
- Fermi National Accelerator Laboratory
- Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory
- Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory
- Los Alamos National Laboratory
- Michigan State University
- Oak Ridge National Laboratory
- SLAC National Accelerator Laboratory
- Thomas Jefferson National Accelerator Facility
The two-week USPAS is held twice a year at a different host institution each time. I have personally attended USPAS hosted by the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Old Dominion University, University of Texas at Austin, and Michigan State University. The experiences I’ve gained at the accelerator school I have applied directly to my research and the support network that I’ve establish there I will carry with me the rest of my career. For those of you who are interested in particle accelerators, beam physics, and accelerator technology should visit the USPAS website for more information. They also provide scholarships for those who demonstrate merit and exceptional progress in the field.
For those of you who are not in the field of accelerator and beam physics, do keep an eye out for similar workshops and courses offered in your field as they will be invaluable in your growth as an aspiring scholar. I’ll keep you all updated with photos on the next USPAS that I will be attending at Duke University. Have a wonderful Christmas!
There are just a dizzying collective of listings ranking colleges and universities nationwide: the U.S. News and World Reports, the Princeton Review, and the Huffington Post just to name a few. And when confronted as a prospective graduate student preparing to apply to these colleges and universities, which one of these, sometimes wildly varying, catalogs of rankings should be deemed valid in determining the course of one’s future. Now I cannot speak with any authority on how these ranking systems affect the determination of prospective graduate programs in other fields, especially in the social sciences and humanities, but I can only give you an honest critique from the point-of-view of an aspiring physicist.
I would like to just get this immediately out on the table and out of my system. It is in my most honest and humble opinion that every one these ranking systems harbor, to varying degrees, a sense of elitism and educational exclusivity that hardly congruent with the goals of promoting the betterment of society through the education of its citizens. Year after year only the most exclusive private institutions, whose population and alumnus comprise of a very narrow segment of our country’s socioeconomic makeup, are allowed to grace the top ten positions on their list. Aside from that one year where they ranked U. C. Berkeley 2nd after Harvard. That sure pissed off a lot of people. Opps, never again. Perhaps they are on to something though, maybe only selected few of the wealthiest and politically elite are bestowed from on high the ability to contribute to the vast pond that is human knowledge. Or perhaps hot smoke is being directed to orifices unknown, but I digress.
As a young scientist in the final year of my graduate studies looking back, I see the ranking systems as a humorous and utter waste of time for someone who is looking to pursue an advance degree in physics. Each ranking system impose their own arbitrary metrics to formulate a sequence of school they deem worthy of holding a position on their prestigious list. Some even include scientific funding information and academic productivity measured by scholarly articles published into their metric. Interesting as they are, they still fall short of a reliable source of academic guidance for the future. Here are a few points and recommendation I would like to share from my experiences as a researcher in the physical sciences:
- In the current stages of your graduate school application process you should have at least three individuals who are familiar with your intended field of study. Be it a mentor, a laboratory principle investigator, or the people who are writing your letter of recommendations. Take them out for coffee and tap into their pool of knowledge. They know A LOT!
- Whether one is a theorist or experimentalist, physics is still a research focused discipline and should be what you look for in a graduate institution. A simple internet search will enlighten you on the current research happening at the institution and whether or not it interest you. Unsure of your interest? Talk to the professors and researchers at your undergraduate institution. You’ll be surprised by how willing they are to share their experiences with you.
- The number of facility in the department exploring similar questions gives you a sense of the institution’s specialty. Make sure this is congruent with your own goals as these will be the people you’ll work with in the future. The larger the group, the more selective you can be on who you work with.
- Some schools have dedicated research facilities. For example, Indiana University has the Center for Exploration of Energy and Matter (formerly the IUCF) which is home to scientists working in the fields of nuclear physics, material sciences, physical chemistry, accelerator physics, and neutrino physics. These facility provide a vast amount of resources and support for young researchers. It is one of the key reasons why I came to Indiana University.
- Lastly, look for big projects that are going on at the institution as well funded project are the best place for a graduate student to get hands-on experience working in the field. For example, Indiana University has a joint project with the Crane Navel Surface Warfare Center called ALPHA which is a low energy electron storage ring used in radiation effects testing. I came to Indiana knowing that this specific project will offer me great opportunities to learn and grow.
Before I depart, I would like to share with you an inscription that is on the main auditorium walls of my alma mater, “Education is learning to use the tools which the human race has found indispensable.” May we go forth to learn and grow so that one day we may humbly contribute to the betterment of our communities, societies, and beyond.
At the beginning of my PhD, up until not too long ago, I struggled a little bit with what I used to call “failure”. This wasn’t “failure” like “I’m not doing my work and i’m going to quit my PhD failure”, but “failure” of the kind where you work really really hard to get a specific result, or to answer a specific question, and things don’t turn out the way you think they might. This used really bring me down, and I used to think “what am I doing wrong…”
But recently, I had a realization. This thing that I was calling “failure” is actually, plain and simple, THE “research process”. Of course every question we try to answer is not going to be answered on the first try. Otherwise, we would have all gone home a long time ago. This was especially highlighted recently, when I was at a talk and the researcher was discussing this great result that had produced several publication, and they remarked “It took us 2 years to figure out how to set this study up for it to work”. In other words, it took them a lot of “failures” in order to get to their success.
So, when you’re feeling down because that great idea you had isn’t working, or you’ve run too many studies to count, but yet you have no “good” results, it’s OK! Keep your head down and keep working away. The worst that can happen is that this idea is really a failure, but now you’re a little smarter, and you can move on to work on a new idea based on this little “failure”.