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Some thoughts on REUs and Grad School opportunities What and Why? Types of opportunities open to you What to look for and where to look What and where.

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Presentation on theme: "Some thoughts on REUs and Grad School opportunities What and Why? Types of opportunities open to you What to look for and where to look What and where."— Presentation transcript:

1 Some thoughts on REUs and Grad School opportunities What and Why? Types of opportunities open to you What to look for and where to look What and where to look How to get in Recent experiences (my own and others)

2 What is an REU? Research Experiences for Undergrads (REU) Boffo Acronym Initiation Training (BAIT) Funded by National Science Foundation (NSF) Only available to citizens/nationals of USA Cutting edge summer research at universities and institutes– often ~ 10 students per program Many, many fields of research available Housing and modest stipend provided Acceptance can be competitive

3 Why apply for an REU? It can be a lot of fun to do research in something you find interesting Your research could amount to something important and lead to publication(s) There are many cool parts of the country to explore Research experience can really help inform career decisions (is research for me?) You’ll get to meet a lot of great people (students and faculty) with similar interests It looks fantastic for graduate school applications and job applications

4 What kinds of REU’s are there? Dozens of fields, 100’s of individual programs and universities, every state See NSF site: Lots and lots of areas in pure physics, but don’t constrain yourself! Physics and TCNJ qualifies you to do more than you might imagine Go for what you find interesting in a place you would like to be for the summer

5 How to get into an REU program These programs are competitive and prestigious You will need to offer a convincing argument for why you are interested and offer proof that you are capable of contributing to the research—you can do it, you just need to “sell” your skills. Good grades and good references are important Applying from a fairly small school with a good reputation like TCNJ helps a lot Many programs explicitly try to involve women Most applications are due between Jan. and Mar. for the following summer

6 My REU experience – Geophysical Institute, U. of Alaska, Summer 1997 website: Did climate research in central AK resulting in publication that definitely helped my grad. school applications Had a great time backpacking and exploring AK Decided I wanted to go to grad. School in atmospheric physics Returned for a 2 nd summer after Sr. year Met great friends my first year and my wife the 2nd

7 What is Graduate School ? Why go? 17 years of school just isn’t enough Pennilessness builds character You can study what you want, in a place you want, with people that you like, make your own hours and schedule, and get paid for it. Masters, Ph.D., and professional degrees really are needed for most decent jobs in science and technology fields. The importance of graduate education is rapidly growing: many public and private-sector firms now want graduate degrees where they did not 10 years ago. Many undergraduate students are uncertain about the nature of the graduate school experience

8 Mythbusting graduate school: You shouldn’t have to pay for most grad school programs in the sciences – most likely you’ll receive a stipend of ~ 25 k and some modest benefits The stipend may be offered in exchange for teaching (TA), research (RA), or as a pure scholarship (fellow) Much like REUs, you are not at all constrained to programs in pure physics All science and engineering programs love to see physics degrees in the applicant pool So do law schools and medical schools Most graduate school is primarily research-based, not course- based Research skill is much different than coursework skill Some excellent undergrads really struggle in grad school and some average undergrad students excel.

9 Mythbusting graduate school, part II Your time will be consumed by your department – choose by departmental more than university reputation. Your advisor will dictate your life – choose very carefully! In many cases, you don’t have to choose your advisor during your first year—it can be great to observe the faculty while taking your core courses The courses won’t necessarily be harder than the ones you take here. Graduate school is much more like a real job than it is like a continuation of your undergraduate education Graduate school is a major life decision, so it is important to be pretty sure that you have a lot of interest and dedication to the field of study you pursue You don’t have to decide to go to graduate school immediately

10 Getting into graduate school: Grades and appropriate course background Research and professional experience Contact with potential advisors Visit prior to application if possible—let them see you Reference letters—don’t wait too late GRE’s (general and subject-specific) Application questions and essays Interviews Some fields and programs are much more competitive for admission than others Many “guides” suck

11 Resource Links: Take with a tsp of salt Advice on admissions, selections, and graduate life: school/ school/ Graduate program rankings: schools.usnews.rankingsandreviews.com/usnews/edu/grad/rankings/rankindex_brief. php schools.usnews.rankingsandreviews.com/usnews/edu/grad/rankings/rankindex_brief. php GRE information:

12 My own (fairly typical) graduate experience I applied to 5 programs in atmospheric physics from a comparable undergraduate physics program I was not asked for a subject area GRE Several schools paid for me to visit by plane Penn State University Meteorology dept. was my choice More prestigious schools have meteorology departments, but PSU has the largest and best atmospheric science program in US I received a fellowship for my 1 st year, and RA’s for most of my remaining time. I chose to do a TA during several semesters My average stipend was about ~22 k I was very dissatisfied with the health insurance

13 My own (fairly typical) graduate experience, part doux PSU grad. Students tried to unionize while I was there (unsuccessfully) to assure standard rules and improved insurance I wasn’t sure if I wanted to do a M.S. or Ph.D. program During my first year, I talked with many faculty before deciding on advisor I decided to continue in a Ph.D. program after taking “candidacy” exams Exam requirements vary widely by program, but most have several levels (i.e. candidacy, comprehensive, defense) I finished all required coursework in 2.5 years My Ph.D. research took most of 5 years, but finally yielded groundbreaking results While in grad. School, I lived in 4 apartments, bought 2 cars, played on many intramural teams, got very sick, got married…

14 Take home message: Be your own person – do what interests you (…duh) The “Don’t marry your first girlfriend” rule: be proactive and test the waters during the summer – do an industry internship, an REU, or both Start looking at opportunities now Talk to your advisor and teachers about your interests Be confident in your experience here


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