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Finding Academic Year Funding Diane Litman Computer Science Department University of Pittsburgh CRA-W Graduate Cohort Workshop, March 2007.

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Presentation on theme: "Finding Academic Year Funding Diane Litman Computer Science Department University of Pittsburgh CRA-W Graduate Cohort Workshop, March 2007."— Presentation transcript:

1 Finding Academic Year Funding Diane Litman Computer Science Department University of Pittsburgh CRA-W Graduate Cohort Workshop, March 2007

2 Outline  Typical Academic Funding Lifecycle  Research Assistantships  Teaching Assistantships  Fellowships  Other Options  Summing Up

3 But first…. about Diane Litman  Academic Path (pre 1986) –ABCollege of William and Mary –MS, PhDUniversity of Rochester  Research Positions ( , ) –Mbr Tech. Staff AT&T Bell Laboratories/Research  Faculty Positions ( , 2001-present) –Assist. Prof. Columbia University –Assoc., Full Prof. University of Pittsburgh  Research Area –Artificial Intelligence  Non-CS Life –Married, 11 year old son –Travel, food, film, opera, books

4 Typical Grad. Student Funding Lifecycle  Years 1 and (maybe) 2 – Guaranteed funding via assistantship (teaching or research) or fellowship – Maybe even years 3+ ? – Part of your official acceptance package  Years 2/3 – 5 (maybe more) – Research assistantship (from particular faculty member) – External prestigious fellowship –Teaching assistantship (as needed, likely competitive)  Years 6/7 and later – Survival might start to be a worry

5 Sample Initial Offer Excerpts  I'm very pleased to inform you that the Committee was impressed and decided in favor of both (a) admitting you to our PhD program, and (b) providing you with full financial aid in the total amount of $XX,XXX (for TA stipend, tuition scholarship and health benefits) for the next academic year, starting September 200X.  The initial form of aid will be a full Teaching Assistantship (TA). The TA salary for the X-month (two-term) academic year at the University of X amounts to a total of $XX,XXX at present. There will probably be a slight increase for the academic year 200X-0X.  The department is committed to providing continued financial support to our graduate students who remain in good academic standing for an additional academic year and can include the summer months. For a PhD student, such assistance can last several years and is decided in coordination with the student's advisor.

6 Research Assistantships  A research assistant (RA) is a junior graduate scholar, employed on a temporary contract by a college or university for the purpose of academic research. A research assistant usually works on a project supervised by one or more full-time academics who are responsible for administering the funds from which he or she is paid. [from Wikipedia]  Typically part-time (e.g., 20 hours a week at Pitt)  Salary is to some extent at the discretion of the advisor (at Pitt, within bounds set by the University)  Typically includes stipend, tuition and benefits

7 RA Pros and Cons  Pros –Provides research experience / publications –Lets you trial a potential advisor (and vice-versa!) –If the same as your dissertation research, serves double-duty  Cons –If not well-aligned with your own research, might prefer another type of “job”

8 Positioning Yourself for an RA  Do well in courses –More than just getting an A, stand out (you’re not just smart, but special) –Try to take courses from potential advisor(s) (direct evidence is best) –Try to take courses in your potential research area(s) (you’re interested, not desperate)  Do research (best with potential advisor(s)) (you’re capable, and compatible) –Immigration course –Independent study –Course projects –Free labor –Paid positions  Do a good job as a TA (if applicable) (you’re responsible)  Attend research group meetings (again, you’re interested - not desperate, also insightful for you)  Finish requirements fast (you’re available for work now) –Pass preliminary / qualifying exams –Satisfy course requirements  Demonstrate writing proficiency

9 Teaching Assistantships  A teaching assistant (TA) is a junior scholar employed on a temporary contract by a college or university in teaching-related responsibilities. TA responsibilities vary greatly and may include tutoring; holding office hours; grading homework or exams; assisting a professor with a large lecture class by teaching students in recitation, laboratory, or discussion sessions; and even teaching their own classes. [from Wikipedia]  Typically part-time (e.g., 20 hours a week at Pitt)  Salary is largely fixed by the University  Typically includes stipend, tuition and benefits

10 TA Pros and Cons  Pros –Good experience if interested in academic career –If the same topic as your dissertation research area, can serve double-duty »You will really understand the material »May even serve as a platform for doing publishable research  my TA got a workshop paper  another student got a subject pool and a thesis  many “competitions” at conferences these days  Cons –It is typically another “job”, in addition to finishing your dissertation

11 Positioning Yourself for a TA  Do a good job in your prior positions (you’re responsible)  Foreign Students –Demonstrate English proficiency (usually officially)  Have a research advisor / advocate (can influence priority)

12 Pitfalls to Avoid  Reacting rather than anticipating –You need to be responsible for taking some initiative –By the time you realize there is a “problem”, it is often too late to fix it! –Instead, think strategically  Obliviousness / Ignorance –It is your responsibility to know the rules and deadlines

13 Fellowship Opportunities  Government (DHS, NASA, NSF, …)  Industrial (IBM, Microsoft, …)  Foundations (Ford, Hertz, …)  University (e.g., Mellon program at Pitt)  Opportunities for Women (AT&T Labs, Google Anita Borg, … )  See Kristen’s talk about tracking them down

14 Example Fellowship (from Wikipedia)  Fellowship –NSF Graduate Research Fellowship  Deadline –November 3  Terms –Citizen of US –No more than 1 year of grad school completed –3 years –$30,000 per year, tuition, $10,500 tuition allowance, one- time $1000 international travel allowance

15 Fellowship Pros and Cons  Pros –Very prestigious –Often comes with summer position, travel money –Provides a lot of freedom  Cons –Lots of work to track down –Lots of work to prepare –Extremely competitive to get

16 Putting Together a Strong Application  Positioning Yourself –Make yourself someone your department will want to “nominate” »Don’t ignore your GPA, it can matter »Publish, particularly as first-author »Finish departmental milestones (prelims/quals, comprehensives, proposals…)  Research Statement –Assume your readers are not familiar with your particular research area (or sometimes even with Computer Science)! »Use clear, understandable, non-technical English »Convince the reader why your research is important –Convey excitement / significance –Be both forward and backward looking »How will the award help you complete your PhD (in ways that other alternatives wouldn’t)? »How will the award build on what you’ve already done (and what are your past accomplishments)? –Be self-contained (don’t assume the reader will look at your webpage)

17 A Strong Application (continued)  Recommendation Letters –Must be strong, not just good »Beyond course grade, if possible –Like the research statement, letters should be accessible to a general audience  Curriculum Vitae –Do not “hide” or “pad” information –Make explicit » Authorship order » Publication quality (category types / acceptance rates)  Other Advice –Have lots of people critique / proofread your materials »your advisor, other faculty, fellow students, friends, even your family –Examine prior successful applications, if possible

18 Surviving Shortfalls  See Kristen’s talk  Other ideas –external job - preferably at university if still need tuition benefits, –stockpile money from high-paying summer job –leave of absence

19 Summary  There are many opportunities for academic year funding –Research and teaching assistantships –Fellowships –Jobs  Start preparing and positioning yourself now!

20 Thank You!  Questions?


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