So you're thinking about graduate school in operations research, math, or engineering
So, you are thinking about graduate school in the sciences Laura McLay Industrial & Systems Engineering University of Wisconsin-‐Madison firstname.lastname@example.org punkrockOR.wordpress.com @lauramclay on twiFer
How to get started Here are a few simple rules for geIng started.
Talk to professors in your department and others • Talk to the professors that are known for doing research. • Professors like talking about students that ﬁnd their research interesMng. • Talk to the graduate program director. • Start as a junior (or earlier) • Is grad school the right choice for you? • Keep in mind that some professors are constantly asked for funding by students who may or may not be interested in research. • Talk to grad students in your classes who work or have worked in the “real world”
Find out informaMon about the programs where you might want to apply There is a list of math PhD programs here: h"p://www.toroidalsnark.net/gradschools.html There is a list of operaMons research programs here: h"p://goo.gl/e0RQY
Contact the graduate program director of the programs you ﬁnd interesMng. First check degree requirements. Then ask about: • ApplicaMon and admissions process • Minimum GRE and TOEFL scores • When they make assistantship decisions. • If assistantships are per year or are guaranteed for ~4 years. • How long it takes to get a degree. • What the dropout rate is. • Where the graduates get jobs. • Diﬀerences between MS and PHD programs. • What the comps/prelims/qualifying exams are like (every program has a weed-‐out process). • Whatever else you can think of. • Let your interest in the program be evident in your emails.
Keep this in mind when exchanging emails with professors
Apply! To maximize your chance of geIng funded: • Apply for PhD programs, not MS programs. • Apply early for a fall start. • Get three outstanding reference leFers. – Ask professors if they can write an excellent leFer for you. Give them an out. • Take GREs mulMple Mmes if you need to. Your quanMtaMve reasoning score should be ~800.
Don’t pay for graduate school • Only aFend a program that oﬀers you funding. • Let me repeat that: don’t pay your own way to graduate school. – You will have to pay for some degrees, like an MBA, MD, JD, etc. Don’t pay for a PhD in a STEM ﬁeld! • Schools will either oﬀer you some kind of assistantship for a year or unMl you ﬁnish your degree. • Some schools use their MS program to fund their PhD program.
Teaching assistantship vs. Research Assistantships • There are three types of assistantships – Teaching means that you teach a class (~20 hours per week) – Research means that you work on a professor’s research project (~20 hours per week) – PhD fellowship is mainly for you to work on your PhD with fewer teaching responsibiliMes • You can move between teaching and research • Which is beFer, teaching or research fellowships? – Research assistantships, unless you don’t like the research. – Usually you need to get to know the professors to be oﬀered a research assistantship. – It is good to have teaching experience at some point.
Visit your top schools. • Visit schools and get to know the faculty • They someMmes pay for you to visit in the Spring semester. • The schools may use these visits to pick who gets fellowship and assistantship oﬀers • The faculty idenMfy new students that would ﬁt well in their lab
Picking advisors • Pick your advisor based on: – The research project – Your personaliMes – The advisor’s track record with former PhD students (publicaMons, conference travel, awards, job placement, etc.) • If you are oﬀered a research assistantship, that professor is your advisor. – You can have co-‐advisors, work on another project, etc. • One secret on advisors: None of the professors is obligated to work with you.
Apply for fellowships • Most fellowships have deadlines within or prior to the ﬁrst year of grad school. – NSF due in November of your ﬁrst year – DOE oﬃce of science – DOE computaMonal science – NASA – DHS – Others. • There are more opportuniMes for American ciMzens. • Fellowships are even beFer than assistantships!
A note on the dropout rate Council of Graduate Schools Ph.D. CompleMon Project, hFp://www.insidehighered.com/news/2007/12/07/doctoral
Another note on the dropout rate CumulaMve compleMon rates in diﬀerent ﬁelds Council of Graduate Schools Ph.D. CompleMon Project, hFp://www.insidehighered.com/news/2007/07/17/phd
A note on post-‐graduaMon employment rates ProporMon of PhD graduaMons with immediate commitments AllLife SciencesPhysical SciencesSocial SciencesEngin-‐ eeringEdu-‐ caMonHum-‐aniMesOtherEmployed (Total)71.1% 72.1% 73.8% 73.3% 67.7% 73.1% 61.6% 74.7% Deﬁnite postgraduaMon study 29.1% 46.0% 43.8% 24.7% 29.4% 4.9% 9.4% 5.6% Deﬁnite employment 38.1% 19.3% 27.5% 46.0% 35.2% 64.7% 49.1% 66.3% Seeking employment or study 28.9% 27.9% 26.2% 26.7% 32.3% 26.9% 38.4% 25.3% Other 3.8% 6.9% 2.5% 2.6% 3.0% 3.5% 3.2% 2.9% From the NaMonal Science FoundaMon: www.nsf.gov/staMsMcs/sed
A note on post-‐graduaMon employment rates From the NaMonal Science FoundaMon
How to turn a PhD into a great career • Ask about jobs: – Placement rates – Where PhDs get jobs, – How much they make – (Note that data is from a biased sample) • If you want to be a professor, pedigree maFers
Start a twiFer account • I’m serious. • I interact with many students on twiFer (and also Google+, FaceBook and LinkedIn). It is a great way to network. • TwiFer keeps me up to date on conferences, conference deadlines, papers, and other news in my ﬁeld. • The grad students also help me feel “normal” auer I’ve been programming for three weeks straight.
It’s a big decision. However, this is an exaggeraMon.
Advice for women and minoriMes • Professors want you to succeed. – Heck, everyone wants you to succeed. • Check out resources at your school – SWE, NSBE, SHPE, etc. – Network!! • Back in the day, I got married and had a baby in graduate school. – There are few barriers for those who are commiFed to succeed. – There are few “oﬃcial” support networks for women grad students who have babies. Consider yourself forewarned.
Advice from twiFer • From @ksphil: – Before anything else, one should think about ones [career] goal and whether going grad school is the right thing for him or her. – Without conﬁdence on the decision/objecMve, it will be hard to ﬁnish the degree, especially for PhD. • do not be afraid of being discouraged, and to see past the iniMal courses/exams (@techstepper) • Weigh how much you get along/click with a few faculty members when selecMng a school. (@dianam) • From @tdhopper (1) Do campus visits for your top schools. (2) Talk to faculty you have similar interests with (3) Give thought to where you want to be geographically and campus environment. (4) Apply early. Apply ouen. (5) if students arent sure what research direcMon they want to go, a big department might be preferable.
Tough love: an insensiMve guide to thriving in your PhD in a STEM ﬁeld* • PhDs are for the truly curious. It is not a job. It does not end with graduaMon. – If you want to get a PhD for the sake of geIng a PhD, you can buy one online. – Don’t view being a PhD student as a 9 to 5 job. • Give a potenMal adviser a test drive before a commitment • Get started with research fast. The longer you wait, the more anxious you will get. The anxiety can be crippling. • Don’t be a perfecMonist. Leading scienMsts are generally not perfecMonists. • Don’t take vacaMons as though you have a paying job. Only take a break when you achieve a major goal. • Publish as you go. Nothing counts more than publicaMons. • If the ﬁrst major thing you write is your dissertaMon, then you are doing it wrong. • Don’t expect your adviser to rewrite all of your papers. • Don’t procrasMnate. Don’t expect good reference leFers if you do. • Buy noise cancelling headphones if you share an oﬃce. • Don’t be a schmo: learn a programming language and automate your analyses. * From Chris Chambers: hFp://neurochambers.blogspot.com/2012/05/tough-‐love-‐insensiMve-‐guide-‐to.html
Gentle advice for becoming a producMve PhD student • Work hard! • Find your “ﬁre” – If you’re not reading about cool things happening in your ﬁeld in your spare Mme, geIng a PhD might not be for you. • Follow direcMons from your advisor. • Be polite. • Be a great ﬁnisher. – When you think youre 80% done with a paper, youre more like 20% done. – Each research contribuMon is a marathon, not a sprint. Good research manners + hard work + persistence is your best formula for long-‐term success.
Gentle advice for becoming a producMve PhD student, Part II • Research will take twice as much Mme as your classes. • Be on Mme for all meeMngs with your advisor. • Be prepared – bring code, tables, and ﬁgures with you to meeMngs. – Don’t be embarrassed to bring in unpolished work. • Be communicaMve: let your advisor know if you’ll be late or need to cancel a meeMng • Research is iteraMve, and our ﬁrst ideas are rarely our best. But they are necessary to ﬁgure out how to succeed. New things are hard before they are easy. Hang in there.
For more informaMon • Visit my blog Punk Rock OperaMons Research hFp://punkrockOR.wordpress.com/ Look at the other blogs listed under the blogroll. Start reading some of them. • hFp://www.mathblogging.org/ is another great place to ﬁnd math and OR blogs. • Interact with me on twiFer (@lauramclay). • Talk to me in real life. • Talk to other professors outside of class.