Undergraduate BE Board:Links - Some Details About Grad School

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Some Details about Graduate School

  1. Components of the application
    1. GPA
      1. Sometimes the GPA is used to filter students.
        1. Average GPA’s will vary per program.
      2. Some schools put more weight on your junior and senior years.
      3. Some schools treat your major GPA different from your overall GPA.
    2. GRE
      1. Take it early enough to have your scores ready for applying for competitive graduate research fellowships (see Funding below). Those deadlines appear faster than those for graduate admissions.
      2. Make sure you do well on it.
    3. Research
      1. You should start as soon as possible.
        1. It will teach you lab techniques, approaches for tackling open-ended problems, etc.
        2. The letter from your research advisor is extremely important. He/she will have more to say about your research performance the longer you are in his/her lab.

3. The sooner you begin the more possible it is for you to generate data that can lead to: a. Poster presentations at UCLA b. Co-authorship on presentations at national meetings c. Co-authorship on publications i. It takes time to get good results. Also, for publications, there is a review period that should be kept in mind. 4. It is a good idea to stay with a lab for an extended period of time. That is definitely more meaningful than doing research in several labs. a. However, you shouldn’t feel as though you need to stay in a lab if you are no longer interested in that research field, etc. i. Your undergraduate education is also a good time to figure out what field is interesting to you. d. Letters of recommendation (typically 3) i. Research advisor ii. Instructor iii. Instructor/Employee/Extracurricular activity e. Statement of purpose i. You should describe your previous research experience(s). ii. You should try to demonstrate maturity in doing research by drawing from specific examples from your previous research experience(s) (e.g. learned that perseverance is one of the most important qualities of a researcher, etc.). iii. Although the majority of the statement will be the same for each school, take the time to change a paragraph or two near the end of the statement that describes your interest in the research performed by a few of the professors in the department you are applying to. 1. Comment on their area of work and why it’s interesting to you. 2. Read some of their papers, and try to concisely demonstrate more depth than just reading a statement from their website. iv. In addition, some schools or fellowships require a personal statement on diversity or extracurricular activites. Be aware that schools will also differ on the maximum page or word limit of your statements. f. In some cases, being proactive and directly contacting professors via email to let them know you are interested in their work and why you are interested in their work could be helpful. g. What if you don’t get into any of the schools you applied for? i. If you think you were close and still have a good shot next year, you could use the year off to significantly increase the research portion of your application. That would be most important. ii. If you think you weren’t so close and still want to get a PhD, you might try volunteering to work in a lab at a university you want to attend. This probably won’t fly at the top-ranked schools, but you may still be able to get into a reasonable program. 1. However, be upfront, and mention to the professor from the beginning that you eventually want to be a PhD student in his/her program, and would your chances increase if you volunteered and did good research. h. What happens after you submit an application? i. Schools will contact you about an interview or recruiting weekend. Interviews act as an additional filtering process while recruiting weekends are to introduce you to the school, faculty, etc. The extent of the filtering depends on the school. ii. Interviews are just as much about deciding if the school is fit for you as deciding if you are fit for the school. Be prepared to impress faculty with your research and interests as well as ask questions about their research and academic program in general. 2. Funding a. Unlike professional schools, you usually get paid to go to graduate school. Your tuition can be covered and you get a stipend to cover living expenses. i. Note that the probability of being funded is higher for PhD students than MS students. b. Funding can be in the form of fellowships (from the Department or from nationwide competitions), teaching assistantships, and research funding from your advisor. c. The following correspond to competitive nationwide fellowships to fund your research activities. i. Although you generally won’t have to worry about funding, receiving one of these fellowships will put you in a good position for getting the research project of your choice. 1. Keep in mind that you will probably have competition in graduate school for getting a project that you like. ii. If you’re awarded a fellowship, some schools also offer a bonus to the stipend (ex: 10%). iii. DOD/NDSEG - https://www.asee.org/ndseg/ iv. NSF - https://www.nsfgradfellows.org/ v. Hertz http://www.hertzfoundation.org/dx/Fellowships/ vi. DHS http://www.orau.gov/dhsed/ vii. DOE http://www2.krellinst.org/csgf/index.shtml viii. Whitaker International http://www.whitaker.org/home.html 3. Length of time a. MS i. For an MS thesis, an approximate average number is 2-3 years. ii. There are some one-year MS programs where it’s based on coursework and exams. iii. An MS thesis is definitely more meaningful than a one-year MS program. 1. You will actually go through the thought process of proposing and accomplishing a short thesis, and your job prospects are better. a. Once you do a thesis, GPA plays less of a role, and connections that your advisor has are important. 2. The downside is the funding probability for an MS student is lower than that for a PhD student, and so one-year would be financially more attractive. b. PhD i. An approximate average time is 5-6 years. c. Postdoctoral researcher i. If you want to become a professor, you generally will have to do postdoctoral research after obtaining your PhD. For engineering, the time period for postdoctoral research is about 2-3 years. 4. Job opportunities in the biotechnology and pharmaceutical industries a. Someone with a BS has a ceiling, while someone with an MS has a higher ceiling. b. A PhD has no limits. c. However, some people can be happy in a non-leadership role (that associated with a BS or MS) and in just being in the lab and contributing. 5. Accepting students into our graduate program. a. We generally encourage our undergraduate students to go to other programs because you will get a different perspective on bioengineering, which will be educational. b. However, we have taken students into our program.