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A compilation of stories, telescopes, internship resources, and other things radio astronomy.

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Graduate School: Applying, Living, Thesising

The Professional Student is a blog about everything grad school from the application process to my experiences living as a grad student, being a parent in grad school, and researching the role of chemistry in the evolution of our universe.

Filtering by Category: Applying to grad school

Applying to the NSF GRFP: The Research Statement

Olivia Wilkins

The application for the NSF GRFP includes a two-page research statement. In these two pages, you have to provide a brief plan of what research you plan to carry out in grad school, address your intellectual merits and broader impacts, and provide enough background information so that a scientist in the same discipline (but likely a completely different area of research) can easily understand the ideas you are trying to convey. How can you possibly fit all of that into two pages?

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Applying to the NSF GRFP: The personal statement

Olivia Wilkins

Personal statements are often limited to one or two pages, but when applying for the NSF GRFP, you have up to three pages to tell your story. How do you use all of that space? How can you incorporate your past experiences with your future goals (especially if you don't know them yet)? No matter how you tackle these questions, it is important to tell your story.

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Making that connection

Olivia Wilkins

If there is a most understated key to success, it would have to be networking. Networking might just be a buzzword overused by your undergrad institution's career center, or it might be something more. And, it isn't just for business majors or for those savvy at wining and dining. Networking also comes in the form of chance meetings, emails, and letting others do the work for you.

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Applying to the NSF GRFP

Olivia Wilkins

In research, having an external source of funding definitely has its perks, something I found out while at the Universität zu Köln on a Fulbright research grant. While I have yet to learn more about the extent of the benefits from the National Science Foundation Graduate Research Fellowship Program (NSF GRFP), it is already clear that being an NSF Graduate Research Fellow will do more for me than give me another line on my CV.

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Factors that should (not) influence where you go to grad school

Olivia Wilkins

Over the past couple of months, I've been struggling with where to go to graduate school. I had no "safety schools," so narrowing down my list of schools was virtually impossible. I only applied to schools where I could pursue my research interests (astrochemistry) under people for whom I wanted to work. Trying to decide over research that all sounded interesting and people who all seemed supportive and excited about what they did made choosing where to decline more difficult than where to accept. In the end, I decided to accept where my heart told me to go (cheesy, I know).

But first, I had to consider some non-academic factors.

  1. Location of the nearest Taco Bell(s). My husband and I love ourselves some late night Taco Bell with our video games.
  2. Likelihood of snow days. Northeast: brutally cold all winter; Southwest: very warm all winter; South: Flurries = snow day!; Midwest: Everywhere else in the country is wimpy when it comes to snow.
  3. Number of smileys in emails from PIs... because nothing says good advisor like a smiley face.
  4. School mascot, because even though you don't care about sports in grad school, family will still probably buy you T-shirts branded with some cartoon animal.
  5. Local "exoctic" (?) cuisine. Sushi burritos anyone?
  6. Likelihood of seeing your favorite band/artist perform. Especially if they are a local or regional artist.
  7. Available internet services. Will you be stuck with Comcast or do you get to upgrade to Google Fiber?
  8. Whose office might be down the hall. Can you catch someone else's genius if you shake their hand enough times (which I definitely need because I had to look up "geniusness" to learn that it is not a real word...)?
  9. Proximity of conventions. And I mean conventions like BlizzCon or ComicCon.
  10. Chance of your residence or department catching on fire/crumbling in an earthquake/breaking off into the ocean/being ravaged by some other natural disaster. Okay, for places like southern California, maybe this should be an actual concern.


My academic life on paper: my annotated CV

Olivia Wilkins

Submitting a CV with your graduate school application is an important part for the admissions committee to get a sense of your accomplishments and interests. In an earlier post, I described the functionality of a CV, what to include, and some formatting tips. Here, I've included an annotated copy of the CV I included in my own applications to give a concrete example of what you may want to include and how to present it.

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Your academic life on paper: the CV

Olivia Wilkins

In addition to copies of your transcripts and personal statement, graduate admissions often also require a resumé or curriculum vitae (CV). Your resumé or CV is an important component of your application materials; it is an opportunity for you, the applicant, to list for the admissions review committee what you've accomplished. It is also a great place to list things like service or work experience that won't fit into the application form itself or the personal statement. But when preparing this document, you have to decide which document will be most conducive to your application. More importantly, you have to think about what to include and how to present this information.

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So you think you want to go to grad school

Olivia Wilkins

  The decision to go to graduate school is perhaps one of the biggest decisions in a student's life. Choosing a graduate education is fraught with a number of challenges much greater than those encountered when applying to college at the end of high school. Some of the questions you'll have will remain the same at the core, but are often much more complicated.

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