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Thinking About Graduate School?‏

Thinking About Graduate School?‏

There are many aspects to consider when deciding on graduate studies.

Dear Students,

Like many of you, when I was a junior and senior I was really not sure about what would be my next step. I thought about a few different jobs, and I also considered going to graduate school to earn a PhD. For a while, I kept pursuing a double major in hopes of "keeping my options open." Luckily, I had started doing some research as a sophomore that really started taking hold as a junior and showed me what I liked to do. I still wasn't sure about what I would do after finishing a graduate degree, but I at least knew I was passionate enough about my research subject to want to invest the next few years in it.

A number of you are considering graduate school. Below are my top 7 considerations. Hopefully these trigger conversations between you and faculty and advisors. In brief, I would offer:

-Grad school can be about more than just being a professor. There are many career options afterwards. But first and foremost, decide to go to grad school motivated by your passion for the discipline.

-Grad school is about the process of discovery. More than advanced classes, you learn to take on the process of asking new questions, things that have no answer, and you will take on the challenge of inventing new techniques or outside-the-box experimental designs or algorithms to answer your burning question.

-You have the opportunity at UT to give undergraduate research a try. Research will expose you to the process of thinking in new ways, to slice big problems in to small chunks, and will give you a sense of your own creativity when you apply your own (growing) intuition to make a new discovery. You can also do summer research programs from the National Science Foundation or Department of Energy. Apart from the good it does for you, grad schools generally like to see it on your application.

-You can choose to double major because you love the second field, just consider carefully how you use your time while here at UT. If your second major requires you to spend less time in student organizations, doing research, doing internships & externships, you'll want to weigh this decision carefully.

-Research your graduate school options carefully. You may find out specific research going on in unexpected places that matches your interests. A physics major I spoke with was simultaneously considering graduate departments in physics, biophysics, molecular biology, and neuroscience because at different campuses there was the right kind of research happening in these units. You may also find that some highly ranked university might not have your particular research area, or you might be surprised to find another school overall is actually one of the world leaders in a particular research area. In addition, you want to research specific research faculty you'd like working with.

-Many grad programs pay for you to go. This is different from professional schools. Many doctoral programs have teaching assistantships, research fellowships, or general scholarships to pay for tuition and living stipends. Don't write off the decision because of finances, but do research this a bit more.

-Have lots of conversations with faculty here for their advice about your interests, finding the right graduate programs, and how best to consider your options. Our faculty are some of the premier researchers in their fields and are all involved with graduate admissions for our departments. Even if you don't know someone, you can introduce yourself and ask to make time for a consultation.

It's that time of year when many are applying to graduate and professional schools. These decisions get at the heart of what motivates us and what we hope to achieve. The staff in our Office for Research and International Study and our Honors Center can tell you more. It's worth a separate email about medical & professional schools, but here I wanted to talk about graduate programs for those of you considering it.

Best wishes for the coming week,
Dr. Kopp

PS: Other announcements to remember:

Each week I try to let you know of important deadlines, scholarship and academic opportunities, or events on campus. A list of events is available here.

NOMINATE FACULTY FOR THE HOLLOWAY AWARD: Remember to nominate your favorite faculty in either Natural Sciences or Liberal arts by Nov 1st at 5pm: https://www.texasexes.org/form/holloway.asp.

NOMINATE ADVISERS FOR THE VICK AWARD: Students are invited to nominate those advisors who have been influential or helpful mentors by November 8: https://www.texasexes.org/form/vick.asp

Natural Sciences Council announces the October issue of the Catalyst, with many articles written by students of interest to students in CNS. Check out the issue here: http://utcatalyst.blogspot.com/.

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Tuesday, 04 October 2022

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