Gap Year for Research?

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tsschuster
Posts: 2
Joined: Thu Feb 19, 2015 3:34 am

Gap Year for Research?

Postby tsschuster » Wed Mar 04, 2015 1:10 am

Hi,

I deleted this post. Thanks everybody for your input!
Last edited by tsschuster on Tue Apr 07, 2015 3:31 am, edited 4 times in total.

Catria
Posts: 353
Joined: Fri Oct 26, 2012 4:14 pm

Re: Gap Year for Research?

Postby Catria » Sun Mar 08, 2015 12:28 pm

In fact, UCLA is not, by any means, a bad school just because it's unranked in your subfield, and by no means an indictment of your lack of ability. Subfield-specific rankings are amusing at best.

But, sometimes, to do the research you want, you have to accept some tradeoffs. I'd take UCLA over Michigan, if only because of your inclination for the research topics.

PathIntegrals92
Posts: 190
Joined: Tue Oct 07, 2014 12:42 pm

Re: Gap Year for Research?

Postby PathIntegrals92 » Sun Mar 08, 2015 10:31 pm

Maybe you should visit UCLA and meet the two profs? Or email them and ask about their research.

UCLA and UMich are both fantastic schools, but if they don't have much of what you want, think about places that do. Just know that reapplying to a school after you have been rejected already won't make it easier the second time applying . Since your stats are already good, a publication topped with excellent LORs could help with reapplying to the same program.

I speak from experience with reapplying, but my stats are not as good as yours, no pubs for me, and I didn't aim for top 10.

slowdweller
Posts: 62
Joined: Wed Oct 15, 2014 8:47 am

Re: Gap Year for Research?

Postby slowdweller » Mon Mar 09, 2015 5:08 am

Visiting sounds like a great option to make this decision. After your visits, if you find you aren't satisfied with UCLA and Michigan, then I would say a gap year for research is a pretty good option. You can primarily focus on research, and with the help of a good mentor, you can learn a lot and perhaps even publish a paper or two. This will greatly improve your application, since one thing I've learned from this cycle of admissions is that publications is probably the most important part of applications for theory applicants. In case you do decide to go this route, I would urge you to keep in mind the following things:

1. Be very careful with choosing your supervisor.
2. Make sure you can secure some sort of funding.
3. Make sure you work very hard.

Let me expand on these points a bit in light of my experience. I indeed took a year off after graduating to do research, however the overall experience did not go very well for me. My supervisor was a well-known researcher, and has an amazing amount of knowledge of the field I am interested in. However, he didn't assign projects with a well-defined goal and on which I could make significant progress on my own. We kept jumping from problem to problem, and never really made any good progress on any of them. Funding-wise it also didn't work out well for me. I was paid for a short while, before some stupid inter-departmental politics screwed me over. I still volunteered and continued to work since I had some money saved up, but it definitely wasn't ideal. Lastly, I found not having any other duties such as classes, and my mentor's relaxed attitude which didn't really push me to work much, wasn't very good for my productivity. I got lazy and didn't do nearly enough work to make good research progress. As a result of all this, I didn't get any publications by the time of applications and instead just had a half-baked, incomplete draft. I still did learn a good amount, and my supervisor was still happy with me, so while it wasn't very helpful in terms of publications, it did help me get a good recommendation. I got in a few good schools, but no dream schools. So in conclusion, make sure your experience goes better than mine and it should definitely boost your application.

tsschuster
Posts: 2
Joined: Thu Feb 19, 2015 3:34 am

Re: Gap Year for Research?

Postby tsschuster » Mon Mar 09, 2015 3:04 pm

Post deleted.
Last edited by tsschuster on Tue Apr 07, 2015 3:31 am, edited 1 time in total.

slowdweller
Posts: 62
Joined: Wed Oct 15, 2014 8:47 am

Re: Gap Year for Research?

Postby slowdweller » Tue Mar 10, 2015 11:11 pm

tsschuster wrote:slowdweller, how did you go about securing funding? In the past I have not received funding for my work (besides an REU), and I imagined the funding situation might be worse if I was not even a current student. Also, did you do research with a researcher at your own institution? There's always a fair amount of chance involved with getting a research position, so I am considering emailing at nearby institutions if no positions at my university are available.

I am not too sure how to aim for getting a publication out of a position - I suppose this is something I should discuss with potential advisors.


Well my situation was a bit different. I did research at an institute in my home town, which is outside the US (whereas my undergrad was at a US place). I had been talking to my supervisor, doing informal readings with him during my summers, which I would spend at my home town. So I knew him fairly well before I started research with him. Since this place barely had a PhD program, they were able to fund external RAs in the past, including me for a very short while.

Definitely discuss publication prospects with your potential advisors. This is why I said choosing a supervisor carefully is very important. You want someone who'll assign you a project which you can approach and work on independently if needed*, and ones which can be finished in a few months time. Honestly, publishing is the only way your application would be significantly improved, as you're pretty strong in every other area, so there's no point in taking a year off for research if you aren't gonna push for publishing.

* I stress independence since you really don't want to depend on the availability of your advisor. You'll be working on such a short time frame, (a few months) that if your advisor has to leave for a couple of weeks in the middle (which will happen), you will have lost a good amount of time if you can't work independently during that time. Your progress will greatly suffer if something like that happens.




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