"year" of research

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stardust
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"year" of research

Postby stardust » Sun Jan 04, 2009 9:53 pm

OK, here's something I'm concerned about: when most students say they did a 'year' of research,
they really mean 1 course worth or 10-20 hrs per week in a lab for 2 semesters. That is very
different from someone who worked full-time for a year doing full-time research. Are the schools going to be able to tell the difference? If not, I think somehow that cheats the person who did the
full-time work because someone who had 3 other courses each term also says they did a 'year' of
research.

What do people think?

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Fritz.Zwicky
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Re: "year" of research

Postby Fritz.Zwicky » Sun Jan 04, 2009 10:48 pm

It should be quite obvious from your statement (and if it not, make it so), and also from how much you have done, versus other people. Plus, I am sure, your letters would make that clear?

stardust
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Re: "year" of research

Postby stardust » Mon Jan 05, 2009 12:47 am

Sure, I can make it clear I did full-time research. But, the other people who are saying
'years' and it would only be a semester if put together back to back are the ones not
making it clear. It's what image it conjured up when 'years' is mentioned to the committee,
and I'm afraid the full-time people are going to be shafted, i.e. thought of on equal footing
with part-time people when they have done much more. I don't think I would squabble about
it in a statement of purpose. I just don't think the 1 course per term people should say 'years'.

Does anyone feel the same way?

cato88
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Re: "year" of research

Postby cato88 » Mon Jan 05, 2009 1:00 am

Its not going to be fair either way. If someone is doing part time research with a professor who loves to publish
helps his student get author credit in multiple publications hes probably going to look abit more accomplished than
an individual working full-time for a year and only publishes one paper even if he is first author or might be the other way around, its pretty subjective. Its the equivalent of having a completed movie and trying to figure out which video editor is the greatest from a few credits. I would have know how to do it because I have no idea how much each person contributed. I dont know why I went with the movie analogy.

grades can be just as vague
http://www.nytimes.com/2006/06/07/educa ... ref=slogin

already many discussions on the PGRE

No reason to think LOR are not just as inconclusive in choosing between people

so i have no idea what is left, how committees compare people? The more I think about the process as whole
the greater the uncertainty on what is going to happen and closer I get to believing regardless of the outcome it
is slightly like reading tea leaves.

evilclaw2321
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Re: "year" of research

Postby evilclaw2321 » Mon Jan 05, 2009 2:12 am

I've given up on thinking about fairness of the committees, as has been said theres no real fair way to do it. Every professor and every school weighs everything differently. Its basically a crapshoot is what i figure, so my strategy send to as many as i can at varying levels of competitiveness and hope for the best. I would mention explicitly in your resume or SOP what your research entailed and thats about all you can do.

cato88
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Re: "year" of research

Postby cato88 » Mon Jan 05, 2009 2:39 am

Thats pretty much how I have learned to cope. Except given knowledge of the process as a HS senior you could
exploit the process. Take easier classes (stick to required), avoid grad classes, spend extra time gained from the latter two to do more research with a professor chosen not on the basis of research but how much he has undergrads as co-author with consideration of his research reputation. If you wanted to take it even further you could even choose schools based on maximizing a combination avg. undergrad GPA with reputation. I wouldnt say that is the best way to prepare for gradschool but surely best way to get into the best grad school possible. Ironically it also is likely to give you a less rigorous(more free time) undergrad experience.

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trani
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Re: "year" of research

Postby trani » Mon Jan 05, 2009 3:10 am

I don't think you are giving enough credit to the committee members. Suppose you the student is named Joe, your recommender is Prof. Simon and the committee member is Prof. Addy.

First, recall that both Addy and Simon are some smart folk. Second, Prof. Addy has Joe's entire record laid out in front of him.
So, imagine Joe says that he has done 2 years of research with Prof. Simon. Prof. Addy would probably notice that Joe was a full time student during this same period. Opss, obviously Joe was not doing full time research! This scenario takes care of most of the Joe's.

Now suppose that Jeremy took a year off after graduation. Prof. Simon was his supervisor during this period when Jeremy was doing full time research and Prof. Addy is once again on the committee this year. He sees that Jeremy does not have any other activities during this time. He sees that Jeremy has listed his research in the Employment History section since Jeremy would have to be getting paid (or starving...). In addition, Prof. Simon's LOR would reflect how closely him and the student were working and trust me 10 hrs/wk is nothing compared to 40 hrs/wk. Let's not forget that if Jeremy is spending all this time doing research he will be sure to make it absolutely clear in his statement of purpose. Surely, Prof. Addy has seen so many statements he must have a pretty good idea what the student meant to say and even things they did not mean to say but accidentally did so indirectly.

Now you might have some additional points:
1) Prof. Addy wouldn't be looking as hard. I beg to differ. These professors realize that the students they admit will work with them for the next 6 years; the students will therefore have direct influence on the quality of the research done in the department and their own groups reputation. I bet you they are putting forth their best judgement and we better trust that that is good because once accepted these professors and their judgement will be the once influencing where we end up in our careers.

2) You might say that Prof. Simon might write an unfairly good letter. Once again I beg to differ. Prof. Simon submits not only a letter of recommendation for you. He submits a whole package for you, which includes a letter, his reputation and a statement of the quality of his judgement. Now if this year Prof. Simon submitted a letter that was saying the student is extraordinary, but the student turned out to not do well after acceptance. Then the next year when Prof. Addy sees a letter written by Prof. Simon he would be much more suspicious of the students abilities. Now, do you think Prof. Simon would have risked his reputation by writing a magnificent letter?

Anyhow, thanks for reading, this got a bit long :D

cato88
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Re: "year" of research

Postby cato88 » Mon Jan 05, 2009 3:31 am

I dont know a lot of that hinges on Prof. Addy being familiar with the college and the professor which given the hundreds of colleges and even greater amount of professors is nearly impossible to do for everyone. Prof. Addy also has to think about his research not only on keeping track records of the links between students their performance and the professors who recommended. I doubt I could do so.

stardust
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Re: "year" of research

Postby stardust » Tue Jan 06, 2009 1:21 am

Speaking of unfairness, I saw this admission committee member talk on some web site
about how they considered the gov. lab summer research job recommendation letters to
be very good and overinflated compared to students during the year. And that's why they
were throwing them out and not putting weight on them. I thought that was totally ridiculous.
A summer full time job would lead to a better letter as you get to know the researchers better
and work with them closer, so it makes sense. It's the 'therefore, we are throwing them out'
part that doesn't make any sense and yet, that's what this prof. said they do. I totally agree,
that there is great cause for concern about how unfair the whole process is. It seems if you
deviate at all from this ideal notion of a candidate to a committee you are cooked.

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Fritz.Zwicky
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Re: "year" of research

Postby Fritz.Zwicky » Tue Jan 06, 2009 10:44 pm

Life is not fair. Get over it, or better yet, use that fact of life to your advantage.

Fritz "I saw dark matter back in 1930s and got no credit for it" Zwicky

stardust
Posts: 109
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Re: "year" of research

Postby stardust » Wed Jan 07, 2009 2:18 am

Fritz 'you are a frickin' genius' Zwicky!!!

That's the best idea on this site. I'm thinking about how we can actually do that though -
make the unfairness work in our favor. I like they way you think. Why didn't I think of that?
I truly have hope again. The wheels are turning, I'll have a solution soon.

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Fritz.Zwicky
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Re: "year" of research

Postby Fritz.Zwicky » Wed Jan 07, 2009 4:46 pm

Ouch, all that sarcasm hurts! But good luck anyway.

sirius
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Re: "year" of research

Postby sirius » Wed Jan 07, 2009 11:27 pm

I agree that the difference between a year of work as a researcher and a year of research as a student is huge. That difference should show in your accomplishments, your personal statement, and possibly in publications. As I'm waiting to hear from grad schools right now, I am just having faith that they can see through my crappy gre scores, and my probably too cheesy personal statement, and see that I have some potential to do good grad work, and accept me. If you've done good work, and are leaving your superiors impressed, that should show on their recommendations, which is a big part of your application.

stardust
Posts: 109
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Re: "year" of research

Postby stardust » Thu Jan 08, 2009 6:01 pm

I wasn't being saracastic, Fritzy! I really meant it. It's a great idea. There has
to be something that is unfair, but works favorably for me. I haven't figured out what
it is yet, but I'm working on it. Everytime I think of what could be in my favor I only come
up with more unfair things. The latest unfair thing I thought of was this latest trend of
my school taking bright Ivy league headed high school kids for intel research projects knocking
out spaces for the undergrads of my school to get a research spot. I don't think that is fair
at all. But, I need to find ways I'm benefitting by something and I can't.

mhazelm
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Re: "year" of research

Postby mhazelm » Thu Jan 08, 2009 10:35 pm

fairness... there's a law about that - it doesn't exist! I had some very unfair scenarios my last year as an undergrad. Long story short, but another student in my department committed a felony; I was the unlucky victim of his crime spree. Now if only I could explain how much harder THAT made everything! hahaha, they'd never believe me. Nothing like trying to learn E&M and worrying about the criminal 4 feet away...

as for the original OP, I would hope it would be obvious from your descriptions of your research. I work 10-15 hours a week during the semesters but worked full time the summers, so it isn't a "full-time" year altogether, but I still think I can say I've been working for a year alongside school, rather than adjusting "8.42 months full-time" or some BS like that.

cato88
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Re: "year" of research

Postby cato88 » Fri Jan 09, 2009 12:55 am

Didnt he get caught/tried?

stardust
Posts: 109
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Re: "year" of research

Postby stardust » Fri Jan 09, 2009 11:24 am

But that's exactly the point, if the equivalent time is 8.42 months it is inaccurate and misleading
to say a year. Most people would leave off the part of 'alongside school'. Implying a year is adding
50% more. I think its a big difference. Besides, when you are truly fulltime you can go back and
think through a lot more than the time limits part-time research allow. That's kind of why phd research
is usually a full-time effort. When people do part-time phd research and say they took 15 years for
their phd, I think its the same thing. It's true that it took 15 years, but misleading if you ask me.

I'm just saying, I hope the admissions committees can tell the difference. They might even be so
dumb as to think the person attending school did a full-time year PLUS research and how they
did more when in fact they did less. I think the full timers are getting screwed.

nathan12343
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Re: "year" of research

Postby nathan12343 » Fri Jan 09, 2009 9:47 pm

I think you should give the physics PhDs who will be reviewing your application a little bit of credit. If it's not obvious (or even stressed heavily) in your SOP that you worked full time that year, it should be.

cato88
Posts: 420
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Re: "year" of research

Postby cato88 » Fri Jan 09, 2009 11:02 pm

nathan12343 wrote:I think you should give the physics PhDs who will be reviewing your application a little bit of credit. If it's not obvious (or even stressed heavily) in your SOP that you worked full time that year, it should be.

I think she has a bit of a point. Who looks better a fulltime researcher no publications or someone parttime who has 3rd author on 3 publications for collecting data? I think the latter is given more bonus points because in the committees eyes its hard to figure how much he contributed even if the former may have learned more by doing more in a project that does not publish as often. I would like to be optimistic and give admissions committees the benefit of the doubt but its hard because I know given their position I wouldnt be able to figure out what is fair with the information they are given. It will be unfair I suppose but what can you do other than hope for the best.

mhazelm
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Re: "year" of research

Postby mhazelm » Sat Jan 10, 2009 3:11 pm

@ cato88: no, he didn't get fully convicted, though I tried to push it though the county attorney's office. Lack of evidence because I was too scared to report the crime for several weeks.

The whole thing sucked big time. It took me about 3 months of therapy before I could sleep normally at night without wedging a kitchen chair behind my bedroom door. It was much worse having to take upper division physics classes and the PGRE with this person in the room. Yuck. And it was also hard because I couldn't really tell anyone; all our professors are male, and I feel like it's one of those things that's just too taboo to bring up with advisors; I don't want to send off the vibe that I'm looking for pity or something, and also, society tends to place the blame on the woman.

Now I have mace, so I'm prepared. And I can throw Maxwell's equations at him too... I kicked his a** in advanced E&M!

and thankfully we are in different fields, so as long as we don't go to the same graduate schools, I never have to deal with that again!

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trani
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Re: "year" of research

Postby trani » Sat Jan 10, 2009 3:38 pm

mhazelm, I am sorry to hear you had to go through this. I truly admire your strength for exposing the pig and getting on with your life.

Hearing stuff like this makes soooo angry. I hate when man take advantage of the fact that they have bigger muscles. And I will just stop myself from saying anything further.




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