Who else is starting university? (or a new academic year)

Music, movies, literature, art, poems...

Moderators: hardcore iv, bronco, fredrikw, JP, Rochellita

Postby flightlessbirds » Tue Feb 09, 2010 3:41 am

Yeah, I figure I'll just keep going through this phd thing and see how it goes. I'm not really worried about finding a job after, in Academia or otherwise and I rather enjoy this whole grad student thing in general.

Heh, "gentleman scientist", sounds quite romantic until you describe it!

I like to call what I do "adventure science" while neglecting to tell people that I spend most of my year hunched over a computer in a cluttered chemistry lab.
User avatar
flightlessbirds
Active Member
 
Posts: 511
Joined: Tue May 06, 2008 12:22 am
Location: Canada

Postby City_of_F » Tue Feb 09, 2010 8:08 am

flightlessbirds wrote:Yeah, I figure I'll just keep going through this phd thing and see how it goes. I'm not really worried about finding a job after, in Academia or otherwise and I rather enjoy this whole grad student thing in general.

Heh, "gentleman scientist", sounds quite romantic until you describe it!

I like to call what I do "adventure science" while neglecting to tell people that I spend most of my year hunched over a computer in a cluttered chemistry lab.


My degree is in a specialized field of psychology... I'm really hoping I don't hate it when I actually get a chance to actually do it. :?
It`s a dangerous business, going out your door. You step onto the road, and if you don`t keep your feet, there`s no knowing where you might be swept off to.” -Tolkein
User avatar
City_of_F
Active Member
 
Posts: 146
Joined: Sat Sep 27, 2008 3:45 am
Location: Montana

Postby vegieburger » Thu Mar 04, 2010 6:42 am

I'm starting my 4th year of combined law and social science (majoring in sociology and politics), five yr degree but it will take me six. its interesting, apart from some of the core law units that combine being mind numbingly dull with a mssive workload. It wil be nice when I finally finish though, espially on the financial front.
"No one has yet realized the wealth of sympathy, the kindness and generosity hidden in the soul of a child.
The effort of every true education should be to unlock that treasure."-Emma Goldman
User avatar
vegieburger
Active Member
 
Posts: 254
Joined: Sun Apr 05, 2009 4:37 pm
Location: Australia

Re:

Postby sprite1986 » Thu Jun 17, 2010 10:35 pm

Ooh, thought I would join in this thread too!

I currently have an undergraduate Masters in Zoology (specialising in palaeoenvironments and specific cryptic microfossils) which I absolutely loved, but midway through, I developed a huge fascination with Earth systems science. I'm now 3/4's of the way through an MSc in Applied Meteorology and Climatology as a means to become a climate scientist and try and save the world! (Although as an aside, fundamentally, I think we're all screwed due to large-scale general and political apathy).

I'm hoping to commence a PhD as the first step on the ladder to achieving this and although i've had a few interviews already, got another one in a week's time which i'm really keen on, so if any current PhD's or post-docs have any advice, I'd really appreciate it. :D

Best of luck to anyone waiting to hear their exam/degree results currently, and to any Masters students getting stuck into their dissertations currently :D
sprite1986
New Member
 
Posts: 8
Joined: Wed Apr 25, 2007 8:31 pm

Re: Re:

Postby Gelert » Fri Jun 18, 2010 12:46 am

sprite1986 wrote:I'm hoping to commence a PhD as the first step on the ladder to achieving this and although i've had a few interviews already, got another one in a week's time which i'm really keen on, so if any current PhD's or post-docs have any advice, I'd really appreciate it. :D



Good stuff. Great to see keen and well-qualified people on the up.

I completed a PhD recently and have six weeks of an unpaid postdoc left before I start as a lecturer, so my advice would be this. At the moment, it seems to be a seller's market in terms of getting onto courses, be they undergraduate, masters or doctoral. A couple of years ago it was the reverse. At the undergraduate level it's most obvious with the introduction of student quotas. At your stage in the game it will become even more profound with cutbacks in funding. As you'll know, in the UK, NERC is the major funding agency in your sector. Word on the street is that they're planning for budget cuts of about 25%. I put in a grant in to the round which closed last week. Competition is anticipated to be exceptionally stiff as most of us anticipate it to be the last-best-shot of getting stuff funded outside of thematic programmes. In writing grants, academics often write in a studentship at the cost of about 50-60k, which NERC (or EPSRC, BBSRC etc) will bear 100% the cost of. Firstly, less grants will be awarded. Secondly, although institutions prefer to pick these up, it's more likely that the research councils will ditch the studentships - and even more so for postdocs which are more expensive, even at the 80% of cost picked up by the council. So the prospects are bleak for the foreseeable future, even in what might be considered vital fields such as yours and even mine, which is far more important, naturally.

Your best option is to get in right now. Keep applying for studentships in your field that you consider viable propositions for your interests. Keep in close touch with tutors etc. that you have worked with as part of your studies and think are good potential supervisors. Advertised studentships are but one route. A lot are written with a specific person in mind. Be that person.

Notice how I said it's a sellers' market. I didn't specify which side of the table is the seller and which is the buyer, because in a very real sense the academic business is permeated by a duality that the university offers a product (a degree) but also by virtue of training, the buyer (the student) is also the product. And that the buyer has to sell him/her-self to the university to get in and stay in. So the university is also a buyer. You can tell I'm not an economist, but neither were the selection panel for a lectureship I've just been appointed to judging by their excited response to the above comments, so they have some merit!

I would say that to get the best chance of getting into a good PhD programme you have to really sell yourself. At the time when I got on to one, it seemed that "just" a first or upper second was good enough. Coupled with the devaluation in degree standards leading to a substandard product coming off the assembly line, using this as the cornerstone of selection criteria meant I saw a lot of people suffer as a result of being let into studentships that weren't right for them. Others were let in with the idea of treating it as a three year tax and career break. This is changing. I would be looking for a prospective doctoral student to possess the following as a minimum

1. Qualifications and experience in (considerable) excess of the 1st/2:1 first degree.
2. A sincere, sustained and overarching commitment to the topic (or what I really want them to do). Are they keen enough to crack on despite it all?
3. The potential to become a self-sufficient researcher in academia. Yesterday.
4. A mature and professional attitude to working as part of a research team. You may be called a PhD "student" but this is really for tax evasion reasons. The truth is you are not a student anymore, but an apprentice researcher.
5. The ability to produce for me at least two good REF-returnable papers.
6. Is not looking to get a PhD for the sake of getting a PhD and/or any kudos they may delude themselves it brings.
7. Is tough enough.
8. Is not an obvious mentalist.

Number 5 there appears selfish, but it is very much in the student's interest as well in terms of postdoctoral employability and developing skills, and is ultimately what research is all about - it is nothing without sharing its outcomes effectively.

Number 7 is there as the process of getting doctored in the UK remains Darwinian. If you get to the point that your thesis is bound and remain conscious in your viva voce, you have a good chance of passing. The tough bit is the 3-4 years before which will select by destruction, professional, academic, mental and social.


Your mileage may vary. But be smart, but be yourself as well. Don't bluff. Academics often have a finely tuned bullshit sensor in these respects.

If the boot were on the other foot, I would be looking out for several things in a PhD project. The first would be how resilient is the project description to change? Very few PhDs follow a linear trajectory, sometimes the real world intervenes. Sometimes the supervisor has proposed one thing out of good grantsmanship and done another to do good science. You may even change fields (I started in molecular biology and ended up in polar ecology, for example). Can you sustain an interest in the directions it may take you? So if this PhD is one that is *just* exactly the one you want to do, think carefully if that is really the case, because you will probably end up doing something entirely different. If it's the more prestigious kind, for example a research council project tied studentship, the supervisor will have made the case for it in a little box just like this, but with a 4000 character (incl. spaces etc) limit. That gives considerable latitude for project drift -which may take you well away from what you'd like to do. Is the project feasible, realistic and achievable in your opinion? Don't be fobbed off by a Gantt chart. Does it all sound likely to work, or is it dependent on some big expensive kit, or the conjunction of Mars with Uranus or something. Or require you to do outrageous amounts of work in return for some small dataset. What you think will take a day, takes a week. A week, a month, a month, a year - and a year - fuggedaboutit.

Given that, the rest has to do with training environment. Is the studentship linked to a grant? Is it linked to a multidisciplinary/multi-institutional/multi-national project? Does it give you the opportunity to network and develop collaborations, and feed into further grant proposals? How much skills training and GRADschools do they plan on inflicting on you? International conferences? Seminars? What is your supervisor like? Do you really think you'll be able to maintain a professional relationship with him or her in three years time when you've aged about eight years out of the stress the project brings? Look behind his or her shop front on this. How is the supervisor regarded in the department? Are they the faculty clown? What is his or her four year completion rate? What are the destinations of past PhD students? Macdonalds or the Met Office? Is there a second supervisor, and how involved are they going to be in project management? What is the supervisor's group like? First, in terms of financial input and research output. More importantly, in terms of structure and personalities. Meet with and talk to their postgrads, postdocs and technicians if you have the chance (they will be assessing and reporting on you too!). What do they have to say about the group? Is the group's "family planning" poor - lots of postgrads running around with no technical support or involvement from postdocs? Or is it very hierarchically structured? Do the postgrads have to bring tea for the postdocs at the ringing of a bell, as happens in one group I've heard of? Are there opportunities to contribute to undergrad teaching/tutoring/demonstrating? If so, how much? Etc.

Finally, and most importantly. Accept that you are not going to save the world by a career in academia. It sounds like you know this already. A successful career in academia is judged by the idiots in terms of the amount of dosh you pull in or the number of papers you churn out - your career will depend on pleasing these idiots. But the more reasoned indicator of success is the quality and rigour of the science you produce and the insight it gives to the natural world, and perhaps feed in to a big picture which helps society make informed choices about it. If this provides no satisfaction to you compared to plans on making the world A Better Place, I recommend you do not pursue a career in academia as the overwhelming probability is it will leave you a prematurely bitter and twisted individual, and there are too many stalking corridors in universities already!

I hope this brief advice based from my mistakes in academia helps you. Good luck and let us know how you get on!
User avatar
Gelert
Active Member
 
Posts: 6935
Joined: Sat Aug 20, 2005 10:19 pm

Re: Who else is starting university? (or a new academic year

Postby soniczip » Thu Aug 05, 2010 9:59 pm

i decided to go back to uni, while working.

it's going to be anthropology this time.
i'm focusing on some kind of stuff
User avatar
soniczip
Active Member
 
Posts: 4551
Joined: Wed Aug 31, 2005 8:09 pm
Location: italy

Re: Who else is starting university? (or a new academic year

Postby muchluv » Mon Oct 04, 2010 7:59 pm

I have just started a couple of weeks ago :D.
Although the effeminate nature of my username may suggest otherwise, my gender actually falls into the male category.
muchluv
The VF YouTube Guvnor
 
Posts: 524
Joined: Wed Aug 18, 2010 10:46 pm

Re: Who else is starting university? (or a new academic year

Postby E-P » Thu Oct 07, 2010 8:36 pm

Final year student, Bsc Applied ecology here. Just came from my placement year from Mexico (where also did my sampling for the dissertation) and it feels kind of weird to be back front of the books.

Gelert - Interesting stuff what you wrote there. I have been wondering for a while and finally got a chance to ask that what do you study or studied? First I though you are MD, then I thought you are taxonomist, then molecular biologist. Can't really tell as your knowledge seems to reach in quite a few areas of science :D
E-P
Active Member
 
Posts: 146
Joined: Thu Dec 17, 2009 4:22 pm
Location: Bristol

Re: Who else is starting university? (or a new academic year

Postby Gelert » Thu Oct 07, 2010 9:49 pm

E-P wrote:I have been wondering for a while and finally got a chance to ask that what do you study or studied? First I though you are MD, then I thought you are taxonomist, then molecular biologist. Can't really tell as your knowledge seems to reach in quite a few areas of science :D


Hmm. More of a jack of all trades, master of none :D - I'll send you a PM rather than waffle here again!
User avatar
Gelert
Active Member
 
Posts: 6935
Joined: Sat Aug 20, 2005 10:19 pm

Re: Who else is starting university? (or a new academic year

Postby Hiking Fox » Fri Oct 08, 2010 11:42 am

I haven't been able to go back this year, due to stupid red tape. I'm on income-based JSA, which means I'm entitled to claim a grant to pay my part time course fees. However, the Student Loans Company refused to process my 12 page form because they won't accept I'm most of the way through my course. They categorise me as a new student, even though my university stamped the form and wrote a signed statement to show that I was about to start my fourth year.

The SLC don't care; the fact that I have never claimed a grant before means that as far as they are concerned, I'm a new student. They won't let me send the form back until I've completed at least two weeks of study this year.

I couldn't register because I couldn't confirm to the university that the SLC were paying my fees and I didn't have enough in the bank to cover it.

I've had to put my degree on hold for a year and figure out what to do next. I thought there was a recession and skills shortage in the UK? Definite lack of joined-up thinking. :x
Hiking Fox
Active Member
 
Posts: 5147
Joined: Fri Oct 27, 2006 3:44 pm

Re: Who else is starting university? (or a new academic year

Postby Hiking Fox » Fri Oct 08, 2010 11:46 am

E-P wrote: First I though you are MD, then I thought you are taxonomist, then molecular biologist. Can't really tell as your knowledge seems to reach in quite a few areas of science :D


That's because there are four Gelerts. They post here in shifts. You want to avoid Hitman Gelert, if possible. The others are more laid back.
Hiking Fox
Active Member
 
Posts: 5147
Joined: Fri Oct 27, 2006 3:44 pm

Re: Who else is starting university? (or a new academic year

Postby Gelert » Fri Oct 08, 2010 12:10 pm

Hiking Fox wrote: Definite lack of joined-up thinking. :x


+100.

SLC = Gov't sponsored loan sharks, so incompetent and ruthless at equal turns.

When I was unemployed, the lovely letters they used to send demanding monies because I'd slipped of the radar of UK, plc. used to make me despair. No amount of explaining that I'd saved up for lean times would convince them that because I wasn't in employment, or on JSA that I wasn't raking it in doing hit jobs for jiffybags full of mixed denomination, non sequential notes or living off a sugar mama.

Must be a bit of an alien concept or something, this saving thingy. I suppose it's like the TV licencing people not believing people without TVs.

I'm sorry to hear that such pecuniary concerns have put a pause in your studies, Fox. I hope that the bureaucracy clears itself up for the next academic year.
User avatar
Gelert
Active Member
 
Posts: 6935
Joined: Sat Aug 20, 2005 10:19 pm

Re: Who else is starting university? (or a new academic year

Postby ninearms » Fri Oct 08, 2010 5:35 pm

I don't mind the SLC - only ever paid off some of my loan voluntarily thanks to the brilliant pre-96 scheme, and for the last year the interest rate on mine has been -0.4%, i.e. they've been paying it off for me. All I ever had to do was send them a few payslips when I was employed, or a letter from The Wife when I wasn't and they left me alone.
“Begin at the beginning,” the King said gravely, “and go on till you come to the end. Then stop.”
User avatar
ninearms
Perked Member
 
Posts: 6041
Joined: Mon Jan 15, 2007 1:07 pm
Location: Leicester, UK

Re: Who else is starting university? (or a new academic year

Postby :x: » Sun Oct 10, 2010 3:03 pm

Starting my third semester philosophy and my first in history. Finally got away from gender studies after two semesters, the worst mistake in my academic life...
"anti-german" for dummies
please spell me : x : :)
honestly, stop the vegan-snuff-video-madness!
User avatar
:x:
Active Member
 
Posts: 563
Joined: Wed Aug 27, 2008 8:37 pm
Location: berlin

Re: Who else is starting university? (or a new academic year

Postby xbojanx » Wed Mar 30, 2011 7:08 pm

I got BSc in applied ecology last July - now I'm environmental protection analyst whatever that means ;)

Thinking of master course, but having inner conflict - to go for (inclusive) education policies (this is what I have been doing for years now, actually) or to continue with environmental studies.

One day, I might also finish my first faculty - biology :roll:
Something more than ink.... On a page, on a shirt, on the back of my hand.
User avatar
xbojanx
Active Member
 
Posts: 1219
Joined: Tue Nov 28, 2006 10:16 pm
Location: Belgrade, Serbia

Previous

Return to Culture

Who is online

Users browsing this forum: No registered users and 0 guests