Beyond the First Year

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This is our space to share our experiences with other students:
 
This is our space to share our experiences with other students:
 
experiences of the students, by the students, for the students.
 
experiences of the students, by the students, for the students.
 +
 +
= Choosing an advisor =
 +
 +
It's the middle of winter and you're through an entire quarter
 +
and are settled in to the next one. Up to now you've (rightfully so) been
 +
exclusively focused on cramming material into your head as fast as
 +
possible. But progressively, and more frequently, that pesky question
 +
keeps surfacing: What am I going to study?
 +
 +
Let's face it, a large number of QERM students don't know what they
 +
want to study when they enter the program. In fact that is a key
 +
selling point for QERM for a lot of people who don't know exactly the
 +
direction they want to go in their studies. Quantitative ecology is a
 +
broad discipline that covers an extraordinary breadth of potential
 +
topics, all of which probably sounds interesting. Pressure is building
 +
and it's time to initiate serious deliberations about a future
 +
direction and start the process of choosing an advisor. This page is
 +
designed to guide first year QERM students through this critical
 +
process by leveraging the unique philosophy and experience of the
 +
members of the QERM community at large.
 +
 +
Hopefully the newer students will empathize with the emotional frame
 +
of reference (and toll) involved with this decision and can provide
 +
relevant advice to navigate the particulars of the process. Similarly,
 +
the older students and alumni will have had time to reflect on their
 +
choices and offer advice on the big picture.
 +
 +
There seem to be two broad strategies pursued by QERMies:
 +
 +
Choose a topic. Whether it is specific (e.g. HIV) or broad
 +
(e.g. trees) it is possible to filter out everyone who is not
 +
researching a particular topic of interest, or at least involved with
 +
it. In this strategy the actual advisor is a secondary concern as long
 +
as the desired topic is satisfied. You want to study x and this person
 +
is an expert in x and is willing (and excited) to accept you as a
 +
student. Done.
 +
 +
Choose an advisor. With this strategy the interaction between you and
 +
your advisor is of primary importance, while the particular topic is
 +
secondary. This person will play a pivotal role in your education and
 +
having a solid, dependable relationship with them matters much more
 +
than a thesis topic. Your intuition overwhelming signals you that this
 +
is someone you can work intimately with for years to
 +
come. Done. Presumably this takes more exposure to potential advisors.
 +
 +
In addition to these oversimplified strategies, there are a couple of
 +
technical details that are worth touching on.
 +
 +
Approach. Typically you will browse a professor's website and skim a
 +
few of their recent papers to get a feel for their current research
 +
interests. If it seems interesting, propose a casual meeting. If
 +
they're already QERM faculty or are familiar with the program you
 +
won't have any work to do. But if you're appearing on their radar from
 +
nowhere, just introduce yourself and give a quick synopsis of QERM's
 +
requirements and what it is about. In the end there are no obligations
 +
from either side beyond chatting about potential intersections of
 +
research interests.
 +
 +
Funding. Ahh the elephant in the room. The advisor selection process
 +
may depend highly on the current economic forces at play. The two
 +
options available are (1) research assistant (RA) and (2) teacher's
 +
assistant (TA). Both require the same number of hours (in theory
 +
20hr/wk), pay about the same, and have identical benefits. The
 +
difference is what you spend your time doing. Some students choose to
 +
TA because they want experience teaching, while some do out of
 +
necessity it because an RA position is not available. Depending on the
 +
department the person may expect you to bring your own
 +
funding. Traditionally, as far as I know, this is *not* reasonable
 +
because you should be focusing on your core coursework, not writing
 +
proposals your first year.
 +
 +
....and I'm sleepy. More to come.
 +
 +
= Optional Courses =
  
 
What follows below is a list of the various courses QERM students have taken,
 
What follows below is a list of the various courses QERM students have taken,

Revision as of 06:43, 26 August 2011


This is our space to share our experiences with other students: experiences of the students, by the students, for the students.

Choosing an advisor

It's the middle of winter and you're through an entire quarter and are settled in to the next one. Up to now you've (rightfully so) been exclusively focused on cramming material into your head as fast as possible. But progressively, and more frequently, that pesky question keeps surfacing: What am I going to study?

Let's face it, a large number of QERM students don't know what they want to study when they enter the program. In fact that is a key selling point for QERM for a lot of people who don't know exactly the direction they want to go in their studies. Quantitative ecology is a broad discipline that covers an extraordinary breadth of potential topics, all of which probably sounds interesting. Pressure is building and it's time to initiate serious deliberations about a future direction and start the process of choosing an advisor. This page is designed to guide first year QERM students through this critical process by leveraging the unique philosophy and experience of the members of the QERM community at large.

Hopefully the newer students will empathize with the emotional frame of reference (and toll) involved with this decision and can provide relevant advice to navigate the particulars of the process. Similarly, the older students and alumni will have had time to reflect on their choices and offer advice on the big picture.

There seem to be two broad strategies pursued by QERMies:

Choose a topic. Whether it is specific (e.g. HIV) or broad (e.g. trees) it is possible to filter out everyone who is not researching a particular topic of interest, or at least involved with it. In this strategy the actual advisor is a secondary concern as long as the desired topic is satisfied. You want to study x and this person is an expert in x and is willing (and excited) to accept you as a student. Done.

Choose an advisor. With this strategy the interaction between you and your advisor is of primary importance, while the particular topic is secondary. This person will play a pivotal role in your education and having a solid, dependable relationship with them matters much more than a thesis topic. Your intuition overwhelming signals you that this is someone you can work intimately with for years to come. Done. Presumably this takes more exposure to potential advisors.

In addition to these oversimplified strategies, there are a couple of technical details that are worth touching on.

Approach. Typically you will browse a professor's website and skim a few of their recent papers to get a feel for their current research interests. If it seems interesting, propose a casual meeting. If they're already QERM faculty or are familiar with the program you won't have any work to do. But if you're appearing on their radar from nowhere, just introduce yourself and give a quick synopsis of QERM's requirements and what it is about. In the end there are no obligations from either side beyond chatting about potential intersections of research interests.

Funding. Ahh the elephant in the room. The advisor selection process may depend highly on the current economic forces at play. The two options available are (1) research assistant (RA) and (2) teacher's assistant (TA). Both require the same number of hours (in theory 20hr/wk), pay about the same, and have identical benefits. The difference is what you spend your time doing. Some students choose to TA because they want experience teaching, while some do out of necessity it because an RA position is not available. Depending on the department the person may expect you to bring your own funding. Traditionally, as far as I know, this is *not* reasonable because you should be focusing on your core coursework, not writing proposals your first year.

....and I'm sleepy. More to come.

Optional Courses

What follows below is a list of the various courses QERM students have taken, and what they thought of them. If you have taken a course that does not appear below, but want to share your experiences, or just need to vent, feel free to add/modify:


Primary Departments

AMATH

BIOSTAT

CFR

FISH

STAT

Other Departments

Biology

Computer Science

Epidemiology

  • Epi 511: Don't do it. Lots of really basic stats (and 10 minutes of using the e button on your calculator). An introduction to Epi terminology and such, but if you want something valuable take Epi 512 and maybe 513.

ESRM

Industrial Engineering

Oceanography

Q Sci

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