QERM Applicant FAQ
Please everyone feel free to add questions and/or answers.
Is QERM great?
Why did you choose QERM? What are some strengths and weaknesses of the program, in your opinion?
Tommy: I chose QERM because the program both satisfied my statistical and ecological curiosity. I was a stats major in undergrad and took a lot of ecology/wildlife programs additionally. When applying to schools I was considering purely stat programs, but ultimately decided that I could still get that statistical rigorousness while working on more applied problems that I found interesting in QERM. On the other hand, I think one of the weaknesses of the program is that especially in the first year, not enough fundamental biology/ecology is taught or emphasized. It is assumed that you either know this material or will learn it on your own. I think the program should be more balanced in its approach to learning and emphasize more fundamental ecosystem concepts.
Ian: It provided a unique opportunity to apply pure math to real problems that mattered to me and the world. It was in Seattle.
Kevin: I chose QERM because it did a wonderful job of merging my quantitative background and environmental interests. I was a math major as an undergrad, and QERM provided the perfect application of those skills in a broad field I was interested in. I looked into other environmental policy programs as well as some more purely statistical programs, and QERM was the only one that struck the right balance for me.
One big strength of QERM is that it provides you with quantitative skills to tackle a variety of issues, and likewise it provides a variety of research opportunities to suit almost any interest. Another big plus for QERM is its location. Seattle, and the northwest in general, provide a beautiful setting to study environmental questions, and there are many management applications to your research here.
One weakness is that after the rigorously defined first year, there are so many opportunities, it can be overwhelming. But if you make good use of your first year, go to a variety of talks and speak to professors in different fields you can find your niche. I would also echo Tommy's comments about a lack of focus on fundamental ecological concepts. You can certainly learn these on your own, and there are some cool seminars that explore many of these concepts, but it is up to you to seek those out.
What is your workload like? I've heard the first year is pretty intense. Have you had time for extracurricular activities? (I'm interested in exploring the Seattle ultimate frisbee scene)?
Tommy: First year workload is intense, but I think you'll find that with any program. The classes stretch your thinking, but more so just consume your time. Looking back, I think everyone values the skills and tools they gained during that time regardless of the work load. Things definitely mellow out considerably as you progress past the first year and start working on your thesis. With out a doubt you'll have time for other activities. At least for myself,I think I'd go crazy if I did work all the time so I'm always hoping over to the mountains, running around in parks, going to the coast, etc.. There's got to be an ultimate frisbee club on campus and I know of several disc golf courses.
Are you satisfied with the variety and choices for research projects?
Tommy: I wasn't satisfied with the variety and choices of research projects. That is one of the dangers of going into a ecology program with no thesis direction (For most programs this would be more well defined). However, others have said that they had an overwhelming amount of choices so this will likely depend on when you enter the program and whether professors are looking for graduate students at that time. You can certainly write your own ticket if you would like, it's just a matter of bringing in that faculty member into QERM and insuring that he/she is quantitative enough.
Ian: I was one of many QERM students who ended up doing research with a professor in the School of Fishery and Aquatic Sciences. This was an excellent place for me and I was pleased by the choice. However, I think QERM's strength is derived, in part, from the diversity of departments and research subjects, so I think we should do our best to encourage people to search far and wide for things that interest them and not all follow the well trodden path to Fisheries.
How would you describe the departmental culture? Is is a tight-knit community?
Tommy: QERM is a very small program so yes we're pretty tight-knit. We get together every week for soups and most several of us get together on weekends for beers, games, etc.. You'll also get submerged into whatever specific department you go work in and can also get involved in that community (For me, fisheries).
Do most students work as teaching or research assistants? Have you had a good experience with this?
Tommy: Most students work as RAs and yes I've had a good experience with this. There are several students who works as TAs, but the majority of students are funded. If you are interested in teaching, there's definitely an opportunity to do so, but most students seek out an RA position.
Where do you see yourself going after you finish your degree?
Tommy: I have no idea where I'll be heading after my degree. The most likely place would be the National Marine Fisheries Service (a branch of NOAA) since they are funding me right now. The QERM website has lots of information on careers.
Do you have any suggestions for visiting? Anything else I should be asking about?
Tommy: When you visit, just be yourself, be relaxed and smile.