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Topic: Starting to look at graduate schools--some questions  (Read 3774 times)

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Offline mmavros

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Starting to look at graduate schools--some questions
« on: August 04, 2009, 11:17:04 AM »
Hi all, I will be starting my junior year at the University of Florida in a few weeks.  I am currently a chemistry major with a 4.0 GPA and no GRE scores, but I plan to take the general GRE in December and the Chemistry GRE sometime next summer or the following fall.  I have been actively involved in research since last summer; this summer, I am doing an REU in Germany co-sponsored by the NSF, the ACS, and the DAAD RISE program. I have one publication already in the literature from my experiences at Florida (very minor contribution, 6th author or so, into Chemistry: A European Journal), and I have been told that the group in Germany that I've been working with this summer plans to write up what I've been working on into another publication (I will most likely be second or third author).  Also, I will be presenting my work from this REU at the ACS national meeting in two weeks time.

I've been looking into graduate schools lately and I'm not quite sure where to go next.  I have a few questions about graduate programs, and I was wondering if anyone could help shed some light on the topic:

1) I want to hopefully get an eventual position in chemistry academia.  How important is it to get my PhD at a top-ranked school, and how important is it to have an advisor with a good reputation?  Also, is there a significant difference between top 10 schools and, say, top 20?  I know finding a lab and an advisor that you love is the most important factor in choosing a school, but I've also heard ranking and reputation factors in significantly career opportunities, so I figured it would be a good idea to get this cleared up.

2) Assuming I do decently on my GREs, what do my chances look like for getting into a really competative program?

3) I've been thinking over the past few months about what I currently want to go into, and I think I want to try and go into some form of organic, possibly physical organic.  I really want to do something where I get to do a wide variety of things on a day-to-day basis--maybe one week synthesizing molecules, then another week analyzing them.  Currently, however, my undergraduate research involves more bioanalytical / biophysical chemistry--I'm synthesizing fluorescent-tagged DNA and using it for different nanotechnological and molecular engineering applications.  I really enjoy my advisor an my work, but I can't see it as something I want to do for the rest of my life. Will the fact that what I'm doing now as an undergrad has little to do with what discipline I want to go into as a grad student and beyond negatively impact my application at all?

And finally: 4) Anyone have any general tips on choosing an advisor and choosing which schools to apply to?

Thanks in advance for the advice!

Offline theo

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Re: Starting to look at graduate schools--some questions
« Reply #1 on: August 05, 2009, 01:30:03 AM »
1) Check out the faculty pages of profs from the top 10 (or even top 15) schools. You'll see that most of them got their PhDs from one of the top 10 (if not top 5) schools. When I was applying, my profs told me that there is little difference between the top 5 schools, but there is a gulf between those 5 and the next 5 (6 to 10) schools.

2) Are you an American citizen or an International student? That does play a part, especially during this bad economic times. I do think that your chances are good but do apply to a range of schools.

3) I don't think anyone is expecting you to continue with what you did as an undergrad. If anything, they encourage you to do something else... Well at least that seems to be the case at my school...

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