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Offline MissPhosgene

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Grad Schools
« on: December 13, 2010, 11:33:44 PM »
Hello,

  I am applying for graduate schools now. Does anyone know what schools most highly value? I have good grades, but not in everything, it is pretty skewed towards things I like because I always spend my time reading books and papers to learn in depth instead of skim the surface like my profs ask.

I've started to become sort of specialized, I guess in particular for my grade.

I have people, one very famous chemist, who say they will write me excellent letters of recommendation.

I have about three and a half years of undergraduate research experience semesters and summers. I did a poster at an ACS meeting and have two publications (first author) which will be ready after applications are due unfortunately. I am presenting another poster soon. I run one of my projects and designed the other with very little direction from my boss except when he gets weird and does what he does. I get credit and grades (all A and my school does not do A+) for the work I do in lab, but what is on my transcript does not reflect the number of hours I have spent in lab because I exceed it by about triple every semester.

I have only taken one graduate class, but that is because my school is too small to have a graduate chemistry program, so I took it at Cornell. I got an A.

I have no idea what grad schools look for, but I love being in lab and investigating things I think are cool.

I got a D+ in art class for not showing up last fall and I bombed thermo because I didn't really respect my prof and couldn't learn from him (he told the class he was going to give us the easy version of thermo!!!!). I know the material, but I could not learn it from him.

I guess I put what I do in lab before everything else I do. I know that is not really what an undergrad is supposed to do.

Will this hurt me when applying to schools? I am very knowledgeable and people who are well respected know me as the "tattooed girl who came out of the blue and kicked everyones ass" (I'm covered in them) because my old prof at Cornell apparently ranted about me a bunch. I don't know, two other profs called me this with slight variation saying my old prof told him my name but he forgot when I was there to use a reactIR (friggin excellent for kinetics btw).

I'm not the work hard no matter what type. A lot of what I have done is test to see if I am actually smart, which means no effort for something I like to see if I can do it instead of wondering if I know the material simply because I worked hard. I don't spend time on things which don't interest me because there is so much that does interest me, so I am drawn to that, even though it is not a good idea.

However, when I like something, I usually work my ass off and pick up on the material very rapidly and comments I receive are that I jump from beginner to advanced extremely quickly.

I hope I don't get rejected from every school I apply to. It's pretty nerve wracking. There are so many things I am not good at and the holes in what I know are immense. I hope I can get in at least somewhere.

The guy I had at Cornell asked me to work for him. I didn't really like what he did and wanted to stay on my current project so I turned him down. I hope that was not a bad move.. I couldn't just go work for him so I could have an entry to Cornell.

I think I may have made too many mistakes. It's just my personality to have to "specialize" in something and undergrad was not really awesome because I got called to not do that to a great extent.

If anyone can let me know what admissions committees value, it would be really great to hear. I hope I can at least meet some of the desired criteria. I kind of went rouge when I started getting to be in a lab.

MP

Sorry if this is a rant... I am fairly exhausted and thought if I could explain my situation better, it would gather the most relevant input.
« Last Edit: December 13, 2010, 11:53:32 PM by MissPhosgene »
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Offline TheUnfocusedOne

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Re: Grad Schools
« Reply #1 on: December 14, 2010, 10:58:42 AM »
Research experience and letter of rec are most important.

If you have above a 3.0 you should be good to get into most places, though failing a chemistry course may hinder you a little.  Grad schools want to see As and Bs in all your pertainate classes. Will getting a D+ in art kill you? Most likely not. 

Do well on GREs (will only help) and write really good statement of purpose and you should be good.

http://grad-schools.usnews.rankingsandreviews.com/best-graduate-schools/top-chemistry-schools/rankings
http://www.phds.org/


As far as your transcripts not reflecting you hours in lab, its a ubiquitious truth about undergraduate research.  The only way to prove it is through publications and presentations.
Talk to your professors about it.
"Like most heavy metals, thallium is highly toxic and should not be used on breakfast cereal"

Offline MissPhosgene

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Re: Grad Schools
« Reply #2 on: December 14, 2010, 11:54:57 AM »


  Thanks for getting back to me. I actually did not fail thermo (certainly my worst chem class) and will graduate with honors from the chem department. I get a little bit worried because I did very well on the GRE exams (chem and general). My grades are pretty skewed and I think that in combination with my GRE scores, it might make me look pretty bad in that it is obvious that I pick and choose what I spend my time on and tend to blow stuff off to do more interesting things (all academic but generally not what I am taught in school). For a while I thought that being able to teach myself complicated material was a good skill to develop, but maybe it will backfire on me?

I can't seem to get any words out of my profs, they just tell me to apply and that they would be happy to write me letters.

Another question is how to decide where to apply. I have picked out some schools already, but strictly based off author names on papers. It seems that there are so many schools that I will never be able to look at them all to see if I want to go there and time is running short. I tried to find a database which ranks organic programs based on subdivisions such as synthesis and physical but could not find one. Does such a thing exist?
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Offline 408

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Re: Grad Schools
« Reply #3 on: December 14, 2010, 12:01:14 PM »
Based on what you say above I would accept you instantly.  Reminds me of me during undergrad actually(except I bombed quantum chem), and I got accepted in several places no problem.  This let me choose the coolest topic possible for my PhD

Remember, on the CV list those publications as "in progress", then they at least know they are on there!

Offline TheUnfocusedOne

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Re: Grad Schools
« Reply #4 on: December 14, 2010, 01:58:23 PM »
- If you did well on both GREs then why are you worried?
- I wouldn't think that differences in you overall GPA and GREs would make that much of a difference. So long as your showing you not brain dead, more preferably that your above the curve, then you should be good. How is your GPA of you don't mind me asking. You can just give me a range if you'd like.
- It was a gamble to focus on research, but since you sound like you were very productive it will more than likely work out for you. Remember, faculty are looking for the best researcher, not just students.  Publications and presentations prove that you've been working hard.
- Its not a great idea to pick a school based on a single professor.  You'll want to be interested in several since you may not get into your first choice.  Use that phds.org link i sent you, look around at some of the schools and check out professors that interested you.  If you've been reading recent literature (which is sounds like you have) then you could find a paper you really liked and look up the professor/school which produced it. A great suggestion is to try to email some of those professors. Ask them a few questions be be terse, a garrulous email will probably be ignored. It'll also keep you on the radar at the admission board, especially if that professor is interested in you.





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Offline Doc Oc

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Re: Grad Schools
« Reply #5 on: December 14, 2010, 02:47:26 PM »
You're going to get into schools, more than likely some very good ones based on your record.  I had a bad GPA and a very good GRE score and I got into a decent program.  I also had a few years of biotech/pharma lab experience under my belt, but you've also got lab experience so I think you're a great candidate for a high tier school.

More than your GPA or other admissions criteria, I raised an eyebrow at this:
I'm not the work hard no matter what type.

This could make grad school very difficult (impossible if you don't find a way to overcome it at a certain point).  A Ph.D is a grind, and a slow long one at that.  In total synthesis, you're looking at roughly 6 years to exit (give or take a year).  There's bound to be a time when your daily routine will become repetitive or you will simply feel like it will never end and get discouraged.  Lots of profs will expect you to work hard, no matter what, so you'll need to find a way to power through.  Maybe if you have creative outlets outside of lab that might help, but it's also something you need to talk to other grad students about, some professors are more accommodating than others about that kind of stuff.

Offline TheUnfocusedOne

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Re: Grad Schools
« Reply #6 on: December 14, 2010, 02:52:09 PM »
This could make grad school very difficult (impossible if you don't find a way to overcome it at a certain point).  A Ph.D is a grind, and a slow long one at that.  In total synthesis, you're looking at roughly 6 years to exit (give or take a year).  There's bound to be a time when your daily routine will become repetitive or you will simply feel like it will never end and get discouraged.  Lots of profs will expect you to work hard, no matter what, so you'll need to find a way to power through.  Maybe if you have creative outlets outside of lab that might help, but it's also something you need to talk to other grad students about, some professors are more accommodating than others about that kind of stuff.

Everyone goes through a "why the hell am I doing this phase", or so I've heard and been complained to about.
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Offline MissPhosgene

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Re: Grad Schools
« Reply #7 on: December 14, 2010, 04:01:32 PM »
This could make grad school very difficult (impossible if you don't find a way to overcome it at a certain point).  A Ph.D is a grind, and a slow long one at that.  In total synthesis, you're looking at roughly 6 years to exit (give or take a year).  There's bound to be a time when your daily routine will become repetitive or you will simply feel like it will never end and get discouraged.  Lots of profs will expect you to work hard, no matter what, so you'll need to find a way to power through.  Maybe if you have creative outlets outside of lab that might help, but it's also something you need to talk to other grad students about, some professors are more accommodating than others about that kind of stuff.

Everyone goes through a "why the hell am I doing this phase", or so I've heard and been complained to about.

Both points are good ones. I don't know how people pick/get assigned to their projects. It definitely could be terrible if I have an advisor I don't trust and a project which is monotonous.

It's not that I don't work... I work all the time, but it's not oriented so much at my classes as it is to lab stuff and the library work that carries with it. I get As and Bs in my classes without really doing anything.

From what I have heard about people's experiences in Ph.D. programs, it's overwhelmingly what I am looking for. I never get yelled at because I haven't optimized something fast enough, found a new strategy fast enough, don't know enough, just called stupid when I do what my boss suggests and it doesn't work... but I don't have an option to change things around (hes a weird dude). I want to be pushed whilst doing something I like instead of having to go in a round-about way to get stuff done.

Do you guys want to say a little bit about what Ph.D. programs are like?
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Offline TheUnfocusedOne

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Re: Grad Schools
« Reply #8 on: December 14, 2010, 04:59:24 PM »
Do you guys want to say a little bit about what Ph.D. programs are like?

I can't say a thing to be honest.  I graduate back in march from undergrad and have been in industry since.  I was slated to go to graduate school at the beginning of my senior year, but I've had some things come up which have unfortunetly kept me from it.  I took a large number of steps including taking both GREs and drafting statements of purporse but a few weeks before submission I made some difficult choices and decided to put it off.

 I've got very good relationships with most of the chemistry faculty at my school, and I've had dozens of conversations with them about graduate school life. I've talked to several other professors, graduate and post doctorates at various meetings and conventions and they all seem to say the same things about getting in. I've also seen some of my closest friends start their first year, so I've experienced it vicariously. Hopefully I'll be applying again next year and with luck I'll be getting into a top tier program.
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Offline 408

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Re: Grad Schools
« Reply #9 on: December 15, 2010, 07:13:26 AM »
"Do you guys want to say a little bit about what Ph.D. programs are like? "

Mine is not north american....so your experience may vary...

Its F*in awesome overall.



I must disagree about not choosing a school based on a professor.  This is how I went about doing it, I chose 3 research groups, talked to the professor,  visited all, and showed enough interest to convince the profs I would be an asset.  I got accepted by all, and I felt bad when I told two that I would not be joining their group, because we got to know eachother.  At 1 of the 3 I did not even deal with the admissions people, the prof dealt with that for me. 

Additionally, I have a friend who had a poor GPA, mostly because she hated classes, but liked her research.  She had impressed her undergrad supervisor enough that when admissions committee tried to deny her entry, her supervisor essentially overrode all of their opinions and let her in.

You do not want to be choosing a school just because of its name.  You want somewhere (a research group) you can tolerate for the next x years.

In my group I have almost total autonomy within my broad topic, which I enjoy. 

Offline TheUnfocusedOne

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Re: Grad Schools
« Reply #10 on: December 15, 2010, 09:29:58 AM »


I must disagree about not choosing a school based on a professor.  This is how I went about doing it, I chose 3 research groups, talked to the professor,  visited all, and showed enough interest to convince the profs I would be an asset.  I got accepted by all, and I felt bad when I told two that I would not be joining their group, because we got to know eachother.  At 1 of the 3 I did not even deal with the admissions people, the prof dealt with that for me.  

To clarify, I meant chosing a school based on A professor.  It's better to look for multiple research groups at the same location.
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Offline Mitch

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Re: Grad Schools
« Reply #11 on: December 15, 2010, 09:49:55 PM »
Are you applying to UCLA?
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Offline MissPhosgene

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Re: Grad Schools
« Reply #12 on: December 15, 2010, 10:17:22 PM »
Are you applying to UCLA?

Yup. Why do you ask?
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Offline Mitch

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Re: Grad Schools
« Reply #13 on: December 17, 2010, 07:57:40 AM »
I'm at UCLA. Let me know if you come by and do a visit. ;)
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Offline 408

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Re: Grad Schools
« Reply #14 on: December 17, 2010, 08:25:52 AM »


I must disagree about not choosing a school based on a professor.  This is how I went about doing it, I chose 3 research groups, talked to the professor,  visited all, and showed enough interest to convince the profs I would be an asset.  I got accepted by all, and I felt bad when I told two that I would not be joining their group, because we got to know eachother.  At 1 of the 3 I did not even deal with the admissions people, the prof dealt with that for me.  

To clarify, I meant chosing a school based on A professor.  It's better to look for multiple research groups at the same location.

Why?  If you get to know them well enough, you know you will be in that group.... I applied for 3 diff schools, each because of a desired supervisor at each one.  I knew in all cases which group I would join, and I recommend doing the same lest you end up doing something you are not interested in.

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