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Response to John and Harald's posts was: Long-term advice

PostPosted: Sun Jan 30, 2005 9:30 am
by Doug
Harald makes a good point: try to obtain the tools you think you'll need for grad school as an undergrad. It'll save you loads of time later. If you have rough ideas for potential projects, try to organize them so they're presentable to potential grad school advisors. If you think you have developable ideas, try to catch a few minutes with undergrad profs; perhaps if they like them, you'll catch on to their lab.
I must rebut a point that Harald made, though. It is NOT a requirement to publish prior to receiving your PhD. It IS inordinately beneficial in the job search, but many grad students from the best schools don't even get their papers submitted until after they defend. If you can get one paper published before you're finished, you're ahead of the pack. More than one, you're generally a star in the making.
Finally, a point that John made I find interesting, and would like to pursue furhter on this board (someone start a new topic maybe?). Has anyone seen much evidence of many with more abiltiy to "get in" than "get out?" I realize to some extent it's covered in "Getting what you came for," but I feel it could be worth a thread here.

Response to John and Harald's posts was: Long-term advice

PostPosted: Sun Jan 30, 2005 9:49 am
by AL
It is a bad idea *not* to take classes while in graduate school.

Get as much exposure as you can to many different fields - math, statistics, biology, computer science, chemistry - because you never know what skills and knowledge will be useful ten and twenty years after you get your PhD.

It is extremely unlikely that you will spend your entire career doing the same narrow tasks and research that you are doing in graduate school. Yes, you must master this narrow field, but graduate school is just practise for real life as a professional scientist, which will require you to master many other fields. And you won't have six years to do it then -- more like six weeks!

Response to John and Harald's posts was: Long-term advice

PostPosted: Sun Jan 30, 2005 11:24 am
by John G. Hoey, Ph.D.
In response to Doug's post regarding publishing papers prior to leaving grad school---regardless of what you might hear/read/think---this is the single most important aspect of the graduate education. At the very least, you should have papers "in press". Think about it; how else would potential employers judge your ability to think critically and conduct independent research? Perhaps more to the point though, most reputable grad programs wouldn't even consider a student's work worthy of consideration for the Ph.D. degree unless it were "publishable" in a peer-reviewed journal. No, I'm not talking about speculation or assumptions regarding a project's inherent worthiness as judged by how it will be received by others in his/her field. I'm referring to the one true way in which research is judged in the real world....by being published in a peer-reviewed journal. Am I missing something here? We're talking about the Ph.D., the highest academic degree one can earn in this country. I earned my degree from the City University of NY; even though I worked hard enough to earn both my M.A. and Ph.D. in under five years, I managed to leave graduate school with several publications. As the only grad student in the lab, I certainly did not come from a "paper mill". The point I'm trying to make is that it is most critical to have excellent, solid mentorship. If anyone wishes to explore this topic further, let's start another post. It's an area I feel well-qualified to expouse advice.
Doug, why do you find my comments on "getting in" vs. "getting out" interesting? I'm not referring to innate intelligence, but other less tangible qualities such as critical thinking skills, determination, etc. What I particularly look for in a scientist is usually referred to as "fire in the belly". This refers to a passion that is almost palpable; This is the one characteristic I personally used to look for in those who wished to work in my lab. No graduate education can teach this....it's either there or is isn't. It is this passion or "fire in the belly" that empowers a person to stay the course during the inevitable ups and downs of laboratory research. Neither high SAT/GRE scores, nor solid A's in organic chemistry can replace this passion. I know I've gone off a tangent here, but this is one factor that isn't discussed very much.

John G. Hoey, Ph.D.

paper requirements

PostPosted: Sun Jan 30, 2005 3:14 pm
by Emma
I don\'t know about the paper requirement. In my degree program (top school, chemistry), I was told I by my committtee that needed a second first-author paper before graduating. (I had at that point 4 papers from my grad work, 1 of which was first-author.)

I did in fact have another paper\'s worth of results to write up - I wonder if the committee would have felt differently if I didn\'t!

paper requirements

PostPosted: Sun Jan 30, 2005 5:49 pm
by John G. Hoey, Ph.D.
Hi Emma:

So, what are you saying? Are you agreeing with me that actually publishing papers is usually a requirement for the Ph.D.?

John

paper requirements

PostPosted: Sun Jan 30, 2005 7:40 pm
by Kim
I got my PhD in biochemistry from one of the University of California campus not so long ago.

I was told that if a person has three first author publications in peer review journals (excluding reviews, conference papers, abstracts), the defense would be nothing but ceremonial. The graduate student spends his/her first two years in classes. The last 3 years are in lab. So my department expects a student to graduate within 5-6 years with three first author papers *ideally*. Of course, I know some people do not satisfy this requirment.

It is very difficult to defend your PhD work, if your PhD work is not good enough to publish. Don't you think?

paper requirements

PostPosted: Sun Jan 30, 2005 7:54 pm
by Emma
Yeah, John, I was agreeing with you, disagreeing with the previous poster who said papers didn't matter. In my own addled-graded-too-many-lab-reports-today way...

paper requirements

PostPosted: Sun Jan 30, 2005 11:16 pm
by Doug
No, no, no, no, no! People seem to have misread my earlier post. I did NOT say papers don't matter.
A summary: Harald's statement, "Note that publishing papers is an absolute requirement for graduating from doctoral course. "
My response:
"It is NOT a requirement to publish prior to receiving your PhD. It IS inordinately beneficial in the job search, but many grad students from the best schools don't even get their papers submitted until after they defend."
Note the operative words in the above quotes: Harald's "an absolute requirement" and my reply "NOT an absolute requirement."
Research being published and research being publishable are two wholly different beasts. Of course one would ideally have their work published before completing. No one has yet, to my satisfaction, effectively rebutted the point that it is not a REQUIREMENT to be published before defending. If anyone can say, with certainty, that a particular university REQUIRES publications before graduation, please do so.
I'll note Emma's careful couching of her phrases: "I was told I by my committee that needed a second first-author paper before graduating"...were you told you needed that paper published or in press before defending? What if that paper were held up in review for some reason? This doesn't seem an efficient way to get researchers into researching (as post-doc, etc.). How any of the papers that you weren't first author actually went into your dissertation?
Not wanting to be argumentative, nor start a war over something so trivial, but please read posts carefully. Requirement vs. the ideal situation and published vs. publishable are very distinct concepts. I won't argue what's ideal, or what's publishable. I will debate whether giving someone who asks a reasonable question about PhD requirements false information is appropriate. In this thread, I have seen demonstrably untrue information posted. If there are certain universities/fields/departments with publishing requirements, please cite them.
We all agree over the basics in this thread re: what it takes to succeed in grad school. A passion for research, some critical thinking skills, etc. Prior scores have some importance, but likely aren?t the deciding factor in many cases.
Sorry for the verbosity...It's late and I'm tired...

paper requirements

PostPosted: Mon Jan 31, 2005 2:48 am
by Harald
Maybe publishing is not a requirement, but the acceptance of some submitted papers is. According to my former academic advisor, this is an internationally approved condition. The conditions for graduation might differ from country to country and from university to university, of course.

But, I think it is difficult to revise papers after leaving the lab. New experiments will be difficult to perform and modifying or even generating new figures will be difficult also unless you have equipment and software at home. I had to revise my most recent paper a few months after graduation. Fortunately I only had to revise some text whereas the final version was generated and submitted by co-authors.

paper requirements

PostPosted: Mon Jan 31, 2005 9:29 am
by Lora
University of Massachusetts' microbiology department does in fact require a minimum of one paper in press in a peer-reviewed journal, preferably with a reasonably high impact factor as a condition of their Ph.D. program. It's more common to have several publications; however, the dissertation requirement for my entering class is, "Format your accepted and, if necessary, submitted manuscripts according to the general university standards, and put your prospectus on top with a cover sheet." That's it--no lengthy re-writing of anything.