Frequently Assked Questions
Below are answers to commonly asked questions, in no particular order. In some cases, I have grouped similar questions together. If you would like more detailed answers, please feel free to email me.
1) What is your management philosophy or group structure?
Admittedly, my research group is large. Often, large research groups will begin to have a hierarchical structure where the PI manages the post-docs who manage the MSc & PhD students who manage the undergrads. I deviate from this strategy. I feel that the only way I can truly know what is going on in my group is by interacting with everyone individually; additionally I used to have a weekly group meetings (1hr). Depending on the stage of the student’s academic career, the meetings can include discussions on coursework, research and personal career goals. By meeting at least every other week, research challenges are addressed as they arise and personal issues are brought to my attention.
In addition, we have yearly reviews that are comprised of two stages: 1) a self-evaluation and a 2) formal evaluation (I fill out). Then, we meet to discuss. These reviews provide an opportunity to discuss a student's progress in research or their degree program as well as any strengths or weaknesses.
I strongly believe in an open-door policy, which enabled by the fact that my office is across the C-building from my research lab and near my student offices.
2) What is the average time to graduation for MSc & PhD students?
It is important to note that this number is primarily dependent on the student. In other words, I do not have a minimum or a maximum number in mind.
The average time is approximately 3-4 years for PhD students and 1 year for MSc students. Based on an analysis of my current senior graduate student's progress in their MSc & PhD research, it will probably stay in this range.
3) How do you choose MSc & PhD students for acceptance? My previous research is not related to the research in your group. Will this hurt my chances of being accepted?
While previous research experience is important, many skills are translatable. As such, the specific field is not as important as the fact that a student performed research successfully. It is also important to remember that admissions decisions consider numerous factors, not just the field of prior research.
4) The research in the group covers many different fields, and it seems like many of the projects require a student to know several fields. I'm worried that I am not prepared to join the group. Will this hurt my chances of being accepted? How will I be successful in the group, if I'm not prepared?
One of the key benefits of my group is that it is a virtual melting-pot of talents. I actively recruit from a wide range of disciplines, and no one joins the group knowing everything. It simply is not possible. Everyone works together and teaches each other. I strongly feel that the point of graduate school is both to deepen your knowledge in one field and expand your skillset into another. If you don't push yourself and get outside of your comfort zone, you are doing something wrong.
My main goal in choosing MSc & PhD students is to find smart, talented students who are not afraid to try something new and who work well on an interdisciplinary team. In my group, students with different academic backgrounds need to work together. This type of collaboration is very different from working within a single field. As such, I typically involve my current students in the new student selection process.