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Monday, May 17, 2010

Graduate School in the Sciences

We had some Northwestern graduate students over today, who talked about their research with dielectrics for capacitors and transistors, as well as flexible video displays for a whole host of applications in the next decade or so. But another topic that came up was what is it like in graduate school?

Something that surprised many of the high school students is that graduate students get paid to go to school! This is absolutely true! Grad students in the sciences and mathematics generally are given assistantships, either teaching or research, when they come to a graduate college. For instance, during my first year of grad school I took my own classes and was a teaching assistant for one of the main introductory physics courses for premeds (essentially like AP Physics B). My tuition was paid for, and I got a salary - not a huge amount of money, but certainly enough for an apartment, living expenses, food, and so on. After my first year, I then was in a research group and hired as a research assistant by a professor who then became my adviser. I then completed my graduate courses, received my Masters Degree in Physics, and then lived on site at Fermilab for a couple years as we ran our detector and collected data sets for dissertations. I never paid a cent for tuition, and actually made enough to save and get married shortly before graduating with a doctorate. Not a bad deal!

Keep this in mind since most of you in Chem-Phys are considering technical majors and most will end up going to graduate school. Try to get involved in research as an undergraduate. Talk with professors, postdocs and graduate students, and make connections in areas of interest. There are so many neat opportunities in college, and many of those can prepare you for graduate school and beyond!

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