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  1. #1
    Systematic chaos Cenomite's Avatar
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    Default To anyone who has a PhD

    So I eventually want to be a professor, and will want a PhD for this. In my field at least, it is possible to teach with just a masters, but the pay isn't nearly as good. Plus I find the concept of conducting research interesting (although I'm sure I'll be biting my tongue on that one when/if I get through it).

    My questions to anyone here who holds a PhD or knows a lot about the process are...

    - How difficult is it to get accepted into a PhD program? (obviously depends on the program, but as a general rule compared to getting into an undergraduate program)

    - Is there anything that you wish you had started on before you actually started the program? In other words, is there anything I should be preparing for now to make life easier down the road? If you happen to hold a PhD in computer science or a related field, are there any topics which I should be sure to keep in the back of my mind?

    - What is the general process for research? How do you generally go about getting funding / people to help you? How likely is it that whoever reviews your research at the end will say it's good enough (or another way of saying it: How often does your work tend to be rejected after the process is over?)

    - What are the courses at the PhD level like compared to courses at the Masters level? Are there still requirements to take that don't have to do with your focus of study?

    I doubt I'll be getting many (if any) replies here, but figured I might as well ask. I've read up on the process online a bit, but nothing beats getting information from someone who's been through it. Any information would be appreciated!
    The probability that I was procrastinating when I was typing this post:

    P(have big assignment due) = 0.6
    P(posting on TypoC) = 0.2
    P(having big assignment due | posting on TypoC) = 0.7

    P(posting on TypoC | having big assignment due) = .......


    Eh, I'll finish it later.

  2. #2
    Senior Member Qre:us's Avatar
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    No PhD. Currently grad school, so the pov I'm coming from is from me and my friends, who are either finishing off masters, or some of us, like my best friend, a Ph.D. candidate, with about 2 years more to go. I can also comment from the pov of those friends who are post-doc, as well.

    Ph.D. is usually only applied for once you have a Masters (some programs allows one to go from an undergrad straight to PhD, very rare and, depending on the program and the strength of you/the candidate's position/research/background, etc). As such, Masters' marks are important. There's really no consideration unless you're A or above in Masters. Undergrad/Bachelor's marks don't really count.

    One thing you want to do is make sure that your academic careers shows versatility, esp. if your end goal is some kind of tenure. I.e., do not have your undergrad, Masters & Ph.D. all be from the same school (it doesn't look good).

    Finally, it helps to have a souped up CV. Meaning, publications, publications, publications. Search out conferences (even student ones are the best option cuz they're more lenient with the presentations/who is allowed to present). Present poster presentation and oral. Again, shows variety. Try to get your Masters work published, and aim for journals with high impact factor.

    Grants - another good thing on your CV, the more grants you've qualified for/received. Esp. from a variety of funding sources.

    Most PhD program, first year/year and a half, is coursework, then you sit for your comps. Ours is about an 8 hrs exam. Yeah, straight. 8 hours.

    Then, by the end of second year, you've had your proposal done and defended, and, if using subjects, get your Research Ethics approved as well (this is a long, tedious process, so get started early).

    Then comes the fun part - hermitdom. Where it is all about you and your project. Do the project. Defend by end of 4th year.

    That's usually the trajectory of a PhD program. As for funding, most PhD students don't just apply to a PhD program, but, you apply through the recommendation of someone in that program. I.e., you gotta decide on your supervisors & the bare backbone of the project idea, pretty early on. You look up the schools you're interested in, if your project topic falls within the area of interest of anyone within that school's department... Email them to state your interest in the Ph.D. program. Best thing, set up a meeting to talk to them in person.

    Usually, the application forms will have places where you say who in that school you want to work with, and if the professor knows you/knows of your interest in the program (i.e., you've talked to them before), it helps your application immensely. You just don't apply to a PhD program, you apply more because that program specializes in a topic that is of interest to you and has thus, mentors/supervisors available for you.

    Be upfront about grant/funding opportunities to the supervisors when you go to meet them re: possible admission to PhD. Most supervisors will already have revenues for funding for their potential PhD candidates (its part of their grants most profs/researchers apply for, a fund set aside from PhD students). Otherwise, be very secure in external funding bodies/agencies and getting funded that way.
    A PhD is no longer like undergrad. You are NOT a number. The supervisors are your colleagues (and yes, also mentor), but, it is at a more level playing field. So, sell yourself.
    A friend of mine got two potential supervisors bidding with promise of grants/funding just to have her work with them.

    That means, you have to be novel in your project, informed about the area of your research, and limitations of research to date. And, from there, find a novel idea for a project.

    They want their names on a project that sounds promising....so, give them that.


    Courses at the PhD level are more in-depth than Masters, (obviously). Like for my program, the intermediate stats gets amphed to higher level statistics....where even the profs sometimes don't know what they're talking about, cuz this stats is more theoretical (and controversial) in nature. But, most PhD courses are not that far & beyond Masters cuz, again, they want to equalize the playing field, and as people will be coming from different universities, they try to make the courses as standard as possible. If you come from a very stringent, high-standard uni fo Masters, the work may seem repetitive at the PhD level, if your masters program is more 'lacking', you'll think there's much to learn. It all depends on your background.

    Btw, I have no idea re: computer science. I'm in health research.

    Edit: additionally there's scope of funding/$ through RA and/or TA positions, but, if it is your only method for funds, it will not be sustainable most of the time.

  3. #3
    Systematic chaos Cenomite's Avatar
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    Thanks a lot for this information. I've read through it all, and this actually helps me out a lot.

    I didn't know you had to form relationships with professors in your field of interest to really get things moving, which I will definitely keep in mind.
    The probability that I was procrastinating when I was typing this post:

    P(have big assignment due) = 0.6
    P(posting on TypoC) = 0.2
    P(having big assignment due | posting on TypoC) = 0.7

    P(posting on TypoC | having big assignment due) = .......


    Eh, I'll finish it later.

  4. #4
    Dhampyr Economica's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Cenomite View Post
    I didn't know you had to form relationships with professors in your field of interest to really get things moving, which I will definitely keep in mind.
    Forming a relationship (no, not that kind of a relationship ) with my professor is what got him to want to fund my PhD. Never underestimate the importance of networking, even in academia and even in the hard sciences (not that I am in one of those). If they know who you are and like you enough to want to have you around, they'll give you the advantage over equally (or even better) qualified candidates. Disillusioning, but researchers are only human, after all, and many don't get out much, so they need their social needs covered at work - especially in the hard sciences.

  5. #5

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    Quote Originally Posted by Cenomite View Post
    - How difficult is it to get accepted into a PhD program? (obviously depends on the program, but as a general rule compared to getting into an undergraduate program)
    If you have the right qualifications and can show ability, probably not that difficult. Knowing your supervisor really helps, or having a supervisor(professor) who wants to take you as their student. It is good in your last year of undergrad or masters to work on finding some of these connections and exploring project possibilities.

    - Is there anything that you wish you had started on before you actually started the program? In other words, is there anything I should be preparing for now to make life easier down the road? If you happen to hold a PhD in computer science or a related field, are there any topics which I should be sure to keep in the back of my mind?
    I wish I had chosen my project more carefully and had more direction. You're type might have a similar problem. A PhD is long and hard work, the last thing you want is something you aren't highly interested in. For me it ended up being a deal breaker. Also being an ENTP choose a supervisor who is adaptable and gives you lots of room to explore, someone who complements your personality well. Most important things are probably supervisor relationship, and scope of the topic. The topic needs enough in it to keep you interested, and be worth doing a PhD on.

    - What is the general process for research? How do you generally go about getting funding / people to help you? How likely is it that whoever reviews your research at the end will say it's good enough (or another way of saying it: How often does your work tend to be rejected after the process is over?)
    If your work is rejected at the end, it is normally just rejected in part. They give you things to refine, won't say this is worthless. Your supervisor will help keep you on track anyway, so that it will be good enough. It doesn't normally get accepted first time without changes though. A bit like when people write papers for journals.

    I'm not sure how the funding works where you are... which may also invalidate my view on how easy it is to start a PhD.

    - What are the courses at the PhD level like compared to courses at the Masters level? Are there still requirements to take that don't have to do with your focus of study?
    In mine there were lots of reviews, just to make sure you are on track, know what you are doing, etc. They'd probably be because you are getting funded, and need funding to be justified. That tends to happen when you are just working in research also. Teaching was also encouraged, but I love teaching more than research so wasn't a problem for me.

    You can be quite free otherwise. And schedules seem pretty adaptable.
    Freude, schöner Götterfunken Tochter aus Elysium, Wir betreten feuertrunken, Himmlische, dein Heiligtum! Deine Zauber binden wieder Was die Mode streng geteilt; Alle Menschen werden Brüder, Wo dein sanfter Flügel weilt.

  6. #6
    Senior Member Qre:us's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by noigmn View Post
    If your work is rejected at the end, it is normally just rejected in part. They give you things to refine, won't say this is worthless. Your supervisor will help keep you on track anyway, so that it will be good enough. It doesn't normally get accepted first time without changes though. A bit like when people write papers for journals.
    Yeah, and to add to that, unless your supervisor is a purposeful dick, you won't even be able to submit it for your final defence to the department if it wasn't at the stage where it would be accepted. Usually, you also have more than one supervisors. Primary, secondary (and more, depending on the project and people's vested interest). And, they will grill you, make you revise, and revise, until they think it is at a stage where you are ready to defend. They won't let you defend until they can assess that you (and your project) are ready.

    And, then comes the 'dreaded' defence. The culmination of ALL your work, in one single 'exam'. Q & A. Where experts in all aspects of the field of your research try to tear apart your work, in an organized sequence, of 1st reviewer, 2nd reviewer and so forth, ....and you justify. Justify, justify. (with a few, 'oh interesting point, thank you, I will note that for my final edit, or, 'sorry, I don't know'). Being an ENTP might help there (and for my proposal defence, it was hella fun, I got them laughing).

    I wish I had chosen my project more carefully and had more direction. You're type might have a similar problem. A PhD is long and hard work, the last thing you want is something you aren't highly interested in. For me it ended up being a deal breaker. Also being an ENTP choose a supervisor who is adaptable and gives you lots of room to explore, someone who complements your personality well. Most important things are probably supervisor relationship, and scope of the topic. The topic needs enough in it to keep you interested, and be worth doing a PhD on.
    That is a very good advise, my supervisors rock my socks. My primary is INFJ, she gets really frustrated with me and my lack of organization, but, I can hold my ground when it comes to the actual work. So, not only get supervisors that you get a good 'vibe' from, but, a topic that will allow you to flourish. It's a long stretch, and you will undoubtedly have those days where you wanna just throw your hands up and say fuck it, I'm moving to Timbuktu. It will test your patience in following-through, in being detailed, in being comprehensive. In managing TIME (esp. - as it's very independent, and it's easy to let procastination drag on your project - this is where supervisors help, with their incessant emails of, "I thought you were sending me X chapter by yesterday, why haven't I gotten it?") Great fun!

    Oh...and good luck in your quest for academic geekdom! :P

  7. #7
    Systematic chaos Cenomite's Avatar
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    Thanks to everyone for the additional advice, and for the good luck sentiment
    The probability that I was procrastinating when I was typing this post:

    P(have big assignment due) = 0.6
    P(posting on TypoC) = 0.2
    P(having big assignment due | posting on TypoC) = 0.7

    P(posting on TypoC | having big assignment due) = .......


    Eh, I'll finish it later.

  8. #8

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    Yeh, good luck!! And enjoy it, research has lots of fun moments as well as the slow ones.

    Quote Originally Posted by Qre:us View Post
    And, then comes the 'dreaded' defence. The culmination of ALL your work, in one single 'exam'. Q & A. Where experts in all aspects of the field of your research try to tear apart your work, in an organized sequence, of 1st reviewer, 2nd reviewer and so forth, ....and you justify. Justify, justify. (with a few, 'oh interesting point, thank you, I will note that for my final edit, or, 'sorry, I don't know'). Being an ENTP might help there (and for my proposal defence, it was hella fun, I got them laughing).
    I think my review at the end of my honours year was the highlight for me too. People ask questions and you get to think on your feet and show your knowledge of the area. I think if it wasn't for the interview I would've got a worse mark. I sort of get off on being put in that sort of position, and tested.
    Freude, schöner Götterfunken Tochter aus Elysium, Wir betreten feuertrunken, Himmlische, dein Heiligtum! Deine Zauber binden wieder Was die Mode streng geteilt; Alle Menschen werden Brüder, Wo dein sanfter Flügel weilt.

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