Graduate school and beyond, year by year:
- First year: Take classes and decide on your second year project.
ASTR 695 is supposed to help you decide on your project;
pay special attention to those professors who specifically
say that they have a slot available (some will simply
describe their research). Ideally you should have an agreement with
a professor on your second-year project by the beginning of the spring
semester of your first year; often this is a period where you can read
the literature in your research subject.
You are also encouraged to talk to professors on your
own about possible projects.
Most of you will also be TAs.
- First summer: Get head start on your second year research project. It
is very important that you do this; your time will
be much more limited in the fall/spring, because of
classes and TA duties.
- Second year: Second year project, classes, and TA duties. Make sure not to fall behind on your project; it is easy to do this because it doesn't have regular deadlines the way classes and TA activities do. By midway through the first semester of your second year, you should select two additional professors or other Ph.D. scientists to be on your personal second-year project committee; they will provide feedback when you send them drafts in December and February. The final written and oral presentation of your second year project will be in late April or early May. You should also, at this point, decide whether you want to pursue a thesis in the topic of your second year project.
- Second summer: Research plus preparation for the qualifier. The
qualifier is in mid to late August, typically the week before
classes start. The material covered in the qualifier comes from our
nine graduate classes (see
course list here; ASTR 601 through 680 are on the qual).
You should absolutely pick up a master's degree by the end of your
second year, which you can do if you have maintained
at least a 3.0 average (which is essential anyway for
multiple reasons!) and at least 30 credits at the 600 level (eight
normal classes, plus 1 of ASTR 695 in your first semester and 2 of
ASTR 699 in your second, third, and fourth semesters as well as 1 in
your first semester will get you to 32). If you have done your second
year project, you can just pick up your master's degree along the way,
and really, who wouldn't want to be called master!
- Third year and beyond: research, research, research! At this
point you should have a research advisor. You might
be a TA or might be supported as an RA. In your third year and beyond,
you will have an annual meeting with your committee in which you give
them an update on your research. At some point before
the end of your fourth year you need to make a formal
proposal for your Ph.D. research. Passing this means
you have "advanced to candidacy" and you get a pay boost.
- When ready: Ph.D. defense. As long as you and your advisor agree
you're ready, this is a formality (mind you, I was plenty
nervous, as are most people). In ASTR 695 I'll give you
some general guidelines, but it is better to defend late
than early. The clock runs differently for postdocs than
for grad students (postdocs had better be productive right
off the bat, for example).
- Postdoc: Publish a lot and give a lot of talks. You need to be
well known in your field to have a chance at a
- Professor: Aim for full independence and wide exposure in
your field. Conquer world (I'm still working on this).
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