08 June, 2009

SEEKING ADVICE!!!

The time has come for Toaster to begin pounding out emails with enough intelligence and wit to firmly lodge my real name into the skulls of potential advisors at Ph.D. programs I am interested in. I know well enough to use proper grammars and to include titles and whatnot, so it's not the content so much that has me worried. I figure I'll track down interesting PIs through program websites, read a recent paper or 5 by them, and then ask sparkling questions about their future research plans (eventually working in the question about whether or not they expect to have spots for students available in their labs for the next round).

However, recent developments render me much more mobile than I had previously been. Now that I don't have a serious girlfriend to consider and am forfeiting most of the furniture, I can pretty much move whereever in the world I might want to. Therefore, dear reader, what is the graduate school situation like in countries outside of the U.S.A.*? Are the academic customs and mores different? Do they fund students with tuition and stipends?

I first noted UCL (University College London) via the popsci book "Oxygen" by Dr. Nick Lane and then noted that it produces a lot of high quality research. There seem to be many other high-caliber research institutions in Britain as well**. At the same time, there are several groups in the Netherlands and one at the University of Munich doing very interesting immunological research. But I realize that my lens on this is entirely modulated through the Internet and as such may be missing some really cool/interesting/awesome groups, so who else is out there?

Toaster thanks you for your wisdom in advance.

*And not just those that speak English.
**I am somewhat concerned about the prospect of living in a country that hasn't seen a fresh vegetable since Cromwell (and eels don't count!), though at the same time the dangers of living in a city with a Würstchen-, Bier-, und Kuchen-based socioeconomic dialectic also seem manifest.

13 comments:

MGS said...

I was under the impression that most other countries don't fully fund and support their PhD students, so that may be something else you have to consider. The funding situation certainly kept me from applying to programs in the UK.

DrL said...

In the UK PhDs get funded either by Research Council grant for the PI or by university grants. They provide scholarships that cover fees and living expenses. You must check whether the scholarship covers fees at "overseas" lever, or only "home" level, the difference can be substantial. Best to write to group leaders and ask them. The time when the applications have to go in for universities sponsored PhD programmes would be some time in Dec-Jan. I do not know about the Research Council sponsored ones.

I do recommend UK and I do not understand the reference to lack of fresh vegetables, is this about UK or Germany?

I discourage you from doing PhD in Japan - this would be a waste of your creative talent (and time to attend all those obligatory classes in Japanese just to get attendance, and later write your essays in English anyway).

tig said...

Ph.Ds in the UK are how a Ph.D "should" be in my opinion. 3 years from starting to submitting your thesis and no stupid lecture-based rubbish. It's a research qualification and should be 100% research, therefore.

In the UK, I would recommend UCL, Imperial, Cambridge, KCL and Birmingham. I would not recommend Warwick, which, although it's billed as a good University, I've heard horror stories from Ph.D students there re: uninterested staff, complete lack of lab/office space and how expensive it is.

tig

Ambivalent Academic said...

The UK has EXCELLENT programs. However. While the 3 year PhD in the UK sounds great, it can be really difficult for students of the US education system to be successful. There's a reason we take classes for our PhD - it's because students in the UK get all that done as undergrads. I know some US students who have done it and have been successful, but they felt as if there were some pretty big gaps in their education. Also, the funding for PhD students may or may not be available to foreign students, depending on source.

Prof-like Substance said...

I would also suggest looking at Canada (U Toronto, U Alberta, UBC, Dalhousie) and Sweeden (Uppsala is fantastic). You have to make sure that your stipend would cover the difference between local and foreign tuition in the places that have a difference, but this is normal. Anyone who has decent funding and wants you as a student will not balk at this

Ambivalent Academic said...

If you're looking at Canada check out McGill as well.

Cath@VWXYNot? said...

Edinburgh, Glasgow and Dundee also have great biological science research. I can personally recommend Glasgow very highly indeed.

And what DrL said about the veggies... you don't want to be one of "those" Americans, do you? ;)

Toaster Sunshine said...

OKOKOK, the veggies thing was a simple joke. I didn't realize that cuisine was such a point of national contention. At least you all drink honest tea instead of that horrid candied-up coffee crap we Yankees insist upon.

You could also say similar things about the US subculture I grew up in (Ozarks), except that it would be asking what we don't eat? Which, considering that cow brains, squirrel meat, turtle, and forest vegetables are considered good eatin', isn't much.

Thank you all for your advice, I've now got several university websites to slog through and find interesting faculty. My main concern is supporting funding as I really don't want to sink further into student debt, although I do like the idea of a research-focused Ph.D.. I want massy bench chops and experimental design/analysis; the literature exists for reading and as such I don't think it would wind up pigeon-holing me academically.

Many thanks again!

Cath@VWXYNot? said...

don't forget the academic research institutes that are affiliated with the unis, but not actually part of them... Cancer Research UK runs quite a few and they do excellent research, don't know what would be available in your specific field. My current institute in Canada is similar (affiliated with UBC for the sake of the grad students)

Prof-like Substance said...

My suggestion would be that you should not take any position that does not come with a stipend that covers tuition and leaves you enough to live on. You have enough to worry about in grad school without being concerned about having to work another job or amass more debt. Grad school may not pay well, but in the sciences you should have no problem finding plenty of opportunities that pay enough. I don't even take on students unless I can fully support them and their work.

cbowiephotography said...

Good luck on making a decision about where.

DuWayne Brayton said...

I can't tell you a damned thing about schools, but there are non-school considerations - even beyond cuisine (or in the case of the UK, that which keeps you from starving to death).

One important consideration about the UK is the libel laws. I don't see you necessarily running afoul, but you never know...That said, were it not for my propensity for saying things that would likely get me sued there, I would totally love to live in the UK...

Then there's Sweden. The goddless fucking Swedes totally rock...While the Netherlands - also rather attractive - and not just because of the legal availability of sex and drugs for money...Iceland is also pretty fucking sexy - hot even...

But given my druthers, I would totes go for New Zealand...

Cath@VWXYNot? said...

The English (not UK) libel laws actually apply to anyone, anywhere in the world, who writes anything, in any language, that can be read in England. So US-written and hosted blogs fall under this jurisdiction. More here.

And there IS good food in Britain. Things have improved vastly in my lifetime. Trust me on this, libel laws and cuisine should not factor into your decision ;) Just remember though that EVERYTHING (except books) is way more expensive than in the US!