What to ask potential advisors?

Forum for the GRE subject test in mathematics.
math_applicant
Posts: 157
Joined: Sun Oct 14, 2012 12:15 pm

What to ask potential advisors?

Postby math_applicant » Sat Mar 23, 2013 3:44 pm

I am curious as to what people who meet with professors on open houses or get in touch with potential advisors at the schools where they got admitted talk about. What sort of info do you guys ask such professors about that help your decision about a particular school ?

Legendre
Posts: 217
Joined: Wed Jun 03, 2009 1:05 am

Re: What to ask potential advisors?

Postby Legendre » Mon Mar 25, 2013 11:07 am

Haven't read it but it looks relevant: http://blogs.ams.org/mathmentoringnetwo ... -programs/

mindreader
Posts: 90
Joined: Sat Oct 13, 2012 11:12 am

Re: What to ask potential advisors?

Postby mindreader » Mon Mar 25, 2013 11:31 am

Legendre wrote:Haven't read it but it looks relevant: http://blogs.ams.org/mathmentoringnetwo ... -programs/


Great read! Thanks for the link, Legendre.

To the OP: I asked whether graduate students are allowed to take foreign language courses and if it's necessary. I also asked what the duties of the TA are since I have no teaching experience except for tutoring.

MathFreaked
Posts: 48
Joined: Fri Feb 22, 2013 8:49 pm

Re: What to ask potential advisors?

Postby MathFreaked » Mon Mar 25, 2013 12:17 pm

mindreader wrote:I also asked what the duties of the TA are since I have no teaching experience except for tutoring.


This is an absolutely important question! Some schools work their grad students to ridiculous levels, which makes coursework and research much harder to accomplish. Obviously if you are interested in working with a professor you should ask about their research, and make sure you can add to this conversation at least a little (such as how your past research or interests are relevant to theirs).

Another thing that was important for me to ask was about the community, the school, and the surrounding area. It's a place you're going to be living for the next 4 - 6 years, so it better be a place you'll be okay living in!

mindreader
Posts: 90
Joined: Sat Oct 13, 2012 11:12 am

Re: What to ask potential advisors?

Postby mindreader » Mon Mar 25, 2013 12:25 pm

MathFreaked wrote:
mindreader wrote:I also asked what the duties of the TA are since I have no teaching experience except for tutoring.


This is an absolutely important question! Some schools work their grad students to ridiculous levels, which makes coursework and research much harder to accomplish. Obviously if you are interested in working with a professor you should ask about their research, and make sure you can add to this conversation at least a little (such as how your past research or interests are relevant to theirs).

Another thing that was important for me to ask was about the community, the school, and the surrounding area. It's a place you're going to be living for the next 4 - 6 years, so it better be a place you'll be okay living in!


Great points! Now I have something else to ask the grad dept I've been admitted to.

But the last question - I am quite hesitant to ask. It will be biased I believe. I might soon be in a dilemma, should I get off the waitlist, that I will be making a decision between a school in a great city compared to a higher ranked school located in a somewhat quiet town...

MathFreaked
Posts: 48
Joined: Fri Feb 22, 2013 8:49 pm

Re: What to ask potential advisors?

Postby MathFreaked » Mon Mar 25, 2013 5:05 pm

mindreader wrote:But the last question - I am quite hesitant to ask. It will be biased I believe. I might soon be in a dilemma, should I get off the waitlist, that I will be making a decision between a school in a great city compared to a higher ranked school located in a somewhat quiet town...


Yes you have to take their answers with a grain of salt, but I think the answers can still be pretty useful. I'm kind of in the same boat, as I currently am accepted to UArizona Applied Math (and expect to get a funding offer soon), and am wait listed at Northwestern ESAM. I am pretty sure I'd enjoy living in Tucson more than near Chicago, but that would make my decision very difficult!

abstruse
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Joined: Fri Mar 16, 2012 3:57 am

Re: What to ask potential advisors?

Postby abstruse » Tue Mar 26, 2013 3:46 am

MathFreaked wrote:
mindreader wrote:I also asked what the duties of the TA are since I have no teaching experience except for tutoring.


This is an absolutely important question! Some schools work their grad students to ridiculous levels, which makes coursework and research much harder to accomplish. Obviously if you are interested in working with a professor you should ask about their research, and make sure you can add to this conversation at least a little (such as how your past research or interests are relevant to theirs).

Another thing that was important for me to ask was about the community, the school, and the surrounding area. It's a place you're going to be living for the next 4 - 6 years, so it better be a place you'll be okay living in!


I'm wondering what normal TA duties are and what is a "ridiculous level" of work. Students at a school I am interested in often teach two stand-alone course (i.e., they are the instructor of record) at 3 hours per week with office hours to match. This is the only school whose TA duties I know so far, so I'm not sure where this falls on the low/medium/high workload spectrum.

Legendre
Posts: 217
Joined: Wed Jun 03, 2009 1:05 am

Re: What to ask potential advisors?

Postby Legendre » Tue Mar 26, 2013 5:42 am

abstruse wrote:I'm wondering what normal TA duties are and what is a "ridiculous level" of work. Students at a school I am interested in often teach two stand-alone course (i.e., they are the instructor of record) at 3 hours per week with office hours to match. This is the only school whose TA duties I know so far, so I'm not sure where this falls on the low/medium/high workload spectrum.


Medium I guess?

The school I am looking at requires students to TA 1 course for 2 semesters a year. This is I think is the bare minimum? (low?)

Another school says I have to TA 2 courses + RA for 10 hours a week. High!!! (the stipend is lower too)

MathFreaked
Posts: 48
Joined: Fri Feb 22, 2013 8:49 pm

Re: What to ask potential advisors?

Postby MathFreaked » Tue Mar 26, 2013 11:08 am

abstruse wrote:I'm wondering what normal TA duties are and what is a "ridiculous level" of work. Students at a school I am interested in often teach two stand-alone course (i.e., they are the instructor of record) at 3 hours per week with office hours to match. This is the only school whose TA duties I know so far, so I'm not sure where this falls on the low/medium/high workload spectrum.


From what I know, this is on the higher end. At my current institution, the grad students are required to either teach one three credit class per semester, or TA for 3 recitation sections of a class. The latter is much easier, since you don't have to prepare lectures. Depending on how fast you are, 3 hour long lectures can take up to 6 hours get prepared. If you're teaching 2 sections of the same class, I suppose that wouldn't be too bad other than 3 hours of extra work and LOTS of extra grading. Depending on what you're grading (e.g. written home work, quizzes, tests), these can take a while too if you have a lot of them. Quizzes and tests are easier since the answers are all in the same place (same paper for everyone), and the questions are generally easier anyway. All in all I'd say teaching 1 section of your own course is about:

6 (writing lectures) + 3 (lecturing) + 2 (grading, very dependent on class size) + 3 (office hours, can usually get your own work done unless there's a test soon) + 1 (meetings if this is a class taught with a specific curriculum and a group of TAs) = 15 hours total work a week.

Adding another section on top of that (with grading) adds another 5 hours (assuming you use the same lecture notes), and puts you right about the 20 hours mark. This is definitely doable, but I'd prefer to have that time to work on research.




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