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URMC / Education / Graduate Education / URBest Blog / October 2017 / Looking for Good Graduate Students

Looking for Good Graduate Students

News Article by Department of Microbiology's Scott Butler, Ph.D.; Luis Martinez-Sobrido, Ph.D.; Rob Quivey, Ph.D.; and Juilee Thakar, Ph.D.

Juilee Thakar did a few recruiting visits over the summer, and undergraduate students wanted to know: what characteristics are professors looking for in a graduate student. Some faculty weigh in.

I look for quantitative/analytical skills and motivation. I look for their ability to integrate publicly available resources systematically in their research along with the level of Math, stats and programming courses they have taken. –JT

Sometimes, the personal statement will reveal a deep interest in science, rather than just boiler plate, “I want to cure disease”. In interviews, I ask them to tell me about how they got interested in science. Lab experience outside of the classroom is a big bonus – SB

What was their scientific preparation for graduate school?  Did it include at least one layer of science courses beyond the minimum requirement.  Yes, I prefer science majors –RQ

I’m looking for motivated individuals. It’s difficult to judge motivation from an application, but interviewing makes things a little bit easier. I try to judge their motivation by how well prepared they are for the interview, if they are familiar with the research conducted in my lab based on recent publication, and whether they are OK with working on more than one project. - LMS

Personal statements and essays have been very helpful to assess their independence and motivation. –JT

Hopefully, they’ve had undergraduate research experience. I ask what was the coolest thing you learned from your undergraduate projects?  Why was this especially exciting?  What was the hardest part of the project?  How did you survive the down times? – SB

Did they have an independent undergraduate research project with a faculty adviser (even if they worked with a grad student)?  Are they excited to tell me about it? –RQ

Did they have an opportunity as an undergraduate to write/prepare a presentation of their work (posters/powerpoint/wall art, whatever).  Did they WRITE? –RQ

Another one I like to use: when was the last time you fixed something that was broken? –SB

Did they participate with other students in activities outside of science (and outside of sports, but I’d give them marks for sports, depending on their answer). I’m looking for people who can work with other people.   Science is a team sport now, but every sport has position players. (well, ok, maybe not bowling…) –RQ

Did they have a paying job while they were in school?   I’m looking for people who are committed to their own improvement, and willing to pay for it with their own hands.  Not essential, but important to me. –RQ

I like to see curiosity.  A good indicator is if the student asks about the research in my lab, and asks questions.  Extra points if they took the time to read one of our papers. – SB

During the interview process, I ask a lot of questions but also expect the student to have questions for me regarding the lab, the program, the university, and/or Rochester. I am a little bit concern if the interviewing student has no questions for me. How can they not have questions about a new situation? - LMS

 

 

Global Administrator | 10/16/2017

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