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Programs Questions about PhD

  1. Feb 2, 2013 #1
    I didn't really know where to place this thread, so move it if it's in the wrong place.

    I'm a nuclear physicist graduating with my masters this academic year. I have a meeting scheduled with one of my professors of a medical physics course I have just finished. We will be discussing what topics he has available for a PhD. It might be useful to have some questions prepared which I really need to ask before considering the offer. Since I have no experience with a PhD I would like your input on this.

    All guidance is welcome!
  2. jcsd
  3. Feb 2, 2013 #2


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    These are in no partcular order and some are specific to medical physics:
    - is this a CAMPEP-accredited program?
    - what are your current graduate students working on?
    - how often do you like to meet with the students you mentor?
    - do you prefer formal or informal meetings?
    - can you give me an idea of what you would expect of of me as I progress through the PhD?
    - how much clinical exposure will I get?
    - where are your previous students now?
    - what is your schedule like?/ what are your clinical responsibilities?
    - does this project involve any technology that is likely to become obsolete over the next five years?
  4. Feb 2, 2013 #3


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    Two general questions you should definitely ask:

    -On average, how long long have your previous students taken to finish their PhDs?

    -Do you foresee funding available for a new full time PhD student in the coming year or two?
  5. Feb 3, 2013 #4
    Maybe I should elaborate. He is not attached to any clinical practice at the hospital as such. He does research in brain imaging and tracer studies for PET/SPECT. For my medical physics degree and accreditation for the hospital I would have to follow another 9 credits of courses, write a small thesis and do an internship of 9 months. This would obviously not fit with my plans for a PhD.

    Why ask him if he forsees funding for a PhD student in the next year or two?

    Thanks for the suggestions.
  6. Feb 3, 2013 #5


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    This is a question you should ask if you are interested in doing your PhD work with this professor. If this faculty member is your primary reason for being interested in a program, but he has no money for a new student, then you should think twice about attending that school, unless you have other faculty whose research you are also interested in.

    I assumed you were also interested in this professor as a potential PhD adviser.
  7. Feb 3, 2013 #6
    This meeting is to discuss what I expect from a PhD and what he has to offer. So I expect him to have the funding to pay me starting my PhD next year. Otherwise the meeting would be rather pointless.
  8. Feb 3, 2013 #7


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    Ideally, yes, faculty would not try to recruit students if they could not fund them, but I have still seen it happen. Faculty will always have work for grad students. Money is a different story however.

    Some faculty, especially in the US, expect new students to teach during their first year or so in the lab, especially if the student has yet to pass the qualifying exams. You should just make sure that at the end of the meeting you know how you will be funded and if you will be expected to teach while concurrently working in the lab.

    If your professor expects you to teach for a year or so, that's normal, and good experience! However, you want to make sure that later on you will have research funding. I like teaching, and everyone should get some experience with it during grad school, but eventually one has to focus on research full time if the PhD is ever going to be completed. It's a research degree after all, not a teaching degree.

    You don't have to ask questions about this explicitly, but you should make sure that by the end of the meeting you know what you will expected to in the lab and out of it. That's the point.
  9. Feb 3, 2013 #8
    In Belgium there is no undergrad/grad structure. It's just bachelor and master. After your masters you can start a PhD or go into the private sector. You immediately start your research job. There is no entrance exam. Based on your grades and credentials you are either accepted to do a PhD or not.

    You are required to take some teaching responsabilities, but when you do this depends on the courses your advisor gives.
  10. Feb 3, 2013 #9


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    I see. Well it seems like you know what will be expected of you and where your funding is coming from, and my second question is not relevant to the educational system.

    However, I imagine asking about the average length of time it takes students to graduate is still a reasonable question.
  11. Feb 3, 2013 #10
    That is indeed a question that needs asking. Thanks!
  12. Feb 4, 2013 #11
    In Germany and France, after a 2-year master's, the PhD apparently lasts 3-4 years. I'd be curious about Belgium. Is this in the Flemish side of the country?
  13. Feb 4, 2013 #12
    Yes and it's the same over here.
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