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So I visited a grad school

  1. Feb 14, 2010 #1
    Upon visiting the mechanical engineering dept at a school Im thinking of attending, (or was) I had several interviews with dept heads and professors, etc. They were very curious about my GPA and one asked about my GRE. I thought however that undergrad research was important. I mentioned it several times and no one even once seemed interested that I had done some. Does this mean they were pretty much not interested and I should forget about this program?
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  3. Feb 15, 2010 #2


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    Personally I don't rate ugrad research experience.
    Does it mean a final year project that you did significant independant work on yourself?
    Or is it the same research project, with the same apparatus that everyone does every year?
    Or does it mean you interned as a lab monkey and the prof put your name on the end of a conference paper?

    I am much more interested in the course work you did day-in and day-out to score the marks, research is about sticking to it rather than genius
  4. Feb 15, 2010 #3
    Only scrap a program you're not interested in, doing it for just about any other reason is just silly. As mgb_phys points out, they could just honestly not care all that much 'cause they know the game so it's not so interesting. Some people also just want to see that you have experience, but don't really care about the specifics (kind of like jobs in a way). It's very person specific that way, though for the record my friend got asked about his research when talking to interviewers at a different school.

    Yes and no. A professor was describing the committee process to me, and he said that things like recs/research play a role 'cause professors who have funding and no students in mind will look to those things and GPA/GRE to pick people. Different professors care about different things 'cause they're human that way.
  5. Feb 15, 2010 #4
    It is actually a real project I have been doing myself. Painstakingly.

    Thanks for the advice, I was confused because the tones I was getting wern't "get out of my office" but they wern't "I want you to do research for me" either.
  6. Feb 15, 2010 #5


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    Sorry - I didn't mean you personally
    I meant, I can't know which, that's why I care more about grades etc than ugrad research claims.

    Don't take it personally, they might not have had funding, they might just have not gelled with you personally - it doesn't mean you aren't good enough
  7. Feb 16, 2010 #6


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    Is it supervised by a professor or PI? If so, perhaps the people just weren't interested in the topic or didn't understand what you were doing. Happens all the time.

    If it's not supervised, then I wouldn't classify it as "undergrad research" in the way it's understood in grad school applications. It's personal investigation, or a hobby, and doesn't mean much, just that you're inquisitive like every other grad school applicant.
  8. Feb 16, 2010 #7
    For me, undergrad research is much less important than most students believe. At interviews for grad school, the important thing is to show them that you're capable. This is done primarily with grades. The only things that are interesting about undergrad research is that, because you've probably worked on a larger scale project than is 'normal', you'll have a bit more experience in terms of the ups-and-downs of work.

    So, I would say that merely knowing that undergrad research has been completed and that the student is still interested in grad school afterwards is an encouraging factor. Knowing exactly what the student did, unless directly applicable to what they'll be doing at grad level, isn't all that important.
  9. Feb 16, 2010 #8
    It seems that, according to this thread. grades are important as a measure of one's competence. Undergraduate research is important not because of what it covers, but simply to show that this person has had experience with research and is still interested in graduate school.

    For the folks that are replying with an insider's perspective, how would letters of recommendation factor into the equation?
  10. Feb 16, 2010 #9
    I would say, again, that letters of recommendation are good to get you noticed in the application process, but don't carry too much weight when it comes to the final decision of who gets the job. There will be exceptions: if the doctor you're applying to work with happens to personally know the doctor recommending you, then there's automatically a personal connection, but I guess this doesn't necessarily translate to bias.

    Letters of recommendation, or references in general, are necessary because they'll show that someone else things you're worthy, and so help with the initial sifting of applications. When it comes down to who to pick for the job, however, I would say most people make the decision based on their own impressions of you during the interview.

    This is something that obviously varies from person to person, if you can get a letter of recommendation then the important thing is that it isn't going to hurt your chances, so go for it!
  11. Feb 17, 2010 #10
    It was in fact. One of my professors.

    Thats a bummer, my grades are not what would be called impressive. I made the mistake of completing two majors, thinking it would be highly valuable to grad school to have students who were diverse and could handle a lot. They didn't particularly care about this either. I really wished I wold have asked these questions when I was a freshman. I just figured that what I was doing made sense and that my academic adviser would steer me the right way. Guess not lol.
  12. Feb 17, 2010 #11
    Hopefully you have other visits upcoming, so you can feel out the vibes from professors in those programs. You've been accepted to this program, so they (at least those on the committee) must think you can be successful there, but now it's up to you to find the right match.

    Also: I think sometimes professors are a bit stand-offish because often they don't want to pick you up in their program until you've completed your core courses / qualifiers... at this "visiting stage" they might be feeling a bit harassed by students trying to get directly into research and avoid an often standard term of being a TA. (BTW, when I was an entering grad student, I was offered an RA slot by a lab with a big reputation, but turned it down because I knew my personality would likely clash with the professor in the long term. I TA-ed for a term and found a good match by the second semester.)
  13. Feb 17, 2010 #12

    Id love to say that i'd already been accepted to the program but I havnt been yet. However I do meet their requirements so being accepted shouldn't be a problem, its getting funded. I actually would have to be a TA for at least the first year since I have to take remedial courses. I was a physics / comp sci major in undergrad and Im trying to go to engineering school. I tried to seem as open as possible during the interviews. And yes I am visiting other schools.
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