I recently defended my thesis at Fisk and am prepared to make the transition to Vanderbilt. What steps should I take to complete this transition?

Be sure to get and stay in direct contact with the assistant to the Director of Graduate Studies in the PhD department to which you have been admitted. For example, in Physics & Astronomy, it is Don Pickert. This person knows all the ins and outs of forms, deadlines, procedures for transferring your Fisk credits to Vanderbilt, payroll, etc, etc. If at any point you are not sure who the right person is, ask Alyce! She will point you in the right direction, or she will find out who is the best contact person if she doesn’t already know.

I would like to get a part-time job that will help me develop skills that will be useful when I apply for a post-doc or faculty position. What would you recommend?

In most cases, outside employment is a violation of university policies. This is because the university makes a commitment to fully support you (the program, through grants obtained by the faculty mentors, cover your tuition, stipend, insurance, etc), and the expectation in return is that you will commit yourself fully to your studies and research. However, it is normal to serve as a Teaching Assistant at some point during your graduate career, and/or to participate in structured outreach programs such as Vanderbilt’s Scientist in the Classroom program. These activities usually provide some modest additional pay, but more importantly can significantly enhance your professional development and marketability for a future academic career.

How much time should students devote to research during the academic year?

You are embarking on the path of a professional life and career. A good rule of thumb for any professional career — including science — is that you should expect to work 50 to 60 hours per week. Occasionally you need to work more than that in a given week (e.g., in preparation for a conference, or a grant proposal). But rarely if ever is it likely to be less. As a student, “work” includes classwork and research. Early on, you will probably need to spend most of that work time on coursework, but as you progress you will spend less on coursework and more on research. By the time you are a PhD student and done with coursework, you really should be investing 50 to 60 hours per week just on research: doing experiments, running analyses, writing papers, preparing presentations, etc. It is a lot of work, but it should be exciting!

Are we eligible to receive financial assistance/advances for textbooks?

Yes. Talk to Consti or Alyce any time you need help financially with things related to your academics or research. The sooner we know that you need help, the sooner they can help.

If there is a hold on my account at Fisk, who should I talk to?

Consti! Any problem of an administrative, logistical, or bureaucratic nature, always start with Consti. He will direct you to where you need to go and/or take care of the problem with you. If you go to a Fisk office to resolve a problem and are told something different from what Consti told you, immediately go back to Consti. Chances are that he is right, and he will get it resolved directly.

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