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What I Get About When I Asked About Applying Graduate School in the US


I gotta excel in things I can so my application has a higher chance to stand out

I realised that my grades were not that excellent. I won no award. I published no journal articles. I had been an ordinary person with extra-ordinary (with some degree of naivety) plan. I need to laundry my past. That’s it. So what are things I still have chance to improve and excel at? They GRE general test, TOEFL, research statement/proposal, and get my self qualified intellectually, professionally, and spiritually (memantaskan diri) so God gives the opportunity to me to pursue my PhD in the US. Unfortunately, I was late to register for GRE subject Chemistry test which could have support my application. In another perspective, I thank God because it means that my focus can be more spent on less number of things. Praise is due to Allah.

Some tips for your research statement

To tailor the writing for your audience and aim to specific faculties by citing his/her works in your writing. So my homework is to read much and think of ideas!

There few types of funding that can finance your study

They are fellowships (scholarships from the university or government), research assistantships (stipends from your potential boss’ funding), and teaching assistant (stipends from department because you teach). Fellowships are always preferred because they are fixed and secure. Research assistantship is like fellowship, in which you don’t have to teach and can focus on your research progress, but at any point, your professor may change his/her mind not to pay for your living so you have to teach so you can continue living. Teaching means spending less time in the lab for research and slower rate of progress toward your dissertation. May be that’s why many PhD students graduate late (5 years or more).

Private or public universities?

Public or state-governed universities have a policy that US citizens pay much less that international students. In the occasion of teaching assistantship, your boss also pays your tuition fee although you are not taking courses any more. In public schools, international students are less preferred. In private schools, all students regardless nationalities pay the same.

Understand the country where you are applying to

Because researches are dependent on state and industrial funding, each country has different focus on field of interests. Let’s say, “I want to study novel nano-sized photocatalysis for water management.” Your topic sounds good. But, would you be paid to do such? Or would there be any research group working on that stuff and able to fund you in research assistant scheme? It depends. US citizens are more or less aware of environmental issues thus waste or other environmental issues are not hot any more. Nowadays, people in the US care more about energy. Much funding flows from NSF, NIH, Department of energy, and Department of Defence for energy researches.

Homework: you gotta read news, schools’ website, as well as government’s websites about current updates on funding

Finding the correct schools

What is your research interests? Are the schools you have listed are good on that field of interests? Read more on the faculty’s group websites. You gotta find where the prof has sustainable funding by looking at his/her publication and funding pages. To know more about the school are good on particular fields, you can browse top journals and list some affiliated universities of the authors. Furthermore, you may want to ask around which schools are less popular but actually better in the subject you are applying so you may have less competitors. Smart, right?

Top schools or so-so schools?

The good thing about top schools are more trusted to do “weird” researches unlike the so-so schools. So-so schools (SSS’s) are more practical and pragmatic for research. They do what more likely brings money. Suppose in a Chemistry department of a SSS, there are 30 faculty members. There are usually a group of faculty who do very well because they have more funding while the others are just struggling to fight for ones. We call it “pocket of excellence”. SSS has particular pocket of excellence that you need to seek out. While in top schools, the professor can just throw a rock and get funded. Remember, if there is funding, there is higher chance for a faculty member “employing” you.

Universities in cheaper states are financially wise choices?

Not really. Universities in more expensive states in fact give more stipend. The stipend adjusts according to the states’ or cities’ standard living cost.

Why US?

It is the matter of choice. Whichever and wherever you like. Suppress you silly will to try all possibilities. Narrow down your choices and focus. You know your time is expensive. So are the application and standardized tests’ fees.

Make sure you do your homework!

PhD in Chemistry is best in the US? 

Net of Chemistries. @ Rice University

Net of Chemistries. @ Rice University

The Twelve Principles of Green Chemistry

  1. Prevention
    It is better to prevent waste than to treat or clean up waste after it has been created.
  2. Atom Economy
    Synthetic methods should be designed to maximize the incorporation of all materials used in the process into the final product.
  3. Less Hazardous Chemical Syntheses
    Wherever practicable, synthetic methods should be designed to use and generate substances that possess little or no toxicity to human health and the environment.
  4. Designing Safer Chemicals
    Chemical products should be designed to affect their desired function while minimizing their toxicity.
  5. Safer Solvents and Auxiliaries
    The use of auxiliary substances (e.g., solvents, separation agents, etc.) should be made unnecessary wherever possible and innocuous when used.
  6. Design for Energy Efficiency
    Energy requirements of chemical processes should be recognized for their environmental and economic impacts and should be minimized. If possible, synthetic methods should be conducted at ambient temperature and pressure.
  7. Use of Renewable Feedstocks
    A raw material or feedstock should be renewable rather than depleting whenever technically and economically practicable.
  8. Reduce Derivatives
    Unnecessary derivatization (use of blocking groups, protection/ deprotection, temporary modification of physical/chemical processes) should be minimized or avoided if possible, because such steps require additional reagents and can generate waste.
  9. Catalysis
    Catalytic reagents (as selective as possible) are superior to stoichiometric reagents.
  10. Design for Degradation
    Chemical products should be designed so that at the end of their function they break down into innocuous degradation products and do not persist in the environment.
  11. Real-time analysis for Pollution Prevention
    Analytical methodologies need to be further developed to allow for real-time, in-process monitoring and control prior to the formation of hazardous substances.
  12. Inherently Safer Chemistry for Accident Prevention
    Substances and the form of a substance used in a chemical process should be chosen to minimize the potential for chemical accidents, including releases, explosions, and fires.
This, Father of Chemistry.

“These days, instruments are so user-friendly so even monkeys can operate.”

—   A retired crystallographer 
CNT stands for carbon nanotube :’)
This is fabulous! It definitely helps you in interpreting IR spectra!