Graduate School

Jennifer L. Potter jras at
Tue Jan 23 22:24:41 EST 1996

Dear Steph,

I can't help you with spatial autocorrelation, although I'm now curious 
to find out what it is ...  I can offer some advice about graduate school 
and choosing grad schools in general.  I'm in a biochemistry dept and 
don't know exactly how other fields like wildlife management, etc. are 
organized, but I think that they may be similar if any research is 

Graduate school in general is about narrowing your interests and becoming 
very knowledgeable about a certain, specific topic.  You'd be amazed at 
the narrowness this may involve, especially in a Ph.D. project.  It 
sounds like what you are interested may be a new field or a merging of 
several fields (although since I"m not sure what it is you actually do, 
this is kind of a guess).  If you can find a program that contains all 
the components you are interested in, that's great, but be aware that you 
may have to narrow your scope.  Usually it becomes easier to focus once 
you start with a general question and delve into all the pieces that fit 
into your particular puzzle.  Try to use your profs to help you narrow 
down...start asking specific questions about these different areas and 
figure out which question is the most interesting to you.

If you can link up with someone who's been where you are you could really 
pick her brain...ask people in these areas what they actually, 
physically, DO...does it sound like something you'd like to do?  This is 
an important distinction between undergrad and grad school - in undergrad 
the focus is on classwork, tests, etc.  In grad school the focus is on 
producing data...doing things, and classes are seen as a necessary evil.

One very important thing to know about once you're interested in a 
graduate school is MONEY.  Will they pay you to do research?  This is how 
it works in most schools...You train under an advisor.  Hopefully this 
person has grants (read: money from the gov't or someplace else) to carry 
out the work that you are interested in.  So in theory it's a win/win get to learn and do research that you're interested in 
and your advisor gets to use the data you produce to include in his/her 
future grants to get more $$ and more students.  

However, if your advisor doesn't have so much $ then you may be required 
to teach to support yourself.  This is a tough need to 
teach a lab section/discussion section and also try to keep up with your 
research so you can graduate!

Hence, money and funding are good subjects to ask about.  Another thing 
to ask about is who is available to work with...will you get to rotate 
and choose from several profs or do you have to choose before you even 

I hope this helps.  I'd also recommend attending the Graduate Outreach 
Program team from the Medical College of WI if/when they visit Point. We 
went last year and I think are also going again this year.  While we are 
a medical college, the students mainly talk about graduate school and 
research, more of what I've told you.

Best of luck, Steph. Feel free to email me at jras at if I 
can help in any way.

Jennifer L. Potter (presently hiding out from a snowstorm)

Dept. Biochemistry
Medical College of WI (Milwaukee)

PS About the meeting, maybe you could post to the general biology section 
of the web...I'm not sure about all of the subsections that exist, maybe 
there's one that is more specific.

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