I am a postdoc helping in the supervision of a PhD student who is finishing his 2nd year now. This is in Europe, meaning the student came in with a MSc degree and these 2 years have been of research. “Helping in the supervision” actually means here that my professor is nominally appointed as supervisor but I am doing all of the actual supervision (my professor is not familiar with the details of our project, just the “big picture”).

The project is on computational physics/chemistry, and the PhD student has a background in chemistry with no prior computational knowledge. At the time of hiring we were under pressure to get the project going and complementing my physics background with someone who actually knows chemistry seemed like a good idea back then. Also the student was very motivated.

I have been spending a large amount of time teaching this student lots of physics and programming/scripting, which is needed to carry out the project. I assumed I would need to spend a lot of time at the beginning because of the background mismatch, so that was no problem. I thought things would improve with time. Unfortunately, they have not. The student is terrible at any kind of programming and has a lot of trouble learning new concepts, but what worries me the most is his attitude.

He basically is obsessed with getting results but is overlooking learning, in the form of reading books and papers and working hard on a problem for a period of time. If I tell him to “bang his head against the wall” for a couple of weeks trying to crack a problem before seeking advice from me (like we all have done during our PhDs), he gets frustrated after one or two days and starts sending me lots of desperate emails begging for me to intervene. This is a “gimme teh codez” kind of student, looking to avoid any problem which is any hard at all. I spend long meeting sessions explaining the theoretical and practical details of some approach, but he only seems interested when I write code that he can copy paste and use to get results (without even understanding the code, let alone the underlying physics).

Because of this I have to do lots of debugging and finding the same little (and large) mistakes that arise now and again because the student does not understand what he’s doing. I have discussed many times with him that he needs to focus on understanding theory and code, instead of just getting results. But this is to no avail. I get the impression the student wants to do a technician’s, rather than a scientist’s, job but still get a PhD out of it.

As a result, I find myself working personally on any part of his project which has any hint of difficulty in it, spending way too many hours a week doing supervision, and getting increasingly frustrated at the lack of progress on the project. At this point, it would be fair to say that I could myself get everything he has to do (and more) done just in the time I spent meeting with him.

I have brought some of these concerns up, but the student won’t accept they need to adjust how they work, instead claiming the tasks are too complicated (believe me, they’re not), the professor does not help enough, the project is not well organized, etc. I don’t know what to do – this student is getting easily 10 times more help than I did during my PhD (and I had a good experience).

To complicate things, I am just a postdoc so I have not a wide experience supervising different students that would tell me whether this case is common or isolated.

Am I expecting too much from my student? Is the problem I’m having a common one? How can I improve his attitude towards learning and working? How to deal with a bad research student?

I am a hopeless and frustrated university student in second year.I do not know whether I should stay in math major with low GPA?What are the signs indicating the need of a change of major?I seems to be weak in math ability compared with others.In addition, sleep and concentration problem plague me a lot.In the beginning of undergraduate education, I indeed had passion in math.But afterwards, things turn badly.Maybe one reason is lack of sleep and bad habits.I have to travel a long way between college and my home every day.I skip lectures a lot in order to give more time to self-study and doing assignments.Due to this unpleasant undergraduate experience, I sometimes have the thought of dropout.(or waiting to be forced to leave)
Maybe I should take math as an amateur interest?Maybe I should leave the university?If the situation continues like this ,sometimes I think I would end up with being a waiter or cashier struggling to make a living as the employability of math students (especially pure math students with low GPA) seems to be low.What changes should I try to make?I think after this semester my average cumulative GPA will fall below 3 or even worse.I think my undergraduate experience reduces to “waiting to be assessed”.Most of time I just study alone.I feel like the only things I gain from university is the resources of library and a quiet place to study.What is the implications of entering the job market before re-entering university?

I know the answer would be specific to the college I’m studying at, but I’m asking this to understand why libraries specify a return date instead of allowing a student to return it when they are done with the book.

Why I’m asking: I travel (quite far) to college for a weekend course, and have to return a book I’ve borrowed after two weeks of borrowing. If I don’t, I am liable to pay a nominal fine which accumulates linearly for every day I don’t return the book.
Recently, our classes were cancelled on a weekend that I had to return a book (so didn’t go to college). The next weekend was an official holiday. The third weekend when I returned the book, I had to pay two weeks worth of a fine (the librarian reduced the amount, but that’s beside the point).

I would have actually preferred to return the book three months later, because there was a lot I needed to learn and refer from it. Why do libraries do this? If there are a sufficient number of books for x number of students to borrow, can’t the student specify at what (reasonable) date they would be able to return the book (if they don’t, the fine applies)? Why specify a two week deadline?

First off apologies if this is in the wrong section, I’m new to this site. I had a few questions regarding graduate school admissions, so I figured this would be the right place to ask.

Basically I’m in a dilemma. I’m currently wrapping up my bachelor in mathematics this semester, and was considering applying for schools this year. However my advisor recommended that if I want to get into a top 15 institution I should finish a masters first due to our school being relatively unknown. I have already taken his advice and started my masters in mathematics, and I should have that complete by next year’s application cycle. Now my question is will the masters make that big of a difference with regards to my application, or would I have been better off just applying to mid-tier schools this time around and save the tuition money/time?

The rest of my application looks roughly like this (so far at least):

Math B.A., Chemistry B.A., Math M.A.

UG GPA: 3.6 overall, 3.95 in math,

Grad GPA: 3.8 (so far)

I have done two research projects, one of which is in the works of getting published the other is ongoing and quite extensive in numerical analysis.

GRE/Subject GRE – Have yet to take, will do so soon.

Recommendation Letters: Two professors with degrees from top 15 schools, one of which I have taken many courses with and done research with. Also the chair of the department.

Thank you, and once again sorry if this is in the wrong section.

I am a hopeless and frustrated university student in second year.I do not know whether I should stay in math major with low GPA?What are the signs indicating the need of a change of major?I seems to be weak in math ability compared with others.In addition, sleep and concentration problem plague me a lot.In the beginning of undergraduate education, I indeed had passion in math.But afterwards, things turn badly.Maybe one reason is lack of sleep and bad habits.I have to travel a long way between college and my home every day.I skip lectures a lot in order to give more time to self-study and doing assignments.Due to this unpleasant undergraduate experience, I sometimes have the thought of dropout.(or waiting to be forced to leave)
Maybe I should take math as an amateur interest?Maybe I should leave the university?If the situation continues like this ,sometimes I think I would end up with being a waiter or cashier struggling to make a living as the employability of math students (especially pure math students with low GPA) seems to be low.What changes should I try to make?I think after this semester my average cumulative GPA will fall below 3 or even worse.I think my undergraduate experience reduces to “waiting to be assessed”.Most of time I just study alone.I feel like the only things I gain from university is the resources of library and a quiet place to study.What is the implications of entering the job market before re-entering university?

I am a hopeless and frustrated university student in second year.I do not know whether I should stay in math major with low GPA?What are the signs indicating the need of a change of major?I seems to be weak in math ability compared with others.In addition, sleep and concentration problem plague me a lot.In the beginning of undergraduate education, I indeed had passion in math.But afterwards, things turn badly.Maybe one reason is lack of sleep and bad habits.I have to travel a long way between college and my home every day.I skip lectures a lot in order to give more time to self-study and doing assignments.Due to this unpleasant undergraduate experience, I sometimes have the thought of dropout.(or waiting to be forced to leave)
Maybe I should take math as an amateur interest?Maybe I should leave the university?If the situation continues like this ,sometimes I think I would end up with being a waiter or cashier struggling to make a living as the employability of math students (especially pure math students with low GPA) seems to be low.What changes should I try to make?I think after this semester my average cumulative GPA will fall below 3 or even worse.I think my undergraduate experience reduces to “waiting to be assessed”.Most of time I just study alone.I feel like the only things I gain from university is the resources of library and a quiet place to study.

First off apologies if this is in the wrong section, I’m new to this site. I had a few questions regarding graduate school admissions, so I figured this would be the right place to ask.

Basically I’m in a dilemma. I’m currently wrapping up my bachelor in mathematics this semester, and was considering applying for schools this year. However my advisor recommended that if I want to get into a top 15 institution I should finish a masters first due to our school being relatively unknown. I have already taken his advice and started my masters in mathematics, and I should have that complete by next year’s application cycle. Now my question is will the masters make that big of a difference with regards to my application, or would I have been better off just applying to mid-tier schools this time around and save the tuition money/time?

The rest of my application looks roughly like this (so far at least):

Math B.A., Chemistry B.A., Math M.A.

UG GPA: 3.6 overall, 3.95 in math,

Grad GPA: 3.8 (so far)

I have done two research projects, one of which is in the works of getting published the other is ongoing and quite extensive in numerical analysis.

GRE/Subject GRE – Have yet to take, will do so soon.

Recommendation Letters: Two professors with degrees from top 15 schools, one of which I have taken many courses with and done research with. Also the chair of the department.

Thank you, and once again sorry if this is in the wrong section.

When a candidate is applying for a faculty position and the university asks for their reference letters, does this say anything about the chance of getting an interview? Obviously it’s not a bad thing. But have they made the short list? Does this mean the application wasn’t desk rejected (but nothing more)? Are they in the top 25%? 50%? Something else? This is a social sciences department in the United States.

When submitting papers to scientific journals, it makes sense to aim slightly above the paper’s level – after all, if you submit too high, you get rejected and can resubmit, while if you submit too low you end up just publishing there. Or so it seems to me.

An extreme strategy (which is equally impractical and evil) would be to make a list of all journals ranked from best to worst, and keep submitting to the highest ranking one that you haven’t tried yet, until one of them accepts. With a strategy like that, the chance that the paper gets accepted in any particular submission is close to zero. At the other end of the spectrum, if almost all of your submissions are accepted then it’s very likely that you’re selling yourself short.

Now, it’s impossible to know with any level of precision what’s the probability of acceptance of a given paper at any particular journal. But it is possible to observe a general trend, and try to adjust your confidence up or down. Hence, the question:

If one is reasonable in their choice of journals, how frequently should their papers be rejected?

In other words, at what point should I start making a conscious effort to submit to better journals? At which point should I start submitting to worse journals?

For instance, my current strategy is to try and figure out how good a paper is, and first submit to a journal that’s about the best that could possibly accept it, and then go down from that by a small but noticable margin. In a small sample size, about half the time the paper was submitted on the first attempt, and about half the time on the second, and so far I haven’t had to submit anything three times. Hence, my papers get rejected around 33% of the time. Is this a reasonable frequency, or should I be more modest (or possibly more aggressive) in my choice of journals?

My field is pure mathematics, but I’m also interested in perspectives from other fields.