So you want to get a PhD?
Our 46th, 47th, 48th, 49th, 50th, and 51st (!!) book winners are Nigel Jaffe (prospective PhD student), Monique Chantelle Aguirre, Nicole Buckley, Maddie Kushner, Randy Williams, and Catherine Xie (incoming/current PhD students)! Please note that my reserve of books has now been exhausted. For this reason, books may not be distributed again until later this fall. If you would like to sponsor any books, please email me at email@example.com. Students interested in receiving a copy of A Field Guide to Grad School should still enter the book giveaway for a chance to win. More details below (at the end of the post). Oh, and this will be my last post until late September. I’m moving to New York to start my faculty job at Stony Brook University!
It’s the time of year when many prospective PhD students begin the application process! It’s a daunting task. So, I’m using this post to highlight previous posts that you may find helpful as you embark on your application journeys. Please keep in mind that my advice reflects my experiences in psychology and behavioral science. It is always a good idea to consult with different resources to get a sense of the range of responses and determine what is going to work best for you given your goals.
SETTING THE STAGE
RUN YOUR OWN RACE: I encourage my students to put their (horse) blinders on and run their own race. By this I mean, focus on what is ahead of you and not what others are doing on either side of you. Do you think this strategy would help you?
FIND YOUR CHAMPIONS: Build out your network of mentors and know who is in your corner as you navigate the PhD application process. These are the people you can turn to for help, feedback, emotional support, and even much-needed laughs. So, how can you build out your network of champions?
KEEP TIME ON YOUR SIDE: It’s hard to know how to plan for something when you don’t know what all you need to do! Do you know the key components of many social science PhD applications?
FEELING ANXIOUS?: The wait is brutal and you are not alone. What are some strategies you can use to manage your anxiety throughout the PhD application process?
NAVIGATING THE PHD AS AN UNDOCUMENTED STUDENT IN THE UNITED STATES: There are additional considerations undocumented students must make when applying to PhD programs. What are some of these for undocumented students applying to programs in the United States?
TWO Ps IN A POD: PROGRAMS & PIs: Generating a list of potential programs and PIs may seem straightforward, but in practice, it can be quite difficult. How can you go about generating your own long and short lists?
ARE YOU THERE PI? IT’S ME, YOUR PROSPECTIVE PHD STUDENT: It can be tricky to know whether to reach out to a potential PI/advisor or not (and the advice you get will surely be mixed). To help decide whether you should reach out (noting your discipline’s norms), do your due diligence before hitting submit on your email. What does this entail?
THE ANATOMY OF A PERSONAL STATEMENT: As a part of the PhD application process, you are likely going to write a personal statement (although, note that some programs may call it an academic statement or even a research statement). So, what should you say?
LET’S GET RECOMMENDED: In short, you’re going to need recommendation letters for your applications. How can you help your recommenders write the strongest letters possible?
INTERVIEWS & OFFERS
INTERVIEW WITH A VAM-PI: You will meet with a range of people in your prospective programs when interviewing—faculty, students, postdocs, staff. You should definitely know how to answer key questions. What are they?
DO THE DOLLARS MAKE SENSE?: Know how to make sense of your offers, especially the financial stuff. What are some things you should look out for in your offer letters?
SCHOLAR PROFILE #21: VERÓNICA URIBE DEL ÁGUILA
The purpose of these profiles is to highlight and connect you to scholars at different career stages doing interesting and important research and service work.
This week, we get to learn about Verónica Uribe del Águila, a PhD candidate in the Communication Department and the Science Studies Program at the University of California, San Diego.
Now, let’s learn about Verónica’s academic journey.
What are your research interests?
I am interested in emergent forms of commons produced by technological advances such as open technologies, biomaterials, and datasets. Commons are public resources that are often used to produce property. In the case of science and technology, this property is copyright knowledge. I am fascinated with how these new public resources produce imaginaries around better futures, especially in the Global South. In that sense, I am also interested in the social relations these emergent resources produce at these sites. However, although super excited about these technologies, I also pay attention to the exclusions and omissions imaginaries around technologies produce in the fieldwork I am currently conducting.
My dissertation deals with a particular technological commons: open hardware. I study its development by conducting ethnography in a design studio located in Aguascalientes, a city part of the Mexican Bajio, the largest Industrial Corridor of North America. In addition, this study has introduced me to supply and logistics studies, which I am also interested in.
With whom do you work for your PhD?
My advisor is Dr. Lilly Irani (Associate Professor, Communication & Science Studies).
Why did you choose your PhD institution and advisor(s)?
I do not have a previous degree in communication, but I knew my best chance to get into a program in the social sciences was by applying to communication departments. I also was sure I wanted to study design and technology, so there were only a few departments I could apply to. My first choice was NYU, but after talking to one of their faculty members, I realized that my GRE results weren’t good enough. My second choice was UC San Diego because my current advisor, Dr. Lilly Irani, was there. Dr. Irani is not only an academic but an activist; she collectively designs infrastructures to help workers fight for their rights.
I felt inspired by her work and thought it resonated with my journey. So I emailed her, and she let me know I should apply to the Science Studies Program.
Please share more about your academic journey.
I have an undergraduate degree in the Humanities with a major in Philosophy from the Catholic University in Peru. During my undergrad, I worked in the NGO Transparencia, charged with establishing democratic processes after the ten years of the dictatorship of Alberto Fujimori. Simultaneously, I also co-founded and managed an NGO that disseminated the conclusion of the Peruvian Truth Commission across high schools in Lima. After graduation, I took several courses in Political Science while working as a journalist for the University Institutional paper. Later, I worked as a science and technology research journalist for CLARA, Latin American Cooperation for Advanced Networks. There, I was in charge of writing research articles about projects carried out through CLARA’s optic fiber network infrastructures.
After working one year in CLARA, in 2012, I decided I wanted to study design and technology. I started looking for MA programs because my undergraduate degree was not in communication or journalism. In 2013, I only applied to the program in Design Studies at Parsons, the New School of Design, and got in with a scholarship. In my second year at Parsons, I started working as a TA and could better cover my expenses. I graduated in 2015, returned to my country, and decided to apply to PhDs that same year.
In 2016, I was accepted into two programs, one in Cultural Studies at Stony Brook University in New York and another in Design and Technology at Georgia Tech. I decided to stay in New York. However, even before I started the program, my future advisor left, and I was advised to reapply since the program was undergoing a reorganization. I reapplied that same year to four programs. I decided that I would only apply to social sciences programs with an emphasis on ethnography. I got accepted into the Communication Department and Science Studies Program at UC San Diego. I am thrilled to be at UCSD.
How did you navigate the PhD application process?
First, I reached out to professors in all the departments I wanted to apply to. Not only those I wanted to work with but those whose work I saw related to my research interests.
As an international student trying to enter social science without a previous degree, I had no strong recommendation letters. I was aware of that, so I kept my expectations low. One of the people I reached out to was UC Davis professor Dr. Marisol de la Cadena; she was delighted with my project but let me know that she only advised anthropology students. She recommended I look into the Communication Department at UC San Diego and mention her name in my email to the faculty. I want to be very honest here. I don’t know if this recommendation was important in my successful application, but I suspect it was.
What is one bit of advice you'd like to give new (first-year) PhD students?
First of all, build a community! A PhD program can be a lonely journey if you don’t approach it and every other aspect of knowledge production as a collective effort. Second, find an advisor that gets you and that believes in your work. So many advisors might look great on paper but might be too busy or detached from what matters to you such that things might not work. Finally, think of yourself as a student worker, especially if you are in an institution that requires you to work to get your fellowship. It is crucial to think of yourself as someone who contributes with labor to the institution you are at. Count how many hours you spend working and speak up if it is more than what you are paid for. Make time for your research because nobody else will.
Is there anything else about you or your journey that you’d like to share?
I cannot stress enough how important it is to find a community inside or outside your program.
Many thanks to Verónica for sharing more about her academic journey!
EXTRACURRICULAR #4: MARGARETT MCBRIDE, MA
Many scholars display amazing talents outside the classroom, lab, studio, etc. In “Extracurricular,” I would like to share these talents to highlight the importance of pursuing passions outside one’s typical work (whatever typical means for you). These “outside” talents often inform our research approaches and, importantly, help us think about things in new ways. If you have something you’d like featured, please let me know! I would love to see your creations of any kind. I welcome contributions from folks at all career stages.
For this fourth installment, let’s appreciate Margarett’s talents across a range of artistic forms! Margarett is a PhD Candidate in Developmental Psychology at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill
I’ve always loved keeping busy in an artistic way, and I am known to dabble in a lot of different things, including creative mediums. Being able to publish my children’s book “Dear Dad; Love, Nelson” while completing my PhD is nothing short of a miracle. When in school, it is easy to put your hobbies/passions aside, but I am so glad that I persisted. After seven years since its inception, my book will be out to the world in 2023 with Free Spirit Publishing/Teacher Created Materials. Additionally, I’ve been able to do many exciting projects for other people through my design business (MadeByMargarett.com). I hope to combine these hobbies by publishing a book where I am the author and illustrator. Fingers crossed that it happens soon. - Margarett
How to reach me: You are always welcome to email me (firstname.lastname@example.org) or find me on Twitter @tweetsbymidge.
Want to support my #hiddencurriculum efforts? Consider “buying me a coffee” via Ko-fi. All funds will be put back into my Let’s Talk Grad School initiatives (i.e., weekend groups, buying/mailing books, etc.). Learn more about my efforts here.
Let’s give away some books: Readers located in the United States are eligible to enter the book giveaway to receive a copy of A Field Guide to Grad School by Dr. Jessica Calarco. To do so, complete this survey and note that you only have to complete it once to be entered in all subsequent giveaways! I do hope to expand the reach of the giveaway; however, at the moment, the shipping costs are too great to scale. If you’d like to talk about ways your institution could secure an electronic (or hard) copy, please let me know.
Until next time!