Welcome Undergrads

UOWGS welcomes the participation of scientists at all career levels, including undergrads. Undergrads can join UOWGS as members and attend our seminars, social and/or outreach events.

Are you interested in attending graduate school? Do you have a lot of questions but are not sure who to ask? We are happy to answer questions about graduate school or research. See our FAQ (below).

At our annual Undergrad Outreach Event, you can submit questions for our grad student discussion panel to discuss. At our Generations Luncheon, you can participate in a round table discussion about scientific careers with an all ages group composed of high school students, undergrads, grads, postdocs and faculty members.

Frequently Asked Questions

How do I get funding?

Should I go for a Master's or a PhD?

Why go to grad school?

How can I select a research advisor from afar?

Did your undergrad education prepare you well for grad school?

Hardest part of transition from undergrad to grad?

What did you give up to go to grad school?

What is it like to be in a male-dominated field?

What was plan B if grad school didn't work?

Any hidden costs I should know about?

When did you know that you belonged in science?

Most important factor getting into grad school?

Q & As from last year's Undergraduate Outreach Event:

How do I get funding?

"It really depends on your program/department/experience and immigration status. Many Master's programs are not fully funded, and many PhD programs claim to guarantee funding either through training grants or teaching opportunities."

"Any chemistry department worth their salt will pay you to attend, and that funding should be guaranteed for at least 4 years, but generally more. Ask when you visit. Also, be looking for the NSF fellowship before you reach the deadline. You can only apply if you've taken a limited number of hours of graduate courses. This is a guaranteed funding situation that makes you highly valuable to schools and professors."

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Q. Should I go for a Master's or a PhD?

"It depends on what your ultimate goals are. In chemistry, you often can start a PhD and leave with a Master's. Or you can use a Master's as a check-point to gauge if you like research at the graduate level or not. Generally, you pay for your Master's, but not your PhD; so keep that in mind. The general rule for industry is that you are more marketable with a Master's but overqualified with a PhD."

"It depends on what you want to do long term. Many people who want to do bench work in industry can get by without a PhD. However, if you want to lead a research group (in academics or industry) you need a PhD. A PhD will certainly leave more doors open for your possible career paths."

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Q. Why did you decide to go to grad school?

"I decided I wanted to be a team leader, and knew it would take a lot longer to get to that sort of position as a B.S. or M.S."

"All the jobs I wanted to apply for after undergrad required higher level degrees; I knew I was unsatisfied with the material I studied as an undergrad student. Grad school had been on my radar since I first started doing research as an undergraduate and really enjoyed it."

"I love science and wanted to continue working in a laboratory. I loved the idea of studying cancer."

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Q. I want to go to a specific university but I do not know the person I would like to work with. Tips?

"Look at the department websites and read papers from labs that peak your interest. If you can find a handful of faculty you would consider working for, it is a good place to apply. During the interviews talk to the graduate students in those labs, and find out what its really like working for that person."

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Q. Do you feel that your undergrad education prepared you well for grad school?

"Yes and no. I think intellectually my undergrad education prepared me for graduate school coursework. However, I think there are a lot of aspects of being a researcher/scientist that you are not trained for as an undergrad. Having good critical thinking skills is important and can help with the transition between undergrad/grad school."

"Yes because I did undergraduate research so I knew what was expected and my way around the lab. No because working in a lab is completely different than reading about it in a book. The classes I took did not really prepare me for working in a lab."

"Yes. Graduate school is not a breeze. I am certainly working hard. But I was not completely mystified when I arrived. Grad school success has a lot more to do with personal endurance than what courses you took in undergrad."

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Q. What was the hardest part of the transition from undergrad to grad?

"Learning to take on many different things at once and be successful at each of them. Many programs will have first years take classes, teach and do research which can be a balancing act. Learning to divide your time effectively is very important."

"Suddenly getting very little feedback about what to do or how I was doing at any given time. Having to get to know my own strengths and weaknesses and compensate for them."

"I spent time studying abroad before coming to grad school. That transition was difficult because my pace of life changed so abruptly."

"Planning a research project, reading and knowing about everything/everyone in your field of research."

"The critical thinking that was expected of me was much different and difficult to adapt to considering I had just graduated that spring term prior."

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Q. What do you think you missed out on by going to grad school? Was it worth it?

"Graduate school is absolutely worth the hard work and dedication."

"I missed out on travel opportunities. I probably will not get to go on a big post-university adventure in Europe, or volunteer somewhere cool, since I would be afraid of it derailing my career."

"Coming to grad school is a decision I am still happy I made. But it is hard and you do not make much money and in many ways (unless you definitely want to go into academia) you feel slowed down professionally. You become a pseudo student/professional for 5 years or more. You work long hours and have little vacation. But you can own your work time in a very fulfilling way. (Again, this depends on your boss, of course.) You set your schedule, you often determine what you do day-to-day. You can arrive at a problem and carve out the time to figure it out. There is a lot of freedom there that is very appealing and fulfilling."

"I did not miss out on anything. I felt and still feel it was definitely worth it to come to grad school."

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Q. What is it like to be in a male-dominated field? What are men doing to decrease the gender gap?

"I have not experienced any discrimination working in a male-dominated field. I think that the UO provides a very supportive environment."

"It is hard, because there are not many great mentors. The great mentors that are around are heavily burdened with unpaid opportunities to mentor others. I have often felt that the men in our program got a lot more assistance from senior students/postdocs in terms of letting them know what they should be doing, and reassuring them that they were not alone etc. I have not noticed any particular efforts by men I know to decrease the gender gap."

"I do feel that the margins are shrinking; that more and more women are entering STEM fields, becoming role models, encouraging younger women to succeed. And this has happened to a large part because men encouraged it. And overt discrimination, by and large, is becoming a relic of the past (Granted, it still exists, just many undergrads would not know what you were talking about.) But gender issues still exist as systemic problems, as subvert issues that many do not realize exist. (How the women in the lab are asked to clean up, but the men are allowed to be sloppy. How our university has no paid parental leave policy in place. etc.) But I feel that as more of the cultural dialogue has come around to the notion of workplace equality, more of a dialogue within academia can be opened to allow for these issues to be addressed, by both men and women. And I do feel that is happening."

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Q. When you were applying to grad school did you have a Plan B? What was it?

"A Master's program"

"Peace Corps"

"I was working in a toxicology lab before I came to graduate school. Plan B would have found me still working there, and perhaps moving up the ranks or switching careers at some point."

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Q. What are some considerations in terms of salary? Does grad school have any hidden costs that I should know about?

"Despite the fact that you will earn a salary while pursing your degree, you will not truly be making money. The pay is enough to get by each month, but if you can save up before at all you will definitely appreciate it."

"You should make sure the stipend is dependent upon the cost of living and look into any potential health care coverage costs that could potentially come up."

"The endless coffee gets pricey, but otherwise not really. You do have books and student fees you need to cover, but they’re normally not unreasonable. But your stipend is not huge. If you come with student debt that you want to pay off, you will be cutting it close month-to-month with just your stipend. Otherwise, you can get by and live reasonably on a grad salary."

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Q. When did you know you wanted to pursue a career in science?

"When I fell in love with Chemistry in first year, I considered it. When I found out that med school costs a lot of money and you get paid to go to chemistry grad school, that cinched it."

"Sophomore year of undergrad. My first chemistry teacher was amazing and got me excited about science. She also took me under her wing and introduced me to research in a lab."

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Q. What is the most important factor in getting into grad school?

"You should try to pursue undergraduate research opportunities if possible. That will give you the experience that will allow you to be a competitive candidate. Many people do not and are required to take a year or two off of school to obtain that research experience."

"Recommendation letters and GRE."