GRE scores and graduate school

If you will be applying for grad schools in Astronomy, Physics, or any other subject, you might want to check out an article from the AstroBetter blog about which schools require scores from the Graduate Record Examination (GRE).

There has been a lot of discussion in recent years about how GRE scores should be used, and what (if anything) they predict.  The article linked above itself has many links that can give you a lot of background.  The American Astronomical Society (AAS) recently issued this statement on the GRE:

Given the research indicating that the GRE and PGRE are poor predictors of graduate student success, that their use in graduate admissions has a particularly negative impact on underrepresented groups, and that they represent a financial burden for many students in pursuing advanced degrees in the astronomical sciences, the AAS recommends that graduate programs eliminate or make optional the GRE and PGRE as metrics of evaluation for graduate applicants. If GRE or PGRE scores are used, the AAS recommends that admissions criteria account explicitly for the known systematics in scores as a function of gender, race, and socioeconomic status, and that cutoff scores not be used to eliminate candidates from admission, scholarships/fellowships, or financial support, in accordance with ETS recommendations.

Check out the article!  It’s very important.  This is one piece of information that you can use when putting together a list of places you are applying to.



Study abroad opportunity

Here’s a course announcement I received yesterday:

Subject: Course Announcement – Scientific Roots in the UK and EU; From/on Behalf of Profs. John Cogan and Caroline Breitenberger

Biology 4798, Scientific Roots in the UK and EU, will be offered again this spring if enough students enroll. This is a great opportunity to get started in study abroad, if that is in your plans. We will be visiting London, England and Paris, France again this year along with other sites that students choose.  We will be reading about and visiting important sites in the history of scientific discovery.  This year’s focus will be discoveries that changed the world and changed paradigms.  It should be interesting and useful for any future scientist. We will be holding information sessions in the fall, but if you know you are interested, please contact us now ( If you have decided to enroll, I would like to remind you that the deadline for application will be on or around Oct 31. Scholarship opportunities also exist and some have earlier deadlines.  The application is available on the website of the office of International Affairs (

I hope you can join us! It is a blast!

Dr. John G. Cogan
Auxiliary Assistant Professor
Dept. of Chemistry and Biochemistry
College of Arts and Sciences

Major fellowships for grad school

Graduating this year?  Planning on applying for grad school?

Here’s a useful resource: a list of major US fellowships for graduate students.  Many of these permit senior undergrads to apply.  These are hard to get but really worth it, since they can finance several years of grad school and often include a research stipend as well.

Watch this blog for more posts directed at graduating seniors.  I plan to hold a meeting in around 1 October where we can go over typical requirements for grad school and discuss the application process.

“Find your passion”

A common piece of advice from your teachers and mentors is to “find your passion.”  Certainly it helps to be enthusiastic about your studies, since that can motivate you to do the hard work required for success.

But this advice is not as straightforward as it might seem.  Check out this article from the Atlantic, called “‘Find Your Passion’ Doesn’t Mean What You Think It Does.”  For me, the money quote is this:

Young people routinely mistake “find your passion” to mean “pick your interest early and do not waver from it,” rather than “constantly search for the things that make your soul alive and pursue them diligently.”

I’d like to hear your reactions to this article, which contains many thoughtful reflections on the idea of passion for work or a career.  Use the comment mechanism below.

Grad school in Statistics at Michigan

This sounds like a good opportunity for those of you graduating relatively soon who are interested in the statistical side of the sciences.

Fall 2018 Preview Weekend

November 9-10, 2018

The Department of Statistics at the University of Michigan invites juniors, seniors, recently graduated students, and Master’s students to visit us for a preview event to explore our graduate programs.  We are eager to bring students to our campus for this event who will contribute to our department’s mission of promoting diversity and inclusion in the fields of Statistics and Data Science.

During your visit, you’ll learn about:

  • state of the art research happening at the University of Michigan
  • the admissions process 
  • what graduate school is like and how it works

We welcome applications from those who come from a background that is traditionally underrepresented in Statistics and/or if you actively work towards promoting issues of diversity, equity, and inclusion in STEM fields. 

More information and the application can be found here.

Application Deadline: September 27, 2018

A reminder about email

Please use your OSU email account for all University business.  This includes anything concerning classes and enrollment, academic advising, financial matters, or records of your progress towards a degree.  OSU’s email system has safeguards for the protection of confidential material, whereas other mail systems may not.  Indeed, I am not supposed to reply to emails about university business from non-OSU hosts, except to tell a correspondent to please write again using the OSU system.


Paid undergrad research positions in Astronomy

Professor Terndrup (that’s me!) anticipates that there will be one or more paid positions for undergraduate researchers in the Autumn 2018 semester.  These will require a commitment of 10 to 20 hours per week, negotiable with the selected student(s), starting approximately the first week of classes and continuing through the end of finals week.  Depending on performance and other considerations, the positions may be extendable through the end of February, 2019.  The positions are contingent on the availability of funding.  Salary is anticipated to be $12 / hour.

The goal of the project is to understand how reliable are ages determined from stellar rotation rates.  In particular, we will focus on how the orbits of stars in the Milky Way, which are different for young and old stars, are correlated with ages derived from stellar rotation.

The selected student(s) will be part of a larger group which is attacking this problem in a variety of ways.  Consequently, there will be opportunities for students to focus on statistical analysis, data visualization, mining of data from the astronomical literature, or measurement of stellar properties from observational data. Preference will be given to students who have completed Astronomy 2292.

To express interest in the position, please send a short (say, 250 words) essay describing your interest in astrophysics, your current commitments for the fall semester, and what skills you can bring to the position (programming, previous research experience, etc.).  Send this by email to  While there is no deadline, preference will be given to those to respond by July 1, 2018.

The submitted essay does not constitute a formal job application.  Selected students will be asked to apply formally for the position during July.

You may send inquiries about these positions any time to me using the email address above.

Instructional Aides needed for Autumn

We are seeking Instructional Aides (IAs) for Autumn Semester 2018.  IAs are expected to attend class and assist professors with copying and distributing class materials, setting up computers and A/V equipment, possibly grading, or whatever else is needed.  Pay starts at $9.00 per hour. 

This position is available only to Ohio State students enrolled in the Autumn semester.  No experience is necessary, and this is a good opportunity for early-career students to learn a lot of the subject by attending lectures.

If you wish to apply, fill out the survey at the link below by the end of the day Friday, June 29th.

In filling out the application, please use your OSU email address.

Advice to a young scientist

Here’s an article I set aside some time ago for posting on this blog.  It is called Advice to the Young from Pioneering Astrophysicist Ceclia Payne-Gaposhkin.  Spoiler: tenacity and a sense of purpose are important factors for success in our field.

The short summary at the top of the article is particularly interesting:

Work with love, embrace the unexpected, let no one else make intellectual decisions for you, and always remain in direct touch with the fountain-head.

At the end of the article there are a number of links to very interesting reads on similar themes.  Check out one of them, and give us your thoughts in the comment section.  I’d love to hear your opinions about whether advice articles like these are helpful.