More time in the ivory tower pursuing graduate school
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More Time in the Ivory Tower?: Pursuing Graduate School. AICHE Brownbag Wednesday, September 28, 2011. Today’s Brownbag. Is graduate school for you? What does a professor actually do? (Prof. Ferri) Faculty panel

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More Time in the Ivory Tower?: Pursuing Graduate School

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More Time in the Ivory Tower?: Pursuing Graduate School

AICHE Brownbag

Wednesday, September 28, 2011

Today’s Brownbag

  • Is graduate school for you?

  • What does a professor actually do? (Prof. Ferri)

  • Faculty panel

  • Slides will be available on Lafayette chapter AICHE sites (

Why Choose Graduate School?

  • Graduate school is not for everybody.

  • On average, a 4.5-6 year investment of time

  • People who enter grad school should be:

    • Self-motivated

    • Inquisitive about engineering AND science

    • Interested in why things are happening, not just what is happening

    • Willing to handle failure and learn from it

    • Unafraid to ask questions

Undergraduate vs. Graduate

  • UG is (primarily) closed-ended problems where a solution is available following some procedure.

  • A Ph.D. involves solving open-ended problems where the solution is unknown and the path to solving the problem is often murky at best.

  • Graduate school will enhance and develop your analytical skills to allow you to solve any problem.

What are the Requirements of a Ph.D.?

Am I Going to Accumulate Loans?

  • In virtually all ChemE programs (and most other science/engineering), no. (For Ph.D.)

  • Research is funded by a wide range of entities.

    • Covers cost of “employees” (grad students et al.)

      • Tuition/fees

      • Stipend (~$25-35,000, dependent on school)

      • Health care (typically)

      • Attendance at conferences (% coverage varies)

Will I Like Research?

  • The best way to find out is by actually completing research.

  • At Lafayette

    • Excel program (the earlier, the better)

    • Can go outside of the major

  • Externally

    • Summer REU programs (

    • Other federal/university level organizations (NSF, NIH, etc.)

Applying For Grad School

  • Typically due around January 1 (variation exists)

How Do I Pick a Grad School?

  • Researching schools is important

    • Most to all research groups have a group website where a flavor of their work is available. (upkeep)

  • What are your research interests?

    • Any particular area of interest (energy, bio, etc.)?

    • Experimental? Computational? Both?

  • The school

    • Prestige (be careful)

    • Location (size/weather/rural vs. urban)

    • Number of professors interested in (be careful)

Senior Year Timeline

  • Research potential schools

  • Ask faculty or others for advice/insight

  • Look into fellowships (NSF etc.)

  • Take GRE

  • Ensure letters of recommendation have been completed and sent

  • Submit application

  • Recruiting weekends

  • Narrow list of potential schools

  • Ask for letters of recommendation

  • Send e-mails to faculty you are interested in.

  • Prepping applications (GRE, personal statement)

  • Notification of acceptance

  • Notification of award package






  • Final decisions

What Can I Do with a Ph.D. (Besides be a Professor)?

  • Remember, your thesis research will a little slice of science/engineering that you are the expert.

  • You may be expected to run experiments or oversee others completing experiments.

  • Senior Engineer

  • Research Scientist

  • Consultant

Where are They Now?: Postdocs

Where are They Now?: Jobs

A Few Parting Words

  • Don’t choose grad school solely because finding a job is difficult.

  • Grad school will change the way you think and approach problems.

  • Even though it’s not industry, networking is just as important in grad school.

  • What you get out of grad school is directly related to what you put into it.

Chemical Engineering in Academia

What does a professor do?

James K. Ferri

Department of Chemical and Biomolecular Engineering

Lafayette College

Faculty Positions

Non-tenure Track vs. Tenure Track

Adjunct, Visiting, Instructor

One to three year appointment

Generally non-renewable

Assistant (Associate)

One to three year appointments

Renewable during probationary period

“Up or out”

Salary Scale: PUI

Research (R-1)

+ $8,000-$12,000

Assistant ($59,150, $86,600) - $74,000


Full $115,700

Job Description



Course Load: (varies by institution)

Teaching-oriented: (3/3)

Most (all) teaching and grading done by faculty

Research-oriented: (1/1)

Lectures taught by faculty; laboratory and recitation/quiz sections by graduate assistants

Occasionally, lectures taught by adjunct or other non-tenure track instructors

(Nearly) all grading done by assistants


A College in Easton, Pennsylvania


Teaching: evaluation of job performance

Student evaluations:

Written comments

Student comments

Peer observation

Educational materials development

Academic advising

Good is not good.

This seeks to provide perspective

This is how to excel.

Valued but not quantified.


  • Dissemination

    • Publications

    • peer reviewed

    • non-peer reviewed (conference papers, book chapters)

    • Presentations

    • invited seminars and public lectures (think LSS)

    • conference presentations

  • Support

    • Grants


    • EPA, FDA, …

    • Industry cooperation

    • sponsored fundamental and applied research

  • Professional development

Scholarship: evaluation of job performance

  • Dissemination

    • Publications

    • peer reviewed 1 paper per year is annual expectation

    • non-peer reviewed

    • Presentations

    • invited seminars and public lectures

    • conference presentations

  • Support

    • Grants


    • EPA, FDA, …

    • Industry cooperation

    • sponsored fundamental and applied research

  • Professional development

Anything here is good

Anything here is good

(and might be necessary; see above)


Departmental Service:

Standing committees: Outreach, Student Experience, etc.

Operational activities (open houses, outreach, individualized learning experiences)

Institutional committees:

Standing committees: Judical, Compensation, Policy, …Ad-hoc (“for this”): faculty searches, special appointments

Professional service:

Organization of professional meetings

Peer-review of journal articles and grant proposals

Job Description


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