Some General Advice
Here are a few things to keep in mind during your graduate career at SU:
- It is to your advantage to participate in as many activities as time allows.
Consider attending seminars and journal club meetings (the journal club
meetings are generally better for beginning students) as well as
visiting faculty to talk with them about their research. See Finding a
Research Advisor below.
- As a TA or a fellow, you will receive a certain number of tuition credits. It is to your advantage to use all
of these. You will need a certain number of credits to graduate. Later
in your career, you are likely to be supported on a Research
Assistantship from your advisor who will not wish to pay extra for
course credits. Note that it is possible to transfer some tuition
credits received during the academic year to the summer session.
Independent study courses, thesis, etc. are good ways to use these
credits. Talk to your academic advisor about the possibilities.
- Suppose you would like to particpate in
a course but either a) you do not have the tuition credits to pay for
it or b) you will not have time to complete the homework. In this case,
consider "auditing" the course.
According to page 8 of the Fall 2001 Time Schedule of Classes [I'm not
looking up the exact page again in future years, but it is probably
close by], ``Graduate students, who have appointments as graduate
assistants, graduate associates, and graduate fellows are eligible to
audit courses during the Fall and Spring Semesters at no additional
charge.'' (This must be on the web somewhere too, but I don't know
where! If you do, please tell me!) An audit is simply an official
record that you particpated in the class -- no grade is assigned.
Audits are good for the department as well as for you. Records of
auditing students combined with those of fully registered students
document student interest in a course, helping the department to
justify the teaching of smaller enrollment advanced courses to the
- If you have an idea for how to improve graduate
life in the department, please contact the graduate affairs
committee (Mark Bowick, Joe
Schechter, Paul Souder) or
Consider becoming involved in one of these groups, or with the
colloquium committee. Active participation in the life of the
department is the best way to feel at home.
The Advising System
Students will have two types of faculty advisors during the course of
their studies. The most important of these is the Research Advisor who
will guide the student through the original research that leads to the
Ph.D. The Research Advisor is chosen through a process of negotiation
between the student and a faculty member with whom the student wishes
to study. The student should approach a variety of faculty and explore
the various options during the first and second year of graduate
studies. Students are expected to have found a research advisor by the
end of the second or the beginning of the third year of graduate
studies. Depending on the students' preparation, a student may find
advisors and begin research earlier. See the departmental research page
for a description of some of the research activities underway in the
department. Click here for a list of faculty who describe themselves as currently looking for new graduate students and/or research assistants.
The second advisor is the Academic Advisor. New graduate students
are assigned an academic advisor to help them choose appropriate
coursework, to consult on various issues, and to allow them to form a
personal relationship with one of the faculty. The academic advisor
will follow the student's progress and assist of difficulties arise.
Academic advisors may or may not have expertise in the particular field
in which the student wishes to study, but should be able to help the
student make contacts with those who do. A student's academic advisor
typically does not become their research advisor, although this may
happen from time to time.
Students may also contact members of the Graduate Committee for help
and advice. Faculty members serving on the graduate committee are Mark
Bowick, Joe Schechter and Paul
The role of the Graduate committee is to monitor and improve the
graduate student environment and experience in the department, as well
as to advise individual students as the need arises. Do not hesitate to
contact any member of the committee with a comment, suggestion, or
Finding a Research Advisor
As described above, this is a negotiated process between the student
and the potential advisor. The student should take responsibility for
this process and actively seek out potential advisors. Faculty are
happy to talk to students about available positions and opportunities
long before any firm commitments need to be made. Although some
students may not enter into a formal relationship with an advisor until
the beginning of their third year, students should begin exploring the
various possibilities soon after their arrival in Syracuse. When
exploring research groups, most students find it beneficial to speak to
other graduate students and/or postdocs working with the group in
addition to talking with the faculty member directly. An independent study,
graduate lab, or summer research assistantship are good ways for a
student and potential advisor to get to know each other before either
commits officially to a long term relationship. Feel free to ask
faculty members about such opportunities at any time. It is a good idea
to explore a number of fields, as students often discover a new field
that they find more appealing than their original declared interest.
Students are in no way restricted to the fields declared as initial
interests during the application process.
If you plan to present a paper at a conference, you should apply to the
graduate school for travel support. They typically provide up to $200.
You can also receive an equal amount in matching funds from our
department. It is important to apply for the graduate school funds
early as they often run out of money before the semester is over. The
forms are available from the Physics General Information page.
In addition, you can apply for the more competitive Fredrickson Travel Grants(pdf).
New graduate students in the physics department are given two
e-mail accounts. Syracuse University gives every student an address on
the SUNIX system (mailbox.syr.edu), and the department gives every
student an account on the physics server (phy.syr.edu). The University
may contact you at your SUNIX address, but the department will always
contact you at your physics account. You will probably decide to use
only one of these accounts. Please set the other account to forward
your mail!! If you use some other account (e.g., yahoo,
hotmail, etc.) for your regular e-mail, please set your physics account
to forward your mail there. Otherwise, you may miss many important
things happening in the department. In the modern world, we assume that
students check their e-mail regularly.
Additional Confusions: Your PHYSICS email address may be written either as PhysicsAccountName@phy.syr.edu or PhysicsAccountName@suhep.phy.syr.edu. These two addresses denote the same e-mail account. The SUNIX email address may be written either as SunixAccountName@syr.edu or SunixAccountName@mailbox.syr.edu.
These last two addresses denote the same e-mail account, but this
account is different than the PHYSICS account mentioned above.
Finally, your PHYSICS and SUNIX accounts will typically have different userid's and passwords.
This web page prepared by Don Marolf. Edited & revised by Diane
July 9, 2003) and Mark Bowick (Nov. 15, 2005).