Info for Prospective PhD students

Information on this page is only for students not yet enrolled in the doctoral program at the Michigan State University Math Department. If you are already here, you should look at the info in one of the other links.

Before you apply

Please take some time to look at the Math Department website. A few things you may want to pay attention to:

Graduate program information
The grad program webpage has the most up-to-date information on the application process and program policy, as well as the listing of mathematics courses you can take here at MSU. Entering a PhD program is a huge commitment, considering most students take 5 years or more to get their degree. You want to know what you are getting into. Pay special attention to the Graduate Student Handbook since it describes very well what you can expect as the normal academic progress for a PhD candidate at MSU. And check out the application website to make sure you prepare all the requested information for your application package.
List of faculty and their research interests
Be informed! You don't want to be in the 3rd year of your degree program only to find there is no-one willing to take you on as a graduate student. (Make sure at least somebody in the department is working in a field related to your main interests.)
List of current graduate students
If you have any questions and want an honest opinion about graduate student life at MSU, asking current graduate students will probably get your further than asking a faculty member. If you have someone in mind that you may want to work with, tracking down his or her current graduate students is a great way to find out how that person is as a thesis advisor.

What to do after you apply

PhD admission at the Michigan State University Math Department, like most North American institutions, are handled by the department and not individual professors. Please follow the instructions on the application website to apply, and do not email your application to me. Likewise, I will not be able to answer your questions/concerns about the application process, funding prospect, or application status.

If you are interested in working with me, please do drop me an email to let me know of your interest. Even if you did indicate my name on the application material, sending me an e-mail will help alert me to your interest.

If you do e-mail me, there's no need to specifically include any information that you already included in your application (I will have access to those). But if you have a specific problem or a general area that you wish to pursue (see my research page for my interests), do let me know.

I've been accepted! Now what?

If you have been accepted to other programs also, I heavily recommend doing your due diligence and perform some comparison shopping. I'm generally willing to answer questions about the academic program here, and about living in the East Lansing area. If the opportunity of working with me is a factor in your consideration, do let me know and I'll give you an honest assessment.

You should definitely go through the Graduate Student Handbook and make sure you understand the academic progression in the graduate program. (If you have been accepted to other programs, this is one of the things you should compare.) Make sure you understand:

  • The structure of the qualifying courses and the qualifying exams (to be passed by the end of your first year).
  • The guidance / comprehensive exam / dissertation committees that you are responsible for convening, and their mentorship role for your progress.
  • The comprehensive exam requirement (to be passed by the end of the third year).
  • The dissertation proposal requirement (to be submitted by the end of the fourth year).
  • How the monetary support works (you are only paid during the academic year, unless you are awarded summer research assistantships or summer teaching position).
  • The teaching training you will receive and the teaching roles you will take in the department.

As a quick note: sometimes the department may offer students the chance of "placing out" of the qualifying exams by taking the exams in the August before start of the first year. The benefit is the flexibility to take more advanced courses during the first year. If this is something that appeals to you, make sure to ask the graduate studies director about it.

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