Considering Graduate School
Dr. José Gascón
Associate Professor &
Chair, Graduate Admissions Committee
Because graduate application season is upon us, we interviewed Dr. José Gascón, Chair of the UConn Chemistry Graduate Admissions Committee, to gain insight into the application and decision process.
What advice do you have for freshman and sophomores who are considering graduate school?
If you had some research experience and you enjoyed trying to solve a scientific question, then you will enjoy graduate school. If that is the case, then I would advise spending some time looking up the research that is being conducted within your choice of schools.
What are the top three traits/experiences you look for in an applicant?
In no particular order: transcripts and GPA, research or internship experience, letters of reference.
How do GRE scores and publications factor into your decision making process?
In my personal opinion, GRE scores are not a deal breaker and they only compliment other more important credential aspects (i.e. GPA, research experience, and letters). Publications are highly regarded if students have them, but their absence is not considered negative.
What do you look for in a personal statement?
I look to see the level of engagement and experience the student had in a laboratory setting. I personally think it is a plus when students take the time to tailor their statement based on the program and department they are applying to. For instance, I would advise you to take the time to look up research faculty and mention you would like to work in a particular research lab(s) and why.
Do you have any advice for interviewing with professors?
Ask them about their current projects and what the broader impacts of their research are. In other words, what are the potential benefits to society?
How do you recommend students choose a graduate school and eventually an advisor/principal investigator (PI)?
I would choose research programs that match your interests and I would try to make personal connections with faculty members that can be potential advisors. This can be done, for instance, at the National ACS meeting or while visiting schools. If you get admitted to a program, most programs will pay for you to visit the school, usually as part of an open house. For selecting a PI, consider how active the PI is in terms of scholarly work and get in touch with current and/or former students that can describe what it is like to work in the PI’s lab. Most importantly, choose a lab that does research that interests you.
What careers do UConn alumni of the graduate school typically pursue?
While I don’t know exactly the percentage that go to industry, academia or government, all these three areas are well represented. Career paths range from tenure-track positions in academia, government labs, and a diverse set of chemical and pharmaceutical industries.
What is the culture of the UConn chemistry graduate program like?
Besides the culture of high caliber research typical of a Tier 1 research institution, the graduate student body has a long history of engagement within the department (organizing social events, BBQs, holiday parties, student-sponsored seminar speakers, etc.) and also in the way of outreach programs [Chemistry Olympiad, Kids are Scientists and Engineers Too (KASET), Middle School Science Bowl, etc.].
If students would like more information about attending and applying to graduate school, the UConn Career Center provides general insights and timelines here.