(Availability of answers to typical questions, information provided to prospective students, DGS, career planning, relationship with faculty,
mentoring program etc.)
Individual relationship with adviser is great. DGS is fine. More career counseling would be great.
Career planning is lacking.
i found faculty generally available and willing to give advice. the chair and dgs seem to spend a lot of time focusing on the department as a whole.
Overall, I've been happy with this. I feel like I have a good relationship with many faculty, and I find Donna Ruger to be very helpful for answering typical questions. The mentoring program is underutilized, however.
Career planning assistance offered by the department is still lacking, however I think improvement has been made recently. Dr. Palmer provides links for job opportunities both within and outside of academia via the careers listserve, which has been useful.
Some faculty members discourage interdisciplinary research, but good overall.
Great! Faculty are most willing to discuss various problems students may have. The mentoring program is one of the closer knit ones I have seen.
Prof Palmer is a great DGS! He is passionate, patient and supportive. I liked him ever since I took his Phys 230 course.
In general, I think this is good. It seems like the career planning issues that have been mentioned repeatedly in the past are on their way to being addressed.
Generally available. I have primarily used my advisor for guidance and counseling, and he has been very helpful in this regard. I would like to see more career planning come from within the department, especially an emphasis on what kinds of different careers are possible with a Physics PhD. Perhaps an occasional seminar from an alumni who took an interesting but enjoyable career path after graduation.
I am quite satisfied.
Palmer is fantastic
There is some degree of uncomfortableness caused by the fact that there is a large bloc of chinese students who speak only chinese and associate only with each other. This creates a divide between the 'american' kids and the chinese kids. It inhibits collaboration and learning when a large part of the community does not do physics in the local language, and it can make life difficult for the Chinese students who want to learn English and experience American culture while still associating with and being a part of the chinese community at duke. The people who really loose are international students from other countries, since they don't have a large support network but they are still dealing with being in a new country. I think that it would be helpful if the department tried to recruit international students from a more diverse group of countries, especially places where English is widely spoken (eg., India, Europe) Having a smaller number of students from any one given country would help everyone to associate with everyone else much better. For some reason, the Chinese/Everyone Else separation seems especially severe in the younger cohorts; the older grad student classes seem to intermingle more; perhaps this is because the chinese:everyone else ratio in these classes is not so large. There also seems to be something of a split among the younger years, especially between the few people who went to big places like MIT and people who went to smaller liberal arts colleges with less extensive curricula. The wide range of preparation creates some tension in courses, where the MIT-ish people find the classes to be really easy and are frustrated by not being challenged, while the other people find the classes too hard due to a different undergrad preparation, and they sometimes perceive the MIT-ish people as being arrogant. Reforming the curriculum, perhaps by allowing those from smaller schools to take some undergrad classes first, and recruiting a larger cohort of students from big schools would help fix this. Interaction with faculty is great, though it often feels like some faculty think grad students here are stupid, and it sometimes feels like while they're happy to listen to student opinion, the faculty are not particularly responsive to student concerns.
I have been pleased with the professional and friendly environment.
good student-student and student-faculty relationships and professionalism, in general. student-staff interactions vary greatly depending on the particular staff person (from generally useful to generally awkward).
The working environment in our department is excellent. My interactions with other students, faculty, and staff are generally positive experiences.
Student-student: Excellent Student-Faculty: Excellent Student-Staff: Very good Professionalism: Excellent
The working environment is generally professional and friendly, and has improved tremendously over the last few years. The situation still varies though, depending on the specific groups of people one interacts with. Personally I think that more department-wide social gathering of student, faculty and staff would be appreciated, especially if the activities are more diverse in formality.
I've always felt like this was a very professional environment as far as student-faculty relations go. I feel like some of the staff-student interactions border on unprofessional.
All very good from my perspective.
Research & Advising
(Advisor approachability, level of preparation for research, advisor support, encouragement and hands-on help, your role as a member of the research community, etc.)
I've been very happy in this regard.
My advisor has been very helpful and understanding.
my advisor has been very helpful and encouraging. i feel as though i am a valuable part of our group's research effort. frequent meetings are key, in my opinion.
My advisor is very approachable, although often extremely busy. He certainly provides hands-on assistance and support when requested, and he has prepared me well for independent research.
N.A at present
My advisor has been incredibly supportive.
I have not really begun researching, so I have no idea.
Curriculum & courses
(Number of courses, course requirements, courses offered, instructor effort/usefulness, relevance for intended audience, etc.)
Course requirements seem frustrating and restrictive (and often are largely a repeat of material studied in undergrad courses) to those who had a solid undergraduate background, while those who had a less extensive undergrad background find classes overwhelming - it seems that by trying to average between the two groups, the courses end up not being very useful to anyone. Lack of variety in courses and lack of advanced courses is frustrating. Quantum mechanics sequence doesn't do that great of a job as it stands. Math Methods is like a high school class. Some topics like group theory, quantum field theory, relativity should be part of the standard curriculum. Courses is different areas of physics (and offered more frequently!) would be great...
More advanced courses should be offered for people interested in better educating themselves in areas of physics outside their own discipline.
generally useful course requirements, although there may be too many required courses. i have found that the courses most useful/interesting to me are offered in other departments - while it is nice that they are available to me, it would be nice if physics-specific non-physics-department courses counted more.
The courses have been somewhat disappointing. They are very inconsistent from year to year, and are often reduntant with each other or assume that we already know things like group theory/representation theory, which isn't taught until much later.
Good content, sometimes awful grading. Graders should always indicate where points were taken off. Cutting out a course or two would help students more than it would hurt.
Very useful courses in the Physics Department. I actually started liking a subject I had a disinclination for due to the excellent notes and lecturing by a Prof!
Good, but the students would probably be better off with one or two fewer courses.
I've finished taking classes for a while, but I do feel the curriculum is slowly adapting to the changing needs of incoming students.
too many physics course requirements
Can some courses about laser be opened?
I have three courses and a TA in PHY 182. Four courses make me very busy this term. I don't have enough time to read all textbooks. But I appreciate the style of lectures and homeworks here. They indeed make me understand physics better.
(Workload, faculty support & feedback, training & preparation, usefulness in development as an educator, etc.)
I have had excellent experiences as a TA. Teaching has enriched my own understanding of physics, helped me to feel more a part of the physics community, and given me the opportunity to establish relations with faculty and students whom I might otherwise not have met.
i was a ta for graduate classes. the workload was appropriate and the faculty were very useful and provided good feedback.
Most of the TA training was (as of a couple years ago) focused on the intro level courses. For 100+ level courses, this training was not very useful.
Extremely useful in providing development as an educator. Workload is manageable. Faculty is reasonable in its expectations. We need a certification program though. A certificate certifying our preparation for college teaching would be nice.
I work around 12 hours per week typically, and I feel it OK for me. But I hope I can TA some lab courses next semester.
General comments and miscellany
(Gender and race issues, the Graduate Student Organization, social activities, departmental community, any remaining comments)
As I mentioned above, the Chinese / Everyone Else split is really frustrating. It limits collaboration, interaction, and community, and thus it inhibits the chinese students' learning of english, which keeps the cycle of stifled community and no collaboration going. This all has the potential to breed racism and resentment among both groups, and it is not uncommon for me to hear racist remarks both from chinese students leveled against americans and vice versa. A more diverse international cohort, and recruiting more students from countries where the students already have a working knowlege of English (like India and Europe), would be very good for community and would create and environment where international students would have an easier time learning English and integrating into the culture. It would also ease racial tensions, I think.
we should have more department social activities, and more graduate social events.
Qualifiers need quality control and well-defined passing scores. Students should not be required to repeat a qualifier due to a marginal score, but rather given supplementary assignments in the areas they need to improve. Qualifiers are extremely stressful.
Quality control for qualifiers appears to be non-existent.
As usual, it would be nice if the department was more social.
The GSO has been active behind the scenes although I think there may still be more they can do publicly, perhaps having a presence at colloquium, or making an occasional announcement to the department about what they have been working on. E-mails to dept and grads are helpful, but they can get lost in the noise. I think it would be good for people to see GSO members represent the GSO. Especially with the upcoming GSO-organized social, it would be great to announce this at a colloquium. On another note, the catering at the departmental picnic was outstanding and ranks it first out of all 5 picnics I have attended, including the one I help organize! Very well done and thanks to the department for hosting such an event. Next year may be time for a change of venue, but as long as there is good food, that's not important. A final side note, I find the department, in many settings, uses expanded polystyrene (EPS, aka styrofoam) plates almost exclusively. I don't tend to be intense about environmental issues but I don't believe that the cost difference of paper/EPS is that great. Although the environmental impact is still being studied, early results show that EPS is a major contributor to greenhouse gas, marine debris, and has questionable health effects. I would really like to see paper plates at colloquium and the department picnic.
People are nice. I feel really happy here. I don't have any spare time to spend on social activities yet, and I hope I can next year:)