Tuesday, November 24, 2009

Could be a good deal...

Yesterday I got an email regarding the Department of Energy computational science graduate fellowship. Normally I'd probably ignore such an email, but for whatever reason I took a gander. Inside I found some words (as one might expect), but these were the ones in particular that caught my eye:

Benefits of the Fellowship:

  • $32,400 yearly stipend
  • Payment of all tuition and fees
  • Workstation purchase assistance
  • Yearly conferences
  • $1,000 yearly academic allowance
  • 12-week research practicum
  • Renewable up to four years
Sounds pretty decent I thought, but what's the catch? This kind of dough doesn't usually come without some strings (or steel cables) attached, so what is it, a lifetime of indentured servitude? Well the conferences are required, but they're all expenses paid on top of extra stipend for attendance, so it's more like a mandatory paid vacation. Same for the research practicum, in which you are required to use massive DoE supercomputers for whatever you want. Notice that when they say "workstation purchase assistance," they mean that they will only match the money you put up for whatever high performance computer you want. In addition, whatever school you attend has to agree to not have you working as a TA or research assistant for more than one semester. Finally, the only non-academic requirement is that you agree to consider job offers from the DoE or contractors.

As far as I'm concerned, this whole program is the best idea anyone has ever had! The thought of being paid to go to grad school makes me very, very happy. I managed to find the applicant statistics for last year and it turns out that about 1/20 people who applied got in. Assuming equal probability those odds aren't bad at all, however that's probably not a fair assumption to make; with benefits like these, it's easy to be motivated to do better in school so that my probability of selection might improve, hence the current time and my working on homework (well, ok, blogging, but motivated or not everyone needs a break now and again). I'm actually fairly confident in my grad school prospects, mainly because of my undergraduate research. This is my second semester of such, and apparently my research advisor likes me enough to propose advising me next semester as well despite him being on sabbatical (so that we'll be prepared to "hit the ground running in the summer"). I can't express how grateful I am to have found such a good fit and generally exceptional person to work with... though that statement does do a pretty good job of at least indicating the magnitude of my gratitude. As it stands, it seems that I will be graduating with 6 semesters of research experience, which, combined with being the student administrator for the CS department's linux server and a double major, ought to more than make up for some of my less than optimal grades. Nonetheless, better grades certainly aren't going to hurt, so back to the books!

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