FAQ Prospective

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This page contains Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs) for prospective members of the Jimenez Group at Colorado. A shortcut to this page is http://tinyurl.com/FAQ-JG.


FAQs For both prospective graduate students and postdocs

What should I do if I am interested in joining the Jimenez Group?

You can email Jose and attach your CV and a list of publications. Graduate students need to apply for admission through a CU Department to be considered seriously (see FAQ 2.1 below).

How do I learn more about the research of the Jimenez Group?

We have a lot of information on the web that should provide a good overview of the types of topics and techniques we work on. The following papers are representative for different lines of work within the group (as of 2017):

But those projects are complete, what about new projects that I could work on?

  • It would be difficult to keep a list of those, as opportunities come and go, some are taken by other group members and collaborators or competitors etc., and then new opportunities arise all the time. Typically new research projects will target timely, interesting, and challenging questions in similar directions to those of the papers above.
  • We can discuss specific projects e.g. when you visit CU, or via email / phone, whenever it makes sense.

Are there other things I should know about how the group works?

I would like to work on field studies because I like to travel, should I join the group?

Maybe not. We do field studies in many locations around the US and (increasingly) internationally. However this is not really 'travel' in the sense that you have plenty of time to take time off and visit the sites etc. Normally we are working extremely hard and often there is very little time off while in the field and we work all evenings and weekends. Most of the time is spent indoors in a trailer or airplane, working with the instrument or looking at the data in a computer, unlike other field studies in other research areas where most of the time is spent outdoors collecting samples. Working 12-14 hours a day, with 1 day off in a 1 month field study is typical. Often you can stay AFTER the field study is over to travel for a week or so, and sometimes people do that. Still, our field studies are not 'fun travel' but closer to a military mission, and we don't want people to join the group with false expectations.

Will I have to work very hard in your group?

Our group is at the cutting edge of research in atmospheric instrumentation and atmospheric chemistry, and we collaborate and compete with some of the best groups in the world at Harvard, MIT, Caltech, ETH, etc. Since we work with extremely complex instruments, trying to figure out the truth about some aspect of the physics and chemistry of the real world, to produce very high quality work, our research can be seen as challenging. So, yes, we all have to work very hard, and this is definitely not a 9 to 5 job. During a field study, A PhD student in the group said, "you told me clearly that I would have to work very hard, before I joined the group. But I had never seen anyone work anywhere near this hard before, so I couldn't understand what you were saying at the time." That said, we understand that people need to have a personal life and pressure in our group is not too intense, and no one has left the group ever for this reason. And success in our group is extremely rewarding whereby you will have the opportunity to co-author many papers with cutting-edge research, present posters and talks at major conferences, and participate in major field campaigns alongside many world-leading research groups.

You need to be very motivated to sustain working several years at high intensity. It can only work if you really enjoy what you are doing. So you need to search inside yourself and think about what really is your motivation for pursuing a PhD (or a postdoc), and whether you are ready to dedicate yourself to research. The rewards are great. You will learn an immense amount about the field, work with some of the best researchers and groups around the world, and likely have very good job opportunities after you finish.

Should I apply for a fellowship before I join the group?

YES! Fellowships always help the group do more with the available funding, they reduce or eliminate the need to TA some semesters, and are often a deciding factor on whether a position in the group is possible. See the lists of fellowships for graduate students and for postdocs below.

I want to work on a specific topic that interests me, is that possible?

It depends on (a) what the topic is and (b) the funding situation. We are a group at the worldwide cutting edge of certain areas of research (see papers in FAQ above), and although there are many other interesting research areas, we have to focus on those topics which align with the strengths and plans of the group. This is especially the case if the funding to support you would come from our research grants, then you do need to work on a specific project which is already funded. There is always room for creativity and for evolving the project to follow new and interesting leads, but we still need to stay in the general area of the funded project. If you have your own funding (fellowship), then the situation is more flexible, but you will still need people's time and other resources from the group, so the topic needs to make sense within the big picture of the group.

What kinds of things do people do after finishing at the Jimenez group?

Our group alumni have an excellent track record in faculty positions, postdoctoral positions at top European and US institutions, research positions at National Labs, positions with the funding agencies and at the research/policy interface, and also positions in R&D industry. See the J-Group Alumni page for more details.

What previous skills are useful for candidates to join the group?

  • See this list of skills. For most positions we are looking for people with strong experimental skills and inclination, as well as strong computer programming background. Understandably people joining the group haven't mastered all of those skills, but the more of those you have experience with, the faster you will be able to be productive in our group. This is most important for postdoc candidates, but also relevant for graduate student candidates.

FAQs Specifically for prospective graduate students

A shortcut to this item is http://tinyurl.com/ApplyToCU.

Does CU have a good graduate program?

Should I go to graduate school?

  • This is far from a trivial question, and one you should think hard about. People who are motivated and know why the want to go to graduate school and what they want to get out of it end up doing best. This post by our PhD graduate Jordan Krechmer discusses some of the issues you shoudl think about.

Is your group the right one for me?

  • Our group does great research (e.g. a lot of our papers are Highly Cited) and trains people well (e.g. everyone that has graduated is doing well in his/her career). That said, our group (or any group) is not for everyone as people have different goals for graduate school and beyond, working styles, preferences on working alone vs. collaboratively etc. So I don't know if our group is right for you specifically, and neither will you unless we both invest some effort to find out. I often compare the grad school selection process to chromatography, you have to expose yourself to many surfaces, and see which ones you stick to. If you have a sincere interest based on the information available about our group, then you can contact us or apply and we can go from there.

Will you take graduate students into your group next year?

  • We often take one graduate student per year into our group. The deciding factors on our side tend to be.
    • Having a strongly interested student (our group is on the challenging side, see other FAQs, so that's not the case every year).
    • Availability of RA or fellowship funding and/or willingness of the student to TA while funding is lined up
    • Whether some current student is graduating or a postdoc is moving on
    • The current size on the group and pressures on Jose's and Staff Scientist's time

Do you take international students?

  • Yes, in equal competition with US students.

How do I apply to graduate school if I am interested in your group?

  • Note that in our program prospective graduate students need to apply for admission to an academic department to be taken seriously. Individual professors cannot admit a student into their groups without an official application to a department. So do not expect us to spend much time discussing with you the possibility of attending grad school at CU until you have actually submitted a complete application. Applications are due every year around 1-Dec. (This is often not clear to international applicants).
  • To work in our group, by far the best route is to apply to the Dept. of Chemistry (CHEM). As of Fall 2015, 10 out of the 12 current and past graduate students in our group were CHEM students. Within CHEM you will apply to a "Division", and out of the 9 CHEM students in our group, 8 applied through Analytical Environmental, and Atmospheric (ANYL) and 1 through Physical Chemistry (PHYS). All incoming CHEM students TA both semesters of the first year, and have to take 5 graduate courses. See the following pages for further details in the application process:
  • It is also possible in principle to work in our group if you join the Dept. of Atmospheric and Oceanic Sciences (ATOC), as Jose is an Affiliate Faculty in ATOC. As of Fall 2015, 2 out of 12 current and past graduate students were ATOC students. However this is substantially more complicated than going through CHEM, because ATOC students have to take 12 courses (vs. 5 in CHEM) and TA support is much more limited in ATOC, so admissions are more strict. Do email Jose if you are very interested in our group and you will apply only through ATOC, as he is not directly involved on those admissions and may not even hear about your application otherwise. This route is easier if you already have won a Fellowship such as from NSF that will support you for several years.
  • It is also possible in principle to apply to an Engineering Dept. (Mechanical, Civil and Environmental, Chemical) and work in our group. This is more complex and so far we have not had any Engineering graduate students, although we are interested in them (Jose's undergraduate and graduate work was in Mechanical and Chemical Engineering). Please do contact Jose if you are seriously interested in our group and this is your preferred route, and this may require Jose to contact those Departments. This route is easier if you already have won a Fellowship such as from NSF that will support you for several years.
  • You can sometimes transfer credits if you have done some graduate courses at a different institution, see this link.

I don't have a Bachelors in Chemistry, can I do a PhD in Chemistry with your group?

  • Yes, as long as having a PhD in Chemistry (CHEM), as opposed to another field, is ok with you.
  • We have graduated two students with a PhD on CHEM, one of whom had a Bachelors' degree in Environmental Engineering, and the other in Physics. They did not have any special trouble with the CHEM requirements.
  • In the CHEM PhD program you will TA two semesters of general chemistry in your first year, and you will take 5 courses, and those will serve to prepare you for the oral exams and for research.

When is the deadline for applications? When will I hear back?

  • The deadline is typically in late Dec. Applications are looked at starting in early January, and decisions are made continuously.
  • Late applications can be at a disadvantage, although we still try to look at them.
  • Decisions are mostly finalized by mid to late February, so that students can plan to attend the visiting weekend(s) that are typically in mid-March.

Do I apply to work specifically with you?

  • If you apply to CHEM, most students are not committed to a professor when they start graduate school. Rather they make this decision by the end of their first semester at CU, following the procedure outlined here.
  • However sometimes a student will not come to CU unless we guarantee him/her a spot in our group. If that is the case for you, please let Jose know clearly. As of Feb. 2019, 2 out of 13 graduate students who joined our group were "hardwired" to our group in this way, while 11 chose our group after being at CU for 1 semester. In practice we admit very good students who have several other great schools as options (as you will see talking to the other prospectives that will visit with you). And then here we have multiple world-class groups in Atm Chem (de Gouw, Ziemann, Tolbert, Volkamer, Browne, Brown, plus ours, as of Feb 2019). So the students naturally spread themselves among the options according to their preferences (like in chromatography, they test various surfaces and are retained by the one they have the highest affinity for ;-), and we've almost never had a situation in which someone wants to join our group and they can't.
  • If you apply to ATOC, it is more important to have discussed your group preference with Jose, as applications are evaluated more closely for match with faculty, due to the limited TA positions available in that Dept.

What is the balance of graduate students and postdocs in the group?

  • We strive to have a 50/50 mix of graduate students and postdocs in the group, as especially field studies are too difficult for graduate students alone. Working alongside postdocs makes research more interesting and allows exchanging ideas with people with somewhat more experience and a different background, enriching the student's education. As of Sep 2013, 11 graduate students and 11 postdocs are of have been part of the group. Since students tend to stay longer in the group, the number of person-years so far in the group has been ~2/3 graduate students and ~1/3 postdocs.

What is typical graduate student funding?

  • Graduate students typically are paid a monthly stipend and do not have to pay tuition. The amount of the stipend varies with the exact position (TA, RA, etc.) but is very similar to those at other US universities.
  • The sources of funding are: (a) fellowships; (b) research grants; (c) teaching assistantships.
  • As of January 2012, the fraction of student-months for all past and current students in our group that were supported by each source was: fellowships 47%, RAs 38%, TAs 15% (the latter includes the first two semesters in which almost everyone TAs). Of course this mix of funding could change somewhat in the future due to various factors.

Will I be expected to apply for fellowships while I am a group member?

Yes. We will expect you to take these applications very seriously. In general this is a good idea for several reasons:

  • It looks great on your resume
  • It gives you independence from funding ups & downs (and protects you from having to TA), and gives more freedom to choose a project or to fine-tune what your research
  • It gives you a link with a funding agency which generally opens some doors with them for collaboration and possibly future jobs
  • Often you get to meet other fellowship recipients and attend a meeting (sometimes several) sponsored by the funding agency
  • If often comes with funding for travel and computers specifically for you.
  • It liberates grant money to buy computers, instruments, pay for trips to conferences, etc.

What fellowships are available for graduate students?

The most important and most likely fellowships to get for our group are:

Other possible fellowships are:

Will I be expected to work as a Teaching Assistant (TA) while I am a graduate student?

  • Teaching experience is useful to many graduate students, as their future careers may involve teaching, and skills in public speaking and organization are also enhanced, besides of course the knowledge in the subject. In addition, research has shown that teaching helps graduate students be better researchers.
  • Almost all students who join the group TA both semesters of their first year.
  • Students are typically asked to TA some additional semesters, depending on group finances and their own productivity, typically more at the start and less at the end of their PhDs. Students with fellowships are typically exempted from TAing while the fellowship is active.
  • Students may also be asked to TA parts of Jose's courses.

My undergrad GPA is 2.8/4, what are my chances of joining your group?

  • The University of Colorado requires a GPA of 3.0/4 or higher for admission to the Graduate School. Exceptions require a petition to the Dean. So unless you had amazing letters, research achievements, and GREs, a GPA below 3.0 means that it is very unlikely that your application to the department would be discussed in much detail. The department looks in great detail at every application with GPA above 3.8/4, and we also look at people with GPAs above 3.5/4 IF they come from a good school or are strongly recommended by someone we know. We only look at some people with GPAs below 3.5 on a case-by-case basis (e.g. if from Top Schools).
  • We are aware that international GPAs operate in a different way than US GPAs, so the above rules are relaxed for most international applications.

What is the length of a PhD in your group?

  • The length of time varies, often more due to the motivation (or lack thereof) of the particular student to graduate quickly. Often students are comfortable in graduate school and are resistant to suggestions of speeding up their research, until suddenly the urge to graduate strikes!
  • As of January 2012, we have graduated 5 PhD students, whose PhD took between 4.5 and 6.7 years (average 5.6 years +/- 0.7).
  • For the detailed rules for graduation within our group see this link.

How can I get a masters with your group?

  • We generally do not accept students whose goal is to get a masters degree, as the projects in our group require more time for deep research than what is available in master programs.
  • However, some students decide after working on research for a while that they do not want a PhD after all, or we decide that the rate of progress in research is not sufficient to complete a PhD in about 5 years, etc. Then a masters (a) based on coursework or (b) based on research is possible.

How does the graduate program at CU work

How are graduate students evaluated in your group?

  • We have an annual evaluation process, where the student fills this form, followed by feedback from Jose & Doug, and then we meet and discuss. This allows regular discussion of performance, timelines, suggestions for improvement in both directions etc.

FAQs Specifically for prospective postdocs & research scientists

What is typical postdoc funding?

  • The two sources of funding are our research grants and postdoctoral fellowships. In the US postdoctoral fellowships are more scarce than PhD student fellowships.
  • As of January 2012, the fraction of postdoc-months for all past and current postdocs in our group supported by each source was: research grants 83%, fellowships 17%.
  • Teaching is not a viable funding source for postdocs, as you would need to teach an extremely heavy schedule to have a reasonable salary, but then you would have no time for research at all.

Do you have open postdoc / research scientist positions right now?

  • This changes frequently as we write proposals, hear whether proposals will be funded or not, as people currently in the group get fellowships etc. We keep a listing of open positions in this Wiki page. But even if a position is not listed there, one could develop within your timescale or we could apply for fellowships together, so please email Jose if you are interested.
  • If you can apply for a postdoctoral fellowship, that always increases the chances that you can join the group.

I want to join your group as a postdoc for one year, is this possible?

  • Generally short postdocs don't work well in our group unless the person already has a very strong background in the topic and instrumentation they will work on at Colorado.
  • We are most interested in postdoc candidates who can make a commitment for 2.5-3 years, as that is the time it takes to master all the very complex techniques involved, and from starting a project to publication. Typically postdocs can publish 1 paper in 2 years but 3 papers if they stay 3 years. Thus that extra year is very important for your productivity and your future job prospects.
  • People who stay for short periods of time (< 2 years) need a lot of attention from group members to learn the different techniques, but they often don't get to produce results as the time is too short.
  • So even if you have your own funding, a short (< 2 year) postdoc may not be of interest for our group, unless you already have a lot of experience with the tools we use. Of course you can always email Jose and ask.

What fellowships are available for postdocs?

How are postdocs evaluated in your group?

  • We have an annual evaluation process, where the postdoc fills an official CU form (Annual Summary of Accomplishments or ASA) plus this group form this form, followed by feedback from Jose & Doug, and then we meet and discuss. This allows regular discussion of performance, timelines, suggestions for improvement in both directions etc.