One important way to be fair in grad school interviews

Today is the day! We are interviewing possible graduate students! They have made a huge cut and have been invited to campus. Which ones will we commit to for 5 or more years? Which ones will join our labs, have their lives changed by our research and our culture? How can we choose the best students? One thing that is crucial is to be fair. Do not look for your younger twin. Treat everyone equally. One way to do this is to ask the same questions of everyone. Don’t find someone who shares your arcane hobby, or has been where you have been. These things will exclude diversity, often, and don’t matter for research.

Here are the questions I will use this year:

1. Can you tell me about any research or independent study that you did as an

Jennie Kudzdal-Fick, Ph.D. and glory!


2. Tell me about your favorite undergraduate classes and what made them so great?

3. What are you interested in exploring in graduate school?

4. What kinds of things excite you the most about research?

5. What kinds of techniques have you learned; which ones do you like; which ones do you find challenging?

6. Can you tell me about a time when you were a teacher or a mentor?

7. Tell me about an article you read recently that seemed really interesting?

8. How might you thrive in this department?

In other years I have used others. Actually, I have written a lot on choosing a graduate school, on how to impress us, here. On how to figure out self starters, here. But probably best to dig through my posts searching for “grad student” and learning how to avoid both zombie and vampire professors.

Good luck! It will be a fabulous few years!

About Joan E. Strassmann

Evolutionary biologist, studies social behavior in insects & microbes, interested in education, travel, birds, tropics, nature, food; biology professor at Washington University in St. Louis
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