Sunday, November 23, 2008

Why and When Ph.D. Students Finish

Why do some graduate students seemingly zip through programs, straight to the Ph.D., while others languish for a decade or even longer? Or never finish?

These questions are at the root of the Council of Graduate Schools’ Ph.D. Completion Project, which aims to study these issues, identify promising practices, and identify strategies so that more graduate students finish their programs in a timely way. On Monday, the council released preliminary data it gathered from surveys of graduate students who earned their Ph.D.’s, and data on completion rates by disciplines. The results come from 29 of the universities participating in the Ph.D. Completion Project, which involves both public and private universities, elite and up-and-coming institutions alike.

The results reinforce the belief about the role of money in promoting completion. Those who finished up their doctorates ranked financial issues as the top factor in enabling them to do so. And to the extent the data show differences among disciplines in financing, those differences carry over to rates of completion (humanities students need to borrow more, and take longer to finish).

With regard to the “main factors” contributing to completion, new Ph.D.’s (who could pick more than one item that applied) ranked the following: 80 percent cited financial support, 63 percent mentoring/advising, 60 percent family support, 39 percent social environment and peer support, 39 percent program quality, and 30 percent professional and career guidance.

Humanities Ph.D.’s were more likely to have held fellowships and teaching assistant positions than were those in other fields, while those in engineering, mathematics and physical sciences were more likely to hold research assistantships. But factors other than merely holding fellowships — possibilities include their size and duration — are also clearly in play as the data show a significant gap in borrowing by graduate students who finish their Ph.D.’s.

If finances pointed to differences among disciplines, other questions in the survey found common ground. Those who finished their Ph.D.’s were asked about the subject of valuable advice they received from mentors. Research was by far the top topic (and people could pick more than one), across all fields. Teaching was much less likely to be cited. Career advice varied, with it being cited in the humanities and social sciences much more than in other fields.

Across disciplines, those who finished their Ph.D.’s said that their academic advisers were most available to them early in their graduate careers. Asked if their advisers were “readily” available to meet with them during various stages of their doctoral education, the answers were 80 percent for coursework, 63 percent for qualifying exams, 60 percent for preliminary exams, 39 percent for the dissertation preparation, and 39 percent for the dissertation defense.

Previous studies by various groups have found that time-to-completion rates for humanities fields lag those for others, and the Council of Graduate Schools effort provided more confirmation. In the physical and biological science and technology fields, more than half of those in entering cohorts are earning a doctorate between year six and seven of a program. In the social sciences, year seven sees only a completion rate of just over 40 percent; in the humanities the figure is 29 percent.

Within the broad disciplinary categories, rates were not uniform. Civil engineers complete at higher rates than electrical engineers. Chemistry’s rates are higher than mathematics. In the humanities, 10-year completion rates are fairly similar across disciplines, but at the six- and seven-year marks, philosophy and foreign languages and literatures outpace English and history.

Daniel Denecke, program director for the council’s Ph.D. completion efforts, said that the next stages of the project will focus on figuring out what the data mean. He said that a first reaction would be to focus on funds. “A lot of these line up on funding,” he said, with regard to disciplines and financial support.

But other factors are also in play and a higher attrition rate may reflect the availability of good jobs in some fields for people with master’s degrees, not flawed doctoral programs. “We’re going to be looking at all kinds of factors,” he said.


Dr Georgina Gómez Receives Distinction for PhD

On April 2nd, Georgina Gómez defended her PhD paper, receiving a number of critical and incisive questions from the review panel. She however clearly responded well as, after private deliberation by the panel, was awarded the Doctor of Philosophy in Development Studies with distinction! Many congratulations to her!

Following is a summary of her paper.

Making markets. The institutional rise and decline of the Argentine Red de Trueque

Georgina M. Gómez

The Argentine Red de Trueque was a unique economic circuit organised by the grassroots against a background of deep economic demise. A group of environmental activists organised their neighbours to start exchanging self-produced goods and services with each other. They thus structured their own market and, as membership grew, they printed their own money to facilitate trade. The Red de Trueque was so successful that after seven years it reached a peak of about 2.5 million participants in 4.700 markets across the country. It became the largest complementary currency system in current days. However, it did not last long at that scale and fell apart. The story of the Red de Trueque discloses the challenges of creating institutions bottom-up and sustaining their governance once they are in place. The thesis reflects on the challenges and limits of civil society organisations to structure a complementary economic system. It further theorises on the potential of development intervention to organise economic institutions.


Nazi-era graduate receives PhD, 65 years later

An 88-year-old man who has been living in the United States since World War II has returned to Berlin to receive a university degree which was denied to him 65 years ago.

In 1943 Dmitri Stein, a student of Berlin's Technical University, submitted his doctoral thesis on the stability of electrical circuits.

It was rejected, not because of the content, but because of the author's ancestry, after the university discovered Mr Stein's father was Jewish.

Denied a doctorate, he hid from the Nazis, fled Germany and escaped to America, but 65 years on, the university has relented.

At the age of 88, Mr Stein was invited back to Berlin to present his thesis and has finally been awarded his PhD.


Thursday, November 20, 2008

National Postgraduate Conference 2009 - UTP

The Postgraduate Studies Office at the Universiti Teknologi PETRONAS (UTP) will be hosting a postgraduate conference for the presentation and discussion of research in engineering, science and technology performed by MSc and PhD students. This conference is organised annually as discussion platform for researchers in science, engineering and technological disciplines including electrical and electronics, chemical, civil, mechanical, geosciences and petroleum, and computer and information technology.

This conference will enable postgraduate students to gain experience of presenting their research work in a formal conference environment. Besides presentation there will be a free forum entitled “Starting Career in Research and Academics” and special sessions. The special sessions will be a medium for industrial practitioners and academicians to share knowledge and discussed various topics in their field.

All papers will be published in NPC 2009 proceedings. Selected papers will be published in Journal of Science and Technology - Taylor's University College, UTP Platform Journal, and IMechE Journal.

NPC 2009 will be organized in UTP. The presentation, forum and special sessions will be conducted in Chancellor Complex's Undercroft. The venue have eight (8) seminar rooms equipped with basic equipments such as LCD projector and rostrum. Prayer rooms are also available nearby.

Important Dates
Submission of Full Paper
1 December 2008

Notification of Acceptance
12 January 2009

Submission of Camera Ready
26 January 2009

Conference Date
25-26 March 2009

For details:

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

Prizes to be won in LG’s online survey - Star

KUALA LUMPUR: Nov 19, 2008

LG Electronics — a worldwide technology and design leader in mobile communications — is conducting a fun holiday survey online on what people want most this holiday season.

It has invited all Malaysians to participate in the survey being conducted at

Participants stand to win some outstanding prizes, including the chance to take home one of the most popular LG mobile phones released this year.

Cellphones are among the top choices for holiday gifts these days so LG is offering as prizes its most attractive trio of phones to three lucky Malaysians — the stylish Secret, the 8-megapixel Renoir cameraphone, and the just-released Cookie.

LG’s holiday survey is also a multimarket one so this is your chance to represent Malaysia and express your feelings and desires for the upcoming holidays and new year.

This special holiday survey will run until Nov 23 across six countries — Malaysia, Singapore, Hong Kong, Australia, Britain, and Brazil.

Its light-hearted questions cover topics such as which person would you most like to spend the holidays with and what would be the ultimate gift you’d like to receive.

Other questions include what you dream is the perfect holiday and what creates the most stress during the holiday season.

LG will release the results of the survey at the end of this month and you can find out which destination Malaysians would most like to visit during the holidays, as well as which celebrities they would most like to smooch with under the mistletoe.

Smart Teaching & Learning Seminar

Pusat Pembangunan Akademik (ADeC) Universiti Malaya dengan kerjasama EP-Tech Solutions Sdn Bhd akan mengadakan Program SMART Teaching and Learning Seminar pada tarikh, masa dan tempat seperti berikut:

Tarikh: 1 Disember 2008
Masa: 9.00 – 5.00 petang
Tempat: Dewan Arif, Fakulti Pendidikan, Universiti Malaya.

Disertakan poster seminar dan borang penyertaan. Borang penyertaan hendaklah dikembalikan kepada pihak penganjur selewat-lewatnya sebelum atau pada 21 November 2008 untuk melancarkan lagi persediaan program berkenaan.

Tempat adalah terhad dan berdasarkan tempahan awal oleh peserta.

International Conference on Electrical Engineering and Informatics 2009 (ICEEI2009)

The Organizing Committees of the 2nd International Conference on Electrical Engineering and Informatics 2009 (ICEEI2009) cordially invites delegates from all over the world to participate in this event to be held in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia on 24th-26th June 2009.

This conference is an international event jointly organized by the Faculty of Information Science and Technology, Universiti Kebangsaan Malaysia and the School of Electrical Engineering and Informatics, Bandung Institute of Technology, Indonesia. The purpose of this conference is to provide a forum for researchers, scientists and engineers from all over the world to exchange ideas and discuss recent progress in all fields of electrical and electronics engineering, and informatics from basic science to practical applications. The first event was successfully held in Bandung Institute of Technology
in 2007.

For details, kindly visit:

Wednesday, November 5, 2008

Let your ideas fly - Star

Nov 2, 2008

GOOD news for creative innovators! The Airbus “Fly Your Ideas” challenge is now open.

A global competition designed to encourage innovative thinkers to develop ideas that can shape the future of aviation and help enhance the sector’s eco-efficiency, the competition is open to college and university students from around the world.

You can be pursuing an undergraduate programme, a masters or a doctorate degree in any discipline, from engineering to marketing, business, science or philosophy to design.

Airbus is offering US$30,000 (RM137,532) to the team whose idea demonstrates the greatest short- or long-term potential to reduce the industry’s impact on the environment.

Competing teams will advance through different challenging rounds, which lead to a live final at the Le Bourget Airshow in Paris, in June next year.

The proposals can look at a wide range of topics including new materials, products and/or processes as well as aircraft performance, manufacturing and organisational and operational performance.

“The Fly Your Ideas competition gives students the opportunity to work with Airbus. Together we can share innovative ideas,” said its president and CEO Tom Enders.

“Airbus wants to encourage students to deliver responsible solutions.

“Through this competition, we hope to tap into new views and ideas, and incorporate them in the early stages of our long term technology work,” said Airbus executive vice-president (Engineering), Patrick Gavin.

For more details about the competition, visit