Prospective, Incoming, and First-year Students

Your first year at UF

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The first year of graduate school is definitely an adjustment. You’ll have moved to a new city, new courses, and advisor selection. It’s totally normal to feel overwhelmed, but you’ll learn to balance classes, research, and your personal lives. We recommend some of the “A Little of Everything” books in Resources for Current Students for some tips and tricks to hit the ground running during your Ph.D. Additionally, we’ve summarized the most important parts of the first semester.

One of our objectives as a graduate student organization is to provide the resources new Ph.D. students need to succeed! During your first semester, GRACE will hold lots of events to introduce you to current grad students, show you the ropes around the department, and help you select an advisor.


The first fall semester at UF consists of the three ‘basis’ courses:

  • Mathematical Basis (engineering mathematics)
  • Molecular Basis (statistical thermodynamics)
  • Continuum Basis (transport phenomena)

These core courses cover the fundamentals of chemical engineering at a graduate level and are required for all Master’s and Ph.D. students, in conjunction with a graduate course in kinetics in the spring. These four courses replace a written qualifying exam for Ph.D. students. Ph.D. students must also complete four elective courses, at least two of which must be in the Chemical Engineering department.

Advisor Selection

During your first semester, usually in September or October, you will select your advisor. Professors who are accepting students will give a presentation about their projects and their groups to first-year Ph.D. students within the first two months. Once all of the potential advisors have presented, new graduate students schedule one-on-one meetings with advisors whose labs interest them. Approximately three weeks later, students submit their top three choices for an advisor and project. Then, advisors will be assigned after consideration by the department. A Ph.D. is Not Enough!: A guide to survival in science includes lots of great advice about choosing an advisor.

Having gone through the advisor selection process, we recommend the following tips and tricks:

1. Choose somebody with whom you think you will work well

You’ll probably spend the next 3-5 years working for this person, so make sure that you like both their advising style and their research! Remember, the project your advisor assigns to you can change, depending on the funding he or she secures during your time in graduate school—it’s more important that you and your advisor have a solid working relationship.

2. Talk to their current graduate students

Current graduate students will give you the most honest opinion about their advisor and lab culture. Additionally, getting along with current graduate students in a lab is important because they’ll probably be training you and you’ll be working with them every day!

3. Keep an open mind

You might go into grad school wanting to work for a particular professor or do a specific type of research, but sometimes you’ll click with another professor or topic you thought wouldn’t interest you (this happens surprisingly often). Talk with lots of professors in different fields before committing to a lab!

4. Prepare for your meeting with potential advisors

The meetings first-year students have with possible advisors serve as a two-way interview: both the student and the professor are trying to determine if the student is a good fit for the lab. Before meeting with the professor, we suggest reaching out to graduate students in the lab to get an idea of what the lab culture is like and which recent papers the lab has published are most relevant to the project that interests you.