How to Ask for Reference Letters From Your Professors

This following article was published on the Career Services Informer (CSI), the official career blog of Simon Fraser University (SFU).  I have been fortunate to be a guest blogger for the CSI since I was an undergraduate student at SFU, and you can read all of my recent articles as an alumnus here.

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Image courtesy of Frank C. Müller on Wikimedia

I recently blogged about fast-approaching deadlines for professional programs and graduate studies. Applying to those programs and scholarships requires reference letters from professors, and – having done so as a student at SFU – I have learned that this task is far more intense than simply sending a quick email. Here are some tips for how to make it easier for your professors to write the best reference letters for you.

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SFU Statistics and Actuarial Science Gala – Wednesday, September 16, 2015

I look forward to attending the #SFU50 Gala at the Department of Statistics and Actuarial Science at Simon Fraser University on Wednesday, September 16, 2015.  There will be a poster presentation of undergraduate case studies, a short awards ceremony, and many opportunities to network with current and former students, professors and staff from that department.  If you will attend this event, please come and say “Hello”!

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Time: 5:00 – 7:30 pm

Date: Wednesday, September 16, 2015

Place: Applied Sciences Building Atrium, Simon Fraser University, Burnaby, British Columbia, Canada

Get Ahead in the Race to Graduate Studies

This following article was published on the Career Services Informer (CSI), the official career blog of Simon Fraser University (SFU).  I have been fortunate to be a guest blogger for the CSI since I was an undergraduate student at SFU, and you can read all of my recent articles as an alumnus here.

 

As most students return to school in the upcoming semester, their academic studies and back-to-school logistics may be their top priorities.   However, if you want to pursue graduate studies or professional programs like medicine or law, then there are some important deadlines that are fast approaching, and they all involve time-consuming efforts to meet them. Now is a good time to tackle these deadlines and put forth your best effort while you are free of the burdens of exams and papers that await you later in the fall semester.

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Image Courtesy of Melburnian at Wikimedia

Speaking from experience, these applications are very long and tiring, and they will take a lot of thought, planning, writing and re-writing. They also require a lot of coordination to get the necessary documents, like your transcripts and letters of recommendation from professors who can attest to your academic accomplishments and research potential.  Plan ahead for them accordingly, and consider using the Career Services Centre to help you with drafting your curriculum vitae, your statements of interest, and any interview preparation.

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Leaving My Dream Career – Reflecting on My Decision 10 Years Later

I just couldn’t pretend any longer.

It was near the end of my second year at Simon Fraser University.  My GPA was pretty high, and I had just won a competitive NSERC Undergraduate Student Research Award to work with an accomplished cardiac physiologist.  I attended all of the relevant seminars to get the “inside scoop” on how to successfully apply to medical school, and I volunteered in numerous organizations to demonstrate my non-academic credentials.  I had already developed good relationships with several professors who would have gladly written strong recommendations for my application.  All of the stars were aligning for my path to medical school.

I was also miserable, angry and devoid of any further motivation to stay on that path.

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Image courtesy of Carsten Tolkmit from Flickr.  Obtained via the Creative Commons License.

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Eric’s Enlightenment for Monday, May 11, 2015

  1. Benjamin Morris used statistics to assess the value of Dennis Rodman as a rebounder and as a basketball player in general – and wrote one of the most epic series of blog posts in sports analytics.  Contrary to popular opinion, he eloquently argued why Rodman was a better rebounder than Wilt Chamberlain and Bill Russell.  In a digression in Part 1/4 (a), he used assist percentage to assess John Stockton’s greatness as a passer.
  2. I enjoy reading David Sherrill’s notes on quantum and computational chemistry.
  3. Read the first slide of this biostatistics lecture to learn how to calculate the concordance statistic (a.k.a. the C-statistic or the area under the receiver-operating characteristic (ROC) curve).
  4. Here are all of the videos of David Zetland’s lectures for his course on natural resource economics at Simon Fraser University.

Career Seminar at Department of Statistics and Actuarial Science, Simon Fraser University: 1:30 – 2:20 pm, Friday, February 20, 2015

I am very pleased to be invited to speak to the faculty and students in the Department of Statistics and Actuarial Science at Simon Fraser University on this upcoming Friday.  I look forward to sharing my career advice and answering questions from the students about how to succeed in a career in statistics.  If you will attend this seminar, please feel free to come and say “Hello”!

Eric Cai - Official Head Shot

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Free Seminar on Sports Analytics + Free Food @ Boston Pizza in New Westminster: 7 pm, Friday, January 23, 2015

I will attend the following seminar at 7 pm on Friday, January 23, 2015.  It will be held in a private dining room at Boston Pizza (1045 Columbia Street in New Westminster, British Columbia).  This seminar is part of Café Scientifique, an ongoing series of public lectures from my alma mater, Simon Fraser University.

If you will attend, please come and say “Hello”!

Reserve your free seat by emailing: cafe_scientifique@sfu.ca
**Note that there is no accent above the “e” in this address.

SFU Café Scientifique

Friday, January 23, 2015

Speaker: Dr. Tim Swartz, Professor, Department of Statistics & Actuarial ScienceSimon Fraser University

Research interest: My general interest is statistical computing. Most of my work attempts to take advantage of the power of modern computing machinery to solve real statistical problems. The area where I have devoted a lot of attention is the integration problem arising in Bayesian applications. Lately, my interest in statistics in sport has grown to consume a fair bit of my time, perhaps too much of my time.

Topic: Sports Analytics

Sports analytics has become an important area of emphasis for professional sports teams in their attempt to obtain a competitive edge. The discussion will revolve around recent work that Dr. Swartz has conducted in sports analytics such as the optimal time to pull a goalie in hockey, insights into home team advantage and the value of draft positions in major league soccer.

Café Scientifique is a series of informal discussions connecting research to important issues of interest to the community.  Enjoy light snacks and refreshments while engaging with cutting-edge, award-winning researchers from Simon Fraser University’s (SFU) Faculty of Science.

Interview with SFU Office of Graduate Studies & Postdoctoral Fellows: Using Social Media to Advance Your Career

Jackie Amsden, the Coordinator of Postdoctoral Fellows & Professional Development Programs in the Office of Graduate Studies & Postdoctoral Fellows at Simon Fraser University (SFU), recently asked me to share my experience in using blogging and social media to advance my career.  I am pleased to have shared my advice with Jackie in an interview, and she summarized our conversation in a blog post.  I am especially delighted to hear that my advice generated valuable discussion about professional development for a new group of graduate students and post-doctoral fellows during their orientation at SFU.

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Jackie and other members of her team have written a series of blog posts on professional development for graduate students and post-doctoral fellows – check it out!  You can follow Jackie on Twitter @jackiecamsden.

It is always a pleasure to give back to my alma mater and help university students to develop their careers!  Thanks, Jackie!

SFU/UBC/UVic Chemistry Alumni Reception – Monday, June 2, 2014 @ Vancouver Convention Centre

I am excited to attend an alumni reception on next Monday for chemistry graduates from Simon Fraser University (SFU), the University of British Columbia (UBC), and the University of Victoria (UVic).  This event will be held as part of the 97th Canadian Chemistry Conference (CSC-2014), which will be hosted by SFU’s Department of Chemistry.  If you will attend this event, please feel free to come up and say “Hello”!

Eric Cai - Official Head Shot

I look forward to catching up with my old professors and learn about the research that chemists across Canada are conducting!  The coordinates of this event are below; no RSVP is necessary, and the attire is business casual.

SFU/UBC/UVic Alumni Reception
Date: Monday June 2nd, 2014
Time: 6:00 to 8:00pm

Location: Room 306, Vancouver Convention Centre

Simon Fraser University Outstanding Alumni Awards – Wednesday, February 26, 2014 @ Four Seasons Hotel in Vancouver

I am delighted to have been invited to attend the SFU Outstanding Alumni Awards Dinner on this coming Wednesday, February 26!  I am grateful to the SFU Library for inviting me to this wonderful event to celebrate some remarkable graduates from my alma mater.  (I volunteered as a Learning and Writing Skills Peer Educator in the SFU Library’s Student Learning Commons for 7 years.  This was one of the most valuable experiences of my undergraduate education, and it is a pleasure to participate in this event with the Library.)

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If you will attend this event, please do come to the Library’s table and say “Hello!”

Event Date:
Wednesday, February 26, 2014

Time:
Reception: 6:00pm
Dinner + Awards: 6:45pm

Location:
Four Seasons Hotel
791 West Georgia Street
Vancouver, BC

Christmas: A Great Time To Accelerate Your Job Search – Guest-Blogging on SFU’s Career Services Informer

I am excited to publish my new post as a guest blogger on the Career Services Informer, a blog on career advice from Simon Fraser University’s Career Services Centre.  (I volunteered as a Career Peer Educator there for 6 years.)  I recount how I successfully used the winter break during my 8-month Master’s program to network and conduct information interviews, which eventually led to a job that I started 6 days after the last exam in my degree.  While your classmates and colleagues may be resting over the Christmas holidays, you should take advantage of this lull to make a strong impression on potential employers and conduct information interviews with them.  Employers tend to be less busy during this time of the year, so this is also a good time for them to meet with you and share their advice.  Pursuing this contrarian strategy will give you an advantage, and this is why Christmas is a Great Time to Accelerate Your Job Search.

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Opening Doors In Your Job Search With Statistics & Data Analysis – Guest Blogging on Simon Fraser University’s Career Services Informer

The following post was originally published on the Career Services Informer.

Who are the potential customers that a company needs to target in its marketing campaign for a new service? What factors cause defects in a manufacturer’s production process? What impact does a wage-subsidy program have on alleviating poverty in a low-income neighbourhood? Despite the lack of any suggestion about numbers or data in any of these questions, statistics is increasingly playing a bigger – if not the biggest – role in answering them. These are also problems your next employer may need you to adress. How will you tackle them?

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The information economy of the 21st century demands us to adapt to its emphasis on extracting insight from data – and data are exploding in size and complexity in all industries. As you transition from the classroom to the workplace in a tough job market, becoming proficient in basic statistics and data analysis will give you an edge in fields that involve working with information. This applies especially to STEM (science, technology, engineering, and mathematics) and business, but it also applies to health care, governmental affairs, and the social sciences. Even fields like law and the arts are relying on data for making key decisions.

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