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University of Wisconsin–Madison

Professional Development and Career Planning

UW-Madison offers a wealth of opportunities to enrich your graduate studies and enhance your professional skills. It is expected that you will actively seek out and take full advantage of the resources that best fit your needs and support your career goals. We want our alumni to thrive not only in academia but also in industry, corporate, government, and non-profit arenas; therefore, both the university and AOS are continually striving to expand the range of resources available to meet the professional development needs of our students. With the help of these resources, you will build the skills needed not only to succeed academically at UW-Madison but also to thrive professionally in your chosen career.

Local/Program Resources

Program Manager – The program manager, with support from the faculty director, will be your most important resource for professional development. In particular, they will be better equipped than most to make you aware of opportunities to attend talks or conferences in your own specialty. They should also be helping you to understand the process of preparing papers for peer-reviewed publication, which is useful and marketable experience even for those who might not pursue an academic career.

AOS Graduate Student Association – The GSA plays an important role in the life of the department. Representatives attend departmental meetings, serve on selected committees, and share the concerns and viewpoints of AOS graduate students with the faculty and staff. The GSA also organizes professional development activities and participates in representing AOS at major professional meetings, such as the AMS Annual Meeting. Please consider actively participating in the GSA and assuming leadership positions, both for the sake of your fellow students and for your own professional growth. AOS faculty are usually aware of who has played a constructive role in GSA activities and may make positive note of that involvement in letters of recommendations.

Department Colloquium and Seminars – The regular attendance of the Monday Colloquium and the Wednesday Seminar is expected of all AOS graduate students. AOS regularly recruits top-tier scientists, both from within the building and from other campuses and labs, to present their latest research findings. Even when the topic of the talk is not obviously relevant to your own interest, it is an important opportunity for you to broaden your professional horizons and to improve your sense of what makes an effective scientific or professional presentation. Also, a well-attended talk reflects well on the department, especially when the speaker has gone to considerable trouble to make the trip to Madison!

In addition to AOS talks, please make an effort to stay informed about talks being given by our partner centers, SSEC, CCR, SAGE, and CPEP. The weekly schedule of talks emailed by our main office will usually include those talks in other centers that we know about.

Ethics in Research and Academia – Ethics is an important topic that, unfortunately, is usually not given much formal attention to until something goes badly wrong. In our field, it largely encompasses the issues of fair use, data falsification, and proper citation of, and credit for other peoples’ work. While AOS does not have regularly scheduled seminars or workshops covering ethical issues, these are offered on an occasional basis when a suitable speaker or workshop leader is available. Otherwise, you are encouraged to explore some of the courses that are offered elsewhere on campus. Most of these are geared to the biological and clinical sciences, but the basic issues are common to our field as well. Apart from these opportunities, your advisor should be the first person to turn to for an explanation of ethical practices.

Student Awards

Each year, typically in the late Spring, AOS makes a number of awards to graduate students who have distinguished themselves academically, through service to the department, or as teaching assistants. These awards often include a cash prize, and they are in any case valuable additions to your CV or resumé. Our ability to give these awards in any given year depends both on the available of funds (usually in connection with alumni donations) and on the emergence of clearly distinguished recipients.

Travel to Meetings and Conferences

An important part of the professional development of AOS graduate students is their participation in scientific and professional meetings and conferences. Consult your advisor or the program manager about the appropriate venues for you to attend. Some advisors may have access to funds to help support travel costs. Students should also explore volunteer opportunities and travel grants at AMS and AGU conferences to offset registration costs. In addition, AOS has some opportunities for its own students – see below for more information.

General Travel Information

Support for travel by AOS students may come from any of a number of sources inside or outside AOS, including SSEC or CCR. It is important to observe the policies and procedures applicable to the center supporting your travel. If multiple centers are involved, you should consult with the appropriate personnel in each center to ensure good communication and coordination.

Please review the institutional information on the Travel and Reimbursement website and discuss specifics with the program manager prior to booking any travel. It is extremely important that you coordinate your travel plans in accordance with University, Department, or Center policy well in advance of your travel to avoid the possibility of delays and/or denials of travel reimbursements.

AOS Graduate Student Travel Awards

The Department of Atmospheric and Oceanic Sciences has limited funds available to award to current AOS graduate students for travel to present at national and international conferences or to participate in field projects, summer schools, lab exchanges, collaboration visits, and other activities that enhance graduate scholarship.

To best accommodate all requests, the department will have two competitions each year for travel funding, with deadlines of 1 October and 1 February. Travel awards are limited to a maximum of $1,000 and are not meant to substitute for funding from your advisor. Indeed, some sources of funding for graduate student travel require a matching contribution from the advisor.

When more applications are received than can be supported, preference is given to those who have not previously received travel support.

Decisions will be made within approximately one week of the deadline by the program manager, faculty director, department chair, and department administrator. Evidence of positive yearly progress in your graduate degree is expected to be considered eligible for funding.

Some awards may incur obligations. For example, some of the available funds are designated for recruiting of prospective students, and thus may require participation in outreach efforts such as helping operate a recruiting booth. Others may require matching support from the student’s advisor. Also, upon return from supported travel to a field project, the student may be expected to present a short talk on their experience at an upcoming department seminar, within one year, and/or to submit a short first-person article about their experience for inclusion in the departmental newsletter.

To apply, please send a single PDF attachment in an email to the department administrator and include the following:

  1. A short letter that indicates the name, date, location of the conference, course, field project, etc., whether you will be presenting or participating in some other fashion, the title of your abstract, and the purpose of the travel and how it benefits your graduate education. Provide a breakdown of total costs (airfare, lodging, registration, meals), the amount of outside support (advisor, other grants, awards, out-of-pocket) you have, and the amount you seek from AOS. List dates of previous AOS travel awards and their use. Finally, if there is an opportunity for you to provide outreach for prospective grad student recruitment (such as running a booth), please indicate whether you are willing and able to do so.

  2. A copy of the workshop or course brochure, email invitation, the front page of the website for the meeting, and/or a letter of invitation or acceptance of an abstract, if you have one.

Please note that you will need to follow standard UW travel policies, including the use of e-reimbursement and booking of airfare through our contract vendors unless specifically advised otherwise. Contact the AOS travel coordinators for advice relevant to your specific case.

Campus-wide Resources for Professional Development

In addition to opportunities at the local level, the Graduate School Office of Professional Development provides direct programming in the areas of career development and skill building, and also serves as a clearing house for professional development resources across campus. The best way to stay informed is to watch for the weekly newsletter, GradConnections, and to visit the calendar page for an up-to-date list of events. For example, typical topics covered throughout the year are:

  • Individual development plans
  • Planning for academic success
  • Dissertation writing support
  • Communication skills
  • Grant writing
  • Teaching
  • Mentoring
  • Research ethics
  • Community engagement
  • Entrepreneurship
  • Career exploration: academic, non-profit, industry, government, etc.
  • Job search support
  • Pursuing postdoctoral training

Be sure to keep a pulse on programs offered by the following campus services as well:

  • Writing Center - Writing is an essential part of what graduate students do, whether it’s preparing a technical report, a conference paper, a poster, or writing one’s doctoral dissertation. Written communication skills are regarded as essential by both academic and non-academic employers. The Writing Center helps undergraduate and graduate students in all disciplines become more effective, more confident writers.

  • Student Technology Training (STS) - Student Technology Training offers free software and technology training and project support for registered UW-Madison students.

  • Delta Program - The mission of the Delta Program is to “promote the development of a future national faculty in the natural and social sciences, engineering, and mathematics that is committed to implementing and advancing effective teaching practices for diverse student audiences as part of their professional careers.” A number of AOS graduate students have participated in the Delta Program and reported that it is a valuable opportunity to gain (and demonstrate) teaching skills.

  • UW Teaching Academy - The mission of the University of Wisconsin-Madison Teaching Academy is to “promote, recognize and support excellence in teaching and learning among faculty, staff and students across campus and beyond.”

  • UW Center for the Humanities - The mission of the Center for the Humanities is to “promote the cross-disciplinary, collaborative, and public humanities across and beyond the University of Wisconsin-Madison. We support traditional and new forms of inquiry in the humanities and engage the public through partnerships that broaden the ways that knowledge circulates.”

  • Morgridge Entrepreneurial Bootcamp - Some AOS graduates go on to start businesses in the atmospheric or environmental sciences. The Morgridge Entrepreneurial Bootcamp (MEB) is a one-week intensive training program in technology entrepreneurship for graduate students in the sciences, engineering, and math.