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Graduate Peers' Schedules

Fall 2014
Peer Advisor Availability

Professional Development Peer:
Shawn Warner-Garcia
Tue: 10 a.m. to noon, 1:30 to 4:30 p.m.
Thu: 10 a.m. to noon, 1:30 to 4:30 p.m.

Diversity & Outreach Peer:
Vacant

Funding Peer:
Kyle Crocco
Wed: 9 a.m. to 3 p.m.
Thu: 10:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m.

Writing Peer:
Ryan Dippre
Mon: 1:30 to 4:30 p.m.
Tue: 9 a.m. to noon, 3:30 to 4:30 p.m.
Wed: 1:30 to 4:30 p.m.

Communications Peer:
Melissa Rapp
Wed: 9:45 to 11:45 a.m.
Thu: 1 to 5 p.m.

The peers sometimes hold events or attend meetings during their regular office hours. To assure you connect with your Graduate Peer Advisor, we encourage you to contact them by email and make an appointment.

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Wednesday
Oct222014

Parkinson's Research Postdocs for Basic Scientists and Neurologists

PDF LogoAre you interested in furthering Parkinson's science? You can join the Parkinson's Disease Foundation (PDF) team by becoming a PDF-funded researcher.

PDF is a leading national presence in Parkinson’s disease research, education, and public advocacy. Since its founding in 1957, PDF has dedicated over $105 million to fund the work of leading scientists throughout the world and over $44 million to support national education and advocacy initiatives.

Postdoctoral Fellowships for Basic Scientists and Neurologists

Deadline: Monday, December 1.

Support: Basic Scientists ($45,000) and Neurologists ($55,000), for one year, plus $5,000 research allowance.

Eligibility: Basic Scientists must have received their Ph.D. in the last five years; Neurologists must already have their M.D. and be within three years of having completed their residency.

More Info: See the call for applications.

Monday
Oct202014

Advice for Buying a Used Car

Credit: openclipart.comOne of the top five money mistakes you can make is buying an expensive car. The solution is to buy a used or pre-owned car. Pre-owned cars are less expensive (unless you choose a luxury vehicle) and can be the smarter financial purchase if you follow the right steps.

Reasons to buy a used or pre-owned car

1. Less Depreciation. You don't lose 20% of the value of the car as soon as you drive it off the lot as you do with new cars.

2. Cheaper Auto Insurance. Since the overall value of the car is less, you'll end up paying less in car insurance. (Read more about car insurance here).

3. Under Warranty. If you buy a car that is only two to three years old, it is still under warranty for most parts.

4. Cheaper Interest Rates. You get a cheaper loan interest rate. Right now, the average 60 month loan rate for buying a used auto is 2.81%. Compare that to the 3.66% for obtaining a 60 month new car loan. You can check out Bankrate.com for the average car loan rates and use lendingtree.com or loan.com to find the best rates for auto loans by loan providers.

Tips for choosing the right pre-owned car

1. Gently Used. Choose a used car that is only a few years old and has less than 30,000 miles.

2. CPOs. Look into Certified Pre-Owned Cars (CPOs). CPOs are cars with limited miles that come with a warranty. It's best if they are certified by the car manufacturer and not the car dealership, as it is a more reliable deal when certified by the car manufacturer. It's not cheap though, the warranty can cost you between $500 and $1,000, but it is well worth it for the peace of mind it provides.

3. Unpopular model. Choose a car model that is not popular with car thieves. Popular cars with thieves cost more in car insurance.  See the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS) for their list of the most and least popular vehicles for car thieves.

4. Inspected. Have an independent mechanic inspect the car. This should cost you around $60. And shop during daylight hours so you can inspect the car closely. Finally, ask the dealer for the car's inspection history. If they won't give you one, consider shopping elsewhere.

5. Car Report. Use Carfax to obtain a car report for used cars at your local car dealers, or use a VIN number and pay $39.99 to get a more detailed report on the car history (owners, accidents, repairs, lemon history, etc.).

6. Craigslist listings. In addition to a car dealership, you can look for a used car on your local craigslist.com listings. Santa Barbara, Ventura, and Los Angeles are good areas to search. This may be your best option since private party prices are often $1-3k less than dealer prices. If you do decide to go with a car from craigslist, make sure to get the car inspected before purchase.

7. Fair Market Rate. Use Edmunds.com to get the average market rate of the make, model, and year of the car your interested in so you can negotiate a fair price. Kbb.com will give you more pricing information, calculating both private party and dealer rates.

For more tips on buying pre-owned cars, see

CashCourse: Your Real-Life Money Guide (read The Smart Student's Guide to Buying a Car)

Why Buy A Used Car?

Check out the website for "The Money Guide for the Young, Fabulous, and Broke" by Suze Orman.

Monday
Oct202014

Five Ways to Save on Groceries

Credit: openclipart.comSo on those odd times when you're not finding free food on campus (read: GSA Bagel Hours on Wednesday), you might want to save money on your groceries.

Here are five things you can do.

1. Buy items based on the sales advertisements. Plan your meals based on sales. Also, know what you buy so when an item you always use is on sale, buy enough of them for ten weeks, since sales are often on about a ten week cycle.

2. Use up your items in your refrigerator and pantry first. Eat the food that will soon expire, instead of throwing it out. Apparently, Americans typically throw away 25% of their groceries. Don't be that kind of American.

3. Buy generic or lower priced substitutes. Typically, many food items are packaged by the same producer, different labels being the only difference.

4. Look high and low. Higher priced items are shelved at eye level and at the beginning and end of aisles. Look up and down for savings.

5. Buy in-season produce. You can save between 30-50% by buying produce that's in season. Besides, in-season produce tastes better.

For more ideas on how to save, see these articles

5 Ridiculous (but effective ways to save on groceries)

10 Ways to Save Money on Groceries Without Coupons

Here's How to Save Hundreds on Groceries

Top 20 Ways to Save

Friday
Oct172014

Comparing Streaming Video Services

For those of you who stream video legally, you may be wondering which service or services would be the best for putting off your 3 Rs: reading, research, and writing. Also, as an experienced Netflix binge watcher, I wondered if I was missing out on some better procrastination opportunities by just using one service to binge watch.

Here is what I learned.

Price

YouTube LogoFor price, you can't beat the cost of free for YouTube. For yearly subscriptions, many services are comparable. For movie and TV rentals, most services that rent seem about the same, though Amazon seems to have a slight edge by a dollar for many.

Amazon: Amazon Prime Membership costs $99 for a yearly subscription. Amazon Instant movie rentals cost between $.99 and $3.99. TV shows $1.99.

HuluPlus: $7.99 a month, which will cost you $95.88 a year.

Itunes: $1.99 for a single TV episode or $4.99 for movie rentals.

Netflix: $7.99 a month, which costs you $95.88 a year.

Vudu: Movie rentals range between $.99 and $9.99.

YouTube: From free to paid subscription channels, which start at $.99 a month.

Content

Netflix LogoFor sheer content, you can't beat YouTube. For recent network TV shows, HuluPlus is the place to go (except for CBS shows). For binge streaming, nothing beats Netflix these days. For movie rentals, many services seem equal.

Amazon: Less content than a Netflix yearly subscription, but lots of new movies for streaming rental. Some original content as well.

HuluPlus: Almost every recent TV episode you missed, plus some exclusive series. (Note: CBS shows are not available nor are original TV shows from HBO, Showtime, and Netflix.)

Itunes: Many recent TV shows and recent movies.

Netflix: A large number of, some say up to 30,000, films, TV shows, and original content, but films come and go and are often the less popular ones.

Vudu: Many recent films and some recent TV series.

YouTube: The most content of all services (basically every free video in the world), but few recent TV shows or movies.

Platforms and Devices

Amazon logoThe platform or device used to watch streaming video was an issue in the past, but now most services are set up on multiple platforms and devices. Itunes is the most limited, needing the Itunes specific software to function, and Netflix and YouTube are basically everywhere on every device and platform.

Amazon: Watch anywhere on most devices.

HuluPlus: You can use Apple TV, Roku, Xbox, PlayStation or other connected device. Also available on tablets, phones, and hand-held gaming devices.

Itunes: Limited to devices that use Itunes.

Netflix: About everything can stream Netflix.

Vudu: Besides your computer, VUDU is available on virtually every internet-connected Blu-ray™ player and HDTV on the market, plus gaming consoles, Roku, and Google Chromecast and Nexus tablets.

YouTube: Pretty much everything is set up to watch YouTube these days.

Conclusion

After researching the services, I came up with two conclusions: the best service depends on what you want (e.g., price you want to pay, content you want to watch, platform you care to use) and to properly procrastinate you need a combination of two or more services that offer a subscription (for binge watching) and renting (to get the latest movies).

For more information, see these articles

Amazon Prime Versus Netflix Versus Hulu Plus: Which Should You Pay For?

Best Media Streaming Services

Streaming Video Services: How Do They Compare?

TV Streaming Head-to-Head: Netflix vs Hulu vs Amazon Prime

Thursday
Oct162014

Predoctoral Application Writing Advice (Hertz, NSF, DOE, Ford)

Major predoctoral fellowship applications deadlines are coming up soon and for those of you who have not had time to attend a funding workshop, here are some writing tips from the experts. Please note, these fellowships are for U.S. citizens and residents only.

For examples of successful proposals, visit the Graduate Student Resource Center in 1215 Student Resource Building.

For STEM fellowships

NSF Graduate Research Fellowship Program ($32,000 stipend for 3 years and $12,000 cost of education allowance; deadlines vary between Oct. 29 and Nov. 4)

National Defense Science and Engineering Graduate Fellowship ($31,000 average stipend for 3 years and full tuition and fees; deadline Dec. 12)

Hertz Foundation Physical, Biological, and Engineering Sciences Fellowship ($32,000 to $38,000 9-month personal stipend, $5,000 extra for students with dependents, and full tuition; deadline, Oct. 31)

  • Follow the guidelines. If you use the wrong font size or go over the word count, the online application program may reject your application. Don't wait until the last minute to submit your application in case you encounter any technical difficulties.
  • Respond explicitly to the prompts and questions. If you are applying to the NSF GRFP, explicitly describe the broader impact of your research and your intellectual merit. Don't hide this information in your essay so the reviewers have to search for it. 
  • Be realistic. For the NSF GRFP, create a research proposal that is something you can complete during the next three years of graduate school. Don't be over-ambitious to the point that reviewers will think that your chances of completing the research project are slim.
  • Look at successful models. Visit the Graduate Student Resource Center in 1215 Student Resource Building to see the library of accepted fellowship proposals. If there are students in your department who are recipients of the fellowship that you are applying to, ask these students if they will share their applications and advice with you.
  • Make the essays easy to read. The reviewers often read 40 to 75 applications in a 2- to 3-day period. Use white space. Use headings and subheadings to guide the reader. Make sure each paragraph has a thesis statement. Don't use technical jargon.
  • Prove why you deserve the award. You are asking the organization to invest in you as a person. Show them what makes you the perfect person for carrying out the research project that you described in your proposal. Show that you are an innovative individual and a leader (or potential leader) in your field.
  • Future plans. It's OK to write about future plans, but be honest.
  • Publications. If you don't have any publications, share that you have papers that have been submitted for review or that you have significant research results and will be submitting a paper about the results soon. If you have not yet done anything related to "Broader Impacts," write about your future plans.
  • Recommendations. Make sure your letters of recommendation are personalized and tailored to you. Ask people who know you well to write your letters of recommendation. Provide your recommenders with your resume/CV, essays, and bullet points of things that you'd like them to discuss in your recommendation. 
  • Get feedback. Ask your advisor, other faculty, and peers to read your essays and provide feedback.
  • Don't be disappointed if you don't win the first time. It is very hard to write a good research proposal. Only a small percentage of students (10%) win the NSF GFRP fellowship. Keep applying and use the feedback from the reviewers to improve your next application.
  • If you get rejected, keep applying. The feedback that you receive from the reviewers will help you build a stronger application the next time you apply.
  • It's not impossible. About 125 students have NSF fellowships at UCSB.

Ford Foundation Fellowship

(For underrepresented students or students studying underrepresented people in almost all fields. See list. Provides three years of a $24,000 stipend, which must be used within five years; deadline: Nov. 19).

  • Be passionate. It's important to follow the application guidelines and adhere to the formula for writing the essays. However, the reviewers read multiple essays that look the same. Find a way to catch the reviewers' attention and sustain it throughout your essay. Use a hook. Show your passion. Share what makes you and your research different. Write a memorable story for your essay. Think about how the reviewers will remember you after reading your essays and use this to craft your narrative.
  • Write a well-crafted research statement. If you are applying to the dissertation fellowship, make sure that your dissertation proposal has a hypothesis (quantitative studies), a strong overarching research question, and a well-articulated key research problem that you will address. Make sure to justify the methods that you will be using to collect and analyze the data.
  • Don't write a "boo-hoo" personal statement. The personal statement is not a place to share a sob story. Instead, share how the obstacles you've faced have influenced or transformed who you are.
  • Look at successful models. Deconstruct what these models have in common. Use these models to guide your writing. You can find successful application models in the Graduate Student Resource Center Fellowship Proposal Library in 1215 Student Resource Building.
  • Cite foundational texts and primary sources to show that you have done a literature review and have an understanding of how your research will impact your field. Acknowledge that you are not the first person to ever do this type of research. Reviewers dislike it when applicants write that they will be exploring a topic that has never been researched or studied, unless you truly have found that one thing that no one else has researched.
  • Future. Explicitly state how useful the fellowship will be to you (e.g,. Will the fellowship give you more time to focus on data collection and analysis?). Show how the fellowship will be pivotal for completing your milestones or dissertation or obtaining a post-doc position.
  • Get feedback on your essays from your advisor, other faculty, peers, and fellowship recipients (the Ford Foundation posts a list of previous winners).
  • Recommenders. Make sure to get a high quality letter of recommendation. Send your letter writers bullet points of key topics to include in the letter. Make sure that your recommendation writers can provide high quality letters that are tailored to you.
  • Keep on applying and use the feedback from reviewers to improve your application each year.

Information from this article was originally published in two previous application workshop recaps written by Torrey Trust.

Thursday
Oct162014

Hertz Graduate Fellowship Award Deadline, Friday, Oct. 31

Hertz LogoThe deadline for the Hertz Graduate Fellowship Award for 2015-2015 is Friday, Oct. 31. The Fannie and John Hertz Foundation provide unique financial and fellowship support to the nation’s most remarkable PhD students in the physical, biological, and engineering sciences. Fellowships are free of most traditional restrictions.

Hertz Graduate Fellowship Award

Deadline: Friday, Oct. 31

Eligibility: U.S. citizens and permanent residents. College seniors pursuing PhD study or graduate students.

Fields: Applied physical, biological, and engineering sciences. See list.

Support: Five years, between $32,000-$38,000, and full tuition at participating schools.

Wednesday
Oct152014

Coastal Fund: Major and Minor Grant Funding Deadline, Nov. 14

Coastal Fund LogoIf you are looking for funding for your environmental project or campaign for the UCSB campus, then you're in luck. The major and minor grant funding cycle deadline has been changed to Nov. 14 for both grants.

The Coastal Fund (CF) was created by UCSB students to preserve and enhance the ecological integrity of the coastal habitats at the University. Therefore, funded projects should either seek to preserve, restore, or research the coastal environment.

Coastal Fund: Major and Minor Grants

Deadline: Nov. 14

Eligibility: Applications are welcomed from public and private entities seeking to carry out the proposed project within the shoreline of the University of California at Santa Barbara.

Support: Minor Grant is for $1,000 or less and a Major Grant is for $1,000 or more, based on the budget.

To Apply: You will need a budget, timeline, project proposal, and a support letter if you are a graduate student. See their application page for more information.

Wednesday
Oct152014

Trader Joe's: Best and Worst Deals

Trader Joe's LogoIf you're a single graduate student, Trader Joe's is a great place to shop for food and goodies. The staff are really friendly, always ready to chat with you while you're checking out, and the prices you find are reasonable compared to the competition.

Yet, not everything is a great deal. So here is a list of some of the best and worst deals you can find at Trader Joe's, plus a list of the top five most popular items in 2013 (for more, see links at the end of the article).

Best Deals

Beer, Wine, and Spirits: A staple for getting students through graduate school and dissertation writing and at good prices. They also have plenty of local micro brews, which are a plus in my book (my book is on beer, by the way).

Cheese: A wide selection of specialty cheeses for the discerning cheese connoisseur at reasonable rates.

Frozen Meals: Tasty meals for one that cost you less than the competition.

Nuts and Seeds: For nut lovers, they have all they types of nuts and seeds you could possibly want, plus trail mix for you outdoor enthusiasts.

Olive Oil: For you cooking aficionados (you know who you are, and you should invite me over for dinner), they have a nice selection at a good price.

Worst Deals

Conventional Fresh Fruit and Vegetables: Full disclosure, your funding peer buys these because they are conveniently packed and sorted so I can grab and go. However, for your foodies this limits your ability to pick and choose the best produce or to purchase the exact amount you want.

Frozen Fruit: Sold in small packages so you'll end up paying more.

Meat and Seafood: Meat can be overpriced compared to competitors and the source of seafood is not always available.

Most Popular

  1. Triple Ginger Snaps
  2. Speculoos Cookie Butter
  3. Joe Joe's Cookies (All varieties)
  4. Reduced Guilt Chunky Guacamole
  5. Charles Shaw Wines (All varieties)

For more information on best and worst deals and popular items see

The 7 Best Things to Buy at Trader Joe's

The 4 Worst Things to Buy at Trader Joe's

The Best and Worst Deals at Trader Joe's

Best and Worst Buys at Trader Joe's

A Stunning Look at the 17 Most Popular Items at Trader Joe's

Monday
Oct132014

Retirement Savings or Student Loan Payments: What to Do?

IndecisiveIndecisive? Credit: openclipart.comAs a graduate student, you are probably thinking more about finishing that dissertation chapter than about saving for your retirement. Retirement is far away, you're still young, and that dissertation chapter isn't going to write itself. But once you graduate, you will get old and you will want to have money saved so you won't have to eat cat food.

The question then is how will you save for retirement when you have that pesky student loan to pay off?

The Wrong Way: The mistake is to concentrate all your extra money on paying off your student debt before you start saving for retirement, or even saving at all. Putting off your retirement saving for too long can leave you with too little money come retirement. It's also a stupid financial strategy, since saving gets you free money. When you save your money in a 401K, you pay less taxes on your 401K money and when you save your money in an interest-bearing account, you get the miracle of compound interest.

The Right Way: Strike a balance between paying off your debt and investing in your retirement. Use automatic debiting to both invest in your retirement funds and to pay off your student debt. That way you don't have to think about it. The amounts you choose to pay off your student loan or to invest in retirement can vary depending on your situation and the interest rate of your student loans. For example, if you have high interest loans you may wish to devote more to paying off that debt.

For more information on this topic, see these articles:

Prepaying Student Loans May Mean Less Money in Retirement

Pay Off Student Loans or Save for Retirement?

What's On First: Paying Off Student Loans or Saving for Retirement?

Monday
Oct132014

Grad Students, Don't Make These Five Money Mistakes

BudgetBudget. Credit: openclipart.comWe all make money mistakes. Here are five you should try to avoid as a graduate student.

1. Spending More Than You Earn. Sounds simple to avoid, but that's how we end up in debt. Solution: Make a budget based on your resources and, most importantly, follow it. For graduate students, you might also add, don't borrow more in student loans than you can pay back. The guiding rule is not to borrow more than the total amount you will earn your first year of a job in your field.

2. Living In A Place You Can't Afford. This one might be a little difficult in Santa Barbara with the high rents and low vacancy rates. The general rule for expenses is not to spend more than one-third of what you earn on housing (rent, utilities, mortgage, etc.). For Santa Barbara, search for a cheaper place to live or live with roommates. After you graduate, choose a place within your budget.

3. Not Saving. This might be difficult to do as a graduate student on a stretched budget, but you can always find ways to save $50 a month if you budget and know your expenses. Use automatic savings so you don't even have to think about it. This is an important habit to learn for retirement savings and for emergencies.

4. Not Having an Emergency Fund. Bad things happen to good graduate students, like losing funding or medical emergencies, and they always tend to be expensive. which is why you should have an emergency fund. This is much easier if you are automatically saving every month. The guiding rule for emergency funds is to have enough to pay for three months of living expenses.

5. Buying An Expensive Car. Cars are a necessity for most people in the U.S., but new cars are expensive and a high car payment can make your financial life more difficult, such as paying off your student loan, or even paying rent. Consider buying a used car. The overall price is lower and 2- and 3-year-old cars are often the best values for your money.

For more information, see these articles:

10 Stupidest Money Mistakes

5 Stupid Money Mistakes We Make In Our 20s

7 Money Mistakes You Shouldn't Make In Your 30s

The 13 Biggest Money Mistakes People Make