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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.

AOS Resources for Professional Development and Career Planning

Major Advisor: For most of our graduate students, the major advisor will be your single most important resource for professional development. In particular, your advisor 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 and 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.

TA Training and Orientation: We strongly urge all students who will be serving as teaching assistants to avail themselves of all opportunities for TA training, both inside and outside AOS. Some orientation/training sessions are required by the Graduate School for new TAs (you should receive notification of these sessions when you accept a TA position).

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 research, 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 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 visit the Graduate School page on research ethics and 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 faculty advisor should be the first person to turn to for an explanation of ethical practices in research.

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 resume. 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 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. Students who have reached dissertator status are eligible to apply for <a href=””target=”_new”>Vilas Conference Presentation Funds</a> from the Graduate School. 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 especially 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 relevant personnel supporting your travel prior to booking. 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. In particular, be certain that you understand what can and cannot be covered for your trip, including possible limits on hotel, meal, and ground transportation costs.

  • For AOS supported travel, please discuss travel plans well in advance with AOS travel coordinators,, who will advise you on applicable procedures for booking travel and for subsequently obtaining reimbursement. Remember to keep receipts for your eligible expenses and submit to our travel coordinator at the same time you submit your e-reimbursement request. –>
  • For SSEC supported travel, you will need to submit a pink form with basic travel information and the SSEC project number to be charged to the travel office in advance of your trip. After your trip, submit your paper reimbursement form and receipts. These will entered and processed by SSEC staff. Both the pink form and the reimbursement form are available outside the business office door on the 3d floor of the building, just outside the elevator.
  • For CCR supported travel, contact CCR office staff for detailed instructions.

If you become aware of changes in the travel booking and/or reimbursement procedures relative to those outlined above, please notify the Graduate Program Chair so that these instructions can be updated for other students.

AOS Graduate Student Travel Awards

The Department of Atmospheric and Oceanic Sciences has limited funds available to award to current M.S. and Ph.D. graduate students in Atmospheric and Oceanic Sciences 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. Details available here.

To best accommodate all requests, the department will have two competitions each year for travel funding, with deadlines of October 1st and February 1st. 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.

Campus-wide Resources for Professional Development

In addition to opportunities at the local level, the <a href=””target=”_new”>Graduate School Office of Professional Development and Engagement (OPDE)</a> 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 stay informed about the activities offered by the following campus services and programs as well.

Writing Center

Writing is an essential part of what graduate students do, whether it’s preparing a conference paper or 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.

Grants Information Collection

While many graduate students are supported financially by projects funded through their advisors, some must look for other sources of support for their thesis research. This site serves as a clearinghouse for information about possible funding sources.

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 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.

Individual Development Plan

As you begin your graduate school career, an Individual Development Plan (IDP) is an essential tool to help you:

  1. Assess your current skills and strengths
  2. Make a plan for developing skills that will help you meet your academic and professional goals
  3. Communicate with your advisors and mentors about your evolving goals and related skills.

For graduate students funded by the National Institute of Health (NIH), the creation of an IDP is now considered mandatory. For AOS students, it is not mandatory but is strongly recommended by the College of Letters and Sciences. The IDP you create is a document you will want to revisit again and again, to update and refine as your goals change and/or come into focus, and to record your progress and accomplishments. It also serves to start—and maintain—the conversation with your faculty advisor about your career goals and professional development needs.

For graduate students in the natural sciences and engineering, the American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS) online tool “myIDP” provides a comprehensive set of materials and exercises that will guide you through the process of self-assessment, career exploration, goal-setting, and implementation of your plan. Set up a free account and create and monitor your IDP here.