Tips for New Grad Students and Postdocs
I have collected here some tips on some of the most important things for
new students to do before and immediately after arriving at SFU. Note
that I use the term ``students'' to refer to both graduat
students (MSc and PhD) and postdoctoral fellows (or PDFs).
- Immigration and visas:
International students need to apply (before leaving for Canada!)
for a study permit (for students) or
(for postdocs) at a nearby Canadian embassy in you home country.
- Finding a place to live:
There are two main options for students looking for housing:
- Residence on
campus: if you want to live on campus, then you need to
get on the waiting list as soon as possible!
- Off-campus housing: where your best option is to look at
the searchable listing
sponsored by SFU Student services.
- Getting paid:
You will likely have a lot of big expenses upon your arrival here,
and so it is important for you to get set up on payroll as quickly
as possible. Also keep in mind that it takes some time (usually
at least two weeks) before you receive your first pay cheque. To
speed the process, you should:
- Keep both myself and (for MSc/PhD students) the Graduate Secretary, Sofia
Leposavic informed about your arrival dates.
- Get a Canadian bank account set up as soon as
possible. The University will need your account information
to set you up on payroll for direct deposit. This is one of
the most important things you need to do when you
arrive, since so many other services depend on your having an
employee ID number (pay, library card, computing accounts,
keys and access cards, registration, etc.).
- Make sure your work permit is in order when you arrive, and
that you apply for a Social
Insurance Number (SIN) as soon as possible after your
- You should come see me or (for MSc/PhD students) Diane
Pogue as soon as you arrive to get your appointment forms
submitted. At this time, I will need to submit a copy of
your work permit to Payroll. They will also eventually need
a copy of your SIN application receipt (and later your
actual SIN number), although this information is not
absolutely necessary to get the appointment initiated.
One other suggestion for international students: Remember
that it may take some time to transfer funds from your home
country and to set up your bank account. Also remember that banks
will often place limitations on how much you can withdraw from a
new account. You may want to
bring some extra cash with you to take care of emergency expenses.
Also, it may help if you come with a credit card, which can
help make it much easier to deal with expenses during your first few
- Health insurance:
You will need to apply as soon as you arrive for basic health coverage
through the BC provincial Medical Services Plan
(MSP). However, there is a three-month waiting period during
which you must have coverage from your home insurance company or
another private insurance provider. Some helpful information is available from SFU.
- How to get to SFU:
See this map
for the location of the Math Department and the University.
For students who decide to do research under my supervision, I
will encourage you to decide on a research topic as early as
possible after you arrive. I work on a fairly diverse range of topics in
mathematical modelling and scientific computation, with most connected
to some aspect of fluid dynamics. Please see my research web page for more information.
If you are keen to do some reading on any of these topics
before you arrive, then I recommend that you to scan through any
of my relevant publications, or contact me
for other references.
I also strongly encourage any prospective graduate student
to read the book
``The Art of Being a Scientist: A Guide for Graduate Students
and their Mentors,'' by Roel Snieder and Ken Larner.
This is a very nice introduction to what you can expect to
experience during your graduate studies and has lots of tips to
help you get the best out of your experience.
- Graduate courses:
The current list of graduate course offerings
can be viewed here.
- Computing accounts:
- Once you are set up on payroll, you will automatically receive a
university computing account from IT Services,
though this account still needs to be activated by
visiting ACS in person (see Strand Hall on
- TA training workshops:
A significant portion of your time while here at SFU will be spent
in the role of a teaching assistant or TA -- tutoring, marking, teaching
and otherwise interacting with students from undergraduate
courses. With this in mind, it is very important that you be properly
prepared to undertake this activity, and SFU has a few regular
workshops that will help in this regard:
- Academic integrity
Standards of academic integrity vary from university to university
around the world, and we at SFU take this issue very seriously!
It is very important all new students read the
SFU policies on academic conduct very carefully. If you have
any questions about how these policies apply to you, then come
talk to me.
- Specifically for postdocs:
The main contact point between yourself and the university is me
as your supervisor, unlike graduate students who are represented by
various organizations on campus (namely the Faculty of Graduate
Studies, FoGS, and the grad students' union, TSSU).
The Dean of Graduate Studies has put together a web page for
postdocs that has some useful information. There are also a
few external organizations representing postdoctoral fellows that
you may want to consider getting yourself linked up with:
Both have some very helpful information. Pay particular
attention to the survey and position paper from 2009 that are
posted on the CAPS website.
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Last modified: Mon Dec 26 2016