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 work permit (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:

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:

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 months here.

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.

Research:
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 this map).

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 various 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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