With graduate school comes an additional level of freedom as well as an additional level of self discipline needed to stay on task and finish….

Q: With graduate school comes an additional level of freedom as well as an additional level of self discipline needed to stay on task and finish what must be done. Would you agree? And if so, can you speak to any ideas/techniques/habits that would help with this.

A: Yes, I agree that graduate school demands a high degree of self discipline. All I can say is that it is good training for the real world. I would like to think that one of the reasons I have so much freedom in my job is because of the self discipline I acquired in graduate school. When there is no one around to keep you on task, it is easy to blow things off. Indeed, the need to be internally dedicated to your work is one of the primary weed out mechanisms in graduate school. If you love bacteria cells, molecules, or physical laws so much that you’re willing to forego a real paycheck for five to eight years so that you can study even harder and do even more work than you did in undergraduate school, then you have what it takes to be a doctor. You don’t have to pay money for graduate school, but you do pay with blood, sweat, and tears. In some ways, I think of it like the priesthood. Scientists and engineers are called to graduate school like some men are called to the priesthood. Few are called and even fewer have the courage to answer the call. That is why it is so important to support those who are presently in the process of becoming masters and doctors in science and engineering.

When I was in graduate school, just three years ago, the concept of time management was a big concern for me. I experienced the most stress when my daughter was born. Her birth really tested my ability to deal with the demands of home and work. The first thing I have to say is that the demands of life will never subside. This is how life goes: Get married, have children, graduate, get a job, get promoted, have more kids, go to school plays, go to soccer games, get promoted, get a staff, get a budget, go to twice as many plays, go to soccer games, recitals, more kids, business trips, recruiting trips, family gatherings, plays, teacher meetings, games, shopping, promoted, budget, budget, first dates, graduations. You get the picture. All you will be able to do is adapt to the ever growing demands of life. It will never ever get easier and once you accept that, life is a whole lot of fun. Rather than coping until it stops, you must learn to adapt to the new reality. That is my first piece of advice. Never tolerate or cope. Either act to change or adapt to the new reality.

In order to meet the demands of life, you will need to keep up with new productivity ideas and new technology. Both will help you adapt. One of the best things you can do is regularly read business books and magazines. The business world is constantly trying to find new ways to do more with less. I read Business Week and Business 2.0. Business Week is great for the time conscious manager within. Business 2.0 is a great magazine for entrepreneurs. Perhaps the best productivity book I’ve read is David Allen’s Getting Things Done. He has a really cool system for processing all the work that comes at you and organizing it for action. You can read more about it at www.43folders.com/about. Recently, I got a new software program that allows me to create advanced To-Do lists. Check it out at www.mylifeorganized.com. It also has templates to help you follow the Getting Things Done system. Another system out there is the Printable CEO at www.davidsheah.com. Try to learn as much as possible about as many different methods. Mix and match and use whatever works for you.

What sorts of jobs do entry level employees perform?

Q: What sorts of jobs do entry level employees perform?

A: Your job is what you make of it. You may be hired to do one thing, but don’t let that stop you from developing experience in many areas. I was hired to do physics, but I have always enjoyed quality and business. I attended corporate training in Lean Six Sigma and now I am one of the technical staff leading the Lean Six Sigma effort in my organization. After showing some interest in manufacturing, I am helping to manage our scientific hardware supply chain. Just because you were hired to do one thing, doesn’t mean you can’t do other things. If that is where your passion lies, your company will only benefit from your aptitude and energy in the other areas.

What is the lowest GPA one can have in engineering undergrad and still get in?

Q: What is the lowest GPA one can have in engineering undergrad and still get in?

A: Admissions criteria differ wildly among schools. Your best bet is to check U.S. News and World Report’s America’s Best Engineering Graduate School rankings at www.usnews.com.

U. S News maintains an extensive list of engineering graduate schools. The information includes lists of top ranking schools in specialties such as Industrial Engineering, Civil Engineering, Nuclear Engineering, and many others. For each school listed, they share the average GRE scores and overall acceptance rates for the class admitted in Fall 2005. To help facilitate your application, they also link to the school’s website, admission’s email address, and electronic admission application.

Once you have accessed the U.S. News site, identify 10 schools that you are interested in attending. Visit the schools’ websites and navigate to the academic departments that interest you. Find the contact information of the department chair and send him (or her) a message explaining your desire to study at the school. Request information about admissions criteria.

The lower your GPA, the more important it will be for you to establish that you really want to study in graduate school. One thing you will learn is that in graduate school, determination and tenacity are more important than raw smarts. You don’t have to be a genius, but you do have to be dedicated. The sooner you communicate this quality to the school, the more lenient they will be with their admissions criteria.

I want to know if there is a minimum GPA to be eligible for a fellowship in a masters program.

Q: I want to know if there is a minimum GPA to be eligible for a fellowship in a masters program. I have a 3.2 GPA (overall) in the Mechanical Engineering Department and have participated on design projects, such as the Mini Baja Project. I would like to go to graduate school for a masters in engineering. I am not a resident of this country, which makes it impossible to fund my own tuition. I am planning to do research this quarter and find areas of interest within the engineering field. Thanks for your time.

A: A 3.2 in Mechanical Engineering is good. Getting fellowships is hard though, especially for Masters program students. Professors prefer to support PhD students. If you are interested in getting a PhD, apply directly to the PhD program. If you are really only interested in a Masters, take a two pronged approach. First, apply to as many Masters fellowships as you can. Your school should have an office that will help you find fellowships. You can also try a Google search. Second, it will be important for you establish relationships with some professors. The good news is that if you can establish that you are a hard worker, some professors might be willing to support you even though you are not a Ph.D. student. If you get accepted, you will most likely get support, so don’t worry too much about funding your own tuition. That said, you should still make sure the school will support you before you accept their offer of admission.

I just graduated with a Biomedical Engineering Degree and I am having trouble finding a job.

Q: I just graduated with a Biomedical Engineering Degree and I am having trouble finding a job. I have considered going to graduate school but I am unsure what to go into. I really like to do research and want to pursue that, do you have any suggestions about which area I should possibly study next and which schools are the best to apply to?

A: An obvious choice is to continue in a biomedical engineering degree program. According to U.S. News, the top three graduate schools in Biomedical Engineering are 1) Johns Hopkins University, 2) University of California-San Diego, and 3) Georgia Institute of Technology. You can check the department websites at each of these schools to see if any of their research interests you.

Sit back and ask yourself what you would like to do when you are done with school. If you really like research and want to be responsible for leading research, you sound like Ph.D. material. If you are interested in deep knowledge and enhanced problem solving skills, but not interested in applying your skills to research, a Masters degree should do.

I have some questions about post-college life. In my engineering career, will I confront problems that are much harder?

Q: I have some questions about post-college life. In my engineering career, will I confront problems that are much harder than those I have done in my classes? Thank you for any info.

A: This is a hard question, but I think the answer has to be yes. Think about the cure for cancer, alternative fuel sources, and travel to Mars. All of these are very hard problems. In your engineering career, you will confront problems that have never been solved before. You will create value for your employer by solving these problems in creative and novel ways that will lead to products, sales, and scientific breakthroughs. In school, the problems you solve have already been done a thousand times before by other students. I think it all depends on how you define hard. I define hard as something that is excruciatingly boring to do. To me, working on alternative fuel sources that will save our planet is the most exciting thing in the world. I will work that problem everyday for the rest of my life because I believe in the benefit to humanity and the world. It is super easy for me to work on stuff like that, but making progress is hard work.

I like to say that science is the explorer’s paradise. As a scientist or engineer, it is your job to explore uncharted territory. It is your job to passionately apply your skills to creating engineering marvels. It is hard to explore and hard to create, but these are the hard problems that are so easy to do. Yes, I believe that you will find problems that are infinitely harder, if not impossible, to solve. Remember though that the world was flat, air flight used to be physically impossible, and the Star Trek communicator used to be science fiction until someone invented the cell phone.

I have a few questions. Just recently I decided to change my major and I will now be working on getting a BA not a BS.

Q: I have a few questions. Just recently I decided to change my major and I will now be working on getting a BA not a BS. Could I still participate in MAES? Do I still qualify for scholarships? I am also worried on job options through MAES for my new career, which is Political Science with a concentration in Policy making and Administration. I love being in MAES and I hope to be involved with MAES for many more years to come.

A: Good questions. I certainly hope that you continue to be an active MAES member. MAES membership is open to all and all are welcome to become MAES members. Whether or not you qualify for scholarships depends on the scholarship for which you are applying. Every scholarship has its own criteria. As long as you meet the criteria, you will qualify for that particular scholarship.

Regarding your job options, I think MAES can offer you a wonderful opportunity to practice your political science and policy making skills. MAES badly needs your help. Being a bunch of engineers, we know how to identify problems and attack them with our technical aptitude. The problem is that some of these problems are not solvable with Newtonian mechanics or Maxwell’s equations. We need political science majors to help us work with Washington DC. We need accountants to handle our money. We also need marketers to help us get the word out about wonderful it is to be a MAES member. We need business majors to help us run the organization and strategically plan for its future.

I’m very happy that you are a political scientist that cares for the people and mission of MAES. Like I said, MAES can offer you a wonderful opportunity to practice political science. We need help in Washington. We need someone with passion for the cause to take that passion and apply it to networking with our government officials and educating them about the benefits of MAES. I hope you see the enormous benefit you can provide the organization by making contributions in this area.