A: MAES supports students in graduate school through several means. The GRE Waiver Program supports students financially by covering the fee to take the Graduate Record Exam. At the annual MAES symposium and career fair, graduate and undergraduate students are able to present research and compete for $10,000 in scholarships that are distributed to the students with the best papers and posters. During the symposium, a graduate school fair helps potential graduate students meet with recruiters from top science and engineering graduate schools across the nation. Also during the symposium, a graduate school panel discussion invites students to pose questions for immediate feedback. The panel discussion is a live version of the Ask Dr. MAES forum. Students who are unable to attend the panel discussion at the symposium are welcome to send questions to Ask Dr. MAES. MAES also maintains a list of potential coaches and mentors for undergraduate and graduate students. Students may request a connection at any time by writing to a member of the MAES Outreach Committee.
Q: What is the most important thing to learn in school?
A: Learn to love the process of learning. Unfortunately, somewhere between elementary school and college, most students are turned off from school and learning becomes a chore. This is sad because learning is the most natural part of life. It is also the most critical skill needed to survive the workplace. While in school, learn how to make learning fun. Find ways to keep it exciting and challenging. You will use this skill throughout your life. While others choose to avoid learning new things, you will be constantly improving your knowledge and skills. While others fear being made obsolete by new graduates with state of the art skills in your field, you will be the person who has kept up with the latest technology and gathered the experience to use it wisely. People who love to learn become the architects of progress within their companies. Through them, new ideas and practices enter the organization. Their managers look to them as oracles of the future. What a wonderful position to be in. Do yourself a favor and cultivate a lifelong love of learning. Be like an explorer discovering long lost artifacts, the cure for cancer, or the farthest reaches of the galaxy. Develop a passion for the unknown.
Q: How many times are you allowed to take the GRE? And if you can retake it do they replace your score if you score higher than the first time you took the test?
A: You can take the GRE as many times as you want. Unfortunately, a higher test score will not replace a lower one. What they do is report all your GRE test scores to the schools. So, if you take it twice, they will report both scores. Schools vary in how they treat this data. Some of them will only count the highest score. Some average all your scores. Call the admissions office to find out how the school treats multiple GRE scores. If you think you did badly, you have the option of canceling the test, but you can only do this right after you take the test before it is scored.
The following fellowships are opening to applicants very soon:
1. The National Science Foundation’s Graduate Research Fellowship Program
The 2007-2008 Competition will open for applications in early August 2007. This fellowship program provides students with three years of financial support including a $30,000 annual stipend and $10,500 cost-of-education allowance. U.S. citizens, nationals, or permanent residents at or near the beginning of research-based graduate studies in the Chemistry, Computer and Information Science and Engineering, Engineering, Geosciences, Life Sciences, Mathematical Sciences, Physics and Astronomy, Psychology, and Social Sciences fields are eligible to apply. For additional information and deadlines, please go to https://www.fastlane.nsf.gov/grfp/
2. The National Defense Science and Engineering Graduate Fellowship Program (NDSEG)
Sponsored by the Department of Defense, this fellowship program is intended for U.S. citizens at or near the beginning of their graduate studies in science and/or engineering programs. The fellowships are for three year tenures and provide an annual stipend of over $30,000. Full tuition and fees and a health insurance allowance are included as part of the program. For additional information, please go to http://www.asee.org/ndseg
3. Science, Mathematics and Research for Transformation (SMART) Defense Scholarship for Service Program
This Department of Defense Program is open to undergraduate and graduate students studying in the Science, Mathematics and Engineering fields and provides an annual salary, full tuition, and other normal educational expenses including health insurance and a book allowance. Applicants must be U.S. citizens or nationals, and at least 18 years of age. There is an employment obligation to Department of Defense with this education program. For additional information, please go to http://www.asee.org/smart
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.
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.
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.