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.
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.
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.
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.