10 Things I Learned From Interviewing Graduate Students (Part 1)

This segment will also appear on episode 40 of the podcast next week.

We wrap up the Graduate Student Series with a summary of the amazing things our volunteers shared for us. Each of these graduate students had different perspectives. Some worked around, some took a year off, some came from other countries and some moved to other countries. However, you could definitively see some similarities. Not only in methods, but also in funding, and problems that people notice.

I hope if you did watch all 7 episodes, you took something valuable from it. Here is what I found.

It is very important to get funding!

All but one person received funding for graduate school, but everyone has always considered getting funding.

From what I understand from these interviews, funding is pretty much like getting a job offer. You have to work a bit harder, but there are some very helpful tips to get funding.

John Gleeson recommends a website called findaphd.com as a cold approach, but it seems like networking and knowing people seems to be the best result.

Some graduate school programs require funding and some do not. It really depends!

Though funding won’t pay for a home deposit, it will help you de-stress and let you focus your time in actually finishing your degree. Funding is an extremely important

From what I understand, most people will email professors to see if funding is available first. Of course, this is a colds approach (meaning this guy has no idea who you are) but it looks like the most successful people who get funded rely on a friend of a friend.

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Leverage Your Network

Most if not all of our guests used their network one way or another. Fiona Salim asked her Manager if she knew anyone and that professor gave her free funding. Eleni Gallata (next monday!) met her current advisor at a conference, Deepak Kumar had connections for universities who worked in India.

If you’re a long time follower of the show, you realize that the industry is not only big, but loves to help each other out. The board members that are from IFTSA are always willing to share their connections and because they are the heart that connects a lot of graduate students, that network is limitless.

I find Linkedin as a very good espionage tool and a very good connecting tool. I’ve contacted many great people with the podcast using linkedin primarily, so funding will work in this regard.

It’s ok to take time off

Caroline Campbell took a year off abroad, and many of our guests worked a bit before tackling Graduate school. Audrey Girard had 3 internships before going into graduate school, Amy DeJong actually got her company to work with her and fund her graduate school.

In fact, most of our guests did get work experience and many of them found that having work experience was vital for becoming a better graduate student. John hated is previous job, which is why he decided to apply to graduate school, Audrey had 3 different internships which proved invaluable to her work.

Fiona Salim’s example is probably the best. With her two years working at Nestle and going into graduate school, she realized that this was very useful. In our interview, we talk on how work experience actually makes things practical. Most students who don’t work will blame their machines if the data is “wrong” even though when you work in industry, you realize that either you messed up, or that well, data is data.

Research Everything About your University

Research the location, the food scene, everything to make sure this move is right for you. You will be here for a while!

Most importantly, I believe you really need to research what the university is known for. For example, Kansas State has an amazing cereal course. Penn State is known for ice cream and chocolate, and UC Davis focuses on California Agriculture.

Not all schools have let’s say, an extruder, or a freeze dryer or even an HPLC machine (my school didn’t)

Being infatuated in what you study is vital to your future. In fact, a lot of PhD students get their thesis, become experts in their narrow field of study, and then get a lot of gigs if the topic becomes hot.

It’s pretty easy to be infatuated with a subject as tangible as food. Both Amy and her friend Maya were studying Candy and Ice Cream. Subjects that would make any field of study jealous.

The best part about having an advanced degree in food is that food is tangible and applicable. It’s also… delicious!

Overall, you need to do your research thoroughly. Graduate school can last 2 to 5 years so it’s important to do your research or else you’ll just be miserable there. Amy did a lot of research, and she also had a lot of options. Her company, Wrigley, was very supportive in her higher education endeavors and worked with her to find out where she would like to be, what their resources were, and what connections they had with academia.

Contact EVERYONE, not just professors

Deepak Kumar used facebook groups, Caroline Campbell called students of these professors, and Eleni looked at her professor’s research publications. It is very important to really contact people who know the culture of the

It is important to find the culture of not only your professor, but also the lab environment. You have to know how your professor works such as how he or she manages projects, answers emails and sets meetings. Some want constant updates once a week, others will ask you to report to them once a month.

Interviewing the current lab mates are equally important. Are the labs clean, do they have the right equipment? Are your lab mates OCD? Are they messy? These are all very important questions!

Because the lab mates are very similar to you, they can also answer a variety of other questions such as what the town is like, what are the best places to eat, or dance at.

Also, what’s important to you? If you want a good religious community, it is so easy to contact the religious groups in facebook. You can contact the diversity area, or the multicultural center. Whatever!

Stay tuned next week where we will post Part 2. Or you can listen to episode 40.

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