Working smarter not harder in geoscience and STEM

The first semester as a new graduate student in STEM can be a step adjustment in difficulty. Even (especially!) if you were #1 in your undergraduate class, you may have launched into a higher-ranked graduate school that attracts the most competitive students. A big difficulty with some grad schools such as BU ECE is that they expect you to do ALL the first two semesters:

  1. TA
  2. find RA position
  3. apply for fellowships
  4. excel in difficult courses (keep GPA up)

This will peak at over 70-80 hours/week of work. Sometimes exams will come at the same time, this can cause less than desired performance.

How to succeed at this transition from undergrad to grad in STEM and geoscience?

Work smarter not harder in STEM and geoscience

  • collaborative study with students: for research and class
  • take a walk to the drinking fountain or hall window every 30 minutes
  • do sanity checks of your work–the group might have missed something fundamental, particularly in engineering aspects outside core competencies

When to apply for graduate geoscience fellowships

The new PhD student in geoscience before their first (fall) semester starts needs to get set to apply for fellowships, if they haven’t already applied at the end of their undergrad for those fellowships for which this is possible.

  • NSF GRFP is the biggest and covers STEM fields. Universities such as BU offer coaching and feedback sessions
  • NASA NESSF is for basic & applied research in Earth & space science
  • NSF IGERT is a program funding graduate students in a topic area at a university under a PI. This may be offered to you upon admission, if you expressed interest at the time of application. This is what I was offered at NEU.