Graduate students’ road to graduation

Jacob Runnels

The life of a graduate student is different from the life of an undergraduate student, in that research projects are common and theses and dissertations, or final research projects, are a must to graduate.

“The main teaching is not in the classroom. I don’t think this is the best way of teaching,” said Antal Jakli, professor of chemical physics and graduate coordinator. “The main teaching is when you do your dissertation. That’s where you learn how to do research, because that will be your life after that.”

Jakli said that the usual amount of time it takes for a student to earn his or her master’s degree is about two years compared to the four to five years a student has to take for a doctorate degree.

Students who are entering graduate studies begin by taking classes and signing up as teaching assistants, which they assist professors in undergraduate classes. They then take on their own research by speaking to professors.

“We can meet professors and talk to them regarding their research fields,” said Sangeetha Selvam, a graduate student majoring in chemistry. “If you like the research group, you can join the research group. There are no obligations.”

Selvam said that after students complete the coursework in the master’s program, they have to take their candidacy exams, which are exams that qualify master students to take doctorate studies.

However, there are more research projects a student is able to participate in when they are earning their doctorate degree, research is then defended in a dissertation.

“You progress from being a graduate student to what’s called a doctorate candidate,” said Adam Stowie, a graduate student majoring in biological sciences-physiology. “You’ll write a prospectus which is saying what you’re going to do. Then you have to defend that prospectus, (which) at the end of that, you have your road map to finishing your degree.”

Contact Jacob Runnels at [email protected].