Dennis Bernstein is a engineering professor at the University of Michigan who has written a number of research guides for those new to research. The guides are written from his personal experiences with help from colleagues and references. They are short, candid and honest, and tackle many firsts of a new researcher such as getting started on a problem, presenting and writing papers. All the guides are found here.
Category Archives: People
Leola Chow completed a Bachelors of Science degree in genetics at the University of Alberta in 2000. As part of the program requirement, she completed an honours project in her last year of undergraduate studies. This parlayed into a summer research position, then a Master’s thesis which was ultimately completed as a Phd Thesis. Her thesis research investigated factors that determine cell fate. After graduating, Leola was awarded a Canadian Blood Services post-doctoral fellowship at St. Michael’s Hospital in Toronto where she studied autoimmune diseases related to blood. Currently, Leola is a post-doctoral fellow at the University of Manitoba where she tests treatments for asthma and arthritis.
Her graduate studies taught her basic laboratory skills required for performing sophisticated biological experiments, provided her with a comprehensive knowledge of molecular biology and also made her realize her affinity for medical research. Because of this, Leola was able to transition smoothly into a more clinical field for her post-doctoral research which involves hematology, cell analysis, human immune diseases and designing animal models to investigate these diseases. After many years of studying, researching and learning in a highly specialized field, Leola now considers herself a professional immunologist/geneticist with a specialization in immune diseases.
Having spent a number of years as both a graduate student and a postdoctoral fellow, Leola feels both positions are research intensive and require a lot of self-learning. As a PhD student, you are teaching yourself to be a critical and thorough research scientist and learning basic experimental techniques needed for more specialized research. As a post-doctoral fellow, there is less need for learning fundamental procedures and a more immediate jump into the research project. In addition, it is rare for a post-doctoral fellow in her field to teach while it is quite common that graduate students are part-time teaching assistants.
A few words of wisdom from Leola for future and current graduate students are as follows. Consider a supervisor who is active in the laboratory and involved with his/her graduate students as well as someone who has a small research group. This allows for an open and intimate learning environment with opportunities for everyone to share and communicate. As a post-doctoral fellow, work with a researcher who is established because at this stage, the research is extremely intensive and hence, requires more resources and an experienced mentor. Lastly, having acquired her second post-doctoral position via networking, Leola wants you to know that it is never too early to network and open yourself to future career opportunities.
Thank you to Leola for taking the time to do this interview.
Ryan Trelford began his post–secondary education at Red Deer College and it was there that a mathematics instructor encouraged him to pursue a mathematics degree. He completed both a bachelor of science degree with specialization in mathematics and a master of science degree in pure mathematics at the University of Alberta. Currently, he is a PhD student at the University of Calgary studying computational and discrete geometry.
Due to the recession, Ryan chose to enter a master’s program after graduating from his bachelor’s degree. His master’s did not progress as smoothly as most and he eventually switched supervisors and required an additional year to complete his degree. Because of these setbacks, Ryan took some time oﬀ after ﬁnishing his master’s degree. During this break, he missed teaching and realized he wanted a teaching career at a post-secondary institution; however, this often requires more than just a master’s degree.
From his master’s studies, Ryan knew his research interests precisely and who to work with for his PhD. There were four universities under consideration: University of Western Ontario and University of Calgary as well as the American universities, Case Western Reserve and Northeastern University. He was in personal contact with potential supervisors at both American universities and settled on Case Western Reserve, but was awarded an entrance scholarship to Calgary. Coupled with the economic downturn in the U.S., the University of Calgary was ultimately chosen.
Now two full years into his PhD program, Ryan has no regrets and is very happy to be pursing a degree there. He felt that his graduate experience at the University of Alberta was too independent because of the university’s large graduate program. Calgary has a smaller math community and more encouragement for attending seminars and conferences as well as applying for awards and scholarships.
Though he finds research rewarding, Ryan’s passion is teaching. Once his PhD studies are complete, he hopes to teach full-time and not necessarily in mathematics. He simply loves teaching and, for example, would gladly accept an opportunity to travel overseas to teach English.
Lastly, Ryan’s words of wisdom for current and new graduate students is to keep an open mind and realize that “graduate school is not an extension of undergrad. Do not expect weekly assurances that you’re doing a good job.” Graduate students should also be aware that in research, “you can stare at a problem for months and get nowhere with it” but do not be discouraged because in most cases, no one knows the answer.
A big thank you to Ryan for taking the time for this interview and also read about his teaching philosophies and experiences on NerdyMathJitsu.
Thank you to Hassan for taking the time to do this interview.
Donna Messer is a networking guru and I had the good fortune of attending one of her workshops. The workshop was sponsored through MITACS to help graduate students learn effective networking. Donna spent three hours literally connecting us to people she knows from around the world and at the same time teaching us how to network with what we have and then building from there. If you can’t attend one of her workshops or speaking engagements, then browse through her website where she shares her networking philosophies and resources.