I am currently a graduate student at the University of Notre Dame studying the bacterium that causes tuberculosis, a disease that currently infects a third of the world’s population. In the past three years of graduate school, I have pushed myself harder and done more than I ever thought possible. I have had the opportunity to meet the rock stars of my field, engage with students from all disciplines, contribute to the academic community by sharing my research, and continue to pursue higher learning. McNair helped me achieve confidence in myself and reach out for opportunities that have allowed me to pave my own road to success. As the first person in my family to attend and graduate from a four-year university and continue on to graduate school, I understand that I am creating a legacy for my younger family to follow. I encourage students who are interested in graduate school to take a calculated leap of faith and push yourself past even your own expectations. Although all PhD programs, including STEM programs, are difficult, we bring an element of character as first generation college students that cannot be understated. Through hard work, dedication, persistence, and mentorship, success is attainable. I can tell you with certainty that I would not be where I am without having participated in McNair and having their support and guidance following me across the country. I always had the tools to do what I needed to succeed, but McNair helped me to realize my goals and achieve them.
Tips and pointers:
- Do not be afraid to ask any question that comes to mind! It’s better to ask now than to be expected to know later and not know.
- Ask for help! You’d be amazed at how much trouble this can save you.
- Reach out to professors who do research you are interested in. Don’t be afraid to send “cold” emails. Most professors are happy to spend a half hour of their day speaking to young students and talking to them about their experiences and research.
- Use your time efficiently. As a graduate student, you are expected to take classes, conduct research, and teach during your first two years. Setting good habits will benefit you in the long run.
- Take your time when learning new techniques and protocols. Write down EVERYTHING. When you are alone in the lab at 12 am. You will be happy you did!