Category Archives: Engineering

What Makes a Good Graduate Program?

The most prominent factors I considered when looking at graduate school programs

By Audrey Balaska, Mechanical Engineering: Human-Robot Interaction Ph.D. Student

As you may have figured out, I am a graduate student at Tufts University. Specifically, I am a first-year student in the Mechanical Engineering and Human-Robot Interaction joint Ph.D. program. Before coming to Tufts, I received my B.S. in Mechanical Engineering from the University of New Hampshire in May 2019.

Since I’m such a new student, the application process is still fresh in my mind. One of the steps I found the most challenging was deciding which schools to apply to and then which position to actually accept. I’m going to talk about my personal journey, and if this doesn’t resonate with you, that’s ok! There are many paths one can take to get to graduate school

Deciding where to apply to

When I was considering schools, I learned about them in a variety of ways. Some I found through online research on labs which had rehabilitation engineering as a research area. Others I remembered from my search for undergraduate programs. Some I learned about because faculty recommended them to me based on my research interests. And some, like Tufts, I learned about at a graduate school fair.

Rather than inundate you with further information regarding every school I looked at, I’m going to explain to you why I decided to apply to Tufts, and why I ultimately decided to come here for my graduate degree.

Like I said, I learned about Tufts University from a graduate school fair – specifically, the one at the Tau Beta Pi (the oldest engineering honors society in the United States) National Convention in Fall 2018. While a decent number of schools were represented at this fair, I did not apply to all of them. I first decided to look more into Tufts because the representative from Tufts University showed genuine enthusiasm for the school, and was able to tell me some specific aspects of Tufts University I might find interesting after I told her my research interests. Having someone so knowledgeable about the school at the fair reflected really well to me. Just because someone you meet from a school isn’t in your research area, doesn’t mean they don’t reflect the university’s community and environment.

Meeting someone from the graduate admissions staff wasn’t enough to get me to apply, though. That occurred when I researched the program more and found classes and research labs closely related to my own research interests.

Deciding to Attend Tufts

Then, I got into Tufts University, along with a couple of other schools. That was when I had to make the big decision of where to spend the next 4-6 years of my life.

One thing that I didn’t consider much when applying to schools, but definitely did at this stage, was the location. I realized after some thought that I really wanted to be close to a city, or even in one. That caused me to decline one school, and pushed Tufts even higher on my list.

Another thing that I really liked about Tufts was the graduate student environment. Tufts University has some awesome graduate student organizations, and hosts multiple professional and social events each semester. Not all universities have this, and it was something I was excited to see existed at Tufts.

Most importantly, however, was my advisor. I got to speak with him via Skype during my winter break after I applied, and then got to meet him in person once I had been accepted to the program. Both times I found that I liked his personality, his research, and his leadership style. Honestly, having met him, it became very easy to say yes to Tufts. If you are applying to doctoral programs, make sure you take the time to try and meet your potential advisors. I had other potential advisors whose research appealed to me, but found that when talking to them our personalities were not a great match.

Ultimately, when deciding on a graduate program it is crucial to decide what is most important to you. I realized I cared a lot more about my location than I initially thought, but some people I know really had not cared about where their school was. Before deciding on a school, take the time to decide what is actually important to you. Maybe, one day, the school that you pick will be Tufts!

Graduate Certificates: How I boosted my career to the next level

Written by Penelope Seagrave, Human Factors M.S. 2018

Finishing my graduate certificate gave me the boost I needed to make a difference in my company. Now, equipped with certification, my suggestions hold more weight, and working with a few other colleagues, I was able to form a UX Guild. We have biweekly meetings where we cover UX opportunities within cross functional departments. I have been able to knock down feedback silos and have further strengthened interdepartmental communication channels.

Throughout my career, there have been many times when I have been dying to fix problems in design. I have always had an immutable urge to improve designs to optimize efficiency, enjoyment, and overall flow. Countless times I have brought my concerns and ideas to team leads, project managers, and designers. Sometimes they would consider my suggestions and implement them, other times they would state that there were other matters of higher priority. Whatever the excuse, and all too often, my ideas and suggestions were ignored.

Completing the certificate in Human-Computer Interaction at Tufts finally gave my suggestions the weight necessary to be taken seriously. Not only was I viewed as more credible, I now had lessons and fundamentals to corroborate that credibility.

Additionally, the certificate route enabled me to concretely affirm my interest and excitement about my field. I am now enrolled in the master’s program for Human Factors Engineering, and I am on the board for THFES (Tufts Human Factors and Ergonomics Society). If you see any cute flyers/ Facebook posts for THFES, I designed those! I am utterly obsessed and indefatigably fascinated with learning as much as I can in my field.

Beyond the professional and academical growth my certificate has allowed me, I am so proud of myself for following my dreams and working hard to fulfill them. Balancing work, school, and being a kitty-mommy is no lazy Sunday. I am constantly on the go or working on a project or assignment. But I have sincerely never been prouder of myself. And it has been so worth it.

Reflections of an International Student

Written by Manisha Raghavan, Bioengineering M.S. 2019

I made a vital journey over 12,239 kms (or should I say 7,605 miles) to get to where I am today. I moved to Boston on the 24th of August 2018, leaving everything that was close to my heart back in Mumbai, India. I knew I wanted to pursue a graduate degree in Biomedical Engineering ever since I was in college. But no matter how far ahead you plan your life, when it comes to crossing the bridge, there is always going to be a tingling sensation in the body. Now that it has been over a year in Boston, I wanted to chronicle my experience in this foreign land from my perspective.

From changing the way I read temperature, write down dates, and measure distances, almost every subtle change made me feel uncomfortable in the first few weeks. New faces, new relationships, new friends, and new challenges are few of the facets of life at grad school. More often than not, if you are an international student, people will ask you ‘Why did you choose Tufts?’ To be honest, I chose Tufts because my program curriculum matched my interests, and being in Boston as a biomedical engineer felt like the best decision in terms of my career. I was more excited than nervous coming here because I felt like I was doing something monumental with my life. I am sure each one of you incoming and current grad students feel the same way!

But my transition was not easy. Small events like buying groceries, doing laundry, paying bills, cleaning the house, and cooking for myself made me miss my family back home and I ended up realizing their value and how little I had appreciated the things I was provided with at home. But sooner or later, I had to reconcile with the fact that I was a responsible and independent woman who chose to move to the US.

As an international student, there were moments when I did crave the company of fellow Indians, or good Indian food. These normal feelings will happen to you as well, but do not let that stop you from learning about other cultures and exploring other cuisines. I wanted to make the best of my time over here, and I ended up signing for all the professional development workshops, seminars and talks that I could. One issue I faced was that I hesitated to ask for help because I was afraid of bothering people. Do not make the same mistake that I did! All  of the organizations at Tufts are super helpful and if they are unable to help you, they will direct you to the right person. Winter was challenging, but I survived,  and so will you if this is your first Boston winter. Above all, over the last year I learned to appreciate myself, my people, and the little things around me so much more.

I will leave you with a few things if you are heading to Tufts for grad school. Talk, connect, and socialize whilst taking care of your priorities. Explore and travel as much as you can. Be excited about crafting your own path and journey. But most importantly, take care of yourself! I still have a year to go before graduation and with every passing day I know I am going to miss this beautiful place even more.

Weekend trips near Tufts – the best places to hike and explore!

Written by Ece Gulsan, Chemical Engineering Ph.D. student

Let me tell you something that you’ve probably never heard before: grad school is tough. It requires hard work, dedication, and spending most of your time deep-diving into whatever you are working on. Even though we are lucky enough to perform our studies on a truly beautiful campus, we spend most of our time in our classes, labs or study areas. Because of this, removed from nature! Along with the significant health benefits of fresh air, nature has a lot to offer us. Spending time outside provides physical (and mental) rejuvenation, helps you to cope with stress, enhances your mood, reduces anxiety, and muscle tension. You focus better, become more creative, and improve your problem-solving skills. Luckily, even grad students have weekends, and the Greater Boston Area couldn’t be located in a more strategic position for weekend getaways. It doesn’t take more than a couple of hours to drive to get to the most beautiful mountains of the East Coast, stunning lakes, and gorgeous national parks. Here are my favorite destinations to spend some quality time in nature, which are very convenient to visit either as a day trip or overnight stay.

What to bring:

  • Hiking gear, sturdy shoes
  • Water
  • Lunch and some snacks
  • A light jacket, it can be windy up there

White Mountains National Forest, New Hampshire

This state offers shopping with no sales tax and many mountains with several trail options for hiking. It takes approximately two hours to drive from Medford, depending on where you are heading. White Mountains National Forest is a personal favorite, as it houses the majority of 4,000 footer mountains in the area (mountains which have an elevation of at least 4,000 feet). Mount Washington, the tallest and the most famous one, is definitely a must-go, but there are some other options for those who are not very experienced in hiking.

Cannon Mountain is 4,100 feet high, and very convenient for visitors since it has a parking lot right next to the beginning of the hike. The hike is steep, and offers a fascinating view if you can make it all the way up to the summit. Even if you cannot, the mountain has some sub-peaks called “The Cannon Balds,” which are great places to have your lunch in the woods with an awesome view of mountains. If you feel lazy, but still want to see the view, there is a family-friendly cable car which can carry you up to the top, but I highly recommend you to take the high road and reward yourself with well-deserved cold beer at the observatory. If you are an experienced hiker, you can try a steep trail loop to North and South Kinsman. To turn your day trip into a longer visit, stay at the affordable and convenient Fransted Family Campground nearby and stop at Franconia Notch State Park and Echo Lake for more hiking and sunset views, and One Love Brewery for food and fun. 

*Pro-tip: It is awesome to watch sunset on the mountains, but be prepared to go all the way down in pitch dark.

Acadia National Park, Maine

For a longer trip, I recommend Acadia National Park in Maine. It takes approximately four hours to drive there from Medford. If it will be your first time in Acadia, I suggest you camp in Black Woods,since it is very close to the main trails and mountains.

*Pro-tip: Book your spot in advance! They are very likely to be sold out.

The best time to visit this mountain is late summer and early autumn. Maine is a very cold state, so bring some warm clothing in addition to your camping gear—I wore my Christmas socks at night to keep myself warm… in August!

Start exploring with Ocean Trail, which is the most popular and easiest trail of the park, and runs along the beautiful Atlantic coastline. You can hop on the rocks if you feel adventurous to get closer to the water.

If you are in Acadia, you must watch the sunrise from the top of Cadillac Mountain – you will be the first to watch the sunrise in the entire country! Start climbing at 3:00 am (or drive up later) and you’ll be rewarded with one of the best views around.

If you want to challenge yourself, Beehive trail is a two-hour, strenuous climb offering crystal clear lakes and a beautiful view at the summit.

Another steep trail is Precipice Trail, which is more demanding than Beehive but more beautiful. Avoid this trail if you have fear of heights, as you will be climbing over rocks and walking along the edges of cliffs. Prepare yourself mentally and bring a lot of water if you feel comfortable tackling this hike.

There’s nothing better than taking a dip right after a long and exhausting hike! Take a break at Bar Harbor Beach and enjoy the sun on the sand after swimming in ice-cold ocean. Follow your beach break with some seafood in Portland, Maine, on your way back to Medford.

There are many other places New England offers to us. A weekend trip to Cape Cod to enjoy beautiful shore and the national park before it gets bloody cold is a great idea, and it is only two hours away. Take the ferry to visit Martha’s Vineyard for even more. Vermont is a bit further away, but southern east part of this state has amazing mountains where you can witness stunning fall foliage. Check out the Green Mountain and Finger Lakes for a day trip.

Boston is beautiful, but it doesn’t hurt to travel away to spend some time in nature. Your body and your mind will thank you!